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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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Plowing our own Fields

If we allow our attention and energy to be taken up in efforts to keep others right and remedy their faults, we are wasting precious time. We are like ploughmen each of whom has his team to manage and his plough to direct, and in order to keep his furrow straight he must keep his eye on his goal and concentrate on his own task. If he looks to this side and that to see how Tom and Harry are getting on and to criticize their ploughing, then his own furrow will assuredly become crooked.  (From a letter dated 12 May 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, pp. 5–7)

I love this quote because I seldom see Shoghi Effendi use English idioms such as “Tom, Dick and Harry”.  It seems unlikely that Tom and Harry are Persian names!  So everytime I read this quote, it makes me giggle.  I also love the imagery.  It’s so easy to see the ploughmen looking to this side and that, and the furrows weaving all over the place.  Don’t we all do that?  Don’t we all have a tendency to look around and compare ourselves to others, and either feel superior or less-than?  I’ve heard it called “compare and despair” and that’s what it feels like to me.  When I’m in despair, I lose motivation to do anything, which is definitely wasting precious time.  As Bahá’ís, we don’t have any time to waste.  You may remember memorizing this quote in Ruhi Book 4:

There is no time to lose. There is no room left for vacillation. Multitudes hunger for the Bread of Life . . . God’s own Plan has been set in motion. It is gathering momentum with every passing day . . .  Such an opportunity is irreplaceable . . . To try, to persevere, is to insure ultimate and complete victory.  (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America, #75)

We’ve been given a Plan, which all of the Institutions are asking us to win in the next few months.  That’s the big goal we need to keep focused on.  With God’s help, we’ll win it, to honor the efforts of the Bicentennials.

Remembering where to keep my eye focused, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through 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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Unity: One of the First Essentials

If we Bahá’ís cannot attain to cordial unity among ourselves, then we fail to realize the main purpose for which the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh and the Beloved Master lived and suffered. In order to achieve this cordial unity one of the first essentials insisted on by Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is that we resist the natural tendency to let our attention dwell on the faults and failings of others rather than on our own. (From a letter dated 12 May 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, pp. 5–7)

How much disunity exists in our Bahá’í communities, because we haven’t yet learned how to attain cordial unity among ourselves?  My hunch is a lot, especially since a lot of people are opting out of participating in the core activities.  Instead of just accepting this reality, I can dig a little deeper.

I love it when a quote tells me a problem and immediately gives a solution!  In this case, unity is not just a nice concept we can all agree on (Bahá’u’lláh came to bring unity to the world), but it gives me something practical I can do:  stop dwelling on the faults and failings of other rather than my own, and remember the main purpose for which the Bab, Bahá’u’lláh and `Abdu’l-Bahá lived and suffered.  Sometimes easier said than done, particularly in a culture that values gossip and fault-finding.

We’re told our greatest tests will come from other Bahá’ís and really, these tests are a gift, not something to fear or become frustrated and judgmental.  With every test comes an opportunity to grow spiritually, to grow closer to God and to attain the virtues we’ll need in the next world.  Instead of focusing on the faults and failings of others, I could welcome and embrace the awareness it gives, knowing that this finger-pointing can act as a mirror for my own growth.

Turning my attention to the crises and victories that came to the lives of the Central Figures, I can learn to adjust my own behavior and I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through 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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Setting Aside Every Personal Sense of Grievance

Regarding the matter of … and the inharmony that seems to exist among certain of the friends … when Bahá’ís permit the dark forces of the world to enter into their own relationships within the Faith they gravely jeopardize its progress;… All should be ready and willing to set aside every personal sense of grievance—justified or unjustified—for the good of the Cause, because the people will never embrace it until they see in its community life mirrored what is so conspicuously lacking in the world: love and unity. (From a letter dated 13 May 1945 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia and New Zealand, in Living the Life, p. 27)

In helping to organize the Bicentennial event in our small cluster, a decision was made to not include a certain Bahá’í in the invitation.  She’s 90 years old, has some dementia, is strongly opinionated and tends to dominate the conversations.  People were worried about what the non-Bahá’í guests would think about the Faith if she went off on one of her rants.  I understood people’s concerns and even shared them.  I too have had my tests with this person.  So I agreed.

I went away feeling very unsettled though.  Is this a Faith of oneness, where everyone is welcomed, where diversity is celebrated?  Or is it a Faith of people just like me?  What if we had encouraged her to come, to show our guests that we can treat all people with respect and courtesy and dignity?  Wouldn’t that have been more important than showing the film and having a discussion about the Bab?  I couldn’t say that to the organizer, though, and an opportunity was missed.

To make up for this failing, I held a small gathering for elderly and shut-in Baha’is who couldn’t get to the community’s bicentennial celebrations.  I knew there would be another opinionated 80-year old in attendance, and there was potential for either or both to alienate everyone they’re talking to, and I didn’t want my resentment and frustration to spill over.  Before the gathering, I prayed to be patient, kind and respectful, particularly to the most difficult person.  And with God’s help, I was.

It turned out that I prayed for the wrong person, though, because there was someone else in attendance who got into a power struggle with the difficult person, which, for me, destroyed the whole Holy Day.  Another opportunity to examine my expectations, forgive, let go of all ill-feelings, pray for our community and remember the importance of unity.

Remembering that people will never embrace our Faith until they see us practice love and unity in action, I can do my part, perfectly imperfect, and I am grateful.

What jumped out for you as you read through 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 Anger and Bitterness

 

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Listening to the Faults of Others

It is obvious that if we listen to those who complain to us about the faults of others we are guilty of complicity in their backbit­ing. We should therefore, as tactfully as possible, but yet firmly, do our utmost to prevent others from making accusations or complaints against others in our presence.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p.  94)

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to be part of conversations where people are complaining about others.  It seems to be happening so often and when I get caught up in it, it feels like I’m sitting in a vat full of poison.  I used to like hanging out in the common room in our apartment building to get to know my neighbors, but despite my best efforts to elevate the level of conversation, it always leaves me drained so now I avoid it entirely.  I used to appreciate eating at the soup kitchen as it really helped keep my food budget down but when I heard people criticizing the organization that fed us, I couldn’t bear it so now I don’t go there either.

Some days I think I’m really withdrawing from the world to avoid the conflict and can easily get caught up in judging myself harshly for it.  This quote gives me some comfort because it doesn’t say I have to stay and make things better, which I used to believe, it says I need to do my utmost to prevent others from making accusations or complaints against others in my presence.  Avoiding the ungodly is acceptable in God’s eyes!

Knowing it’s OK to prevent others from making accusations or complaints in my presence I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through 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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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Why We Let Go of Our Tales and Stories 

It is high time for you to throw away these tales, these barren stories. God is not pleased with them, humanity is not pleased with them, Your time is too costly to be expended on these trifling events. You are made in the image and likeness of God. Your birthright is more valuable than all the treasures of the empires. Arise with heart and soul and let not these golden days slip by without results! This day is the day of the splendors of the Sun of Reality! This day is the day of the Lord of the Kingdom! This day is the day of the fulfillment of glorious promises! This day is the day of joy and fragrance!  (Abdu’l-Baha, “Star of the West,” Vol. V, No. 1, p. 6)

YIKES!  I love quotes that are very clear!  ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s bluntness is refreshing:

  • God is not pleased with our tales and barren stories (told about ourselves as well as others); our petty bickerings and jealousies
  • humanity is not pleased with them
  • Your time is too costly to be expended on these trifling events
  • Petty bickerings and jealousies
    • make one lose all the traces of spirituality
    • excommunicate a person from the divine company of the worthy ones
    • submerge one in the sea of phantasms
    • suffer one to become cold and pessimistic
    • throw him headlong into the depths of despair and helplessness!

Then He reminds us of our station:

  • You are made in the image and likeness of God.
  • Your birthright is more valuable than all the treasures of the empires.

And what to do instead:

  • arise with heart and soul
  • let not these golden days slip by without results!

And reminds us of the purpose of this day:

  • This day is the day of the splendors of the Sun of Reality!
  • This day is the day of the Lord of the Kingdom!
  • This day is the day of the fulfillment of glorious promises!
  • This day is the day of joy and fragrance!

Having such clear warnings, reminders and instructions, I have my marching orders and I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through 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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

 

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