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Showing Our Love by Obedience

On no subject are the Bahá’í teachings more emphatic than on the necessity to abstain from faultfinding and backbiting while being ever eager to discover and root out our own faults and overcome our own failings. If we profess loyalty to Bahá’u’lláh, to our Beloved Master and our dear Guardian, then we must show our love by obedience to these explicit teachings. Deeds not words are what they demand, and no amount of fervour in the use of expressions of loyalty and adulation will compensate for failure to live in the spirit of the teachings. (From a letter dated 12 May 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, pp. 5–7)

During this worldwide pandemic, a lot of people around me, including some of my closest friends, have been taking a lot more risks than I’m comfortable with and I have found myself filled with criticism and judgement, leading to a lot of estrangement between us.  This morning, I find myself wanting to talk to one of them, and am rehearsing in my head what I want to say – mostly centered around the fact that there’s a big difference between being afraid that I might get or give the virus to others, and being obedient to the government.  I want to align with and honor the sacrifices of my Bahá’í brothers and sisters in Iran, or in Germany during the Nazi regime or in South Africa, during apartheid, where Baha’i’s might not approve of the government’s policies, but have steadfastly been obedient at horrific expense to themselves.

Obviously, I can’t make the call when I’m feeling so critical and judgmental.  I don’t want to even reach out to others for support in what to say, because that would be backbiting, which is a sin far worse than the risks they are willing to take in their lack of obedience to the government.  I may not like what others are doing, and I may even feel alone in my decision to adhere to the directives and feel lonely as a result, and even still, I will take a deep breath and give all of it to God, so that I can stop even breathing in the sins of others.

Reading the Writings morning and night and finding exactly the right quote when I need it the most, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

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Caroline Lehmann – First Baha’i in Our Cluster from 1916-1940

By Heidi Lakshman

Presentation on the 25th Anniversary of the Gravenhurst Bahá’í Community, 25 March  2000

There are different milestones in the evolution of a Bahá’í community, and today we remember the arrival 25 years ago of the first Bahá’í pioneer, Francis Cowan, in Gravenhurst, and the development of the local Bahá’í community since then.

When our Assembly was in the middle of planning this event last summer, someone discovered in the back cover of the 1934-36 Bahá’í World Volume a map of the United States and Canada, showing localities where Bahá’ís resided as of May 1st, 1935.  There were 229 localities in all, only 8 of which were situated in Canada, scattered right across the land:  there was an Assembly in Montreal and one in Vancouver (with at least 9 Bahá’ís in each), and centers with only 1 isolated believer (meaning very lonely Bahá’í) living there, — one in Alberta, one in Saskatchewan, one in New Brunswick, one in Prince Edward Island, and two in Ontario: one in Toronto, and the other — lo and behold — in WEST GRAVENHURST!  We got out a magnifying glass to make sure we were seeing right, and sure enough, there it was …

This meant that the history of the Gravenhurst Bahá’í community had obviously started much earlier than we realized, and that there was another milestone to be uncovered here.  The search for this early believer began immediately, and what followed had all the characteristics of a true detective story.

Our first move was to put an ad in BAHA’I CANADA (September 1999 issue), inviting anyone with information about this believer to contact us, but — not surprisingly — no one did.  Next, we contacted the Records Department and Archives Office at the National Bahá’í Center in Toronto, but they could not help us either since their records go back only to 1948, when the Canadian National Spiritual Assembly came into existence.  All prior records were still being kept at the National Bahá’í Center of the United States in Wilmette, Illinois.

Next, we searched in Dr. van den Hoonard’s book, The Origins of the Bahá’í Community of Canada, for any clues about a believer in Gravenhurst, but found nothing there either.

In the meantime, we had started making inquiries with some of the senior citizens in town as to whether anyone remembered meeting a Bahá’í in the 1930’ies.  But without knowing the name of the person we were looking for, nor even whether it was a man or a woman, this effort was going nowhere.

Eventually, we succeeded in obtaining the email address of Dr. van den Hoonard at the University of New Brunswick and asked for his assistance in identifying the believer who resided in West Gravenhurst as of May 1935.  On the very next day (August 30) he responded as follows:

“…. you will be happy to know that the history of West Gravenhurst goes even further back!  Between March 1916 and May 1940, Mrs. Caroline Lehmann lived in West Gravenhurst.  She was taught the Faith by Isabelle Brittingham.  Her previous religion was Lutheran and she was of German background.  You can find a reference for her in Bahá’í World (vol. 8: 699 [actually 703] and the [American] Bahá’í News (July 1940: 10).”

This was the news we were hoping for, and now that we had a name, a gender, and a 24-year time frame, our search could begin in earnest.

There were a few Lehmanns listed in the local telephone book with which we could start.  But then, on the same day as the above message arrived, one of my Red Cross Homemakers (Claudia) mentioned that her colleague’s (Sherry Rheaume’s) grandfather, who had passed away a few months earlier, was a Mr. Carl Lehman. As she was going to meet Sherry that night at the Leisure World Nursing Home, Claudia offered to ask her, whether Caroline Lehmann was any relation of hers.

Sherry had never heard of this name before, but was going to ask her grandmother (Carl Lehman’s widow) about it.  A couple of days later, Sherry gave Claudia the amazing news that Mrs. Caroline Lehmann was her very own great-great-grandmother!!

It is interesting to note that Sherry was one of the Red Cross Homemakers assigned to me, when I first visited the Cowans in August 1997 in order to prepare my move to Gravenhurst.  She lived just a block away from the Cowans and was known to Fran since her childhood. Sherry continued to provide homecare services to me for more than a year following my move to Lofty Pines Drive, and we had a good many conversations about her Bible studies as well as the Bahá’í Faith.  She took some literature, as well as a Bahá’í colouring book and some balloons and prayer cards for her children. When her grandfather was ill, she borrowed the “Health and Healing” booklet, and when he passed away, she read the “Death — Messenger of Joy” booklet and found it very comforting, particularly as she had also lost her father not long before that.  After her grandfather’s funeral, Sherry and I took a walk over to the Mickle Cemetery, just down the road from my place, and had some prayers at the Lehmann family grave. Little did we know then, that we were praying for the descendants (two sons and a grandson) of the first Bahá’í of Gravenhurst!

On 12 September 1999 I called Sherry’s grandmother, Mrs. Lila Lehman, and she confirmed that Caroline was her great-grandmother-in-law, and that she had lived “in a pink house on the first farm on the right going towards Bala”.  She also said that Caroline and her husband had operated the General Store in Kilworthy (a suburb of Gravenhurst), and that they are both buried at the Kilworthy Lutheran Cemetery.

It was a beautiful Sunday, and Shapour Ostadi (a local Bahá’í friend) and I went looking for the pink farm house on the road to Bala.   But nothing we saw there fitted that description.  We then drove to Kilworthy, where we easily found the Kilworthy General Store.  The present owners confirmed that it had indeed belonged to the Lehmanns, who had operated it until the late 1920s.  Judging from its aged looks, it probably hasn’t changed much since the times the Lehmanns had been there.

For more (heartbreaking) pictures of this once lovely building

We received directions to the Lutheran Cemetery, which is located on top of a hill, in a bend near the end of Muskoka Road 19 (of all numbers!).  It is a well-kept, peaceful place, surrounded by forest on three sides.

We found the Lehmann grave near a low lilac bush, almost in the center of the cemetery.  We were extremely moved to read on the gravestone that Caroline Lehmann (nee Yaekel) was born in 1845 — just one year after the inception of the Bahá’í Faith — and that she was 95 years old in 1940, when she passed away.

Susan Gammage visiting her grave site

As such, her life spanned almost the entire first century of the Bahá’í Era and made her a contemporary of both the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, `Abdu’l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi!  She was 71 years of age in 1916, when she accepted the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, — only 4 years after `Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to Canada — and was among the very first resident Canadians to do so.  (According to Dr. van den Hoonard’s book, there were only 31 Bahá’ís in the whole of Canada as of 1916, some of whom would no doubt have been pioneers from other countries.)

Through her acceptance of Bahá’u’lláh, the light of God’s new Revelation has dawned upon this small community of Gravenhurst only 72 years after the Faith began in Persia!  This is all the more remarkable when one recalls how long it took all the other major world religions to reach Canadian shores.

Having come empty-handed, we gathered some wild flowers to put on her grave, and Shapour chanted some beautiful Persian prayers there, — likely the first one to ever do so at that site.

Having solved the mystery of who this early West Gravenhurst believer was, our focus no shifted to learning more about her life and finding someone — anyone — who might still have a living memory of Caroline.  Regrettably, her last living son, Carl, had passed away just a few months before we even knew about her existence. According to Sherry Rheaume’s own research, no one among the members of her family has any personal memory of her, nor do they have any photographs or other documentation of her life and activities.  They did mention, however, that she was not the only Bahá’í here, but that another Bahá’í lady who had taught her the Faith was with her for some time, and they believe it may have been her sister.

The only person who still vaguely remembered the old Lehmanns was a Mrs. Hazel Schell, longtime resident of Kilworthy, and grandmother of Joan Allen, another one of my Homecare workers.  I talked to her by telephone in late Fall 1999, and she confirmed to have met the old Lehmanns in her youth, but better recalled their daughter, Emily Beatty, who took over the Kilworthy Store from her parents.  Hazel Schell, herself in her ninetieth, passed away just a few weeks after we had this conversation.

Her grand-daughter, Joan Allan, had referred me to a book about Kilworthy, A Legacy almost lost, published by the Kilworthy Historical Committee, which contained several references to the Lehmanns. It also provided a fairly good picture of what life was like for the early pioneer settlers in the 19th century, when they were there.

For More Information

The book contains a census of the Townships in Muskoka of the year 1871, in which Gustav and Caroline Lehman, and 2 of their children, are listed as having come from Prussia (East-Germany), and that they were then 39 and 23 years of age.  It also shows that the Lehmanns had a farm “on the north shore of Sparrow Lake”, and that Gustav Lehmann bought the Kilworthy Store in 1875 and started the first Post Office there in November 1876.  Gustav Lehmann was Postmaster until 1914 and, in 1927, turned the Post Office and the Store over to his daughter, Emily Beatty.

Apparently, he and Caroline then moved to the farm in West Gravenhurst, where Gustav passed away in 1929 and Caroline in 1940.

The case lay dormant over the winter but,  during the Fast earlier this month (March 2000), Shapour and I ventured out once again in search of the “pink house” in West Gravenhurst. We rang some doorbells in the general area and were directed to 270 North Street, which turned out to be Carl Lehman’s place.  We took some pictures of their old house and also had an opportunity to briefly talk to his widow, Mrs. Lila Lehman, who said that Caroline visited that home on occasion and stayed there for one week, when her youngest son (Sherry’s father) was born.  She then gave us direction to the Lehmann farm, which is located about 2 miles further toward Bala, beyond the small convenience store and just around the bend on the right hand side.  There is an old barn and a (green) house standing close to the road, and the old building on the back of that property was the Lehmann homestead.  We found it to be a larger building with several added sections, yellowish in colour, empty, and in dilapidated condition.  Only on the back did we see reddish siding that some people might consider “pink”. No wonder we couldn’t find it before! We photographed the building from all sides and had prayers there as well. (The address is lot #1272 on Highway 169, and the current tenants’ name is Waggs).

We were determined to also find the first Lehmann farm on Sparrow Lake and, on the following day, called the Franklins who, according to the book about Kilworthy, had bought the farm from the Lehmanns.

We spoke to a Mrs. Harvey Franklin who said that the Lehmann farm had been purchased by her uncle and is the property where the Silver Pines Cottage Resort is now located, about 3 miles West from the Kilworthy store.  Shapour and I went there and spoke with the proprietor, Andy Fisher, who confirmed that this was the old Lehmann farm, but that Lehmanns did not build the house on his property.  He had acquired the place only 15 years ago and did not know where their homestead would have been.

We drove down to the lake and along the shoreline just to look around a bit, and there, about 2 lots away from the Silver Pines property,  discovered a whole complex of very old abandoned farm-type buildings along a creek!  The first one, though much smaller, looked strikingly similar in style, age, and colour to the Lehmann house we had seen in West Gravenhurst!  We photographed it, of course, and went back to Andy Fisher to ask him about these buildings. He didn’t seem to be aware of them nor who the present owners were, but he confirmed that the original farm was much larger than his current lot and had gone all the way over to the Delmonte Resort. This meant that the old buildings we had found were located well within the boundaries of the old farm.

We went back to the Kilworthy Store to ask the owners about the farm, and they directed us to Mr. Bruce Schulz, whose grandfather had bought the Kilworthy Store from Emily Beatty, Lehmann’s daughter.  Mr. Schulz is a member of the Kilworthy Historical Society who had published the book, and he was very interested in our research and in receiving a copy of our findings for the Kilworthy Archives.  Although he had no information about the Lehmann farm on Sparrow Lake, he said that he would try to find out about it at their next meeting.

Last not least, a letter was received from the National Bahá’í Archives in the United States in response to my inquiry, forwarding copies of the references about Caroline in Bahá’í World Volume 8 and the July 1940 edition of the American Bahá’í News.  The first is a Bahá’í Directory of 1938-40, and the second an “In Memoriam” notice of her passing in 1940.  The Archives could not provide any additional information about her at this time, nor verify when and where Isabelle Brittingham and Caroline Lehmann have met, and whether she might, in fact, have been the “other Bahá’í lady”, who had stayed with Caroline, as remembered by her family.

Their letter (dated 16 March 2000) states that Caroline Lehmann

does not appear on the 1916, 1920 and 1922 membership lists maintained by the Bahá’í Temple Unity [precursor of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada]. However, the lists were sent in by local communities, so not all isolated believers were listed, unless they were near an active community.”  It also said that “the National Spiritual Assembly files are still not open so we cannot check if she corresponded with the National Spiritual Assembly.”

Consequently, it is possible that some information about Caroline Lehmann would eventually be found.

As for Caroline’s resting place, we asked Mr. Bruce Schulz about the future of the old pioneer cemetery where the Lehmanns are buried, and what would happen to it.  He assured us that it is there to stay and is presently being looked after by some individuals including himself, and that it would eventually be turned over to the Municipality for maintenance.  No doubt, the historical significance of this gravesite will be publicly recognized in due course.  (It should be noted in this context that Mrs. Lehmann would have retained her church membership until the time of her death as was common among early Bahá’ís living in Christian communities.)

*~*~*~*~*

Had forwarded a shortened version of the above presentation to the Bahá’í Archives in Wilmette and, shortly thereafter, the following additional information was received:

QUOTE

Subject: RE: An early Gravenhurst believer

Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2000 16:17:36 -0600

Dear Ms. Lakshman,

Thank you for the information on Caroline Lehmann. I have come across some more information about Caroline Lehmann. She had filled out an historical record card in the mid-1930s.  I am mailing a photocopy of the historical record card to you. In the card Mrs. Lehmann wrote that she became a Baha’i in March 1916 in New York City. She had been making  visits to her daughter, Helen Lehmann, and had learned of the Baha’i Faith. Isabella Brittingham*, Mother Beecher** and Ali Kuli Khan*** had been her teachers. She also gives her birth date as November 17, 1846.

There is a Mrs. Helen Lehmann in the 1916 and 1920 New York City membership lists but not in the 1922 New York City membership list.

With warm greetings,

Roger M. Dahl, Archivist [The National Baha’i Archives of the United States]

UNQUOTE

*         One of the first believers in the United States, called the  “Bahá’í-Maker” by `Abdu’l-Bahá

**       Grandmother of Hand of the Cause, Dorothy Baker

***     Secretary of `Abdu’l-Bahá, and Persian Consul to the United States

The copy of the handwritten historical record card was received and is the first personal document we have of this early believer. — In 2003, a b&w negative of Caroline Lehmann’s photograph, which she had attached to the history card, was also provided by the U.S. Bahá’í Archives.   The negative was digitally cleaned-up and several prints were made.

Both photograph and copy of the historical record card were included with a shortened story and other documents and pictures in the Lehmann binders forwarded in 2003/2004 to the following institutions:

The National Bahá’í Archives of Canada;

The National Bahá’í Archives of the United States;

The Local Spiritual Assembly of Gravenhurst;

The Archives of the Town of Gravenhurst;

The Sparrow Lake Historical Society

and Kilworthy Historical Committee

This Century 

In the ages to come, though the Cause of God may rise and grow hundredfold and the shade of the Sadratu’l-Muntahá (Tree of Life) shelter all mankind, yet this present (20th) century shall stand unrivalled, for it hath witnessed the breaking of that Morn and the rising of that Sun.  This century is, verily, the source of His Light and the dayspring of His Revelation.  Future ages and generations shall behold the diffusion of its radiance and the manifestations of its signs.  (`Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of  `Abdu’l-Bahá,  p. 67)

How Bad is Lying? 

If the sum of all sins were to be weighed in the balance, falsehood would, on its own, countervail them; nay its evils would even outweigh them and its detriment prove greater.  It were better for thee that thou shouldst be a blasphemer and tell the truth than that thou shouldst mouth the formulas of faith and yet be a liar.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Trustworthiness, p. 12)

I love the visual imagery in this quote.  There are certain sins which weigh heavily on my mind long after I’ve asked God to forgive them, and yet, compared to lying, they weren’t that important.  I like to think of myself as fairly honest and trustworthy, yet recently it’s come to my mind that I do a lot of lying to myself.  I don’t think that’s unusual – lots of people are in denial about something.  I’ve covered a lot of these in my previous article:  The Lies We Tell Ourselves  and We are Not Our Thoughts

But what about white lies?  A white lie is typically about a small or seemingly unimportant matter told to avoid hurting another person.  Our culture accepts white lies and even condones them.  Some studies have shown that Americans tell (on average) 1-2 lies a day.  We might tell lies to flatter (no you don’t look fat) or to avoid conflict (it was on sale).  No matter our motives, we lie to protect ourselves and, in the end, lies only harm us.  One lie could lead to another, creating a slippery slope that erodes trust leading to suspicion and eroding unity.  Since everything Bahá’u’lláh came for was to promote unity, and all His laws lead us there, it makes sense that lying would outweigh all other sins.  When we strive to be authentic, fighting through the awkwardness of potentially hurting, disappointing or frustrating people, we learn how to deliver the truth with words as mild as milk, which brings people together and strengthens the bonds of affection and trust.

Knowing that with God’s help, I can find the courage to be truthful, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

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Baha’i Inheritance Laws

In a previous article, Taking Care of your Will and Testament, I failed to mention the laws of inheritance outlined in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, and I’m grateful to the reader who pointed it out.  Rather than add it to that article, I decided it deserved a posting all of its own.

First of all, it’s important to know 3 things:

  • This law is not applicable yet and is normally covered by civil laws
  • It only applies when the individual dies without making a will
  • We now have and will always have complete freedom in determining how to dispose of our property, whether it be to Baha’is or non-Baha’is, provided we make provisions for the payment of Huqúqu’lláh and the discharge of our debts

Nevertheless, it could be important to understand this law, knowing it will soon be applicable.  There may be elements you’d want to include in your own Will.

Shoghi Effendi tells us:

  …even though a Bahá’í is permitted in his will to dispose of his wealth in the way he wishes, yet he is morally and conscientiously bound to always bear in mind, while writing his will, the necessity of his upholding the principle of Bahá’u’lláh regarding the social function of wealth, and the consequent necessity of avoiding its over-accumulation and concentration in a few individuals or groups of individuals. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, quoted by the Universal House of Justice in ‘The Notes section of the Kitab-i-Aqdas’)

The system of inheritance in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is based on the provisions written by the Bab and provides for the distribution of the deceased’s estate among seven categories of heirs:

According to the Book of God, the estate of the deceased is divided into 2,520 shares, which number is the lowest common multiple of all integers up to nine, and these shares are then distributed into seven portions, each of which is allocated, as mentioned in the Book, to a particular category of heirs. (Q and A 5)

  1. children receive 1,080 out of 2,520 shares (nine parts)
  2. the spouse receives 390 out of 2,520 shares (eight parts)
  3. the father, 330 out of 2,520 shares (seven parts)
  4. the mother, 270 out of 2,520 shares (six parts)
  5. the brothers, 210 out of 2,520 shares (five parts)
  6. the sisters, 150 out of 2,520 shares (four parts)
  7. the [Baha’i] teachers, 90 out of 2,520 shares (three parts) (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)

When some of these people don’t exist or have passed away, this is what happens:

  • In cases where there is no issue the share of the children reverts to the House of Justice to be expended on orphans and widows and for whatever will profit mankind. (Q and A 7, 41)
  • If the son of the deceased be dead and leave issue, these will inherit the share of their father. If the deceased is a father and his estate includes a personal residence, such residence passes to the eldest son (Q and A 34).
  • If the daughter of the deceased be dead and leave issue, her share will have to be divided into the seven categories specified in the Most Holy Book. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • Should one leave offspring but either part or all of the other categories of inheritors be nonexistent, two thirds of their shares reverts to the offspring and one third to the House of Justice. (Q and A 7).
  • Should none of the specified beneficiaries exist, two thirds of the inheritance reverts to the nephews and nieces of the deceased. If these do not exist, the same share reverts to the aunts and uncles; lacking these, to their sons and daughters. In any case the remaining third reverts to the House of Justice. (Q and A 34).
  • Should one leave none of the aforementioned heirs, the entire inheritance reverts to the House of Justice. (Q and A 34).
  • The residence and the personal clothing of the deceased father pass to the male not to the female offspring. If there be several residences the principal and most important one passes to the male offspring. The remaining residences will together with the other possessions of the deceased have to be divided among the heirs. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • If there be no male offspring two thirds of the principal residence and the personal clothing of the deceased father will revert to the female issue and one third to the House of Justice. (Q and A 41, 72). See note 42 concerning the levels of the institution of the House of Justice to which this law applies. (See also note 44.)
  • In the case of the deceased mother all her used clothing is to be equally divided amongst her daughters. Her unworn clothing, jewels and property must be divided among her heirs, as well as her used clothing if she leaves no daughter. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • Should the children of the deceased be minors their share should either be entrusted to a reliable person or to a company for purposes of investment, until they attain the age of maturity. A share of the interest accrued should be assigned to the trustee. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • The inheritance should not be divided until after the payment of the Huqúqu’lláh (The Right of God), of any debts contracted by the deceased and of any expenses incurred for a befitting funeral and burial. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • If the brother of the deceased is from the same father he will inherit his full allotted share. If he is from another father he will inherit only two thirds of his share, the remaining one third reverting to the House of Justice. The same law is applicable to the sister of the deceased. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • In case there are full brothers or full sisters, brothers and sisters from the mother’s side do not inherit. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • In case there is more than one heir in any category the share allotted to that class should be divided between them equally, be they male or female. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • A non-Bahá’í teacher does not inherit. If there should be more than one teacher, the share allotted to the teacher is to be equally divided among them. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)
  • Non-Bahá’í heirs do not inherit. (Q and A 34).
  • Aside from the wife’s used clothing and gifts of jewellery or otherwise which have been proven to have been given her by her husband, whatever the husband has purchased for his wife are to be considered as the husband’s possessions to be divided among his heirs. (Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas)

Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf indicates that this restriction applies “only to such cases when a Bahá’í dies without leaving a will and when, therefore, his property will have to be divided in accordance with the rules set forth in the Aqdas. Otherwise, a Bahá’í is free to bequeath his property to any person, irrespective of religion, provided however he leaves a will, specifying his wishes.” It is always possible, therefore, for a Bahá’í to provide for his or her non-Bahá’í partner, children or relatives by leaving a will.  (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas 1992 edition, p. 254)

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Funeral Prayers and Readings

At times of death, in the midst of grief, many people are at a loss about what prayers and readings they want to have said for their loved one.  They don’t have the mental wherewithal to be able to search the Writings for their favorite quotes to uplift those who attend, to bring them closer to the idea that death is a “messenger of joy”.

Here is a program I put together for my own funeral.  Feel free to use it and share with others, if you find it helpful.  The musical interludes are songs that appeal to me.  Feel free to add your own music or even live performances.

Musical Interlude: The Lord’s Prayer by Dash Crofts

O thou kind Lord, this dearly cherished maidservant was attracted to Thee, and through reflection and discernment, longed to attain Thy presence and enter Thy realms.  With tearful eyes, she fixed her eyes on the kingdom of mysteries.  Many a night she spent in deep communion with Thee, and many a day she lived in intimate remembrance of Thee.  At every morn, she was mindful of Thee, and at every eve, she centered her thoughts upon Thee.  Like unto a singing nightingale, she chanted Thy sacred verses and like unto a mirror, she sought to reflect Thy light.

O thou forgiver of sins, open Thou the way for this awakened soul to enter Thy kingdom and enable this bird trained by Thy hand to soar in the eternal rose-garden.  She is afire with longing to draw neigh unto Thee; enable her to attain Thy presence.  She is distraught and distressed in separation from Thee; cause her to be admitted into Thy heavenly mansion.

Forgive her sins and bless her with Thine abundant grace.  Grant her the privilege of beholding Thy countenance and give her the chalice of joy and bliss.  Thou art the Giver, the Glorious, the Eternal, the Bounteous; and Thou art the All-Gracious, the All-Merciful, the Omnipotent, He who is the Bestower of Gifts and the Forgiver of Sins.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, from a newly translated tablet)

O my God, Thy Trust hath been returned unto Thee. It behooveth Thy grace and Thy bounty that have compassed Thy dominions on earth and in heaven, to vouchsafe unto Thy newly welcomed one Thy gifts and Thy bestowals, and the fruits of the tree of Thy grace! Powerful art Thou to do as Thou willest, there is none other God but Thee, the Gracious, the Most Bountiful, the Compassionate, the Bestower, the Pardoner, the Precious, the All-Knowing.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 43)

She hath been freed from this sorrow-stricken shelter and hath turned her face toward the everlasting nest of the Kingdom, and, being delivered from a dark and narrow world, hath hastened to the sanctified realm of light; therein lieth the consolation of our hearts.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 379)

O my God! O my God! Verily, thy servant, humble before the majesty of Thy divine supremacy, lowly at the door of Thy oneness, hath believed in Thee and in Thy verses, hath testified to Thy word, hath been enkindled with the fire of Thy love, hath been immersed in the depths of the ocean of Thy knowledge, hath been attracted by Thy breezes, hath relied upon his supplications to Thee, and hath been assured of Thy pardon and forgiveness. He hath abandoned this mortal life and hath flown to the kingdom of immortality, yearning for the favor of meeting Thee.

Lord, glorify his station, shelter him under the pavilion of Thy supreme mercy, cause him to enter Thy glorious paradise, and perpetuate his existence in Thine exalted rose garden, that he may plunge into the sea of light in the world of mysteries.  Verily, Thou art the Generous, the Powerful, the Forgiver and the Bestower.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdul-Bahá, p. 197)

Musical Interlude:  If We Knew by Grant Hinden Miller


The inscrutable divine wisdom underlieth such heart-rending occurrences.  It is as if a kind gardener transferreth a fresh and tender shrub from a confined place to a wide open area.  This transfer is not the cause of the withering, the lessening or the destruction of that shrub; nay, on the contrary, it maketh it to grow and thrive, acquire freshness and delicacy, become green and bear fruit.  This hidden secret is well known to the gardener, but those souls who are unaware of this bounty suppose that the gardener, in his anger and wrath, hath uprooted the shrub.  Yet to those who are aware, this concealed fact is manifest, and this predestined decree is considered a bounty.  Do not feel grieved or disconsolate, therefore, at the ascension of that bird of faithfulness; nay, under all circumstances pray for that youth, supplicating for him forgiveness and the elevation of his station.   (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 379)

Why should thou be sad and heartbroken? This separation is temporal; this remoteness and sorrow is counted only by days. Thou shalt find him in the Kingdom of God and thou wilt attain to the everlasting union. Physical companionship is ephemeral, but heavenly association is eternal. Whenever thou rememberest the eternal and never ending union, thou wilt be comforted and blissful.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdul-Bahá, V1, p. 99)

As to the question whether the souls will recognize each other in the spiritual world: This fact is certain; for the Kingdom is the world of vision where all the concealed realities will become disclosed. How much more the well-known souls will become manifest. The mysteries of which man is heedless in this earthly world, those he will discover in the heavenly world, and there will he be informed of the secret of truth; how much more will he recognize or discover persons with whom he hath been associated. Undoubtedly, the holy souls who find a pure eye and are favored with insight will, in the kingdom of lights, be acquainted with all mysteries, and will seek the bounty of witnessing the reality of every great soul. Even they will manifestly behold the Beauty of God in that world. Likewise will they find all the friends of God, both those of the former and recent times, present in the heavenly assemblage.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 367)

And know thou for a certainty, that in the divine worlds, the spiritual beloved ones (believers) will recognize each other, and will seek union (with each other), but a spiritual union. Likewise, a love that one may have entertained for any one will not be forgotten in the world of the Kingdom. Likewise, thou wilt not forget there the life that thou hast had in the material world.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdul-Bahá, V1, p. 205)

As we have power to pray for these souls here, so likewise we shall possess the same power in the other world, which is the Kingdom of God. Are not all the people in that world the creatures of God? Therefore in that world also they can make progress.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 330)

O Lord, O Thou Whose mercy hath encompassed all, Whose forgiveness is transcendent, Whose bounty is sublime, Whose pardon and generosity are all-embracing, and the lights of Whose forgiveness are diffused throughout the world!  O Lord of Glory!  I entreat Thee, fervently and tearfully, to cast upon Thy handmaiden who hath ascended unto Thee the glances of the eye of Thy mercy.  Robe her in the mantle of Thy grace, bright with the ornaments of the celestial Paradise, and, sheltering her beneath the tree of Thy oneness, illumine her face with the lights of Thy mercy and compassion.

Bestow upon Thy heavenly handmaiden, O God, the holy fragrances born of the spirit of Thy forgiveness.  Cause her to dwell in a blissful abode, heal her griefs with the balm of Thy reunion, and, in accordance with Thy will, grant her admission to Thy holy Paradise.  Let the angels of Thy loving-kindness descend successively upon her, and shelter her beneath Thy blessed Tree.  Thou art, verily, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous, the All-Bountiful.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, from a newly translated tablet)

Musical Interlude:  Carry Me Home by Ed Vandendool

O my servants!  Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you.  Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes.  You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace.  To each and every one of them you will no doubt attain.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 329)

To consider that after the death of the body the spirit perishes, is like imagining that a bird in a cage will be destroyed if the cage is broken, though the bird has nothing to fear from the destruction of the cage. Our body is like the cage, and the spirit is like the bird. We see that without the cage this bird flies in the world of sleep; therefore if the cage becomes broken, the bird will continue and exist: its feelings will be even more powerful, its perceptions greater, and its happiness increased. In truth, from hell it reaches a paradise of delights, because for the thankful birds there is no paradise greater than freedom from the cage.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 327)

A friend asked: “How should one look forward to death?”  He answered: “How does one look forward to the goal of any journey? With hope and with expectation. It is even so with the end of this earthly journey. In the next world, man will find himself freed from many of the disabilities under which he now suffers. Those who have passed on through death, have a sphere of their own. It is not removed from ours; their work, the work of the Kingdom, is ours; but it is sanctified from what we call ‘time and place.’ Time with us is measured by the sun. When there is no more sunrise, and no more sunset, that kind of time does not exist for man. Those who have ascended have different attributes from those who are still on earth, yet there is no real separation.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, ‘Abdul-Bahá in London, p. 95)

And now concerning thy question regarding the soul of man and its survival after death. Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings, p. 155)

These few brief days shall pass away, this present life shall vanish from our sight; the roses of this world shall be fresh and fair no more, the garden of this earth’s triumphs and delights shall droop and fade. The spring season of life shall turn into the autumn of death . . . He who hath knowledge and power will rather seek out the glory of heaven, and spiritual distinction, and the life that dieth not. And such a one longeth to approach the sacred Threshold of God.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdul-Bahá, p. 220)

Musical Interlude:  Prayer for the Departed by Roya Bauman

 

Prayer for the Dead (to be said at the graveside)

The Prayer for the Dead is the only Bahá’í obligatory prayer that is to be recited in congregation; it is to be recited by one believer while all present stand in silence.

O my God!  This is Thy handmaiden and the daughter of Thy handmaiden who hath believed in Thee and in Thy signs, and set her face towards Thee, wholly detached from all except Thee.  Thou art, verily, of those who show mercy the most merciful.  Deal with her, O Thou Who forgivest the sins of men and concealest their faults, as beseemeth the heaven of Thy bounty and the ocean of Thy grace.  Grant her admission within the precincts of Thy transcendent mercy that was before the foundation of earth and heaven.  There is no God but Thee, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous.

Alláh-u-Abhá.   We all, verily, worship God. (19 times)

Alláh-u-Abhá   We all, verily, bow down before God.  (19 times)

Alláh-u-Abhá   We all, verily, are devoted unto God.  (19 times)

Alláh-u-Abhá   We all, verily, give praise unto God.  (19 times)

Alláh-u-Abhá   We all, verily, yield thanks unto God.  (19 times)

Alláh-u-Abhá   We all, verily, are patient in God.  (19 times)

 

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Living Wills and Assisted Death

During this COVID-19 pandemic, many people are wondering “what if?”.  Now might be a good time to think about what’s really important in terms of a living will or euthanasia.  Many people have asked me for a copy of what I’ve written to use as a model, and I’m happy to share. 

Living Wills:

First of all lets see what it means:

A Living Will is not the same as a Will and Testament.  A living will is a document which expresses what you want to happen regarding medical treatment while you are still alive.  It typically explains whether or not you want to be kept on life support if you become terminally ill and will die shortly without life support, or fall into a persistent vegetative state. It also addresses other important questions, detailing your preferences for tube feeding, artificial hydration, and pain medication in certain situations.

It only becomes effective when you aren’t able to communicate your desires on your own, so it’s important to put it in writing and have the discussion, so there can be no confusion for family members who have to made difficult decisions in a moment of crisis and high stress.  Without it, doctors or hospitals may decide they are legally obligated to perform certain procedures that you would not desire.

You may also have heard the term “DNR” (Do not resuscitate): This is an order on your medical chart advising health professionals that extraordinary measures should not be used to attempt to save your life.

With regards to a living will, here’s what the Bahá’í Writings have to say:

As to the Bahá’í viewpoint on the removal of withholding of life support in medical cases where intervention prolongs life in disabling illnesses, nothing has been found in the Sacred Text specifically on this matter. In such cases decisions must be left to those responsible, including the patients.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 290)

Here’s how I’ve worded mine:

Ongoing Care

Decisions about the kind of care I am to receive are to be made in accordance with the following requests.  I wish to have maximum independence.

    • I wish to continue my life as an active Bahá’í. At a minimum, this includes assistance in:
    • saying the daily obligatory prayer (short one at noon is fine), with ablutions and facing east;
    • reciting prayers (I like to say a minimum of three, including a prayer for teaching or triumph of the Cause) and reading the Bahá’í Writings morning and evening (including a short discussion of the applicability of these teachings to daily life if I am capable of such thought);
    • regular sacrificial donations to the funds of the Faith every 19 days and the payment of Huququllah each year (I have been submitting it monthly it should be up to date.
    • regular attendance at 19 Day Feasts and Holy Day Celebrations;

All of these things are to be done regardless of whether or not I appear to be getting anything out of them. My soul will benefit if nothing else.

    • My preference is for naturopathic or homeopathic medicine, using herbs instead of drugs, wherever possible.
    • If I am bedridden for any length of time, please use the sheepskin currently on my bed (and my own sheets if possible).

No heroic Measures

In the case of life threatening situations, I wish to have no heroic measures whatsoever.

I do not wish any life-support treatment which includes medical devices put in me to help prolong my life or anything else meant to keep me alive.

If I have permanent and severe brain damage, and I am not expected to get better, and life-support treatment would only delay the moment of my death I do not want life-support treatment. If it has been started, I want it stopped.

If I am in a coma from which I am not expected to wake up or recover, and I have brain damage, and life-support treatment would only delay the moment of my death I do not want life-support treatment. If it has been started, I want it stopped.

If I am unable to take care of myself, mentally or physically, and life-support treatment will not help me recover I do not want life-support treatment. If it has been started, I want it stopped.

I want to be offered food and fluids by mouth, and kept clean and warm at all times.

I want such pain medication as necessary to make me comfortable. 

Near Death

When I am near death, I would like Bahá’í prayers and readings read aloud and/or calm, peaceful, spiritual music played until I am dead.

I wish for Bahá’ís (the Local Spiritual Assembly and/or others) to be informed of my condition and asked to pray for me and to visit me.  If possible, please notify people on my 2 Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin accounts and ask them for prayers; and contact the House of Justice at secretariat at bwc.org; and ask them to put me on the prayer list, praying specifically for steadfastness up to the hour of my death.

I wish to be cared for with kindness and cheerfulness, and not sadness. I am eagerly anticipating my life in the next world.

I want to die at home or in hospice and my body to be prepared according to Bahá’í procedures by Bahá’ís who are able to do so.

Euthanasia

Euthanasia is the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.  You may have also heard it referred to as “mercy killings” or “assisted suicide” or “assisted death” or “right to die”.

With regards to euthanasia, here’s what the Bahá’í Writings have to say:

As to the Bahá’í viewpoint on the removal of withholding of life support in medical cases where intervention prolongs life in disabling illnesses, nothing has been found in the Sacred Text specifically on this matter. In such cases decisions must be left to those responsible, including the patients.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 290)

We have received your letter of March 18, 1974 in which you ask for the Bahá’í viewpoint on euthanasia and on the removal of life support in medical cases where physiological interventions prolong life in disabling illnesses. In general our teachings indicate that God, the Giver of life, can alone dispose of it as He deems best, and we have found nothing in the Sacred Text on these matters specifically but in a letter to an individual written on behalf of the beloved Guardian by his secretary regarding mercy killings, or legalized euthanasia, it is stated: “…this is also a matter which the Universal House of Justice will have to legislate.” Until such time as the Universal House of Justice considers legislation on Euthanasia, decisions in the matters to which you refer must be left to the conscience of those responsible.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 290-291)

So even though suicide is forbidden in the Faith, until such time as the House of Justice considers legislation on these matters, living wills and euthanasia are left to individual conscience.

As the legalities of both situations vary from place to place, it’s best to consult a lawyer to set these things in motion if that’s your wish.

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