I think this is the first story I heard from Inez Greeven, at her home in Carmel , California , around 1980. Please feel free to share it in any way you wish to…
Inez’ sister India Haggarty was a pioneer living in a hotel in Paris in 1931. This was 10 years after the passing of the Master, and 20 years after His visit to that city. There was another pioneer in Paris at that time, and I‘ll call her “Mrs. S”.
One night in 1931 India had a vision of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He appeared to her and told her that He wanted her to go, right then, to her Bahá’í sister Mrs. S. “Bring her flowers, and bring her money,” He said.
India got up out of bed and immediately prepared herself to leave her hotel. As she was fixing her hair in the mirror, her face was still radiant from the vision of the Master. She called down to the hotel clerk to summon a taxi for her.
She gathered up all of her money. She set aside the money she needed for her personal expenses, and put all the rest of her cash into a small purse.
She went downstairs and asked the clerk, “Where is the nearest florist shop?” The clerk answered that there was one quite close by, but as it was just 5 o‘clock in the morning, it was of course closed.
India said thank-you, and waited for the taxi. When it arrived she said to please take her to that florist shop. The driver said all right, but it’s closed. She said, knowing that the Master had a way for her to get flowers, that he should take her there anyway. They arrived, and the windows were all dark. “I told you it was closed,” the driver said. India said to take her to the next florist shop, and it, too, was closed.
As they drove through the city, they came upon the farmer’s market area, where all of the local growers brought in their vegetables and flowers to sell to the local stores. There was a wagon filled with flowers, and India got out of the taxi and went over to the driver. She came back with an armful of red tulips, and got into the taxi.
She handed the driver a slip of paper with the address of Mrs. S. on it, and they drove across Paris in the early morning darkness.
[At this point in the story, Inez said to me, “Now imagine. A conservative American woman is going across Paris at 5 in the morning to bring flowers and money to another conservative American woman.”]
The taxi dropped India off at Mrs. S’s front door, and she stood there, with her arms full of red tulips. She knocked at the door. She heard a rustling, and the door opened. Mrs. S. was standing inside, wearing a heavy black coat, and it was obvious that she had been crying. Her face showed great distress. Mrs. S looked at India, and at the red tulips, and cried out, “OH! ABDU‘L-BAHA!” and burst into tears.
She sobbed and sobbed.
She and India went into her home and sat down, and India tried to comfort her friend. After she was composed, Mrs. S asked India , “Why have you come here?”
India answered that the Master had come to her in a vision, and that He had told her to bring flowers, and money. She handed the purse to Mrs. S. Mrs. S. was astounded. When she could speak, she said, “You think I am rich. Everyone does. And I did have money, but I ran out, and I was ashamed to tell anyone. There isn’t one speck of food in this house. As you can tell, the house is cold; I cannot afford to heat it. I have been suffering, and I could no longer bear it. I decided last night, to end my life. I awoke this morning, and I went and put on my coat. I decided to cast myself into the Seine, and drown myself. I went to the front door, and was just putting my hand on the doorknob to go out, when suddenly, you knocked. I opened the door, and you were standing there. I could not believe my eyes.
Twenty years ago, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá came to my house, in this city. And when I opened the door to receive Him, He was standing on my front porch — with an armful of red tulips. And to see you standing there with these tulips, and bringing this money, I could not believe it.”
O God, my God! Thou art my Hope and my Beloved, my highest Aim and Desire! With great humbleness and entire devotion I pray to Thee to make me a minaret of Thy love in Thy land, a lamp of Thy knowledge among Thy creatures, and a banner of divine bounty in Thy dominion. Number me with such of Thy servants as have detached themselves from everything but Thee, have sanctified themselves from the transitory things of this world, and have freed themselves from the promptings of the voicers of idle fancies. Let my heart be dilated with joy through the spirit of confirmation from Thy kingdom, and brighten my eyes by beholding the hosts of divine assistance descending successively upon me from the kingdom of Thine omnipotent glory. Thou art, in truth, the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the All-Powerful. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Prayers, p. 56)
This month’s selection is a song called “Be Hopeful”, by a group of collaborators of the Ruhi institute. It was created for Ruhi Book 3, Grade 1, Lesson 18, to make it easier to for children in children’s classes to learn. It’s a good song for adults too!
The euphoria of the new millennium has passed, and now the world is desperately seeking a reason to hope for a better future. That’s why Karen and Justice St. Rain have reissued their best-selling Bahá’í Teachings for a New Millenniumwith a new cover, title and introduction that speaks to our current needs.
This is the booklet for seekers who want to go straight to the source. Here readers will find over one hundred carefully selected quotations that offer an uplifting and hopeful vision of humanity’s potential. The cover is beautiful. The interior text is deep purple. The type is large. The quotations cover a wide range of topics, organized around the idea of maturity and God’s love. Section headings include
Building a New Relationship with God
Tools for Social Progress
The Role of Religion
Envisioning the Future
A Selection of Baha’i Prayers.
Hope is what makes it possible to live through difficult times. While blind hope allows us to hold on for another day, informed hope offers guidance on how to turn our hopes into reality. Members of the Bahá’í Faith are guided by informed hope that is built upon the founding principles of our religion.
In these pages you will be reminded of God’s love for you. You will gain a greater understanding of what it means to be a child of God, and you will be given some visionary guidance as to how humanity will soon learn to live in peace. By the end, I hope that you will not only understand the Bahá’ís’ hope for the future, but that you will share it.
Firoozeh Bowden has a story of hope and transformation. She was on one of the last planes to leave Iran, before the US Embassy was seized and the US hostages were taken. She arrived alone in the US to attend college, not knowing a soul, and not speaking much English! After college, her goal was to get married, have a family, and do her best to bring up children that were spiritual, balanced, strong, and confident in this world. By her early 30’s, she had not found anyone compatible, and not knowing God had other plans for her, she became depressed.
During her pilgrimage in 1999, she had a very long and sincere conversation with God, and asked him to please show her her mate so that she could share the rest of her life with him. Two nights in a row while there, she dreamt of a specific gentleman. In one dream he asked to marry her! Six months later she met him, and they have been together ever since.
Since her 20’s she suffered with headaches with neck and back pain which got progressively worse, until she was bedridden for 10-15 days a month recovering. She would get tired very quickly after simple tasks, and her hands and body were almost always shaking. Various doctors, including MDs, naturopaths, nutritionists and allergy specialists, all had different ideas about what was causing the problems, but most agreed that stress was an important factor. Life did not seem worth living. Not being able to create her art, enjoy her loved ones and serve her community was killing her. Once again she had an openhearted conversation with God.
You can read more of her story here
As a result of her own healing, she decided to become an energy coach, teaching people to open their hearts and improve their own daily lives by strengthening their connection with God. Through this process, she helps you discover your higher purpose in the universe.
Firoozeh believes that when stress is allowed to build up and store in our bodies, it closes the connection between us and God. Her clients come to her online sessions to rid themselves of daily stress and to reconnect with Divine Energy in order to refresh and rejuvenate the body so it can naturally heal itself. Her 45 minute sessions start with an assessment of your needs, followed by 25 – 30 minutes of relaxation/meditation, and finally a few minutes to get feedback.
Firoozeh Bowden is also an artist specializing in handcrafted jewelry, accessories, and other works of art. She has a wonderful selection of prayer beads, as well as meditation necklaces and bracelets.
She has been making jewelry and clothing accessories since she was a small child and as an adult she studied industrial design and metal smithing. She’s merged these skills to capture and set the latest trends in contemporary fashion. Her vision for each piece comes from the shapes and patterns she sees in nature, and she incorporates semi-precious stones, leather, chainmail and metal to create accessories that convey both beauty and originality.
At her site you can find earrings, bracelets, necklaces, meditation beads, belts, purses, watches, fantasy art shoes and wall art. All of her pieces are uniquely hand-crafted and one-of-a-kind, but if you’re interested in an item that has sold, she may be able to fashion a similar piece for you.
Thanks to all who write in! Your encouragement really keeps me going!
By the way, I accept donations! If you like the materials in these newsletters and on my website, please consider making a donation. Your help and feedback is GREATLY appreciated, to defray the costs of making these available to you!!! There’s a PayPal “Donate” Button at the bottom of every page on my website. Thank you!!!
See you next month! Hope it’s a month filled with might!
Since at least the early 1990’s the House of Justice has been encouraging us to encourage, and I hear this concept mentioned over and over again, but what exactly does it mean, and how do we do it? Let’s look at what the Bahá’í Writings have to teach us!
Whose Responsibility is Encouragement?
Individuals must support each other in a strong effort to suppress every critical thought and every harsh word, in order to let the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh flow into the entire community:
When we see the condition the world is in today, we must surely forget these utterly insignificant internal disturbances, and rush, unitedly, to the rescue of humanity. You should urge your fellow- Bahá’ís to take this point of view, and to support you in a strong effort to suppress every critical thought and every harsh word, in order to let the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh flow into the entire community, and unite it in His love and in His service. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 91)
Assemblies must master the art of making use of the talents of individuals and rousing the mass of the friends to action:
Although Spiritual Assemblies are good at specifying goals, they have not yet mastered the art of making use of the talents of individuals and rousing the mass of the friends to action in fulfilment of such goals. Removing this deficiency would be a mark of the maturation of these institutions. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
The community as a whole should be involved in efforts to encourage:
The community as a whole should be involved in efforts to resolve such issues. A single answer would, of course, be inadequate, there being so many diverse elements and interests in the community. These matters require not only your own independent consultation but consultation with the Counsellors as well. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
Who Needs Particular Encouragement?
We all need encouragement!
The friends everywhere need encouragement. (Universal House of Justice, 1998 Apr, Training Institutes)
Assemblies must give unlimited encouragement to women:
The members of the House of Spirituality must give unlimited encouragement to women. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 336)
Special encouragement should be given to believers of unusual capacity:
Special encouragement should therefore be given to believers of unusual capacity to consecrate their abilities to the service of the Cause through the unique contribution they can make to this rapidly developing field of Bahá’í endeavour. (Universal House of Justice, Scholarship, p. 13)
Inactive and unresponsive believers especially need encouragement, love and assistance:
It is very discouraging to find inactive and unresponsive believers; on the other hand we must always realize that some souls are weak and immature and not capable of carrying on an active administrative burden. They need encouragement, the love of their fellow Bahá’ís and assistance. To blame them for not doing more for the Cause is useless, and they may actually have a very firm belief in Bahá’u’lláh which with care could be fanned into flame. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 84)
Those who are attracted to the Cause are in need of encouragement while they strive toward recognizing and accepting Bahá’u’lláh:
As the teaching intensifies, all believes can anticipate being surrounded by an increasing number of people who are attracted to the Cause but in need of encouragement while they strive toward the recognition and acceptance of Bahá’u’lláh. (International Teaching Centre, 1992 May 09, Inviting Seekers to Embrace the Cause)
Why do We Encourage?
Because our teachings call on us to encourage each other:
Related to this is the tendency of the friends to criticize each other at the slightest provocation, whereas the Teachings call upon them to encourage each other. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
So that we can win victories for the Faith in our own spheres of life:
At this exact time in history when the peoples of the world are weighed down with soul-crushing difficulties and the shadow of despair threatens to eclipse the light of hope, there must be revived among the individual believers a sense of mission, a feeling of empowerment to minister to the urgent need of humanity for guidance and thus to win victories for the Faith in their own sphere of life. (The Universal House of Justice, 1994 May 19, response to US NSA)
So we don’t stunt the growth and development of the community:
But human beings are not perfect. The Local Assemblies and the friends must be helped through your example and through loving counsel to refrain from such a pattern of criticism, which stunts the growth and development of the community. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
Because more beneficial results are achieved by encouragement than by threats or the imposition of sanctions:
At the present stage . . . far more beneficial results are likely to be achieved by encouragement of the believers and by their education in the principles and significance of Bahá’í administration than by the threat or imposition of sanctions. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)
In order to nourish a culture of growth:
Training alone, of course, does not necessarily lead to an upsurge in teaching activity. In every avenue of service, the friends need sustained encouragement. Our expectation is that the Auxiliary Board members, together with their assistants, will give special thought to how individual initiative can be cultivated, particularly as it relates to teaching. When training and encouragement are effective, a culture of growth is nourished in which the believers see their duty to teach as a natural consequence of having accepted Bahá’u’lláh. (The Universal House of Justice, Ridván 158, 2001 01 09, to the Conference of the Continental Counsellors)
Encouragement is the secret of universal participation:
The real secret of universal participation lies in the Master’s oft expressed wish that the friends should love each other, constantly encourage each other, work together, be as one soul in one body, and in so doing become a true, organic, healthy body animated and illumined by the spirit. (Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 43)
An upsurge in teaching activity depends on “sustained encouragement”:
In the same message, the House of Justice also stated that an upsurge in teaching activity depends on “sustained encouragement.” (ITC, 2003 Apr 23, Building Momentum, p. 13)
Without encouragement, families cannot prosper nor women advance:
Parents have responsibility toward their children, and children toward their parents, but beyond responsibility, the emphasis is on love, respect, courtesy, kindness and encouragement, without which families cannot prosper nor women advance. (Baha’i International Community, 1990 Sept 06, Women Development in Pacific)
What prevents us from being encouraging?
Our deep love for the Faith means we want to see it free of any flaw:
Such tendencies are of course motivated by a deep love for the Faith, a desire to see it free of any flaw. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
What actions are not encouraging?
An accumulated impression of institutional disapproval and a fear of criticism inhibits our initiative:
Even if you are doing nothing deliberately to discourage such freedom, their accumulated impression of institutional disapproval, however derived, and their fear of criticism are, to a considerable extent, inhibiting their exercise of initiative. (The Universal House of Justice, 1994 May 19, response to US NSA)
When we lay down too many rules and regulations:
You should also be fearful of laying down too many rules and regulations. The Cause is not so fragile that a degree of mistakes cannot be tolerated. When you feel that certain actions may become trends with harmful consequences, you may, instead of making a new rule, discuss the matter with the Counsellors, enlisting their support in educating the friends in a manner that will improve their understanding and their conduct. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
Criticism prevents any decision from being enforced:
It is again not permitted that any one of the honoured members object to or censure, whether in or out of the meeting, any decision arrived at previously, though that decision be not right, for such criticism would prevent any decision from being enforced. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 88)
What Actions are Encouraging?
We ignore the bad qualities and search for the good ones:
If a man has ten good qualities and one bad one, to look at the ten and forget the one; and if a man has ten bad qualities and one good one, to look at the one and forget the ten. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 83)
We put the past behind and refrain from mentioning subjects which have led to misunderstanding and inharmony:
When criticism and harsh words arise within a Bahá’í community there is no remedy except to put the past behind one and persuade all concerned to turn over a new leaf, and, for the sake of God and His Faith, refrain from mentioning the subjects which have led to misunderstanding and inharmony. (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, pp. 17-18)
We help each other overcome our problems, deepen in the Faith, and increase their unity and love for each other, our work will go ahead speedily:
The friends should be helped to overcome their problems, deepen in the Faith, and increase their unity and their love for each other. In this way you will find that your work goes ahead speedily, and that the National Body is like the beating of a healthy heart in the midst of the Community, pumping spiritual love, energy and encouragement out to all the members. (Shoghi Effendi, Unlocking the Power of Action)
We appreciate the nature of the power of action which they possess:
As to your worry about over-controlling the friends: by appreciating the nature of the power of action which they possess, you will be able to gauge how best to guide and direct them. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
We give people a wide latitude for action and a large margin for mistakes:
A wide latitude for action must be allowed them, which means that a large margin for mistakes must also be allowed. Your National Assembly and the Local Assemblies must not react automatically to every mistake, but distinguish between those that are self-correcting with the passage of time and do no particular harm to the community and those which require Assembly intervention. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
We help people feel a greater sense of freedom to engage in a wide range of activities originating with themselves:
A new burst of energy would accrue to the operation of the Three Year Plan if the friends, both individually and collectively, could feel a greater sense of freedom to engage in a wide range of activities originating with themselves. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
We recognize that each person cannot do everything and all persons cannot do the same thing:
A unity in diversity of actions is called for, a condition in which different individuals will concentrate on different activities, appreciating the salutary effect of the aggregate on the growth and development of the Faith, because each person cannot do everything and all persons cannot do the same thing. This understanding is important to the maturity which, by the many demands being made upon it, the community is being forced to attain. (The Universal House of Justice, A Wider Horizon, Selected Letters 1983-1992, p. 80)
In every interaction, we ask: Would ‘Abdu’l-Bahá behave like this?
The people of the world today, whether Bahá’ís or non-Bahá’ís — no matter how desperately they need everything in the Bahá’í administration — are not going to benefit by being banged on the head by rules and regulations; they need love and encouragement. They need the spirit ‘Abdu’l-Bahá showered upon all men, the reason He is our Exemplar. A good question for every one of us to ask our own selves is ‘Would the Master behave like this? (Ruhiyyih Khanum, A Manual for Pioneers, p. 19)
From this we see the following actions are helpful:
ignore the bad qualities and search for the good ones
put the past behind and refrain from mentioning subjects which have led to misunderstanding and inharmony
help each other overcome our problems
help each other deepen in the Faith
appreciating the nature of the power of action which they possess
give people a wide latitude for action and a large margin for mistakes
give people a greater sense of freedom to initiate a wide range of activities
recognize that each person cannot do everything and all persons cannot do the same thing
in every interaction, ask: Would ‘Abdu’l-Bahá behave like this?
In spite of all the loving encouragement we may give, not all Bahá’ís will become active in the work of the community:
In spite of loving encouragement given by their Assemblies, not all Bahá’ís are active in the work of the community. This does not, of course, necessarily indicate withdrawal. An Assembly should carefully distinguish between those who are not active but still identify themselves with the Faith, and those whose inactivity indicates complete lack of interest and a wish to have nothing more to do with the Cause. (Universal House of Justice, Withdrawal from the Faith, 4 April 2001)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá loved the cheerful, optimistic attitude of the Americans:
One reporter asked “What do you think of America?” ‘I like it,’ replied the Master, Americans are optimistic. If you ask them how they are, they say, “All right!” If you ask them how things are going, they say “All right!” This cheerful attitude is good. (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 56)
Weep on. Beyond the tears is sunshine
Stanwood Cobb, the renowned educator, wrote, ‘This philosophy of joy was the keynote of all of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s teaching. “Are you happy?” was His frequent greeting to His visitors. “Be happy!” ‘Those who were unhappy (and who of us are not at times!) would weep at this. And ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would smile as if to say, “Yes, weep on. Beyond the tears is sunshine.” ‘And sometimes He would wipe away with His own hands the tears from their wet cheeks, and they would leave His presence transfigured.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 127)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá banished a boy who didn’t have a happy face!
On one occasion two young boys, Shoghi Effendi and his first cousin, Ruhi Effendi, entered the presence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The Master looked at them thoughtfully and then remarked to Ruhi Effendi, ‘If you can’t wear a happy, pleasant expression on your face like Shoghi Effendi, then you are excused.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 48)
O Lord! O Lord! Make me severed from the world and void of its conditions, attracted by the fragrances of Thy holiness among Thy maid-servants, free in heart, happy in soul, cheerful in mind, longing for the Kingdom of Thy Beauty, and glowing with the fire of Thy love in the world. Thus may I enkindle the light of guidance in the hearts of Thy servants. Verily, Thou are the Powerful, the Bestower, the Precious, the Mighty! (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 110)
O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand. Thou art my Guide and my Refuge. I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life. O God! Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself. I dedicate myself to Thee, O Lord.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 150)
Combining dozens of quotations from a variety of sources with the distilled essence of his book “The Secret of Emotions,” Justice Saint Rain has created a lovely gift edition of his popular booklet, “The Secret of Happiness,” which has already sold over 12,000 copies worldwide. Whether you would like a clear and simple understanding of the nature of happiness, or need a gift for a friend who is feeling down, this easy-to-read and beautifully-formatted book is exactly what you are looking for.
Learning How to Be Happy is full of practical, powerful solutions with lots of examples and stories to illustrate answers from the Divine Physician, a source we can trust.
In it you will . . .
Find spiritual tools to advance your recovery
Learn how idle fancies and vain imaginings reduce happiness and keep you stuck
Learn how to rise up, take back your life and claim what unhappiness and suffering has stolen from you.
Learn how to be happy at your very core instead of just treating symptoms
Discover why we aren’t finding happiness using conventional methods
Understand where you have choices and how to make them
See how to transform negative thoughts into happier ones
Challenge the habits of thought that keep you stuck in victimhood
Help others who are unhappy recognize the signs and offer support with love
Learn specific prayers to use
Learning How to Be Happy is packed with ideas and techniques you can use immediately to overcome your suffering and find a more joyful way of life. Nowhere else will you find this approach to happiness, straight from the Bahá’í Writings. When you learn to apply the Divine Remedy, there is hope for a complete recovery.
As a Health Coach, Nicole creates a supportive environment that will enable you to achieve all of your health goals. She has studied all the major dietary theories and uses practical lifestyle coaching methods to guide you in discovering which approach works best for you. Most approaches to nutrition dwell on calories, carbs, fats, proteins. Instead of creating lists of restrictions and good and bad foods, she coaches her clients to create a happy, healthy life in a way that is flexible, fun and free of denial and discipline. No one diet works for everyone. Nicole will guide you to find the food and lifestyle choices that best support you. She will also help you to make gradual, lifelong changes that enable you to reach your current and future health goals.
This two and a half-hour documentary, traces ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s 239 days in the United States and Canada. What was it like to meet Him? What implications do His journey and the talks He gave have for us today? Luminous Journey uses engaging documentary storytelling and offers a reflection upon a journey destined to change the consciousness of a nation and the world. In it we see the effect on the people he met,
Using high-definition production techniques and engaging documentary storytelling, told by the people who witnessed the visit 100 years ago, Luminous Journey celebrates the centenary of the travels of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in North America, the impact He made, and His prophetic vision of the spiritual destiny of America.
Shot on location, at significant places throughout the United States and Canada, such as New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, New Hampshire, Maine, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Chicago, Montreal, Colorado, and California, Luminous Journey utilizes extras in period costumes, with historic vehicles and props, to stage visual recreations and impressions.
There are two kinds of happiness: physical and spiritual. Physical happiness is limited in duration, quickly vanishes and has no result.
Happiness consists of two kinds; physical and spiritual. The physical happiness is limited; its utmost duration is one day, one month, one year. It hath no result. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 673-674)
Temporal joy will vanish. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 178)
Many of us were taught that happiness lie in having more things, but as we learn, this will only bring us momentary pleasure:
Joy was not, He told them, a by-product of material comfort and affluence.
(H.M. Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – The Centre of the Covenant, p. 31)
If you possess the whole world, the treasures of the world, the pleasures of the world, they may be momentary pleasures, but they will be bitter sadness throughout your life. They will never bring you any happiness. People are wrong to change the places of their entertainment and enjoyments from New York to Paris, to Rome, to Africa, to Australia. They are searching for it, while they are carrying it along within themselves. (From Hand of the Cause Mr. Faizi)
Spiritual happiness is what we’re all looking for, because it’s eternal and unfathomable:
Spiritual happiness is eternal and unfathomable. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 673-674)
We have an innate longing for happiness, and when we find it once, we try to duplicate the feeling.
When a man has found the joy of life in one place, he returns to that same spot to find more joy. When a man has found gold in a mine, he returns again to that mine to dig for more gold. This shows the internal force and natural instinct which God has given to man, and the power of vital energy which is born in him. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 33)
Happiness appears in our soul with the love of God and causes us to attain all the virtues and perfections we’re looking for. This is why it’s so important to find the love of God. It’s the key to happiness!
This kind of happiness appeareth in one’s soul with the love of God and suffereth one to attain to the virtues and perfections of the world of humanity. Therefore, endeavor as much as thou art able in order to illuminate the lamp of thy heart by the light of love. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 673-674)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us that the greatest bliss and delight possible is discovering that by the confirming grace of God we have become the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellow men. This reinforces the idea that we’re responsible for each other’s well-being and happiness.
And the honor and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good. Is any larger bounty conceivable than this, that an individual, looking within himself, should find that by the confirming grace of God he has become the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellow men? No, by the one true God, there is no greater bliss, no more complete delight..? (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 2)
Here’s another quote which suggests we’re responsible for each other’s happiness. First we have to be cheerful ourselves so that we can bring joy and happiness to others:
I beg of God that thou mayest find a cheerful life, cause the increase of the longing of all present in the meetings of the maid-servants of the Merciful One and bring joy and happiness to the handmaidens of God; so that thou mayest diffuse the fragrances and chant the manifest verses. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 185-186)
Individualism has caused the “pursuit of happiness” to give rise to an aggressive and boundless sense of personal entitlement.
No aspect of contemporary civilization is more directly challenged by Bahá’u’lláh’s conception of the future than is the prevailing cult of individualism, which has spread to most parts of the world. Nurtured by such cultural forces as political ideology, academic elitism, and a consumer economy, the “pursuit of happiness” has given rise to an aggressive and almost boundless sense of personal entitlement. (Bahá’í International Community, 1999 Feb, Who is Writing the Future)
The moral consequences have been corrosive for both individual and society alike; and devastating in terms of disease and drug addiction.
The moral consequences have been corrosive for the individual and society alike – and devastating in terms of disease, drug addiction and other all-too- familiar blights of century’s end. (Bahá’í International Community, 1999 Feb, Who is Writing the Future)
Correcting this will require us to call into question some of our most deeply entrenched assumptions about right and wrong.
The task of freeing humanity from an error so fundamental and pervasive will call into question some of the twentieth century’s most deeply entrenched assumptions about right and wrong. (Bahá’í International Community, 1999 Feb, Who is Writing the Future)
God has made provisions so that everyone on earth has access to everything they need for all humanity to be in the utmost happiness, the utmost comfort and the utmost well-being. Sadly, we’ve created a world where conditions are such that some are happy and comfortable and others are in misery; some are accumulating exorbitant wealth and others are in dire want. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us that under such a system it is impossible for man to be happy.
God is not partial and is no respecter of persons. He has made provision for all. The harvest comes forth for everyone. The rain showers upon everybody and the heat of the sun is destined to warm everyone. The verdure of the earth is for everyone. Therefore there should be for all humanity the utmost happiness, the utmost comfort, the utmost well-being. But if conditions are such that some are happy and comfortable and some in misery; some are accumulating exorbitant wealth and others are in dire want—under such a system it is impossible for man to be happy and impossible for him to win the good pleasure of God. God is kind to all. The good pleasure of God consists in the welfare of all the individual members of mankind. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 41)
No matter how far the material world advances, it cannot establish the happiness of mankind. Only when material and spiritual civilization are linked and coordinated will happiness be assured.
No matter how far the material world advances, it cannot establish the happiness of mankind. Only when material and spiritual civilization are linked and coordinated will happiness be assured. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 109)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá shares a story which illustrates this point:
A Persian king was one night in his palace, living in the greatest luxury and comfort. Through excessive joy and gladness he addressed a certain man, saying: “Of all my life this is the happiest moment. Praise be to God, from every point prosperity appears and fortune smiles! My treasury is full and the army is well taken care of. My palaces are many; my land unlimited; my family is well off; my honor and sovereignty are great. What more could I want!”
The poor man at the gate of his palace spoke out, saying: “O kind king! Assuming that you are from every point of view so happy, free from every worry and sadness—do you not worry for us? You say that on your own account you have no worries—but do you never worry about the poor in your land? Is it becoming or meet that you should be so well off and we in such dire want and need? In view of our needs and troubles how can you rest in your palace, how can you even say that you are free from worries and sorrows?
As a ruler you must not be so egoistic as to think of yourself alone but you must think of those who are your subjects. When we are comfortable then you will be comfortable; when we are in misery how can you, as a king, be in happiness?” The purport is this that we are all inhabiting one globe of earth. In reality we are one family and each one of us is a member of this family. We must all be in the greatest happiness and comfort, under a just rule and regulation which is according to the good pleasure of God, thus causing us to be happy, for this life is fleeting. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 41)
Other reasons for unhappiness include racial and religious prejudice, the competitive struggle for existence and inhumanity toward each other.
The obstacle to human happiness is racial or religious prejudice, the competitive struggle for existence and inhumanity toward each other. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 468)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá was happiest when people of all races were present:
Joseph Hannen records: “On Tuesday, April 23rd, at noon, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá addressed the student-body of more than 1,000, the faculty and a large number of distinguished guests, at Howard University. This was a most notable occasion, and here, as everywhere when both white and colored people were present, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá seemed happiest. The address was received with breathless attention by the vast audience, and was followed by a positive ovation and a recall.” (Hannen, “‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Washington, D.C.” p. 7; Agnes Parson’s Diary, p. 29, Footnote 44)
Looking for happiness in the wrong places
We’ll never find happiness until we attach ourselves to the eternal:
Therefore the heart is never at rest and never finds real joy and happiness until it attaches itself to the eternal. How foolish the bird that builds its nest in a tree that may perish when it could build its nest in an ever-verdant garden of paradise. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 136-137)
Living in a hedonistic, materialist, consumer-driven society, many of us grew up believing happiness could be found in possessions or activities or substances.
Many people go from one thing or another, looking for happiness and when it eludes them, they move on to something else, but so far, very few find happiness or peace of mind this way:
A great many people embrace these cults which become fashionable for a time. But when the Novelty wears off or dissatisfaction sets in, or the movements become impotent and disintegrate, then they look for another saviour, another movement or another sect, and there are many to turn to throughout the world. And so the experiment to find peace and tranquillity in one’s life continues. But so far few have found happiness or peace of mind. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 4, p. 71)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá makes a link between happiness and the equality between men and women that might surprise you:
And let it be known once more that until woman and man recognize and realize equality … the happiness and felicity of mankind will not be a reality. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 76)
This suggests that we’re responsible for making each other happy, not in a codependent way, but by recognizing and working towards the equality of the other person.
Shoghi Effendi says it more clearly:
The more we make others happy the greater will be our own happiness and the deeper our sense of having served humanity. (Shoghi Effendi, The Light of Divine Guidance v I, p. 45)
This story also illustrates the point:
The Master wanted people to be happy not only because then they could come to know the spiritual life, but also because in that condition they could make others happy too. Similarly He once told one of His daughters who was to travel with her aunt that she should be a cheerful companion. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 168)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us our responsibility to bring happiness to those who are sick:
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)
We all want to be happy! Many of us don’t know how; or more importantly, that it requires effort and the right kind of attitudes on our part.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá wants us to be hopeful, happy and rejoiced, which makes happiness a spiritual standard we’re striving to achieve.
Be thou hopeful and be thou happy and rejoiced. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 545)
I think the reason for this is so the world can see our belief in Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings will be reflected in our faces.
Believers, he added, must show their belief in their daily lives, so that the world might see the light shining in their faces . (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 124-125)
In New York ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:
May everyone point to you and ask “Why are these people so happy?” I want you to be happy … to laugh, smile and rejoice in order that others may be made happy by you. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 130)
Happiness has a practical purpose as well – it keeps our health, while depression of spirit begets diseases:
To Mrs Smith, a new Bahá’í, 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)
Joy is the best cure for illness. It’s better than a hundred thousand medicines.
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)
Happiness vitalizes our strength, makes our intellects keener and our understanding less clouded. We’re better able to cope with the world and find our sphere of usefulness.:
Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 109)
Also, happiness helps others know they can trust and depend on us in all of our business and personal dealings:
Let the Light of Truth and Honesty shine from them, so that all who behold them may know that their word in business or pleasure will be a word to trust and depend upon. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 124-125)
We can’t know the spiritual life unless we are happy. Here’s how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá taught Mrs C about living in the spiritual life:
A ‘Mrs C’ was an early believer who went to ‘Akká. She belonged to a wealthy and fashionable group of people in New York. Her life had been conventional and rather unsatisfying. She had been a sincere Christian, but somehow had not gained much comfort from her religion. She had become somewhat melancholy. While travelling abroad, she had learned about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. She eagerly grasped His message and headed to the prison-city. Having arrived, she was fascinated by everything, most especially by the Master.
She noticed that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá always greeted her with ‘Be happy!’ The other members of the party were not addressed in the same way by Him. This troubled her. Finally she asked someone to ask the Master why He addressed her in this way. With ‘His peculiarly illuminating smile‘, He replied, ‘I tell you to be happy because we can not know the spiritual life unless we are happy!’
‘Then Mrs C’s dismay was complete, and her diffidence vanished with the fullness of her despair. ‘”But tell me, what is the spiritual life?” she cried, “I have heard ever since I was born about the spiritual life, and no one could ever explain to me what it is!”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá looked at His questioner again with that wonderful smile of His, and said gently: “Characterize thyself with the characteristics of God, and thou shalt know the spiritual life!”’ – few words, but they were sufficient.
The characteristics of God? They must be such attributes as love and beauty, justice and generosity. ‘All day long her mind was flooded with the divine puzzle, and all day long she was happy. She did not give a thought to her duties, and yet when she arrived at the moment of her evening’s reckoning, she could not remember that she had left them undone.
‘At last she began to understand. If she was absorbed in Heavenly ideals, they would translate themselves into deeds necessarily, and her days and nights would be full of light. From that moment she never quite forgot the divine admonition that had been granted her: “Characterize thyself with the characteristics of God!” ‘And she learned to know the spiritual life.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 133)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us how he survived forty years of imprisonment, where, without happiness, he couldn’t have lived through those years:
I myself was in prison forty years—one year alone would have been impossible to bear —nobody survived that imprisonment more than a year! But, thank God, during all those forty years I was supremely happy! Every day, on waking, it was like hearing good tidings, and every night infinite joy was mine. Spirituality was my comfort, and turning to God was my greatest joy. If this had not been so, do you think it possible that I could have lived through those forty years in prison? (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 111-112)