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‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Love for The Poor

 

‘Abdu’l-Baha met with many groups of people, but He had a special love for the poor and downtrodden.

Poverty made ‘Abdu’l-Baha exceedingly sad and He wants us to become more sensitive to this issue:

‘When He reached the Occident, however, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá faced a condition which troubled Him greatly, because it was beyond His power to assuage the misery He saw constantly about Him.  Housed luxuriously at Cadogan Gardens, London, He knew that within a stone’s throw of Him were people who had never had enough to eat — and in New York there was exactly the same situation.  These things made Him exceedingly sad, and He said:  “The time will come in the near future when humanity will become so much more sensitive than at present that the man of great wealth will not enjoy his luxury, in comparison with the deplorable poverty about him.  He will be forced, for his own happiness, to expend his wealth to procure better conditions for the community in which he lives.”‘  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 67)

He hurt with them:

Many years later, Abdul-Bahá’s concern for the poor and suffering was described by May Maxwell in a letter describing the conversation that had taken place in their home: “I remember when the Master was in Montréal and there’d been a strike for months in Dublin, women and children starving and a generally desperate condition.  It affected me painfully; I had slept little and could barely eat, and had that terrific helpless feeling, not knowing what to do about it.  All this Sutherland told to the Master, begging Him to tell me that my attitude was all wrong; and as he spoke the Master turned very white and great beads of perspiration formed on His brow through His own agony in human sufferings; then He said, “If more people felt as your wife does, the world would not be in this dark and terrible state.”  (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 186-187)

His motto was “frugality for Himself, generosity for others”.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave freely of what He had — love, time, care and concern, food and money, clothing and flowers, a bed, a rug!  His motto appeared to be:  frugality for Himself, generosity for others.  Stories of the Master’s self-denial in favour of others’ well-being are legion.  He was ‘bountiful as the rain in His generosity to the poor…’  Because He and His family were rich in the love of God, they accepted material deprivation for themselves gladly.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 68)

Service to others was always the pattern of His life:

Service to God, to Baha’u’llah, to family, to friends and enemies, indeed to all mankind – this was the pattern of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s life.  He wished only to be the Servant of God and man.  To serve – rather than being demeaning and unfulfilling – was honour, joy and fulfilment.  This motivated His entire day from Dawn to after midnight.  He used to say, ‘Nothing is too much trouble when one loves, and there is always time.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 104)

He knew them all and treated them with kindness and respect:

A door opens and a man comes out. He is of middle stature, strongly built. He wears flowing light-coloured robes. On his head is a light buff fez with a white cloth wound about it. He is perhaps sixty years of age. His long grey hair rests on his shoulders. His forehead is broad, full, and high, his nose slightly aquiline, his moustaches and beard, the latter full though not heavy, nearly white. His eyes are grey and blue, large, and both soft and penetrating. His bearing is simple, but there is grace, dignity, and even majesty about his movements. He passes through the crowd, and as he goes utters words of salutation. We do not understand them, but we see the benignity and the kindliness of his countenance. He stations himself at a narrow angle of the street and motions to the people to come towards him . . . As they come they hold their hands extended. In each open palm he places some small coins. He knows them all. He caresses them with his hand on the face, on the shoulders, on the head. Some he stops and questions. An aged negro who hobbles up, he greets with some kindly inquiry; the old man’s broad face breaks into a sunny smile, his white teeth glistening against his ebony skin as he replies. He stops a woman with a babe and fondly strokes the child. As they pass, some kiss his hand. To all he says, “Marhabbah, marhabbah” – “Well done, well done!”  So they all pass him. (Myron Henry Phelps and Bahiyyih Khanum, Life and Teachings of Abbas Effendi)

As interested as ‘Abdu’l-Baha was in helping the individual, He had a bigger vision always in His mind:

Ruhiyyih Khanum said she had a dream one night: she dreamed that the dam had burst and that there was a great flood, She rushed down to the water’s edge to try to save someone, but the current swept them past. She reached out to try to grasp and save another. She grasped one by the hair, and, with great effort, brought that one to shore. Then she tried to reach another, but the current swept him by. She looked up at the side of the mountain, and there she saw ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who looked like a Prophet of God, with his white turban and flowing beard, with his back to the flood, working very hard. She rushed up the mountain side, grasped His sleeves and said, “Oh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, come and help me save some of these people who are drowning in the flood.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went right on, working very rapidly and said nothing. She grasped his sleeve again and said, “Oh ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, these people are drowning, come help me save some of these people who are drowning in the flood.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, without stopping his work turned to her with a smile and Said, “‘Abdu’l-Bahá is building the machine to stop the flood.” (That is what is taking place in the world today)  (Ruhaniyyih Ruth Moffett, Visiting the Bahá’í World, 1954-09  http://bahai-library.com/moffett_pilgrims_notes)

In many quotes He tells us how we are to behave to the poor, sick and downtrodden, and in this quote, He tells us we aren’t a “true Baha’i” if we neglect it:

Enrich the poor, raise the fallen, comfort the sorrowful, bring healing to the sick, reassure the fearful, rescue the oppressed, bring hope to the hopeless, shelter the destitute!  This is the work of a true Bahá’í, and this is what is expected of him. If we strive to do all this, then are we true Bahá’ís, but if we neglect it, we are not followers of the Light, and we have no right to the name.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 80)

How many of us serve these groups?

How many of us can count people such as these as our friends?

How many of us can truly claim we have a right to the name Baha’i?

Because ‘Abdu’l-Baha loved these groups of people so much, there is much that has been written about them, so in the next series of articles I will be looking at what we can learn about how He treated them, to help us claim our name, to help us too draw closer to the poor and help them in practical ways, as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did.

What’s been your experience showering love on the poor?  Post your comments below!

‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Love for The Sick

‘Abdu’l-Baha’s kind heart went out to those who were ill.  If He could alleviate a pain or discomfort, He set about to do so.

Calling on the feeble and sick was a daily occurance:

Almost any morning, early, He may be seen making the round of the city, calling upon the feeble and the sick; many dingy abodes are brightened by His presence.’  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 81)

He never asked others to do something He wasn’t willing to do:

Lua Gestinger, one of the early Baha’is of America, tells of an experience she had in Akká. She had made the pilgrimage to the prison-city to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. One day He said to her that He was too busy today to call upon a friend of His who was very poor and sick. He wished Lua to go in His place. He told her to take food to the sick man and care for him as He had been doing.
Lua learned the address and immediately went to do as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had asked. She felt proud that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had trusted her with some of His own work. But soon she returned to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in a state of excitement. “Master,” she exclaimed, “You sent me to a very terrible place! I almost fainted from the awful smell, the dirty rooms, the degrading condition of that man and his house. I left quickly before I could catch some terrible disease.” Sadly and sternly, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gazed at her. If she wanted to serve God, He told her, she would have to serve her fellow man, because in every person she should see the image and likeness of God. Then He told her to go back to the man’s house. If the house was dirty, she should clean it. If the man was dirty, she should bathe him. If he was hungry, she should feed him. He asked her not to come back until all of this was done. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has done these things many times for this man, and he told Lua Getsinger that she should be able to do them once. This is how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá taught Lua to serve her fellow man.  (Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, Chapter 6)

One time ‘Abdu’l-Baha cancelled a meeting because one person was ill and could not go:

On pilgrimage May Maxwell came to realize that every word and every act of the Master’s had meaning and purpose.  The pilgrim party was invited to meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá under the cedar trees on Mount Carmel where He had been in the habit of sitting with Baha’u’llah.  She recalled that ‘on Sunday morning we awakened with the joy and hope of the meeting on Mount Carmel.  The Master arrived quite early and after looking at me, touching my head and counting my pulse, still holding my hand He said to the believers present:  “There will be no meeting on Mount Carmel to-day…we could not go and leave one of the beloved of God alone and sick.  We could none of us be happy unless all the beloved were happy.”  We were astonished. That anything so important as this meeting in that blessed spot should be cancelled because one person was ill and could not go seemed incredible.  It was so contrary to all ordinary habits of thought and action, so different from the life of the world where daily events and material circumstances are supreme in importance that it gave us a genuine shock of surprise, and in that shock the foundations of the old order began to totter and fall.  The Master’s words had opened wide the door of God’s Kingdom and given us a vision of that infinite world whose only law is love.  This was but one of many times that we saw ‘Abdu’l-Bahá place above every other consideration the love and kindness, the sympathy and compassion due to every soul.  Indeed, as we look back upon that blessed time spent in His presence we understand that the object of our pilgrimage was to learn for the first time on earth what love is, to witness its light in every face, to feel its burning heat in every heart and to become ourselves enkindled with this divine flame from the Sun of Truth, the Essence of whose being is love.’  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 87)

People came to understand the wisdom of their sicknesses:

I was a child in Tehran when at the age of seven I contracted tuberculosis. There was no hope of recovery. The wisdom of this sickness became clear later. If I had not been ill, I would have been obliged to go to Mazindaran but because of this sickness I stayed in Tehran…..This was when the Blessed Beauty was in prison in Tehran. Therefore, I was afforded the honor of being in His company during His journey to Iraq. When the right time arrived, I suddenly became well, after the doctors had given up all hope of recovery.  (Stories Told by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 104)

There are many stories of Lua Getsinger. This one was told me by Grace Ober, who heard it from Lua herself. It happened on one of Lua’s several visits to Acca and Haifa when she and Abdu’l-Bahá were walking together on the beach. Lua dropped behind slightly and began fitting her small feet, into His much larger foot prints. After a few moments the Master turned to ask what she was doing. “I am following in your footsteps,”  said Lua. He, turned away and they walked on. A few moments later, He turned again, “Do you wish to follow in my foot steps?” He asked. “Oh, yes,” said Lua. They walked on – and Abdu’l-Bahá turned again, “Lua! Do you wish to follow in my foot steps?” His tone was louder and stern. “Oh, yes,” said Lua again. Then, the third time he stopped and faced her. “Lua!” it was almost a shout, “Do you wish to follow in My foot steps?” “Oh, yes!” said Lua for the third time – and with that, a great tarantula jumped out from a hillock of sand and bit her ankle. Abdu’l-Bahá saw this and paid no attention, turning away and again walking. Lua followed, still fitting her footsteps into His. Her ankle swelled, the pain became excruciating, till, finally, she sank down with the agony of it. Then Abdu’l-Bahá picked her up and carried her to the ladies quarters, where the Greatest Holy Leaf put her to bed. The agony increased. Lua’s temperature flamed; delirium set in. Finally, the Greatest Holy Leaf could stand it no longer and she implored Abdu’l-Bahá to heal her. He examined her carefully then laid His hands gently on her forehead. The temperature drained away, her head cleared she was healed. And it was only later that it was explained to her that she had been suffering from a strange and virulent condition of her blood which the bite of the tarantula had cured.   (Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories:  Stories of Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 41-42)

He Visited People in their Homes, even When Uninvited:

 Harry Randall, the brother of Loulie Mathews, was a man of wealth and affairs. He had been a classmate of Harlan Ober at Harvard and so, when Harlan learned of the Faith and became a Baha’i, he very soon gave the Message to Harry, only to discover that, busy and occupied as he was with his manifold affairs, Harry Randall’s interest went no farther than a polite and courteous response, which was far from satisfactory to Harlan. He persisted in trying to interest Harry further and when Abdu’l-Bahá was to come to Boston, Harlan grew more and more pressing: Harry must go to hear Abdu’l-Bahá speak; Harry must meet Him; Harry really owed it to himself not to miss this wonderful opportunity. Finally, Harry still uninterested, but courteously anxious to please this eager friend of his, agreed to go with Harlan to hear Abdu’l-Bahá.

Ruth – Harry’s wife would not be able to go with him since she was a semi invalid, in and out of sanitariums for tuberculosis a great part of the time. Just then she had come home from one of these hospitals but she was far too frail to do anything but rest quietly at home.

Harlan and Harry Randall went to the meeting together and after it was over, Harlan insisted upon taking Harry to meet Abdu’l-Bahá. Harry, still uninterested but always courteous, did as Harlan wished, and what was his astonishment when Abdu’l-Bahá warmly accepted an invitation to have tea the following afternoon at Harry’s home! An invitation Harry had in no way extended.

Appalled, Harry asked Harlan what on earth he should do about it? Harlan said. “Give a tea for Him what else can you do?” “But how can I? Ruth is ill. I’m busy. How on earth – ?”

Harlan laughed, “You don’t know Abdu’l-Bahá or you’d know there’s some sort of reason for this, and it’ll get done. You have a houseful of servants – let them brew a cup of tea for the Master and invite a few friends in to share it.” So this is what Harry did and the next afternoon when Abdu’l-Bahá arrived at the lovely suburban home he found quite a group of people assembled on a wide verandah to receive Him.

Ruth Randall, delicate and lovely, was also there, seated in a far corner where she might be safe from any draft. And it was to her, ignoring all the others, that Abdu’l-Bahá strode, His white aba billowing with the swiftness of His tread; His beautiful eyes filled with light and love. Reaching her He bent above her, murmuring “My daughter My dear daughter” and lovingly He rested His hands on her shoulders Then He turned and, smilingly, met all the other guests.

The following day, Ruth had an appointment with her doctor, who had examined her the previous week and had said that it might be necessary for her to return to the sanitarium for further treatment. He would be sure after he had seen her again. Ruth went to this appointment fearfully she was so longing to remain at home, so very reluctant to be sent again to the hospital. The doctor examined her – and was amazed. What had she been doing? What could have happened to her? She was healed. There was not the least trace left of the tuberculosis. Of course, this was an experience that neither Harry nor Ruth could ignore, so it was the beginning of their long and glorious life-time of teaching and serving the Cause they came to love so well. (Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories:  Stories of Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 23)

Many dingy abodes were brightened by His presence:

Almost any morning, early, He may be seen making the round of the city, calling upon the feeble and the sick; many dingy abodes are brightened by His presence.’  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 81)

He spent time with the sick:

 His kind heart went out to those who were ill.  If He could alleviate a pain or discomfort, He set about to do so.  We are told that one old couple who were ill in bed for a month had twenty visits from the Master during that time.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 43)

A man, ill with tuberculosis, was avoided by his friends — even his family was fearful and hardly dared enter his room.  The Master needed only to hear of it and ‘thereafter went daily to the sick man, took him delicacies, read and discoursed to him, and was alone with him when he died.’  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 44)

A dear friend of the family, Jinab-i-Munib, was taken seriously ill. When the boat stopped at Smyrna, Sarkar-i-Aqa (‘Abdu’l-Baha) and Mirza Musa carried him ashore, and took him to a hospital. The Master brought a melon and some grapes; returning with the refreshing fruit for him – He found that he had died. Arrangements were made with the director of the hospital for a simple funeral. The Master chanted some prayers, then, heartsore, came back to the boat.  (Lady Blomfied, The Chosen Highway)

He gave them the necessities of life:

When a poor and crippled woman was shunned on contracting measles, the Master, on being informed, ‘immediately engaged a woman to care for her; took a room, put comfortable bedding (His own) into it, called the doctor, sent food and everything she needed.  He went to see that she had every attention, and when she died in peace and comfort, He it was Who arranged her simple funeral, paying all charges.’  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 43)

He would feed them with His own hands:

Bahiyyih Randall was only thirteen years old when she went to Haifa to see the Master.  She recalled that ‘there was a perfectly wonderful person who always sat on the right of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at dinner.  His name was Haydar-‘Ali and he had been a follower of Baha’u’llah and was so meek and so beautiful.  His hands would shake so that he could not eat.  He was such an old, old man, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would feed him with such tenderness.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 94)

He would cheer their hearts, saying:

If there is a sick person and one wishes to cure him, let one cause joy and happiness in his heart. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 417)

Joy is the best cure for your illness. Joy is better than a hundred thousand medicines for a sick person. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 417)

Here’s how He did it:

While in San Francisco, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited a black believer, Mr Charles Tinsley, who had been confined to bed for a long time with a broken leg.  The Master said to him:  ‘You must not be sad.  This affliction will make you spiritually stronger.  Do not be sad.  Cheer up!  Praise be to God, you are dear to me.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 44)

One day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked about the health of Mr Haney.  He told the Master quite frankly, ‘My body is always well, but I am receiving so much Spiritual Food while here that I fear I shall have Spiritual indigestion.’  But his Host assured him:  ‘No, you are going to digest it, for He who gives you the Spiritual Food is going to give you digestive power.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 143)

To Mrs Smith, a new Baha’i, who belonged to a distinguished Philadelphia family and who was suffering with a headache, the Master said, ‘You must be happy always.  You must be counted among the people of joy and happiness and must be adorned with divine morals.  In a large measure happiness keeps our health while depression of spirit begets diseases.  The substance of eternal happiness is spirituality and divine morality, which has no sorrow to follow it.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 129)

He showered love on people:

On the day I arrived at Haifa I was ill with a dysentery which I had picked up in the course of my travels. ‘Abdu’l-Baha sent His own physician to me, and visited me Himself. He said, “I would that I could take your illness upon Myself.” I have never forgotten this. I felt, I knew, that in making this remark ‘Abdu’l-Baha was not speaking in mere terms of sympathy. He meant just what He said.  Such is the great love of the Kingdom, of which ‘Abdu’l-Baha spoke so often and so much. This is a love that is difficult, almost impossible, for us to acquire — though we may seek to approximate its perfection. It is more than sympathy, more than empathy. It is sacrificial love.   (Some Warm Memories of ‘Abdu’l-Baha — by Stanwood Cobb http://bahaitalks.blogspot.ca/2012/06/some-warm-memories-of-abdul-baha-by.html#more )

He never judged:

I remember as though it were yesterday another illustration of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s divine technique. I was not at all well that summer. A relapse was threatening a return of a condition which had necessitated a major operation the year before. My nervous condition made me consider breaking the habit of smoking which had been with me all my adult life. I had always prided myself on the ability to break the habit at any time. In fact I had several times cut off the use of tobacco for a period of many months.  But this time to my surprise and chagrin I found my nerves and will in such a condition that after two or three days the craving became too much for me.  Finally it occurred to me to ask the assistance of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. I had read His beautiful Tablet beginning:  “0 ye pure friends of God!” in which He glorified personal cleanliness and urged the avoidance of anything tending towards habits of self-indulgence. “Surely,” I said to myself, “He will tell me how to overcome this habit.”

So, when I next saw Him I told Him all about it. It was like a child confessing to His mother, and my voice trailed away to embarrassed silence after only the fewest of words. But He understood, indeed much better than I did. Again I was conscious of an embracing, understanding love as He regarded me. After a moment He asked quietly, how much I smoked. I told him.  He said He did not think that would hurt me, that the men in the Orient smoked all the time, that their hair and beards and clothing became saturated, and often very offensive. But that I did not do this, and at my age and having been accustomed to it for so many years He did not think that I should let it trouble me at all. His gentle eyes and smile seemed to hold a twinkle that recalled my impression of His enjoyment of a divine joke.

I was somewhat overwhelmed. Not a dissertation on the evils of habit; not an explanation of the bad effects on health; not a summoning of my will power to overcome desire, rather a Charter of Freedom did He present to me. I did not understand but it was a great relief for somehow I knew that this was wise advice. So immediately that inner conflict was stilled and I enjoyed my smoke with no smitings of conscience. But two days after this conversation I found the desire for tobacco had entirely left me and I did not smoke again for seven years.  (Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, p. 45)

He encouraged the care givers:

Elizabeth Gibson Cheyne, poetess, and her husband, Dr T. K. Cheyne, esteemed critic, lived in Oxford, England, when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited them.  Dr Cheyne’s health and strength were waning.  ‘The beautiful loving care of the devoted wife for her gifted, invalid husband touched the heart of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.  With tears in His kind eyes He spoke of them’ to His companions on their way back to London, ‘”She is an angelic woman, an example to all in her unselfish love.  Yes, she is a perfect woman.  An angel.”’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 107)

He educated people on spiritual and material healing:

 Mrs Parsons was at the luncheon. Before she became a Bahá’í she had been a Christian Scientist, and now she brought up the question of mental suggestion as a cure for physical disease. The Master replied that some illnesses, such as consumption and insanity, developed from spiritual causes — grief, for example — and that these could be healed by the spirit. But Mrs Parsons persisted. Could not extreme physical cases, like broken bones, also be healed by the spirit?  A large bowl of salad had been placed before the Master, Who sat at the head of the table, Florence Khanum on His right.

“If all the spirits in the air,” He laughed, “were to congregate together, they could not create a salad! Nevertheless, the spirit of man is powerful. For the spirit of man can soar in the firmament of knowledge, can discover realities, can confer life, can receive the Divine Glad-Tidings. Is not this greater,” and He laughed again, “than making a salad?”  (The Diary of Juliet Thompson, p. 105-106)

 He made sure people had medical attention, hiring doctors and paying for them Himself:

 In ‘Akká, He daily sent a servant to inquire about the welfare of the ill, and as there was no hospital in the town, He paid a doctor a regular salary to look after the poor.  The doctor was instructed not to tell Who provided this service.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 43)

‘Abdu’l-Baha believed in using medicine as well as spiritual healing. As there was no hospital in Akka, He hired a doctor by the name of Nikolaki Bey. He gave the doctor a regular salary to look after the very poor, and He asked the doctor not to tell who paid for the service.   (Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway)

But always, the poor turned to Abdu’l-Baha for help. For instance, there was a poor, crippled woman named Na’um who used to come to Abdu’l-Baha every week for a gift of money. One day, a man came running; “Oh Master!” he said, “Poor Na’um has the measles, and everybody is keeping away from her. What can be done?” Abdu’l-Baha immediately sent a woman to take care of her; He rented a room, put His own bedding in it, called the doctor, sent food and everything she needed. He went to see that she had every attention. And when she died in peace and comfort, He arranged a simple funeral and paid all the expenses Himself.” (Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway)

When a Turkish man, living in Haifa, lost his position, he, his wife and children were in desperate need.  They went to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for help and were naturally greatly aided.  When the poor man became ill, again the Master stood ready to help.  He provided a doctor, medicine and provisions to make him comfortable.  When this man felt he was to die, he asked for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and . . . The Master arranged for the funeral and provided food, clothing and travel-tickets for the family to go to Turkey.  His sympathetic heart was as wide as the universe.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 66)

He cured some:

Lua was so traumatized by the idea of leaving him that in an attempt to delay, she deliberately went into the woods and walked through poison ivy.  Later, in bed with her feet terribly swollen: “Look at me, Julie,” she said.  “Look at my feet.  Oh, please go right back to the Master and tell Him about them and say: how can Lua travel now?”  I did it, returned to the Master’s house, found Him in His room and put Lua’s question to Him.  He laughed, then crossed the room to a table on which stood a bowl of fruit, and, selecting an apple and a pomegranate, gave them to me.  “Take these to Lua,” He said.  “Tell her to eat them, and she will be cured.  Spend the day with her, Julie.” O precious Lua – strange mixture of disobedience and obedience – and all from love!  I shall never forget her, seizing first the apple, then the pomegranate and gravely chewing them all the way through till Not even a pomegranate seed was left: thoroughly eating her cure, which was certain to send her to California.  In the late afternoon we were happily surprised by a visit from the Master Himself.  He drew back the sheet and looked at Lua’s feet, which by that time were beautifully slim.  Then He burst out laughing.  “See,” He said, “I have cured Lua with an apple and a pomegranate.”  …  So poor Lua had to go to California.  There was no way out for her.  (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 120-121)

Muhammad-Hadi was from Isfahan, and as a binder and illuminator of books he had no peer. When he gave himself up to the love of God he was alert on the path and fearless. He abandoned his home and began a dreadful journey, passing with extreme hardship from one country to another until he reached the Holy Land and became a prisoner. He stationed himself by the Holy Threshold, carefully sweeping it and keeping watch. Through his constant efforts, the square in front of Bahá’u’lláh’s house was at all times swept, sprinkled and immaculate . . . When his sweeping, sprinkling and tidying was done, he would set to work illuminating and binding the various books and Tablets. So his days went by, his heart happy in the presence of the Beloved of mankind. He was an excellent soul, righteous, true, worthy of the bounty of being united with his Lord, and free of the world’s contagion.  One day he came to me and complained of a chronic ailment. “I have suffered from chills and fever for two years,” he said, “The doctors have prescribed a purgative, and quinine. The fever stops a few days; then it returns. They give me more quinine, but still the fever returns. I am weary of this life, and can no longer do my work. Save me!”  “What food would you most enjoy?” I asked him. “What would you eat with great appetite?”  “I don’t know,” he said.  Jokingly, I named off the different dishes. When I came to barley soup with whey (ash-i-kashk), he said, “Very good! But on condition there is braised garlic in it.”  I directed them to prepare this for him, and I left. The next day he presented himself and told me: “I ate a whole bowlful of the soup. Then I laid my head on my pillow and slept peacefully till morning.”  In short, from then on he was perfectly well for about two years.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 68-69)

He couldn’t save everyone though:

One day a believer came to me and said: “Muhammad-Hadi is burning up with fever.” I hurried to his bedside and found him with a fever of 42 Centigrade. He was barely conscious. “What has he done?” I asked. “When he became feverish,” was the reply, “he said that he knew from experience what he should do. Then he ate his fill of barley soup with whey and braised garlic; and this was the result.”  I was astounded at the workings of fate. I told them: “Because, two years ago, he had been thoroughly purged and his system was clear; because he had a hearty appetite for it, and his ailment was fever and chills, I prescribed the barley soup. But this time, with the different foods he has had, with no appetite, and especially with a high fever, there was no reason to diagnose the previous chronic condition. How could he have eaten the soup!” . . . Things had gone too far; Muhammad-Hadi was past saving.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 68-69)

Sometimes He gave people a choice about whether to be healed or not:

One brief incident that made a lasting impression on Leroy illustrates this power of the Master. It occurred one evening when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke at the Masonic Temple [in Chicago]. More than a thousand people were present. The Ioas and Dealy families were very close, as it was through Paul Dealy that they had become Bahá’ís. The Ioases had brought Mrs. Dealy to the meeting, as she to her great distress was going blind.  Following the Master’s talk, as hundreds milled around Him, she told her son he should have an interpreter ask ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to speak to her. Leroy, who was sitting next to her, remembers the son saying that would be impossible with all the people present. But she insisted and he went to pass on her request. The interpreter indicated she should sit on the aisle where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would leave. As the Master went up the aisle He stopped and greeted her lovingly. She reached for His hand and said, “’Abdu’l-Bahá, please put your hand on my forehead, and I know that I will see.‟ “Yes, my daughter,‟ He answered, “you will see. But you will have to choose. You may have your spiritual sight or your physical sight—which do you desire?‟ She said with emotion, “’Abdu’l-Bahá, that is no choice! I would be blind a thousand years before I would give up my spiritual sight!‟ “Well said, my daughter, well said,‟ replied the Master as He touched her shoulder and continued on His way out. Sitting next to her on that bench, Leroy realized with a chill how in that moment she had decided on her destiny. She was steadfast.  (Leroy Ioas, Hand of the Cause of God by Anita Ioas Chapman, pp. 25-26)

Thomas [Breakwell] wrote to the Master, happily saying that, if he were Persian, he would have chosen to be a martyr. He had been admitted to hospital, and was in the tuberculosis ward. But news from the young man continued to reach ‘Akká, conveying an ever-increasing joy, despite his suffering. Sometimes, when Dr. Khan read Thomas’s letters to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Master would remain silent. Dr. Khan knew that the ‘mysterious communion between the lover and the Beloved had no need of the spoken word.’ At other times, the Master would ask his secretary simply to convey His greetings. Although Thomas could have asked for healing, he never did, but prayed always for greater suffering. The more his illness consumed him, the greater his joy became. Hippolyte Dreyfus, who was able to visit Thomas in hospital, relates how the young Englishman spoke to the other patients enthusiastically about the Bahá’í Faith. Some of his listeners were upset by his message, others criticized it. But Thomas, unperturbed, maintained his tranquility and told them that he was not going to die, but was merely departing for the Kingdom of God, and that he would pray for them in heaven. Writing of his pain, he said: ‘Suffering is a heady wine; I am prepared to receive that bounty which is the greatest of all; torments of the flesh have enabled me to draw much nearer to my Lord. All agony notwithstanding, I wish life to endure longer, so that I may taste more of pain. That which I desire is the good-pleasure of my Lord; mention me in His presence.’ (Lakshiman-Lepain – The Life of Thomas Breakwell, p. 37-45)

Finally, He gave them to God:

At one time Juliet Thompson asked the Master about His daughter, Ruha Khanum, who had been very ill.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, ‘I have put her in the hands of the Blessed Perfection, and now I don’t worry at all.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 162)

How has this given you some new ideas of how you can help the sick?  Post your comments below.

Love Conquers Fear

Love is a light that never dwelleth in a heart possessed by fear.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Four Valleys, p. 58)

When referring to the Báb, he mentioned that “love had cast out fear”.  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh  and the New Era, p. 22)

Everywhere in the world, humanity is going through the trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  In trauma, people typically react through fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.  Let’s look at what each of these looks like and how love helps get us through.

Fight:  we attempt to gain control through outbursts of irritation, anger or bitterness

Flight:  we attempt escape through addictions (drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, sex, work, food, shopping etc) or suicide

Freeze:  we fall into hopeless, helpless despair leading to depression

Fawn:  we focus our attention on people pleasing, approval seeking and compulsive caretaking

While each of these are understandable, none of them are particularly helpful.  The things that help me are remembering that:

  • This pandemic is part of the disintegration of the old-world order, in order to build up something much better. To the extent that I can focus on applying the blueprint given to us by Bahá’u’lláh, I can turn away from all the things I can’t control.
  • The purpose of my life is to know and worship God. To the extent that I can develop and strengthen this relationship, laying all my affairs in His hands, I can trust what’s happening.
  • The purpose of my life is to also develop the virtues I’ll need in the next world. To the extent that I can focus on applying the virtues that I need in any given day, I can improve the quality of my life.  I find the ones I need the most often are faith and trust in God’s plan; detachment from my own response to lockdowns, stay at home orders, economic hardship, marriage and parenting problems, vaccine shortages and so on; patience with the process; and gratitude that we’re in a pandemic and not a world war, among others.

So let’s turn to love as a solution.  To love ourselves when we’re in fight mode, we can focus on what we can control and take action.  To help others we can get lots of physical exercise to dissipate the anger.

To love ourselves when we’re in flight mode, we can immerse ourselves in the Bahá’í Writings and the Dawnbreakers and biographies of early Bahá’í heros and heroines.  To love others we can make time to nurture friendships and forgive them for not being who we want them to be.

To love ourselves when we’re in freeze mode, we can get out through coming into the present by focusing on the breath, moving our bodies through exercise and/or finding ways to be of service.  To love others we can respond to invitations and get out of the house.

To love ourselves when we’re in fawn mode, we can put self-care first and spend time developing a loving relationship with ourselves. To love others we can recognize how manipulative we are when we take on roles that aren’t ours.

Seeing practical ways to overcome fear through love, 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  Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

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Personal Ambitions Don’t Bring Happiness

The fulfillment of our personal ambitions in life is very seldom what brings us happiness. On the contrary, it usually arouses an entire group of new ambitions. On the other hand, when we immerse ourselves in our duties both as human beings, to our families and our associates, and as Bahá’ís toward the Cause of God and serving it to the best of our ability in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we begin to know what happiness means. (Shoghi Effendi, letter dated 23 May 1956 in Family Life, #108)

As a recovering work, service and activity addict, I’ve had to learn this the hard way.  I was into my 60’s before I could see that my ambitions weren’t bringing me happiness.  Keeping busy filled a lot of time and helped me feel productive.  Work, service and activities kept the grief of the past from overwhelming the present and it also drove people away because I didn’t make time for relationship-building.

When I was turning 60, I did some research about what to expect from the next decade, expecting to find a lot of information on planning for retirement, but instead what I found were a lot of articles talking about the importance of relationships and health.  According to some research, if we don’t have nurturing relationships by this time in our lives, we are more likely suffer more complex health challenges and to die earlier.  The more I studied addiction, the more this made sense.  Current thinking is that addiction isn’t caused by the thing we’re addicted to – it’s caused by lack of relationships and using other substances and activities to fill the holes in our souls.

So I was happy to find this quote in my reading today, because it reminded me that instead of focusing on achieving my own ambitions to the exclusion of all else, there were other things I could do to have more balance and moderation in my life:

  • immerse myself in my duties towards myself (including self-care)
  • immerse myself in my duties towards my family and friends (including more contact, more love, more forgiveness)
  • immerse myself in my duties as a Bahá’í toward the Cause of God (including more prayer and meditation; and striving to put the Teachings into action)
  • serving the Cause of God to the best of my ability in the circumstances in which I find myself (including reading my reality and aligning my service to the will of God instead of forcing myself into activity meant for someone else)

Being reminded of where true happiness lies, I can focus my attention away from my own ambitions and 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 Learning How to Be Happy

 

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We All See Reality Differently

Participants in a consultative process see reality from different points of view, and as these views are examined and understood, clarity is achieved.  (Office of Social and Economic Development at the Bahá’í World Centre, Social Action, 26 November 2012, p. 13.  Bahá’í Library Online)

I like this quote because it reminds me that not everyone sees reality from my point of view.  Nowhere has this been more obvious than during this pandemic, where my choice to adhere to government directives and guidance from the House of Justice has been at odds with the behaviour and actions of many of my closest Bahá’í friends.

I became aware of a huge difference of opinions during the first lockdown, when they chose to gather at a cottage for our semi-annual retreat at a time when people were being asked not to come up to their cottages and to avoid the 3-C’s (close faces; closed spaces and crowded places).  I was furious that they would so blatantly disregard the lockdown and potentially put each other at risk.  I was afraid that the gulf between us had widened to such a degree that I’d never be able to find my way back.  I found myself incredibly judgemental, superior and self-righteous and at the same time, I was also jealous because they were continuing on and having fun without me.  They continued to have a retreat in the fall, when we still weren’t allowed to gather in each other’s houses, and it is now is happening again in the third lockdown.  Many of them are not planning to get vaccinated and I wonder if I will ever feel safe to go back to these retreats again.  I am swimming in a sea of poisonous, attack thoughts aimed at people I thought of as my closest friends for over 30 years.

I realized that I had a choice.  I could find a way to allow a difference of opinion and approach them with love and forgiveness; or I could let my bitterness eat away at the foundations of our friendship.  I know how to walk away when the going gets rough.  Now I’ve had to learn how to apply the things I’ve been teaching others in this blog and in my books, so I can keep these friends and at the same time keep my integrity and walk with my head held high with the effect of my decisions too.  Consultation with others has been an important key to remind me that we all have COVID-fatigue and everyone has their limits.  This has helped me be more understanding, and please God, may I continue to let go of judgement so I can hold love in my heart.

Remembering that consultation helps me see reality from different points of view, I can relax and 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 Learning How to Consult Effectively

 

 

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Healing the Stress Caused by the Pandemic

You should not neglect your health, but consider it the means which enables you to serve. It — the body — is like a horse which carries the personality and spirit, and as such should be well cared for so it can do its work! You should certainly safeguard your nerves, and force yourself to take time, and not only for prayer meditation, but for real rest and relaxation.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 296

One of my readers asked:

I am interested in perspectives on the healing of the mental and spiritual stresses placed on so many by the forced isolation caused by the pandemic.

There are lots of great articles on the internet about the importance of balancing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs for optimal health at this time.  Things we can do in each area include:

Spiritual

  • Prayer and Meditation (Reading the Bahá’í Writings morning and night with care and attention)
  • Make God your Best Friend: when we’re missing our loved one, God is always available to us, 24/7, and deepening our relationship with Him helps us achieve our purpose in life
  • Spend time finding God in nature each day

Mental

  • Immerse yourself in the Writings (perhaps by attending a Study Circle)
  • Set goals, preferably in alignment with the direction given by Bahá’í Institutions
  • Stay positive. There’s lots that we can’t control; and lots that we can’t know, but we can watch our thoughts and focus our attention on the positive, perhaps by finding things to be grateful for several times every day
  • Pay attention to your fears and give them to God instead of making them bigger

Emotional

  • Journal your stressors every day – I do it in the form of a “Dear God” letter
  • Make phone calls – hearing other people’s problems can give us a relief from our own
  • Pray with people – reciting the prayers out loud has an effect on our souls and the souls of everyone around us

Physical

  • Healthy eating
  • Lots of water
  • Lots of exercise
  • Lots of good quality sleep
  • Rest and relaxation

All of these things work together synergistically.

Knowing there are lots of practical ways I can care for my body and safeguard my nerves at this time, 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 Learning How to Be Happy

 

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