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Baha’i Basics – Fasting

Compiled by Marlene Macke, St Marys, ON, Canada

 

Oxford Dictionary:  “Fast: Abstain from (some kinds of) food as religious observance or in sign of mourning; go without food”   (Break one’s fast = breakfast)

… I humbled my soul with fasting …- Psalms 35:13

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast.  Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee  openly.  –  Matthew 6:16‑18

A story of the afflicted child who was brought to Jesus by the disciples after their vain efforts to cast out from him the spirit which tormented him and of his being healed by Jesus, who said, in reply to a question from the disciples, that “This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting”.  –  Mark 9: 7‑29

O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self‑restraint  ‑  The Qur’an, Surih 2:183

Whate’er thou doest, Prince!

Eating or sacrificing, giving gifts,

Praying or fasting, let it all be done

For Me, as Mine. So shalt thou free thyself

From Karmabandh, the chain which holdeth men

To good and evil issue, so shalt come

Safe unto Me‑ when thou art quit of flesh‑

By faith and abdication joined to Me!  –  Hindu Texts, Bhagavad‑Gita, from Chapter IX, Entitled “Rajavidyarajaguhyayog,”  or “The Book of Religion by the Kingly Knowledge and the Kingly Mystery”

Know assuredly that My commandments are the lamps of My living providence among My servants, and the keys of My mercy for My creatures.  –  Baha’u’llah, Kitab‑i‑Aqdas, paragraph 3

We have commanded you to pray and fast from the beginning of maturity; this is ordained by God, your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers.  He has exempted from this those who are weak from illness or age, as a bounty from His presence, and He is the Forgiving, the Generous.  –  Baha’u’llah, Kitab‑i‑Aqdas, paragraph 10

The nineteen day fast is a duty to be observed by all.  All should abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset.  This fast is  conducive to the spiritual development of the individual.  –  Abdu’l‑Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l‑Baha, Vol 1, p. 57

…prayer and fasting is the cause of awakening and mindfulness and  conducive to protection and preservation from tests.  –  Abdu’l‑Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 368

It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul.  Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character.  Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.  –  Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 233

The fasting period, which lasts nineteen days starting as a rule from the second of March every year and ending on the twentieth of the same month, involves complete abstention from food and drink from sunrise till sunset.  It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul.  Its significance and purpose, are, therefore fundamentally spiritual in character.  Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.  –  Shoghi Effendi, 10 January 1936, Baha’i News, March 1936, p. 1

We have enjoined upon you fasting during a brief period, and at its close have designated for you Naw‑Ruz as a feast…The traveller, the ailing, those who are with child or giving suck, are not bound by the fast….Abstain from food and drink, from sunrise to sundown, and beware lest desire deprive you of this grace that is appointed in the Book.  –  Baha’u’llah, Kitab‑i‑Aqdas, paragraph 16

Travellers are exempt from fasting, but if they want to fast while they are travelling, they are free to do so.  You are exempt the whole period of your travel, not just the hours you are in a train or car, etc.  If one eats unconsciously during the fasting hours, this is not breaking the Fast as it is an accident.  The age limit is seventy years, but if one desires to fast after the age limit is passed, and is strong enough to, one is free to do so.  If during the Fast period a person falls ill and is unable to fast, but recovers before the fast period is over, he can start to fast again and continue until the end.   Of course the Fast, as you know, can only be kept during the month set aside for that purpose.  –  Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i News, January 1944, p. 2

..its observance has been enjoined by Baha’u’llah upon all the believers, once they attain the age of fifteen, and until they reach seventy…in the Aqdas, Baha’u’llah permits certain exceptions to this general obligation of fasting, among them are included those who do hard work, such as workers in heavy industries.  But while a universal obligation, the observance of the nineteen‑day fast has been made by Baha’u’llah the sole responsibility of the individual believer.  No Assembly has the right to enforce it on the friends, or to hold anybody responsible for not observing it.  –  Shoghi Effendi, 9 March 1937 Letter to an individual believer

It is difficult for us to do things because they are so very different from what we are used to, not because the thing itself is particularly difficult… no doubt some of the ordinances, like fasting and daily prayer, are had to understand and obey at first…  Baha’u’llah would not have given these things if they would not greatly benefit us…As we obey them we will gradually come to see in ourselves the benefits they confer.  –  Shoghi Effendi, 16 March 1949 Letter to an individual, cited in Fasting: A Baha’i Handbook, p. 26

There are also no obligatory prayers for the Fast.  But there are some  specific ones revealed by Baha’u’llah for that purpose.  –  Shoghi Effendi, 17 October, 1934 Letters to Australia and New Zealand

The purpose is this: In order to follow the Divine Manifestations and  for the purpose of admonition and the commemoration of their state,  it became incumbent upon the people to fast during those days.  For every sincere soul who has a beloved longs to experience that state in which his beloved is.

The second wisdom is this: Fasting is the cause of awakening man.  The heart becomes tender and the spirituality of man increases.  This  is produced by the fact that man’s thoughts will be confined to the commemoration of God…

Third wisdom: Fasting is of two kinds, material and spiritual.  The material fasting is abstaining from food or drink, that is, from the appetites of the body.  But spiritual, ideal fasting is this, that man abstain from selfish passions, from negligence and from satanic animal traits.  Therefore, material fasting is a token of the spiritual fasting.  –  Table Talks of Abdul‑Baha, by Corrinne True.  Cited in Fasting: A Baha’i Handbook, p. 16

Ye had written of the fasting month.  Fortunate are ye to have obeyed  the commandment of God, and kept this fast during the holy season.  For this material fast is an outer token of the spiritual fast; it is a symbol of self‑restraint, the withholding of oneself from all appetites of the self, taking on the characteristics of the spirit, being carried away by the breathings of heaven and catching fire from the love of God.  –  Abdu’l‑Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l‑Baha, pp. 69‑70

Recommended Reading  on the theme of Fasting:

The Bible

The Qur’an

Baha’u’llah and the New Era by J.E. Esslemont

Fasting: A Baha’i Handbook by Duane L. Herrman

The Bahá’í Fast: It’s not Just about the Food

 The following posting came to me privately as a comment on the blog posting “How to Eat During the Bahá’í Fast”.  It was too long to include as a comment, so with her permission, I’ve posted it as a blog posting in its own right.

By Maria Chouchtari

Growing up as a Christian, I always understood Lent as being a time that we gave up something for the love of God. Mostly we gave up meat. Or as I child we were asked, and the children responded,” I ‘ll give up my candy,” or it was tied to some form of sacrifice even if for a short time. Even someone who would drink alcohol, would give up his wine or beer.

In most cultures and religions there was an element of sacrifice, denial or giving up something precious.   Not just money for the fund but something we went without for the love of God, and a form of spiritual discipline. Still we should not provoke others during this time.  I really did appreciate how you clearly put out there what the Writings do say, but it can be tricky with certain people when they only give incomplete half truths and partial interpretations. I think intolerance is a kind of sin as is prejudice. Again we need to be tolerant but also courteous. So clearly indicated in the Writings, even when refusing food or water.

I find we are being a bit overly self centered, and that needs to change too.  We should be feeling anxiety about all the people in the world who are hungry.  I think about the love of the Yaran, their sacrifices, and imagine them fasting in the discomfort of the prison as did the Holy family in the prison of Akka.

I don’t agree with all the emphasis on getting all the vitamins, this diet and that…  My personal feeling is that if we do get less of something, it is still fine.  I feel in the West we are overly concerned about feeling perfect all the time.  To me it is perfectly alright to suffer some during the fast.  Millions of people around the world barely get a decent meal a day, let alone all their vitamins and minerals.  As one African put it, we are on a constant fast all the time, cause we can’t even afford to eat more than one meal a day. Baha’u’llah lived on rice and a little milk for over two years in the Mountains of Kurdistan, so if we are a little inconvenienced to compensate for all HIS sufferings for a short period, so be it.

Why should we have to feel perfectly nourished during the fast. Why are we so afraid to suffer a little and have things a bit rough?  If we experience some discomfort, so be it. So many people in the world have less to begin with.  Imagine those that live in extreme temperatures (hot) and can’t even drink water, and don’t have air conditioned offices, and yet they are making the sacrifice.  If there is no sacrifice, does it really have the same effect on our soul?  Making life as easy and as comfortable as possible is not how I view fasting time.  It is merely an inconvenience. We are not starving and moderation in all things is required.

There was once a kind of Association that raised even a kind of charity saying, fast for a day and give the money of what you would have spent on food that day to feeding those that have none or the needy. A little sacrifice is good for the soul without being fanatical or self-righteous. There is an enormous amount of waste in society in general.

I think there has been some controversy within some communities about meat and I just wanted to make sure we don’t go overboard.  There are no absolutes within that framework, and certain people equate being a good Baha’i with being vegetarian.

Anyone can say or do whatever they feel is right for them, and in consultation with their doctors.  I do agree with eating more natural foods that the earth provided and unprocessed.  I tend not to buy meat or other products, but if served by my host, I will not refuse it as a courtesy.

Fasting is compared to the Sun and prayer to the moon, so for those who can, imagine the power of the SUN.

I never felt the fast should be about nutrition, but more about having more time for prayer and meditation. The hours we are not eating and drinking, smoking or other…we are thinking about our Creator and detachment from all things, including our diet. We should eat well, I agree, if we can, but if we can’t then for a short time it is still okay.  But again a little rough going is good for the soul and it is the effort that counts.

The spiritual aspects are stated in the writings. They are given to us for our spiritual nourishment.  The fast is about that, not what we put in our mouths or don’t.  But we should assume healthy eating habits whether it is fasting time or not; But the element of some denial to emphasize more the spiritual is really the spiritual benefits. Are we fasting in our thoughts? Are we being kind to others around us?

Although some will point out the scientific physical benefits of a short fast on the body itself, I think that the main reason is to do our inner spring cleaning, both physical, spiritual and have time for meditation and reflection.

It’s not a time to engage in a lot of activities, but breaking the fast together is always uplifting.  Having a fasting buddy, is helpful too. We’re all in it together…Sharing stories, writings, praying.  And we don’t have to be jumping up and down, doing extraneous exercise or other, or take long trips on purpose to avoid it, nor sleep all day or other. But different people cope differently. It is our own soul-searching time.

All day long we are tempted, we lose our patience, we can be cranky, moody and other.. But again a reminder, Fasting is not meant to be easy.

Some people can’t fast in the physical sense and that too is their decision but it is not for us to judge.  It does take a certain kind of willpower and denial. Some function better than others!  God knows who tried and who didn’t regardless of what they did or did not put in their mouth.

Helpful health habits are…the healthier you are to begin with the better who can bear some minor discomforts of fasting, the fatigue that often accompanies the fast. The lack of focus can be dangerous for some. Still we believe we are protected when fasting.

Not being able to drink water in a very hot climate can be dangerous for dehydration. So in the mornings I would fill up like a camel and I would be alright.

But pregnant women, those that are breast-feeding, women during their menstrual cycle, the elderly, children, those who are travelling or walking long distances or doing very hard physical labour are not bound by the fast…and anyone who is sick or wounded … So it is really reasonable, the person in good health is capable of a short fast.  Those that smoke will feel edgy when they don’t have their nicotine…etc. others their caffeine or other…they claim they cannot focus. Some find their focus is better during the fast.

It is truly a personal matter, and for each person to do what they can.  The effort involved and the sacrifice and knowing that God knows truly whether we fasted or not.

The prayer says it clearly.

I also think about the needy and homeless and others who do without on a daily basis.  Feeling somewhat hungry reminds me of all those that have not. For myself, food not the issue, but fatigue can become, from lack of sleep…so special time despite the discomforts.  Getting enough rest helps the physical aspects of running on low…

The day my children had sports at school and had to run in the heat…they came home saying sorry Mom, I had to drink water…I just couldn’t …but they didn’t eat food but felt they had broken the fast…but for a reason. The heat was unbearable as was their requirement to pass those exams.  I would tell them God understands.

 

 

Meditations on the Long Fast Prayer

I was saying one of Bahá’u’lláh’s long Fast Prayers (Baha’i Prayers, p. 236-244) this morning, and I was struck by two things:  each paragraph of the prayer tells us who God is; and then what our prayer is to him.  Once I stripped away the former, I was able to see what I was actually asking for in this prayer.  I wanted to share that with you.

We’re beseeching God:

To cast me not away from the gate of the city of Thy presence

Wow!  What would it be like to finally have reached the Heavenly gates and to be rejected by God!  I can’t imagine how awful that would be!  If the purpose of our lives (through all the worlds of God) is to get closer to Him, I can’t even imagine finally reaching Him and being turned away.

It’s happened before!  Think of all the Bahá’ís who walked from Iran to ‘Akká to be turned back by the authorities near the prison; or all the early believers who wanted to see Bahá’u’lláh (Ahmad comes to mind – he was on his way to visit Bahá’u’lláh and was intercepted by a messenger with the Tablet of Ahmad, which asked him to go back and teach).

“After the declaration of Bahá’u’lláh and His further exiles to Constantinople and Adrianople, Ahmad remained in Baghdad. He eventually decided to join his Lord and set out for Adrianople. Upon arriving in Constantinople, he was presented with a letter from the Blessed Beauty which exhorted him to surrender his will to the will of God, to be steadfast and to persevere in the face of opposition. This letter is now known as the Tablet of Ahmad.  Returning to Persia, he travelled extensively as a teacher of the Cause.”   http://bahai-library.com/yancy_tablet_ahmad

So I’m happy to beseech God that it never happens to me!  I don’t know if I’d be strong enough to handle that rejection!

To disappoint not the hopes I have set on the manifestations of Thy grace amidst Thy creatures

Bahá’u’lláh tells us:  “The whole duty of man in this Day is to attain that share of the flood of grace which God poureth forth for him”.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)  So we’ve come to expect that the grace is there for us, and we look for evidences of it every day.  If it’s our duty to attain it, and we don’t catch our portion each day, the fault lies with us and not with God.  So here we are beseeching God to not disappoint us, through our own negligence.

To draw me ever nearer to the threshold of Thy door

Nearness to God is our ultimate purpose.  He’s our Companion, and Best Lover, and Divine Physician, and Healer.  Just His name provides us with all the healing we could ever ask for.  I don’t know about you, but I tend to forget all that!  I get caught up in the petty affairs of my day to day life and hurts and disappointments, forgetting to turn to the One person who understands and can “kiss it and make it all better”.   I heard Gord Naylor (a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada) give a talk once, and at the end, he said something like:  if you pray for paradise, God will give you that, but if you pray for nearness to God, you won’t need paradise!  Yes, I beseech Thee to draw me ever nearer!  And to not forget you’re there and that I can call on You 24/7!

To suffer me not to be far removed from the shadow of Thy mercy and the canopy of Thy bounty.

I am a sinner.  We are all sinners.  We need God’s mercy!  Imagine having to face our Maker at the hour of our death, knowing all the ways we’ve let Him down.  Yes, I beseech Him to keep me under the shadow of His mercy!

To attract me by the fragrance of Thy raiment

I forget to draw nearer to God, so being attracted by His fragrences is a great idea!  This morning I was up early for the Fast, rushing to prepare my breakfast so that I had time to eat it before sunrise, when my cat kept circling around my feet, tripping me up, wanting me to pick her up and cuddle with her.  After several minutes of ignoring her, I picked her up and we had the love-fest she was looking for.  As I was thinking about how neurotic she was, and how demanding of my love, I smelled her fur, drinking her scent deep into my lungs.  What occurred to me was that she was trying to give me unconditional love, not the other way round.  She was trying to remind me of God’s presence in my life.  She was trying to remind me to slow down, to appreciate the moment, and why I was doing the Fast in the first place.  It wasn’t meant to be a race against the clock, but a returning to the presence of God.  Yes, I believe God was using my cat to attract me in my heedlessness.  I beseech Thee to attract me!

To make me drink of the choice wine of Thine utterance.

Wow, this one really jumped out for me this morning.  I remembered that old saying “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”.  Here we are beseeching God to “make us drink”.  Wow!  He can do that?  Cool!

Please God, let me not just read your Writings lifelessly, but let me drink from them, taking them into every pore of my being, letting them be the life-giving water that sustains me every single day.  And please God, don’t let me forget to read the Writings every morning and eve!

To raise me up to serve Thy Cause that I shall not fall back, nor be hindered by the suggestions of them who have caviled at Thy signs and turned away from Thy face.

I know that God wants me to be of service, and sometimes I used to force myself to doing things that go against every fiber of my being.  I’m not sure that’s what God wants anymore.  I think He wants us to allow Him to direct our movement and our stillness; rather than being up to me to decide what has to be done.  It’s a much gentler way of being, and generates a lot more smiles of contentment when He provides the opportunities which I am able to respond to, easily and effortlessly.  So I’m beseeching God to keep raising me up to serve.

It’s so easy to let the tumult of those who don’t believe in God to deter me from doing the right thing – from those who suggest the fast is just a suggestion; to those who tell me it’s OK to lie to the government (by working under the table) because the system is corrupt anyway and that it’s OK because “everybody does it.”  I beseech God to not hinder my progress by listening to any voice but His!

To enable me to gaze on the Daystar of Thy Beauty

This reminds me of the “Best Lover” analogy again.  When you’re in love you want to gaze forever into your lover’s eyes.  It’s hard to imagine doing that with an invisible Lover, but that is just what God is calling on us to do.  I think that’s why He gives us such rich poetic language all through the Writings, but especially in this prayer, to help bring out gaze back to the only One of any importance to our existence.  I beseech Thee to remember to turn to Thee first, before turning anywhere else for solace and comfort.

To supply me with the wine of Thine utterance.

He’s certainly done that through all of His Writings and His laws and injunctions, which He tells us are His “Choice Wine”.  So it’s there for anyone with “eyes to see”.  I beseech Thee to keep my eyes open, so that I can dip into Your supply room!

To graciously aid me to do what Thy will hath desired and Thy purpose hath manifested.

Life just works better when I take my orders from God and not from anyone else.  Recently when I was feeling hard done by at work; feeling overworked and underpaid, and resentful of a task that had been sent my way, I realized that my money doesn’t come from my job.  It comes from God!  My job is to be of service to my employer.  His job is to give me enough money to satisfy my needs.  I beseech Thee to enable me to do Thy Will; to stay attentive to Your Will in the midst of the tumult of so many people pulling at me for my attention.

To grant that I may die to all that I possess and live to whatsoever belongeth unto Thee.

A bumper sticker I saw recently comes to my mind.  It said:  “He who dies with the most toys, wins”.  This is the attitude of many people mired in materialism.  But we can’t take any of it with us when we die.  We can only take what we make of our souls.  So much of my time and attention is taken up by my material wants – will I make enough money this month to buy that “thing?”  What do I need to buy next to make my life easier or to be like everyone else?  How can I do this job I need to do without this “thing”?  It’s all coming from my lower nature.  It keeps me trapped in the prison of self, and takes me away from achieving the purpose of my existence, which is to know and worship God.  I beseech Thee to enable me to let go of all attachment to material things; to trust that You will give me everything I need, when I need it and not a minute before, so that I can focus on Your Will for me today.

To aid me to remember Thee amongst Thy creatures and to extol Thee amidst Thy people

We all need to teach the Faith.  It won’t grow and spread and God’s purpose in sending a new Manifestation won’t be achieved unless we do.  The peace we long for in the world will be delayed if we don’t teach.  I get so caught up in my life that I often forget, so I’m beseeching Thee to aid me to remember!

To remove me far from whatsoever Thy will abhorreth

Take backbiting, for example!  It’s all around me.  I can’t walk into my apartment building without hearing it, and it causes me physical pain.  Please remove me far from it, so I can’t get caught up in it!

To draw me nigh unto the station wherein He Who is the Dayspring of Thy signs hath shone forth.

We know there are different stations in the next world, and that the highest station is Nearness to God.  Everything we do in this world will take me closer or further away.  It reminds me a little of the game “Snakes and Ladders” which I played as a child.  If I land on a ladder, I can climb up to the next station.  If I land on a snake, I slide all the way down it’s back, several levels lower.  I may be showing my age – there are probably many more sophisticated versions of video games and computer simulations known by those of a younger generation, but hopefully you get my point!  I beseech Thee to let me climb the ladders and avoid the snakes!

To make known unto me what lay hid in the treasuries of Thy knowledge and concealed within the repositories of Thy wisdom.

Don’t we all want to know what’s in Pandora’s Box?  Don’t we all want to know what comes next?  I beseech Thee to let me know what’s in store for me, and to keep my eyes focused on what I need to partake of Your Treasures.

To number me with such as have attained unto that which Thou hast sent down in Thy Book and manifested through Thy will.

I imagine a pregnant woman, longing to meet her child.  The first thing she does after it’s born, is count the fingers and toes and to make sure it’s perfect.  The first thing the doctor does is test it on an “Apgar” scale, to make sure it’s perfect.  We have very little effect on the condition of the baby at birth.  Much of it is determined by God’s Will.  In this world though, we seal our fate in the next world by the choices we make here.  God is watching, wanting to give us His Heavenly Treasure.  He wants to number us among His Perfect Creations.  I beseech Thee, to guide my choices towards this end.

To write down for me with Thy most exalted Pen what Thou hast written down for Thy trusted ones and Thy chosen ones.

My time in this world has been largely disappointing, and I desperately long for the next world to be better.  I beseech God to write this down for me; to grant me my most cherished desire!

To write down for everyone who hath turned unto Thee, and observed the fast prescribed by Thee, the recompense decreed for such as speak not except by Thy leave, and who forsook all that they possessed in Thy path and for love of Thee.

It sounds like there are bounties for three kinds of people being talked about here:

  • Those who observe the Fast
  • Those who speak only what God prompts them to speak
  • Those who detach themselves from everything in their love for God

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be numbered in all of these categories?  I beseech thee!

To cancel the trespasses of those who have held fast to Thy laws, and have observed what Thou hast prescribed unto them in Thy Book.

Finally we’re asking Him to cancel all of our sins; all of the ways we’ve fallen short in our duty, and we can do this, knowing that we have held up our part of the bargain by keeping the Fast.   Please God!  I beseech Thee!

Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá!

Resisting Temptation

After I posted my 6 part series on Temptation, I listened to a talk given by my favorite Pastor, Jeremy McClung of Muskoka Community Church.   This material was inspired by his talk.

When we invite God into our lives, he starts to work on us.  We become His Divine Restoration project, as He helps us to start resisting sins, especially those we fall into again and again (perhaps anger, lust, materialism, pride, low self esteem, anxiety, worry, doubt).  We can build on this relationship with Him by asking Him over and over again to release us from these things, andit takes mental discipline to resist temptation.

There are several steps we can take to resist temptation:

1.  Admit we can’t resist it but God can.  We need to admit our powerlessness over temptation, so He can provide an escape route.  Each morning, we can look at the day ahead of us, anticipating the potential temptations that could befall us, and ask God to protect us from both the ones we can foresee and the ones that might blindside us.

2.  Include God in the moment of temptation.  We often forget to ask God for help in the moment or worse, we avoid God because we know we’re going to do something wrong.  By avoiding Him, we cut off our escape route, and even worse, our shame and guilt separates us from God.

3. Resist your lower nature.  Life often conspires against you to lead you off the path.  When we begin to align with the will of God, He’ll send tests to strengthen us.  We often focus our anger at the wrong person.  For example in marriage we often think the other partner is the enemy, but when we stop blaming each other and recognize that our lower natures may be battling with each other, it’s easier to find your way back to unity.  God’s given us a free will, and allows us to make choices.

4.  Identify the lie: Our lower nature lies to us, often in a very convincing way, so the key to battling temptation is to identify the lie.  We’re not in a battle between good and evil but between truth and a lie.  The lie is when we think there are no consequences for going against the things God wants us to do.  Perhaps you’ll recognize some of these:

  • More is better!
  • You can pay it off at the end of the month
  • You can start your diet tomorrow.
  • Next time I’ll do that service project.
  • If nobody sees it’s OK.
  • Everybody else is doing it so it must be OK.
  • I just need to vent.
  • I need this (addiction to TV, alcohol, busywork, shopping)

5.  Understand the lie:  Our lower nature attacks us at our most vulnerable points, often quoting the Writings at us, so it’s important to have many quotes memorized so we can know which one applies to us.  For example, one year I was really sick during the fast, but fasted anyway.  I could recite this quote to prove that I was doing a noble thing and that it was right to be fasting:

In truth, I say that obligatory prayer and fasting occupy an exalted station in the sight of God.

My lower nature prevented me from seeing the rest of the very same quote, and I was forever grateful to the loving soul who brought it to my attention:

It is, however, in a state of health that their virtue can be realized. In time of ill-health it is not permissible to observe these obligations; such hath been the bidding of the Lord, exalted be His glory, at all times. Blessed be such men and women as pay heed, and observe His precepts. All praise be unto God, He who hath sent down the verses and is the Revealer of undoubted proofs!  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 134)

6.  Battle with the lie: We can convince ourselves of the truth as much as we want in our minds, but when we’re in the middle of temptation, everything is out of whack and we no longer think correctly.  It’s easy to change our minds, especially if other people are telling us it’s OK.  Their values aren’t often right!  We need to know a truth we can count on, and that comes from the Writings.  Imagine how different things would be if in the moment of temptation, we had something we could cling to as the one last solid thread; something we know is true.    God gave us His Writings so we’d have the tools we need, but we need to memorize them so we can call on them when we need them the most.

From the texts of the wondrous, heavenly Scriptures they should memorize phrases and passages bearing on various instances, so that in the course of their speech they may recite divine verses whenever the occasion demandeth it, inasmuch as these holy verses are the most potent elixir, the greatest and mightiest talisman.  (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 200)

We should memorize the Hidden Words, follow the exhortations of the Incomparable Lord, and conduct ourselves in a manner which befitteth our servitude at the threshold of the one true God.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 196)

The next time you fall into temptation, don’t come at it with willpower and resolve, but recognize the lie, come at it with truth and with the quotes you’ve memorized.

Spiritual Treatments for Disease

 

This is part seven of an eleven part series on the Baha’i Perspective on Disease.   In Part 1,  we looked at how I got interested in this topic and looked at some quotes on prevention of disease.  In Part 2, we looked at the reasons for disease.  In Part 3, we looked at the physical cause of disease, in Part 4 we looked at the spiritual causes, in Part 5 we looked at the effects of disease, in Part 6 we looked at the attitudes we want to strive for, when we are diseased, and in this part we are looking at the spiritual treatments for disease.

God is the Divine Physician and He alone has the power to give true healing:

Its sickness is approaching the stage of utter hopelessness, inasmuch as the true Physician is debarred from administering the remedy, whilst unskilled practitioners are regarded with favor, and are accorded full freedom to act.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 39)

The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 212)

God is the great compassionate Physician who alone has the power to give true healing.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 19)

The Prophets of God are the real Physicians. In whatever age or time They appear They prescribe for human conditions. They know the sicknesses; They discover the hidden sources of disease and indicate the necessary remedy. Whosoever is healed by that remedy finds eternal health.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 204)

All is in the hands of God, and without Him there can be no health in us!  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 286)

Turning to God:

Continue in healing hearts and bodies and seek healing for sick persons by turning unto the Supreme Kingdom and by setting the heart upon obtaining healing through the power of the Greatest Name and by the spirit of the Love of God. (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 112)

Grace of God:

But for the unfailing grace of God — exalted be His glory — no antidote could ever cure these inveterate diseases.  (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 252)

Power of the Holy Spirit:

Healing takes place through the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 256)

The most potent means of healing is the Power of the Holy Spirit.  This does not depend on contact, nor on sight, nor upon presence. … Whether the disease be light or severe, whether there be a contact of bodies or not, whether a personal connection be established between the sick person and the healer or not, this healing takes place through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 108)

O thou pure and spiritual one! Turn thou toward God with thy heart beating with His love, devoted to His praise, gazing towards His Kingdom and seeking help from His Holy Spirit in a state of ecstasy, rapture, love, yearning, joy and fragrance. God will assist thee, through a spirit from His Presence, to heal sickness and disease.  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 112)

Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings:

Now, if thou wishest to know the divine remedy which will heal man from all sickness and will give him the health of the divine kingdom, know that it is the precepts and teachings of God. Guard them sacredly.      (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 376)

That which hath streamed forth from the Most Exalted Pen is . . . the sovereign remedy for every disease, could they but comprehend and perceive it.  (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 73)

And if thou art looking for the divine remedy which will cure the spirit of man of all diseases and make him obtain the health of the divine Kingdom, know that it is the precepts and teachings of God. Take the greatest care of them.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v3, p. 653)

The people of religions find, in the teaching of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh, the establishment of Universal Religion — a religion that perfectly conforms with present conditions, which in reality effects the immediate cure of the incurable disease, which relieves every pain, and bestows the infallible antidote for every deadly poison.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 290)

Today the world of humanity will not find peace and tranquility except through these teachings and this darkness will not, otherwise, be dispelled, these chronic diseases be cured. Nay, these would, otherwise, be aggravated from day to day.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Letter to Martha Root)

The people of religions find, in the teachings of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh, . . . the immediate cure of the incurable disease, which relieves every pain and bestows the infallible antidote for every deadly poison.  (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 416)

Knowledge of laws, institutions and principles:

Praise be to Him, ye are acquainted with the various laws, institutions and principles of the world; today nothing short of these divine teachings can assure peace and tranquillity to mankind. But for these teachings, this darkness shall never vanish, these chronic diseases shall never be healed; nay, they shall grow fiercer from day to day.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 249)

Spiritual and material remedies work together:

There are two ways of healing diseases, the material and the spiritual way. The first is the remedies of the physicians; the second prayers and turning one’s self to God. Both must be practiced and followed. The diseases that happen to be caused by physical accident are cured by medical aid; others, which are due to spiritual causes, will disappear by spiritual means. For instance: For a disease due to grieving, fear, nervous impressions, the spiritual remedies will take more effect than the physical. Therefore, these two kinds of remedies must be followed; neither is an obstacle to the other. You must take care of the physical remedies. These also came from the bounty and mercy of God who revealed and made evident the science of medicine, so that His servants may also be benefited by this mode of healing. In the same way take care of the spiritual healing, because it giveth wonderful results.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v3, p. 653)

When the material world and the divine world are well co-related, when the hearts become heavenly and the aspirations grow pure and divine, perfect connection shall take place. Then shall this power produce a perfect manifestation. Physical and spiritual diseases will then receive absolute healing.    (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v2, p. 309)

If the heavenly benediction be upon us while we are being healed then only can we be made whole, for medicine is but the outward and visible means through which we obtain the heavenly healing. Unless the spirit be healed, the cure of the body is worth nothing. (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 19)

Bahá’u’lláh recognizes the value of both material and spiritual remedies. He teaches that the science and art of healing must be developed, encouraged and perfected, so that all means of healing may be used to the best advantage, each in its appropriate sphere. (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 106)

Sometimes a material remedy is called for:

Take for instance, a cut hand; if you pray for the cut to be healed and do not stop its bleeding, you will not do much good; a material remedy is needed.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 281)

Often both kinds of remedies are needed:

If the sickness is of the body, a material remedy is needed, if of the soul, a spiritual remedy.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 19)

A small disease needs a small remedy, but a disease which pervades the whole body needs a very strong remedy. (Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 59)

Unless the spirit be healed, the cure of the body is worth nothing. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 286)

Education:

Education must be considered as most important: for as diseases in the world of bodies are extremely contagious, so, in the same way, qualities of spirit and heart are extremely contagious.  (Compilations, Baha’i World Faith, p. 318)

Let them [mothers] also study whatever will nurture the health of the body and its physical soundness, and how to guard their children from disease.
(‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 372)

Obedience:

The bearing on health of these commands relating to the simple life, hygiene, abstinence from alcohol and opium, etcetera, is too obvious to call for much comment, although their vital importance is apt to be greatly underestimated. Were they to be generally observed, most of the infectious diseases and a good many others would soon vanish from among men.  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 103)

Simple obedience to the hygienic and moral commands of Moses, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad or Bahá’u’lláh would do more in the way of preventing disease than all the doctors and all the public health regulations in the world have been able to accomplish. In fact, it seems certain that were such obedience general, good health would also become general. Instead of lives being blighted by disease of cut off in infancy, youth or prime, as so frequently happens now, men would live to a ripe old age, like sound fruits that mature and mellow ere they drop from the bough. (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 104)

Chastity:

Were the commands of the Prophets concerning chastity in sexual relations generally observed, another fertile cause of disease would be eliminated. The loathsome venereal diseases, which wreck the health of so many thousands today, innocent as well as guilty, babes as well as parents, would very soon be
entirely a thing of the past. (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 104)

Forgiveness:

The breaths of forgiveness are being wafted from the region of your Lord, the Merciful; he who advanceth unto them will necessarily be purified from disobedience and from every disease and infirmity. Blessed is he who cometh unto them, and woe unto him who turneth away.  (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 105)

Love

As long as ye can strive to set aglow the hearts with love, be attracted to one another and be members of each other. Every soul of the beloved ones must adore the other and withhold not his possession and life from them, and by all means he must endeavor to make that other joyous and happy. But that other (the recipient of such love) must also be disinterested and life-sacrificing. Thus may this Sunrise flood the horizons, this melody gladden and make happy all the people, this divine remedy become the panacea for every disease, this Spirit of Reality become the cause of life for every soul.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 146)

The divine remedy has been provided. The spiritual Teachings of the Religion of God alone can create this love, unity and accord in human hearts. Therefore, hold to these heavenly agencies which God has provided so that through the love of God this soul-tie may be established, this heart-attachment realized, the light of the reality of unity be reflected from you throughout the universe.  (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 445)

The love and consideration he has been shown by the friends, and by the members of your Assembly in particular, will, he feels certain, help to a marked degree in counter-acting the painful  effects of the insidious disease from which he is so severely, yet so uncomplainingly suffering.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 124)

Peace:

Peace is health and construction  (Compilations, Baha’i World Faith, p. 232)

Unity:

And that which God hath made the most mighty remedy and the most complete means for its health is the union of whosoever is upon the earth in a single matter, and a single law. This can never be possible except through a skillful physician, perfect and strengthened by God. By My life, this is the truth, and aught else is nothing but evident error.  (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 112)

Bahá’u’lláh gives the assurance that, through harmonious cooperation of patients, healers and the community in general, and by appropriate use of the various means to health, material, mental and spiritual, the Golden Age may be realized, when, by the Power of God, “all sorrow will be turned into joy, and all disease into health.”  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 113)

Prayer:

Turn thou toward God with thy heart beating with His love, devoted to His praise, gazing toward His Kingdom and seeking help from His Holy Spirit in a state of ecstasy, rapture, love, yearning, joy and fragrance.  629  God will assist thee, through a Spirit from His Presence, to heal sickness and diseases.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v3, p. 628)

Engage thou in commemorating God at every morn and turn unto the Horizon of Mercifulness.  Take some honey, recite “Yá Baha-u’l-Abha” and eat a little thereof for several days.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 185)

If the heavenly benediction be upon us while we are being healed then only can we be made whole, for medicine is but the outward and visible means through which we obtain the heavenly healing.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 286)

Fasting:

Verily, I say, fasting is the supreme remedy and the most great healing for the disease of self and passion.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting)

Teaching the Faith:

Make your feet firm, make a firm compact, and in union and accord endeavor to diffuse the fragrance of the love of God and to spread the divine teachings, in order that ye may impart life to the dead body of this world, and bestow a real healing on every one diseased (in soul).  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 36)

It is my hope that the breaths of the Holy Spirit will so be breathed into your hearts that your tongues will disclose the mysteries, and set forth and expound the inner meanings of the Holy Books; that the friends will become physicians, and will, through the potent medicine of the heavenly Teachings, heal the long-standing diseases that afflict the body of this world; that they will make the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dead to come alive; that they will awaken those who are sound asleep.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 274)

Service:

By Thy Power, verily, the sweetness of servitude is the food of my spirit; with the fragrance of servitude my breast will be dilated, my being refreshed, my heart delighted, my eyes brightened, my nostrils perfumed, and in it is the healing of my disease, the allaying of my burning thirst, the soothing of my pain.  (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 265)

Be isolated from the grades of self and desire, so that thou mayest succeed in that which behooveth the service of the Kingdom of God, and that thou mayest be healed from every disease and sickness.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 190)

Energy dissipated by war:

The enormous energy dissipated and wasted on war . . . will be consecrated to such ends as will extend the . . . extermination of disease, to the extension of scientific research, to the raising of the standard of physical health, to the sharpening and refinement of the human brain, to the exploitation of the unused and unsuspected resources of the planet, to the prolongation of human life . . . (Baha’u’llah, The Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, p. xii)

Expectations:

The complete and perfect connection between the spiritual doctor and the sick person — that is, a connection of such a kind that the spiritual doctor entirely concentrates himself, and all the attention of the sick person is given to the spiritual doctor from whom he expects to realize health — causes an excitement of the nerves, and health is produced. But all this has effect only to a certain extent, and that not always.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 255)

Much more powerful effects result from the patient’s own mental states, and “suggestion” may play an important part in determining these states . . . hope, love, joy, et cetera, are correspondingly beneficial. (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 107)

Everyone has a part to play:

The work of healing the sick, however, is a matter that concerns not the patient and the practitioner only, but everyone.  All must help, by sympathy and service, by right living and right thinking, and especially by prayer, for of all remedies prayer is the most potent. “Supplication and prayer on behalf of others,” says ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “will surely be effective.” The friends of the patient have a special responsibility, for their influence, either for good or ill, is most direct and powerful. In how many cases of sickness the issue depends mainly on the ministrations of parents, friends or neighbors of the helpless sufferer!  Even the members of the community at large have an influence in every case of sickness. In individual cases that influence may not appear great, yet in the mass the effect is potent. Everyone is affected by the social “atmosphere” in which he lives, by the general prevalence of faith or materialism, of virtue or vice, of cheerfulness of depression; and each individual has his share in determining the state of that social “atmosphere.” It may not be possible for everyone, in the present state of the world, to attain to perfect health, but it is possible for everyone to become a “willing channel” for the health-giving power of the Holy Spirit and thus to exert a healing, helpful influence both on his own body and on all with whom he comes in contact.
(Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 112)

Being around Healthy People:

He teaches that there are also many methods of healing without material means. There is a “contagion of health,” as well as a contagion of disease, although the former is very slow and has a small effect  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 107)

It may be that the strong health of a healthy man will alleviate a very slight malady in a sick person. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 254)

For more in this series:

Part 1: Intro to Disease

Part 2:  Reasons for Disease

Part 3:  Physical Causes of Disease

Part 4:  Spiritual Causes of Disease

Part 5:  Effects of Disease

Part 6:  Attitudes towards Disease

Part 7:  Spiritual Treatment for Disease

Part 8:  Physical Treatment for Disease

Part 9:  Why People Aren’t Getting Better

Part 10:  Advice to Doctors

Part 11:  Prayers for Health