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What is World Religion Day?

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 8:35pm

World Religion Day was initiated in 1950 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States and it is often celebrated on the third Sunday of January. The day has been marked by hosting discussions, conferences, and other events which foster understanding and communication between the followers of all religions. Its purpose is to call attention to the harmony of spiritual principles and the oneness of the world’s religions and to emphasize that world religion is the motivating force for world unity. In many ways, celebrations in honor of World Religion Day strive to embody these words of Baha’u’llah: 

O ye children of men! The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men…Whatsoever is raised on this foundation, the changes and chances of the world can never impair its strength, nor will the revolution of countless centuries undermine its structure.

Although World Religion Day originated in the United States, many communities the world over have taken it on. For example, in this Baha’i World News Service article, you can read about commemorative stamps that were created in Sri Lanka and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Some communities, particularly those in the United States, now celebrate World Religion Day at another time, in order to not take away attention from Martin Luther King Jr Day, which falls on the third Monday of January.

In the sprit of World Religion Day, which seeks to strengthen interfaith understanding, we thought we’d share seven Baha’i Blog resources devoted to the unity of religions:

1. Different Religions, Same Golden Rule

In this article, Naysan shares 13 different forms of the Golden Rule from various religions, traditions and cultures.

2. Interfaith-ish: A Podcast Series About Humanity’s Common Ground

We interview host Jack Gordon, a professional media producer and photographer, about his podcast that has a unique and unifying format.

3. Portraits in Faith – Video Interviews About Faith from Around the World

Portraits in Faith is a series of video interviews and portrait photographs aimed at taking a look into the lives of people of faith around the world. We interview its creator, Daniel Epstein, who used this project as a sort of spiritual exercise where he would keep his own faith alive by gaining from the experience of others – regardless of their religion or beliefs.

4. 10 Documentaries About World Religions

In this short list you’ll find documentaries about the religions of the world, their histories and beliefs.

5. The Heart of Faith – The Parliament of World Religions

This video, created for the 2015 Parliament of World Religions, beautifully encapsulates the vision behind this worldwide interfaith movement.

6. BWNS Podcast: Why Religion Is in the Spotlight Again

In this podcast episode from the Baha’i World News Service, Rachel Bayani from the BIC Brussels Office, Lyazzat Yangaliyeva from Kazakhstan, Arash Fazli from India, and Geoffrey Cameron from Canada discuss the efforts of regional and national Baha’i communities to participate in one particular discourse: the role of religion in society.

7. The Baha’i Principle of Progressive Revelation

One of the things we often get asked about as Baha’is is our conviction of the principle of the oneness of religion. In this article, Iko shares some introductory thoughts on this foundational belief.

And that wraps up our little list! For those organizing events in the coming weeks, happy World Religion Day!

 

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

My Thoughts on the Ocean of Baha’u’llah’s Writings

Sat, 01/12/2019 - 6:07pm

My favourite part of the Baha’i Faith is that we are offered so many avenues and analogies as ways in which we can all traverse our own paths of truth towards God. One important analogy that I have read throughout so many of the Writings are the references made by Baha’u’llah in His words and His Revelation to the ocean. 

Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths.

To begin, the ocean is the perfect reference point for the vastness of the Baha’i Writings, as it is something I believe many of us can understand and easily apply within our own knowledge and perspectives. Abdu’l-Baha tells us:

Trust in the favor of God. Look not at your own capacities, for the divine bestowal can transform a drop into an ocean; it can make a tiny seed a lofty tree. Verily, divine bestowals are like the sea, and we are the fishes of that sea. The fishes must not look at themselves; they must behold the ocean, which is vast and wonderful. Provision for the sustenance of all is in this ocean; therefore, the divine bounties encompass all, and love eternal shines upon all.

Reflecting on this constant analogy, along with the expansiveness and depth of the Writings of the Baha’i Faith, gave me somewhat of a profound insight. It also provided my own understanding of the Writings with even more meaning.

Some of us have seen the ocean with our own eyes and even live close to it, while others live thousands of kilometers from the nearest ocean, and may never have the chance to visit it in their life time. Metaphorically speaking, however, the ocean of Baha’u’llah’s Words is always close by. He tells us:

O My servants! The one true God is My witness! This most great, this fathomless and surging Ocean is near, astonishingly near, unto you. Behold it is closer to you than your life-vein! Swift as the twinkling of an eye ye can, if ye but wish it, reach and partake of this imperishable favor, this God-given grace, this incorruptible gift, this most potent and unspeakably glorious bounty.  

This is similar to how we decide to connect with the Ocean. We can all sit and admire its beauty. For some, they won’t understand what the fuss is about as it is just another part of the natural landscape of our world. While others will believe that sitting on the ocean shore is as far as they will go when it comes to basking in the depths of this wondrous water. Some people will come and dip their toes, or even swim away from the shore to feel that they are really enveloped by this body of water. But they know they are not that far, and can swim easily back to the shore if required. Other people will get on a boat and send themselves away from the shore, across the surface of this natural beauty, to bask in the warmth of the sun, glide through the waves that run across the surface and continue to wonder what lies beneath. They may stop in some parts of the ocean and dive in, parts beyond where many others will venture, allowing themselves to see a little below the surface. This may not mean their experience is hugely different from those on the shoreline, as it is yet just another part of the same ocean. Abdu’l-Baha tells us:

The ocean is one body of water but different parts of it have particular designation, Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean, Antarctic, etc. If we consider the names, there is differentiation, but the water, the ocean itself is one reality.

Some may even put on some snorkeling gear and take a longer look below, whether they are at the surface or in the deeper locations, allowing them to experience a view into a world they wouldn’t normally see from the land.

For others though, the shoreline, boat trips and even snorkeling isn’t enough. They want more than a glimpse. They want more than just traversing the upper bodies of water of this expansive Ocean. They want to be trained to be able to dive well below the surface and explore the endless depths. They want to explore, uncover and seek new treasures. They want to find out more about these depths in order to share their findings with those on the surface. However, the reality of this experience in our scientifically bound world means that those who do dive below have only limited time each dive to get down and search for their treasures. While others may go as far as to live part of their life constantly under the water in a man-made submarine, their searches are only useful if they stay for a short period of time and come back to the surface to share their knowledge, form new theories, and use the information of what they have found to progress our collective truth.

Baha’u’llah speaks of these depths in the following passage:

O My servants! My holy, My divinely ordained Revelation may be likened unto an ocean in whose depths are concealed innumerable pearls of great price, of surpassing luster. It is the duty of every seeker to bestir himself and strive to attain the shores of this ocean, so that he may, in proportion to the eagerness of his search and the efforts he hath exerted, partake of such benefits as have been pre-ordained in God’s irrevocable and hidden Tablets. If no one be willing to direct his steps towards its shores, if every one should fail to arise and find Him, can such a failure be said to have robbed this ocean of its power or to have lessened, to any degree, its treasures?

In the same way that we are still growing and evolving in our scientific knowledge of the ocean, I think that we are also still growing in our knowledge and understanding of the depths of the Writings of our Prophets. While we may have ultrasonic equipment and man-made submarines to take us deeper than before, these only matter if we come back to the surface and share the information we found — putting it together with the information that exists and finding ways to put it into action in order to better our lives.

What this insight offered me is that from our own explorations of the Earth’s oceans we have learnt about the weather systems and currents of the water that affect us; we have learnt that different parts of the ocean may not look the same, yet they are all connected and we are all affected; we have learnt that there is such deep beauty in living by the Ocean, but we are not designed to live beneath it. The examples are endless. And whilst some of us would love to get in a submarine and stay beneath the surface for years to come, in the same way we would love to delve deep into the words of God and remain there, it doesn’t progress or serve anyone else. I believe that the only way I can understand the world above the water, is by understanding the world below it. The only way for me to know more about the currents, waves and weather systems that feed our own natural habitat, is to know more about where it comes from. Likewise, the only way I can serve another soul effectively is to understand the depths of the Teachings and the vastness of this reality — ultimately finding ways to progress my spiritual self within the human experience and throughout all the worlds of God.

 

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

Equality of Women and Men: A New Book by Reynaldo Pareja

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 1:09pm

Reynaldo Pareja of Belize has recently released a book about the equality of women and men, available both in English and Spanish. Titled Equality of Women and Men: An Unstoppable Evolution of Humanity, Reynaldo’s book seeks to address the fact that “we are just beginning to be witnesses of the potential that women have and can foresee the brilliant future they are going to create for humanity.” The book is both informative, and a call to action. I was able to find out a bit more about this book from Reynaldo and here is what he shared with us:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I have a PhD in Communication and Sociology from the École des Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. I also hold a Masters in Communication by Cornell University as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Art and Literature from Universidad Javeriana, in Bogota, Colombia.

I worked for 27 years in public health educational programs in Latin America, Africa, Middle East and Asia. I am now retired and dedicated to writing books for the propagation of the Baha’i Faith in Belize, Central America.

Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to put this book together?

The main motivation for writing Equality of Women and Men: An Unstoppable Evolution of Humanity sprang from the Baha’i Teachings that are so clear that this to become a worldwide movement if we ever going to achieve some form of planetary peace. Women are called to participate, on equal terms, in all aspects of the political, social, economic, educational, arts and sports of present day society. They are called by Baha’u’llah to become main actors in humanity’s evolution and when they are able to do so, war will cease.

Baha’i Blog: What’s something that you learned during the process of putting this book together?

I have learned many things because the topic is so vast and complex. Women did not “accidentally” become subordinated to men. Historical dynamics, cultural beliefs, the development of social structure, religious beliefs on how men and women were created, economic barriers, legal prohibitions to women’s participation in the civil and political arena, control of income resources and barriers to education: all these factors (and more), when put into a historical perspective, show how powerful the subjection of women has been. Women were born without basic human rights, without a voice to express their point of view, without the necessary access to participate in the development of world society in which they have an absolute essential role to play.

Baha’i Blog: What do you hope people will take away from this book?

Author Reynaldo Pareja

I hope people will take away an eye opener in understanding why such contingent social, economic, religious and cultural factors were able to strip women all over the world of their basic human rights. I do hope men are able to acknowledge the role they have played in creating this inequality and desire to accept the invitation to become champions in the struggle to give women their inherent equality status that we have for so long denied to them.

Baha’i Blog: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

My desire is that the book will contribute to stimulate a rich dialogue between women and men to find solutions to millennium ingrained stereotypes of how women are and should behave in order to allow them to bloom to their full capacity, starting in their families.

Baha’i Blog: Thank you, Reynaldo! If you’d like to purchase a copy of ‘Equality of Women and Men: An Unstoppable Evolution of Humanity’, you can find it here on Amazon. You can also find Reynaldo’s e-books, in both English and Spanish, on iTunes, Kobo.com and Google Play.

 

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

When the West Comes to the East: Laura Barney’s Lessons from Persia

Sat, 01/05/2019 - 6:48pm

Laura Dreyfus-Barney (30 November, 1879 – 18 August, 1974). This portrait of Laura was done by her mother, Alice, and is courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

May 16, 1909, New York City: a group has gathered to hear Laura Clifford Barney speak. Her name is familiar to the audience from Some Answered Questions, which was published last year. This book brought Abdu’l-Baha’s commentary on subjects ranging from the New Testament to criminal justice to the newborn Baha’i community in the United States. Barney, the book’s compiler and translator, has spent most of the past decade far from this, her homeland, living in Paris and Akka. But now she has returned to visit—and to share what she has learned from her sojourns with Baha’is in the Middle East. One audience member has a pen poised above a stack of lined paper, ready to transcribe Barney’s words. Thanks to this anonymous scribe, we have a record of Barney’s comments that day, divided into two talks: the first, on her journey to Persia, and the second, on her observations of Abdu’l-Baha.

Barney had a long, productive life, which you can learn about in this Baha’i Blog article on her relationship with Hippolyte Dreyfus, whom she married in 1911. I’ll focus on her efforts as a young woman to build a bridge between continents. 

Recently, the Journal of Baha’i Studies published an article I wrote about Barney based on my research on her early writings:

  • Two transcribed talks (1909) (held in the US National Baha’i Archives)
  • God’s Heroes: A Drama in Five Acts (1910), a play about Tahirih (available online)
  • The Opium Pipe in the Land of Persia (1912), a play staged in 1915 (held in the Smithsonian Institution Archives)
  • From the Peace of the East to the War of the West (1916), a memoir of her travels and service during World War I (held in the archives of the Smithsonian Institution and of the Baha’is of France)

In these texts, I’ve witnessed how Barney sought to share the inspiration she gained from her experiences in the Middle and Far East. As she put it in From the Peace,

Can one really know any man? Can one really know any country? I am drawn to nations as others are attracted to individual beings. I find them complex, both lovable and imperfect, and I am made to realize that alone an intermingling of certain racial customs, of certain social aspirations can form a civilization worthy of life and of the genius of man.

The 1909 talks are especially intriguing to me, for in them, I see Barney building a bridge for her US listeners to enter the Middle East and learn from the people there. Indeed, in the early 1900s, the Baha’i communities in Persia and the United States forged a relationship through travelers like Barney. I’d like to share some passages from the first talk, which focuses on Barney’s 1906 travels through Persia, a trip she made with two French Baha’is, Hippolyte Dreyfus and Madame Lachenay. These excerpts have been lightly edited for clarity.

Barney explains that she journeyed to Persia at the request of Abdu’l-Baha, who wanted her to learn from the Baha’is there:

Five years ago, I arrived at Acca. I remained there but a few days, when Abdu’l-Baha realized I had much to learn, so little by little, I received a fuller realization of his teachings. They are not of the Master but of the Spirit that speaks through him…. Gradually I became familiar with the past and existing conditions of Persia. This was in accordance with the wish of Abdu’l-Baha, that I should see how the love of Baha’u’llah had enkindled the hearts of men.

En route to Persia, Barney visited vibrant communities in Ashgabat, home of the first Baha’i House of Worship, and Samarkand. She then entered Persia, visiting Rasht, Qazvin, Tehran, Isfahan, Tabriz, and Maku. She recounts meeting Baha’is in Tehran:

In Teheran I met a great teacher. He was like Mirza Abul-Fadl, only he had the enthusiasm of youth…. I said to him, “You have never made the journey to Acca?” He replied, “I have never taken the material road, but I have often journeyed there in the spirit.”

Barney recounts how, in spite of persecution, the Baha’i Faith had attracted many Persians: “Radiating around these cities which we visited were smaller towns and villages, the entire population of which were Baha’is.” She reflects,

It was also wonderful to find these people so advanced in the great economic and ethical questions of the present day, such as universal peace and other social problems, which proves that they are more advanced than we are in social conditions…[and] proves how great the teachings of Baha’u’llah were to them to turn these people into true philosophers and religious men. They were men of the fields and of menial labor and degree yet they were intellectual as well as spiritual.

After more visits with Baha’i communities, the travel party returned to Akka, spirits aflame from their interactions with Persian Baha’is:

We couldn’t express to Abdu’l-Baha our deep gratitude at what we had seen and heard. Little by little we spoke of it. Then I said to him, “Do you think it will be long before our country (America) will be like that? When will the great peace come to the world?” And he replied, “When the people of the West come to meet the people of the East for peace and unity, this problem will be easily solved.” “When do you think that unity will come?” And he replied, “In the twinkling of an eye, when love and unity are established in the hearts of the people.”

I find Barney’s account of Abdu’l-Baha’s response intriguing: peace will arrive only when the people of the West come to meet the people of the East. This prediction conveys the necessity of humility on the part of Westerners, who, despite apparently holding the world’s economic reins, are actually mere pupils of spiritual teachers from the East. Barney—a wealthy, educated heiress, no less—exemplified this humility in her eager pupilage to the Persian Baha’is and Abdu’l-Baha.

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

Jacqueline Claire Shares About Her Interactive Arts Talk Based on The Seven Valleys

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 11:32am

Although we’ve never met, I feel like I’ve gotten to know Jacqueline Claire over the years as we’ve connected over creating Baha’i-inspired content for Baha’i Blog. She wrote about her experiences creating imaginative spaces for elevated conversation, what she has learned in striving to be a spiritually restored and active participant at Nineteen-Day Feasts, and she shared with us some of her artwork and an arts newsletter she sent out every day of the Fast. When I heard about a new initiative she has developed that combines storytelling, art and dynamic conversation, I was eager to find out more. It’s called Awake to Your Life as a Spiritual Journey and I loved what she shared with me:

Baha’i Blog: To begin, could you tell us a little about this initiative?

Sure, I would love to. Awaken to Your Life as a Spiritual Journey is an uplifting and interactive blend of art show, storytelling and dynamic discussion designed to empower attendees to see their life path in a new way. It incorporates a series of seven mystical landscape paintings of mine called The Seven Valleys of Summer. It begins with an icebreaker that immediately creates a warm, friendly environment and starts to connect people with each other, the artwork and passages from The Seven Valleys of Baha’u’llah. I speak a little about the series and how it came about, branching in to larger concepts about life as a spiritual journey. Collectively we then discuss the Valleys, gleaning wisdom from each one.

Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to put it together?

Several threads came together to inspire what this event has become. First and perhaps most important, I wanted to create an uplifting and meaningful social experience for everyone. Though I love being a storyteller and engaging people I am actually not a “party person”. I find small talk uncomfortable and I have a sense that many others do, as well. Parties can also be threatening if you don’t know anyone else. So the icebreaker was invented to even the social playing field: to give everyone a fun task and reason to be friendly and approach people they don’t know. It’s great to witness. It often connects people of different ages and backgrounds that might not have come together otherwise. I also wanted to empower people to engage with the artwork. Art and spirituality can intimidate people because they think they have to be sophisticated or know specific jargon to discuss it. I feel that is a limiting misconception. In this event, the artwork is used as a catalyst for a deeper exploration of spiritual topics, in a down to earth way and we all learn from each other. The first run of this event was actually on my birthday in the location I painted the series the summer before. I had a challenging but somewhat transformational year in between and I wanted to honor that marker. I had no idea the event would become what it has, or indeed ever be repeated!

Baha’i Blog: How is it being received? 

Students at a Catholic University in San Antonio discussing quotes from The Seven Valleys

Amazingly well! Because it is so unique sometimes the invitations or bookings are a challenge (there is no existent model that I know of to describe exactly what the event is.) I call it an “interactive talk” and I think of it like a visual art version of a concert because it is definitely dynamic and memorable. Once people get the vision – or better yet attend, it all makes sense! And the components work together beautifully. Everyone engages during the discussion and often express profound insights, whether they are familiar with the Baha’i Faith or are new to it. Afterwards, there is a collective feeling of vitalization. A professional friend who is a certified Spiritual Director and Director of the Center for Women in Church and Society at a Catholic University said she “walked away with a sense of joy.” That it was a “spiritual experience” for her.

Baha’i Blog: What have you learned in the process?

So far, the biggest thing – I feel this may be empowering to others – is the discovery that people deeply want to talk about spirituality, the Baha’i Teachings and Baha’u’llah. I have literally discussed Baha’u’llah and The Seven Valleys with audiences entirely unfamiliar with the Baha’i Faith and so far they have all been receptive and participatory. I feel the key is to invite people to the conversation in a way that is engaging and meets them where they are. In the case of my event, the Baha’i aspect is very up front. People always know ahead of time there will be discussion of faith in general and the Baha’i Faith specifically, but it is also very personal. It is an individual artist sharing her own inspiration, experience and understanding (or lack thereof in some cases!) of faith. Also, incorporating the arts is always a draw. Art is incorporated through the painting exhibit and by sharing The Seven Valleys in the style of storytelling. I’ve observed from people’s reactions and desire to continue the conversations that sharing in this way seems to affect them like a “wisdom teaching,” sparking a desire to learn more on their own. In other words, it bypasses many potential barriers.

Baha’i Blog: What are your plans for the future?

I would like to go on tour! I would love to bring this event to more Baha’i homes and communities throughout the U.S. and beyond. It is a special way to share some of Baha’u’llah’s teachings with people who are spiritually seeking but perhaps initially hesitant to explore “religion”. I am also engaged in discussions with groups and business that are likewise interested in sharing these themes with the people they serve – behavioral health facilities, medical institutes that embrace the spiritual dimension, interfaith organizations, corporate retreats and nonprofits; anyone who is looking to foster a sense of hope, peace and meaning. I feel very blessed to have been guided to create this model of community engagement that blends visual art, storytelling and discussion because there are so many directions to go with it. Maybe one of your readers has a suggestion as to which Baha’i theme I should explore next!

Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Jacqueline, for sharing this with us! If you’d like to sign up for Jacqueline’s art newsletter, here’s the link: http://eepurl.com/dj7mqP And if you’d like to know more about Jacqueline, please visit her website: www.jacquelineclaireart.com You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

 

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

5 Things I’ve Learned About God as Our True Friend

Sat, 12/29/2018 - 6:31pm

What is a true friend? Someone who is always there for us? Someone who never lets us down? Someone who is completely sincere? I think that a true friend is all of these things.

On the one hand, a true friend is someone who doesn’t need to force themselves to be your friend because friendship is about sincerity. But on the other hand, a true friend is someone who doesn’t let you down, and this does require effort – to meet, visit, and stay in touch. Inevitably, since we are only human, we will sometimes let each other down. I know I have felt let down by friends, and I’m sure that I have let my friends down too, and probably in ways that I’m not even aware of.

This can make us feel quite alone, like our friends are not really there for us. But this feeling of aloneness and abandonment is also a gift. All of us, whether we believe in God or not, must at some time face ourselves and feel our aloneness because while we do live together on this earth, we all live within the prism of our own consciousness. And if we do happen to believe in God, in that place of aloneness, we are perhaps even better able to see that God is our True Friend.

So, in what way is God our True Friend? Here are five things I’ve learned: 1. God loves us for who we are. Some friendships are based on ulterior motives. Friendships can be forged for the potential benefits they may yield, and not out of a sincere affection towards one another.

“Worldly friends, seeking their own good, appear to love one the other, whereas the true Friend hath loved and doth love you for your own sakes…”

2. God will never let us go. Unlike people, who over the years relinquish ties with each other, God will always maintain His tie to us. It is we who have to turn to Him.

“O SON OF BEING! Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant.”

3. God will never let us down. He is the Sustainer of the whole universe Whose bounties are constantly being diffused to us all.

“Say: God sufficeth all things above all things, and nothing in the heavens or in the earth but God sufficeth. Verily, He is in Himself the Knower, the Sustainer, the Omnipotent.”

4. God will always reply to us. How many times have you called someone or written to them and not received a response? This can feel quite hurtful, especially for those of us who grew up in a world where this was not the norm. Unfortunately, in many fast paces places around the globe, this is now becoming the standard.

“God will answer the prayer of every servant if that prayer is urgent. His mercy is vast, illimitable. He answers the prayers of all His servants. He answers the prayer of this plant. The plant prays potentially, ‘O God! Send me rain!’ God answers the prayer, and the plant grows. God will answer anyone.”

5. God will always forgive us. Despite our best intentions, sometimes we do let each other down. Sometimes we are too tired or busy to meet our friends’ needs. Other times we fail to meet those needs because we do not understand them and only find out after our friend has been hurt by our lack of attention and care for them. Our friend might hold a grudge against us, but nothing we do can stop God from loving us, and He will even forgive us when we fail to live a noble life.

“Turn unto Him, and fear not because of thy deeds. He, in truth, forgiveth whomsoever He desireth as a bounty on His part; no God is there but Him, the Ever-Forgiving, the All-Bounteous.”

What better friend can we ask for? None. Even if any of us have found their “soul mate” in life, whether that be a romantic partner or platonic friend, even this person is no replacement for our True Friend, God. Yes, friendships with one another are important. But I think that the relationship with our Maker is of supreme importance. It is the friendship that sustains our very beings. It is the tie that is indestructible and everlasting.

That said, while God is our True and Ultimate Friend, I believe we still need to nurture our friendships with one another. We have to do our best not to let each other down at the same time as realising that each one of us is going to fail at this, especially in this fast-paced world we live in. We need to strive to be a good friend to others by being loving and loyal, and at the very same time, we need to forgive others when they fail to do this towards us. The best way to ensure that our friendships are pure is to try to see God in our friends for as Baha’u’llah says of the spiritual seeker: “In every face, he seeketh the beauty of the Friend”.

 

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

Baha’i Blog’s New ‘World Citizen’ T-shirt Design Now Available!

Wed, 12/26/2018 - 12:05pm

The team at Baha’i Blog is super excited to launch our latest t-shirt design on the Baha’i Blog Shop! It’s called ‘World Citizen’, and like all of our t-shirt designs, we only print a limited number in a variety of sizes, and once we’re sold out, that’s it! So hurry up and order your shirts before they’re gone!

The Baha’i Blog team have create these shirts to help us raise funds to keep doing what we’re doing, and to also explore the use of Baha’i-inspired content through the medium of worn apparel. All of our shirts include FREE GLOBAL SHIPPING too! So if you’d like a cool Baha’i-inspired t-shirt and also want to help us in our endeavors, then check out our online shop and place your orders now!

Our new ‘World Citizen’ t-shirt was designed by our very own Collis Ta’eed, and is inspired by Baha’u’llah’s quotation: “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens”. Collis actually designed the shirt when we first started Baha’i Blog, but we weren’t selling t-shirts then, so we’re happy to be able to share his awesome design with everyone now.

Just a couple of days ago we used the Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference as a launching pad to sell our new design. It was so popular that we’ve already almost sold out of many of the sizes, so head on over to Baha’i Blog’s online Shop to get your shirts now before it’s too late!

The ‘World Citizen’ shirt is navy blue, 100% cotton, and screen printed by hand in California using water-based inks. It’s available in all sizes, including adult (we have a men and women cut), youth, and infants! All shirts fit true to size and all of our adult and children’s shirts are from Ascolour, a high quality t-shirt manufacturer from New Zealand. Trust me, you’ll notice the shirt quality!

We also have a small number of our previous designs left too, so make sure you get those as well before they’re completely gone!

All proceeds from the sales of our shirts go directly towards enabling the Baha’i Blog team to continue creating awesome Baha’i-inspired content.

Go to the Baha’i Blog Shop to check out our designs and purchase your shirts!

Thank you for your support!

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

1844: A New Book About Prophecy and the Baha’i Faith

Sat, 12/22/2018 - 6:13pm

Eileen Maddocks has written a book called 1844: Convergence in Prophecy for Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i FaithI love the title as I think it succinctly describes the prophetic mysteries it explores.

I have never written a book but I think it’s a fantastic achievement. I was eager to hear from Eileen about the process of putting this book together and was grateful when she offered to share her thoughts and experiences. If you’re interested in self-publishing a Baha’i-inspired book, you might find her comments particularly helpful!

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

What in the world happened in 1844? It was a year of intense expectation and then disappointment in the West, and of intense searching and then Divine Revelation in the East.

Over a century later I was a late bloomer, so to speak––late to the Faith (declared in my mid-forties) and late to research and writing. But serving at the Baha’i World Centre for 16 years later in life was an incomparable education that defined the rest of my life. When I retired from the World Centre and settled in Burlington, Vermont, writing and editing beckoned me and another career path evolved.

Editing, research, and writing are lonely work. I have balanced this cerebral and lonely aspect of my life with a serious study of ballet and I dance with Ballet Vermont in its production of Farm to Ballet, a full-length classical ballet that portrays life on a Vermont farm from spring through autumn. The performances are given at various farm venues for large audiences and raise money for various agricultural and land conservation endeavors.

Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to put this book together?

I was drawn to a study of Millerism because I am a descendant of the Millerites, the followers of William Miller who dated the literal return of Christ through Daniel 8:14: “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.” My maternal grandfather was an Advent Christian who believed that the return was imminent. The Advent Christian Church formed after the Great Disappointment of 1844, when Christ did not return as expected. My mother became a mainstream Protestant, but I remember her stories about the Adventist camp meetings of her childhood and the beliefs of her father. She was also a Bible student and passed that interest to me.

Author Eileen Maddocks

This book was almost an accident of circumstances because I had been working on a major project for a long time. However, I had written a series of articles about Millerism for the website “The Miller Prediction”, a feature film produced by Cyrus Parvini. Millerism was the religious phenomenon of the 1830s and 1840s that emerged in the northeast United States and Europe. It was part of what historians call the Second Great Awakening, a Protestant religious revival during the nineteenth century. A friend read the articles and said, “Eileen, you have a book here!” So I put the other project aside for a much needed rest and went to work on fleshing out the articles into this book, 1844: Convergence in Prophecy for Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Baha’i Faith.

Baha’i Blog: What was the process like to put this work together?

Most writers will admit that writing can be a masochistic slog. Overwhelming these feelings at times, though, is what I call “the tunnel,” a creative state of retreat, with soft music playing and the cats napping, when I feel happy, almost ecstatic, as I work and make breakthroughs in my research and writing. The essence or my writing process is vision––the final product and its contribution to teaching the Faith.

I was always striving for the balance between writing for Baha’is and for a general readership. My goal was to help Baha’is learn more about the Faith and to attract general readers to the Faith.

Every author must decide whether to search for a traditional publisher or to self-publish. I decided to self-publish. Today almost half of the books in the market place are self-published, and the number of self-published print books and ebooks surpassed one million in 2017, with nonfiction titles leading fiction.

Self-publishing involved hours of watching webinars to learn how to self-publish. (I recommend the Author Learning Center, and New Shelves with Amy Collins). Then one follows directions and goes through the process––obtain the copyright, buy the ISBNs, get your PCIP (the information on the back side of the title page), find an excellent editor and listen to him/her, submit the manuscript for Baha’i review (and pass the review), find an excellent graphic designer and interior designer, find author friends to provide short reviews for the back cover, obtain Mobi and epub versions for the ebook market, upload print and ebook versions to Amazon, and submit to other distributors. This is an abbreviated list of what it takes to self-publish. I’ll skip the hours of frustration I experienced during my self-publishing adventure.

However, I am preparing a talk with a PowerPoint presentation, “So You Want to Write a Baha’i Book? – Traditional and Self-Publishing Routes,” that I plan to present when I go on the road in 2019.

Baha’i Blog: What’s something that you learned during the process of putting this book together?

I learned to listen to moments of inspiration that come to every Baha’i who is serving the Faith. Nothing prepared me for the eventuality that, amazingly, 1844: Convergence in Prophecy went to market about the same time that the film The Gate did. Talk about divine synergy! This was a “convergence” that I never could have imagined that has promoted sales of my book.

My first market is the Baha’i niche market, and I am happy to report that the book is selling well on Amazon and in the Baha’i niche market. The second market is mass distribution, and I will soon place the book with a mass marketer to expand its availability.

Baha’i Blog: What do you hope people will take away from this book?

I hope that Baha’is will not only learn more about their history but will also pass this book along to their friends.

Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Eileen, for sharing this with us! You can purchase ‘1844: Convergence of Prophecy for Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i Faith’ here on Amazon.

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

14 Books About the Baha’i Faith and Christianity

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 6:43pm

As many friends of Baha’is around the world prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and in the spirit of celebrating the divine origin of Christianity, we thought we’d share a short list of books about Christianity and the Baha’i Faith. The list includes titles written by Abdu’l-Baha and by early Baha’is as well as some fresh off the printing press; you’ll find books about the fulfilment of prophecy, and books that examine the Sacred Writings of both faiths. This list is by no means exhaustive, but we hope it gives you a glimpse of some of the titles out there on this subject.

1. Talks by Abdu’l-Baha: The Spirit of Christ

This spiritually uplifting and thought-provoking collection contains talks given by Abdu’l-Baha that pay tribute to the spirit of Jesus Christ and the significance of His teachings and station.

 

2. Some Answered Questions by Abdu’l-Baha

Some Answered Questions is a collection of transcriptions of table talks given by Abdu’l-Baha in Akka between 1904 and 1906 in response to questions posed by Laura Dreyfus-Barney, an American Baha’i resident in Paris, and first published in 1908. This work features a section of talks relating to Christianity. It can be read in full on the Baha’i Reference Library.

3. 1844: Convergence in Prophecy in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i Faith by Eileen Maddocks

In this work you can explore the prophecies of Daniel and successive Revelations and read how they are all linked.

 

4. Light of the Kingdom: Biblical Topics in the Baha’i Writings by JoAnn Borovicka

This book explores is the Baha’i Writings. Its unique approach is that it does that through the organizational framework of the Bible and through high interest biblical topics. If you’d like to know more, we interviewed JoAnn here on Baha’i Blog.

5. The Half of It was Never Told by Carolyn Sparey Fox

This book is set in the 19th century, when many were filled with excitement and expectation that the prophecies in the Bible and the Quran would be fulfilled. Carolyn’s book charts the stories of three men who never met, William Miller, Joseph Wolff and Mulla Husayn, who were all dedicated and devoted to their quest of finding the Promised One. Only one of them found what he was looking for. If you’re curious to know more, we interviewed Carolyn Sparey Fox here on Baha’i Blog.

6. In the Glory of the Father: The Baha’i Faith and Christianity by Brian Lepard

This is a personal story of spiritual search and discovery that connects the relationship between the teachings of Christianity and the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. Author Brian Lepard begins by drawing on his childhood religious experiences and his study of the Bible and holy books from other world religious traditions. He recounts his own personal spiritual journey and discovery of the Baha’i Faith.

7. Commonalities: A Positive Look at Latter-Day Saints from a Baha’i Perspective by Serge van Neck

By highlighting the many principles Mormons and Baha’is have in common, and by providing an in-depth look at core Mormon beliefs and scriptures, this book aims to increase common understanding.

 

8. Promises Fulfilled: Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i Faith by Nabil Hanna

Nabil Hanna’s work examines the promises made in both the Bible and the Koran concerning the coming of the Promised One and it highlights the agreement found in the Sacred Texts of all three of the world religions explored.

 

9. The Baha’i Proofs by Mirza Abu’l-Fadl

The Baha’i Proofs is specifically compiled for anyone seeking clarification on the relationship between the Missions of Christ and of Baha’u’llah. It not only explains the timelessness of the Baha’i Faith, but it also addresses many theological questions related to Christianity.

 

10. The Wine of Astonishment by William Sears

A classic and popular book re-printed by popular demand that demonstrates that Baha’u’llah has fulfilled all of the promises in the Bible. It offers proof that in His teachings you will find the wisdom, love, guidance, and assurance the peoples of all religions have been waiting.

 

11. Thief in the Night by William Sears

Perhaps the greatest mystery story of all time, that of Christ’s return, is presented here. Hand of the Cause of God William Sears presents questions and evidences that are very thought provoking.

 

12. He Cometh with Clouds: A Baha’i View of Christ’s Return by Gary Matthews

Gary L. Matthews’ popular book investigates the Bible’s teachings about the Second Coming and explores the relationship between Christ and Baha‡’u’ll‡ah.

 

13. The Heart of the Gospel by George Townsend

Hand of the Cause of God George Townsend shares the story of the spiritual evolution of humanity using Bible texts.

 

 

14. Abraham: One God, Three Wives, Five Religions by Frances Worthington

This is a groundbreaking examination of Abraham, one of the most beloved and significant religious figures in history. Author Frances Worthington researches the three wives/concubines (Sarah, Hagar, and Keturah) of Abraham, and traces their lineage to five different religions – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, the Babi Faith, and the Baha’i Faith.

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

Equals and Partners: A Memoir by Patricia Verge About Reconciliation and Oneness

Sat, 12/15/2018 - 6:01pm

If you’re a Baha’i Blog reader in Canada, you might know about how the country is poised to reconcile its centuries-long fraught history with Indigenous peoples and to establish justice. In this part-memoir, part-scholarly work, Patricia Verge records her decades-long friendship with the Stoney Nakoda Nation in southern Alberta, Canada. She explores how her spiritual journey has been intimately entwined with service among Indigenous people and she wonders about the fundamental spiritual principles that should guide this challenging reconciliation process and bring together peoples who have been separated for so long. Her book, Equals and Partners: A Spiritual Journey Toward Reconciliation and Oneness, Wazin Îchinabi, is a story of love about commitment to the principle of the oneness of humanity.

Patricia, or Pat as she’s lovingly called, happily shared a little about her new book and the creative process behind it. Here’s what she shared with us:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am Canadian of Croatian ancestry on my mother’s side, and Irish ancestry on my father’s. I encountered the Baha’i Faith while living in Germany and became a Baha’i in Halifax many moons ago. My husband and I have two children and four grandchildren.

For nearly four decades, I‘ve been connected to the Stoney Nakoda people who live just west of where I live now, in Cochrane, Alberta, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Baha’i Blog: For those who may not know, could you tell us a little bit about what Reconciliation means?

Reconciliation is a vast subject, with many aspects, as we move forward to create better, healthier and more just relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. As your readers may know, there has been a lot of separation and injustice that has occurred in our history, particularly with regard to residential schools. Much healing is required. For the book, I found two definitions to be helpful. One is a quote from Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).  He said: “Reconciliation turns on this concept: I want to be your friend and I want you to be mine. And if we are friends then I will have your back when you need it and you’ll have mine.” The second is from the submission of the Baha’i Community of Canada to the TRC in September 2013, which states: “When we speak of reconciliation we are referring to the movement towards peace and unity, and the individual and collective transformation that is required in order to achieve that goal. Reconciliation involves a process that contributes to the achievement of progressively greater degrees of unity and trust. Fundamentally, reconciliation is a spiritual process. It is the process of realizing the essential oneness of humanity in all dimensions of human life.”

Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to put this book together?

Author Patricia Verge

There have been Baha’is on Stoney Nakoda First Nation since the 50’s, and I was asked to write the Baha’i history. As I set out to do it, I realized that, despite being involved for so long, I was quite ignorant of the history of the settlement of Canada. I felt very inadequate. So I began to dig into it, broadly, and then specifically into some of the history of the signing of Treaty 7 in this area, and of the Nakoda people themselves. I was also able to attend three sessions of the TRC meetings. Finding out the history was quite devastating, but explained so many of the conditions I had encountered. I do feel also that we all need to do a learning journey about the history. This is happening much more now, thank goodness, even at the school level across Canada and will help a great deal, I believe, in fostering understanding and better relationships.

Baha’i Blog: What’s something that you learned during the process of putting this book together?

I had to struggle to figure out what form the book should take, and I finally settled on the memoir. It became a story of my own spiritual journey and how it has been entwined with Indigenous people, and what I have learned and am still learning. In many ways, it is a tribute and a love story to the Nakoda people, who have been so kind to me and my family. I realized I couldn’t tell their story, only mine, that it will be up to them to tell their own stories.

Baha’i Blog: What do you hope people will take away from this book?

My story is very personal and there are also others involved with Baha’i processes on the reserve, both souls from the community, and a few youth and older folks from nearby who are learning to accompany them. In the book, there are reflections on how many Baha’i principles relate to this area of service, spiritual prerequisites for building strong bonds of friendship, and how the Institute Process empowers all people to take charge of their own intellectual, spiritual and social development.

Though the book is my journey of learning, I am hopeful it will be helpful to others. By the way, “Wazin Îchinabi” means “oneness” in the Stoney Nakoda language!

Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Pat, for sharing this with us!

You can purchase Equals and Partners here on Amazon. You can also find out more about Pat and her work on her website: www.patriciaverge.ca

 

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

How Marriage Consciously Creates a Better Future

Wed, 12/12/2018 - 9:33pm

Horns honk, text messages ding, there’s a new deadline to meet, college assignment to complete, a relative needing attention, a service commitment to carry out, or sadness to process with a friend who just got divorced. Our minds get so full of noise that becoming conscious of something can be difficult. I find it takes me a lot of quiet, alone time to even focus on something for a short time.

I recently re-read a quotation that I’ve read countless times before, and the phrase “acutely conscious” struck me. The passage relates to how young people can consciously create a better future, but I think it’s worth everyone’s time and attention. The Universal House of Justice tells us (the bolding is mine): 

…young women and men become acutely conscious of the exhortations of the Supreme Pen…

Young adults are described as not only conscious, but “acutely conscious” — intensely, seriously, vitally, and fully aware, with mental faculties fully active and focused. Aware of what? What are young adults paying attention to?

…young women and men become acutely conscious of the exhortations of the Supreme Pen to ‘enter into wedlock’

Oh, marriage! That’s a big deal. However, being conscious of the encouragement to get married can be difficult and confusing. What guidance can we turn to? Who do we know that does it well? What can we do to get to a place where we are conscious and happy about the idea? Marriage is a crucible of intense personal growth and intimate friendship and service with another person. Not easy to step into, but I find that it’s also often a place of intense joy when we are well-prepared for it.

To help with our conscious focus, there are many resources available. For example, Baha’i Blog shared a list of 5 books about marriage, there are websites like www.bahaimarriage.net, and I, along with Johanna Merritt Wu and Jeremy Lambshead wrote a book called Starting with Me: Knowing Myself Before Finding a Partner. Furthermore, 40 years of research and information about the value of marriage and how to “do marriage” well is available to us.

Science affirms Baha’u’llah’s guidance. In their book The Case for Marriage, Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher observed that “Marriage actually changes people’s goals and behavior in ways that are profoundly and powerfully life enhancing.” They also concluded that:

Marriage makes you better off, because marriage makes you very important to someone. When you are married you know that someone else not only loves you but needs you and depends upon you. … Spouses expect to be able to trust each other, financially, sexually, and emotionally, not only because of their individual personal qualities but because being married means that most of their goods are jointly owned. The trust implicit in marriage reduces the need for spouses to monitor the behavior of each other closely…

Why, though, do the Universal House of Justice and Baha’u’llah describe this focus of consciousness?

…young women and men become acutely conscious of the exhortations of the Supreme Pen to ‘enter into wedlock’ that they may ‘bring forth one who will make mention of Me amid My servants’

Wow, having children.

Another one of those really, really big responsibilities. So, why is this is so important?

This generation of youth will form families that secure the foundations of flourishing communities. Through their growing love for Baha’u’llah and their personal commitment to the standard to which He summons them will their children imbibe the love of God, ‘commingled with their mother’s milk’, and always seek the shelter of His divine law.

Here, then is the balance. By being “acutely conscious” of the nature of marriage, we can create flourishing communities that are established on a secure foundation. And, for me, the following quotation helps me better understand why unified, happy families and “flourishing” communities are so important:

[I]f the friends are not able to maintain harmony within their families, on what other basis do they hope to demonstrate to a skeptical world the efficacy of the pre-eminent character of the Revelation of Baha’u’llah? What possible influence could they hope to exert on the development of nations and the establishment of world peace?

Our credibility as promoters of unity of all types is linked to family unity, with happy, healthy marriages as the foundation. The world needs courageous, committed, and well-informed men and women to “enter into” marriage. This single act has the potential to build a better world.

 

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

Sahaja: Yoga Mats that Give Back – An Interview with Judes Yang

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 6:33pm

I recently moved to the Gold Coast, Australia, and I was really excited when I heard that my friend who lives there, Judes Yang, had started a social enterprise called SAHAJA. I caught up with Judes to find out more about it, and here’s what she shared:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born in Taiwan and we immigrated to Australia when I was four. I grew up on the Gold Coast and moved to Sydney in 2000 to pursue a corporate life. It was there I found yoga and in 2005 I moved overseas to follow my heart and my calling to be a yoga teacher. I spent 10 years living, traveling and teaching in seven different countries. I also trained yoga teachers from 2008-2013. I moved back to Australia at the end of 2014 and I joined a group called Soul Food on the Gold Coast in January of 2017. It was there I first met members from the Baha’i community and joined the Baha’i Faith in March, 2017.

Baha’i Blog: So, what is “Sahaja”? Tell us a little bit about it.

Sahaja is pronounced: Saa Haa Ja and it means, spontaneous, effortless, your inherent naturalness. It is about living in the flow of life and to remember who you are.

Sahaja was born to give back to others, we are a profit for a purpose yoga mat company, and for every yoga mat that we sell, we donate a solar light to families in Mozambique. Everyone who buys a Sahaja mat is a Light Giver, as they give light. So we’re more than a yoga mat company. We’re about creating and inspiring change and our goal is light up people’s lives. The giving creates a ripple effect all around, from simply buying a product that has a deeper purpose. Sahaja is about embodying everything we learn on our mats and living it off the mat. We at Sahaja also feel great from seeing all the joy and love being circulated around and at the same time being conscious about the footprints we leave on mother earth.

When you buy a Sahaja Yoga mat, you aren’t just buying a mat. You are contributing to the betterment of another person’s life, the world. You become a light giver and a part of something bigger.

Baha’i Blog: What was the main idea behind the business, and why did you decide to do it?

I having been teaching yoga since I was 26 and I feel abundantly blessed that I am living my calling. I don’t feel like I work, I am just going to yoga. Sahaja is my way of paying forward the love and light I received during my darkest days. I experienced some deep trauma and abuse by a former yoga teacher, which lead me to a place that I didn’t think I would actually be here talking to you today. It was through the love and understanding of my family, friends, my yoga and community that helped me heal.

Sahaja was born from a place of darkness to bring light to others and this is my way of paying it forward, to light up other peoples’ lives like my life was.

Being a yoga teacher I am a product of my own products. I use to practice in yoga rooms that had carpets and I had a yoga mat towel in one that was super thin and it was perfect for those conditions. But when I started practicing in studios that had wooden and concrete floors, the thin mat didn’t suffice anymore.

I tried various yoga mats to find something that was suitable. What I found was that certain yoga mats would move during my practice. When I started to sweat they would be slippery, so I needed a towel, they would also wear through; leaving marks on the yoga mat or leaving bits of the mat in the yoga studio. I think in one year, I tried went through about 3-4 mats. I was a bit disheartened as some mats were in the $80-100 price range and within a few months they already looked like that were 10 years old. I was adding waste to landfill with products that couldn’t be recycled and weren’t biodegradable.

Then I thought why not try and source my previous yoga mat towel, as I never had an issue with it before when I practiced, I just needed it to be that little bit thicker. So I did!

Sahaja yoga mats are a higher-end yoga mat that lasts. All our yoga mat designs are original, based on sacred geometry, sacred texts and life, to aid the yogi with their alignment. Our eco-friendly mats are made from recycled plastics, natural tree rubber and printed with water based inks, so they aren’t toxic. I’ve been to the factory, met the workers and seen the conditions and how production works: no sweat shop, no child labour and a factory that follows environmental guidelines. I’ve gone to Mozambique, met with our non-profit and the kids and communities who receive the light, and what a joy that was! They are pure love!

Right now our range is only yoga mats but we are working on adding a few more items to our range and as our products grow, so will our giving. With every product we offer, we will be giving back to our community, so that we will be giving all ways. We even have a Sahaja yoga studio opening soon on the Gold Coast, that will also give back.

Baha’i Blog: What sort of impact do you hope your business can have on individuals and on society and how have they been received so far?

I hope we can have a great impact, to inspire with love in action. I feel blessed that in November this year, Sahaja was selected to pitch at an event, called Pitch at Palace, which is an initiative of The Duke of York, Prince Andrew. We give the lights out in Mozambique in 500 lots and in October this year, I went to Mozambique for the first light drop and met with our non-profit Marine Mega Fauna, who distribute the solar lights through their education programs. I met the kids and communities who received the lights, and what a joy that was! I even taught them their first yoga class!! Such a blessing. The relationships and heart connections are important to me and I can’t wait to go back there. They have inspired me to go back and teach them to be yoga teachers and from there I hope they can also start to teach others, and to have access to more opportunities.

We documented the whole event, so that we can share our story to all as people think they’re buying a yoga mat, but they aren’t. It goes so much deeper than that. Even how the story about how I reconnected with a friend from the past is “Sahaja”; spontaneous and living in the flow.

My friend Jude Kalman from Fish Films – yes, another Jude – also works with non-profits, is an amazing videographer and storyteller. We reconnected on LinkedIn and as life would have it, we were both going to be there at the same time.

One of our goals, is that when we reach our next light drop, is to invite 18 people of the first 500 Light Givers to come on a Light Givers yoga retreat to Mozambique so they can see and experience what they are a part of; for the Light Givers to meet the community, to do yoga, to learn about Mozambique and the culture. It is not a look at a “human zoo” retreat, as that is not what we are about. It is about bringing together communities, to experience life, share in movement and heart-felt connections.

There is a local musician that I collaborate with on yoga classes and workshops, Sean, he is also the one who created the music for our Sahaja videos.

Baha’i Blog: How has the Baha’i Faith influenced your ideas, your business model, or the business in general?

When Sahaja launched on March 5th 2017 some of the local Baha’i community came to support and share in the event. At the time I was a friend of the Faith and didn’t really understand or know about the Faith. It wasn’t until after the launch did I make the connection that Sahaja’s values were also some of the Principles of the Baha’i Faith.

We value education: our solar lights are given to children through educational programs.
We care for our environment: solar lights leave cleaner footprints and our yoga mats are eco-friendly. We love bringing families and communities together; oneness and unity. The practice of kindness and love to all. And of course, our giving.

Being a yoga teacher, I was also already living and practicing many of the principles and it is a way of life for me. I still recall looking back at that powerpoint presentation months later thinking to myself “Wow, the saying that ‘Everyone is a Baha’i, they just don’t know it yet…’ is so true.”

I joined the Baha’i Faith on March 29th, 2017. I can’t really put it into words. I still didn’t really understand the Faith, I hadn’t started studying the Ruhi books, it was a deep moving inside my heart. I was in tears, a mess, when I rang a friend and spiritual mentor. I was in so much fear of being hurt as the last community I felt moved and went into wholeheartedly was my former yoga community. It broke my heart and led me into the darkest times of my life. I never want to go through that again. My heart was saying “yes”, my mind was saying “no way”.

The day after I declared as a Baha’i, there was flooding through many areas of the Gold Coast and schools, business all closed for the day. I love metaphors and symbolism and took that as the rains washing away the past and the beginning of a new chapter.

The Faith influences me in many areas of my life as a yoga teacher with the intention of the yoga classes and workshops that I create, to some of Sahaja’s designs, to my attitude towards life and others.

We have a kids mat coming up that is so beautiful and has been created on the virtues and isn’t just a yoga mat, it’s actually designed as an educational tool for the kids too. It’s a collaboration between Sahaja and another wonderful member of our community. There are also a few Baha’i inspired mats in the works.

The Faith is a beautiful reminder to keep being loving, stay humble, not judge and be kind to all. To see that we are one and the profound freedom of forgiveness.

Baha’i Blog: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Yes, to thank all the amazing “light givers” who believe and have helped Sahaja grow and thrive. To all the light giving studios who stock Sahaja Yoga Mats and help us spread the light.

Being a Baha’i has helped renew my faith in humanity and life. The friendships and connections with individuals within the community have also meant the world to me, and seeing people living and working for the greater good of all, and always advancing civilization, like Bahai Blog for instance!

I’d also really like to thank Soheil Abedian, who taught me the Faith and has been accompanying me throughout. I’ve experienced so much love, kindness and support from him, and I feel he is a living example of this beautiful line from the Universal House of Justice: “How excellent, how honorable is man if he arises to fulfill his responsibilities; how wretched and contemptible, if he shuts his eyes to the welfare of society and wastes his precious life in pursuing his own selfish interests and personal advantages.”

Baha’i Blog: So how can people help, and where can people find Sahaja Yoga Mats and your other products?

Sahaja can be found online at www.sahajayogamats.com or our social media handles are all @sahajayogamats We have stock now in the USA and NZ and are in the process of opening our online store to be able to ship from within those countries.

Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Judes, for sharing this with us, and we wish you all the best with Sahaja! Check out the video about Sahaja below:

*Header image courtesy of: Clare Merrifield

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

BWNS: A Peaceful, Persistent Response to Injustice

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 6:57pm

In this podcast episode from the Baha’i World News Service, we learn about how the Baha’is in Iran have tried to peacefully and persistently find a solution to the harsh persecution and injustice they face. This episode features interviews with BIC Representative Diane Ala’i and Education is Not a Crime Coordinator Saleem Vaillancourt who explore the concept of constructive resilience and how the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (or BIHE) embodies it. 

You can read the accompanying article, here on the Baha’i World News Service.

For more podcasts created by the Baha’i World News Service, visit their website: www.news.bahai.org

If you enjoyed this podcast, you might also like the Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson. You can listen to them here on Baha’i Blog.

The post BWNS: A Peaceful, Persistent Response to Injustice appeared first on Bahai Arts, Stories, Media & Bahai Religion.

Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

The Journey West Podcast: Exploring Abdu’l-Baha’s Travels to the West

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 6:40pm

The Journey West podcast is an audio initiative which explores and celebrates the centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s travels to Egypt, Europe and North America in 1911-1913. Each episode features a reading of one of Abdu’l-Baha’s talks, as well as dramatized stories and historical accounts. You can also hear discussions of the talk that was featured, and some personal thoughts on how the ideas discussed in the talk are applicable today. 

The podcast was produced by a group of friends. At the helm of the podcast’s production were Ivan Mihoci, Mary Okonkwo, and Lorraine Sherrill but dozens of friends lent their voices and their talents to the podcast, whether it was by reading a first-hand account of one of the Baha’is, or discussing one of Abdu’l-Baha’s talks.

The Journey West podcast was a part of a larger initiative called The Journey West, where you’ll also find a treasury of articles about Abdu’l-Baha, the historical context surrounding His travels, and tributes to early Baha’is. The Journey West was really my first time writing about the Faith online and I was honored to contribute a few articles. I also had the privilege of working with authors and publishing their pieces on the site. These articles are companion pieces to the podcast, which is really the heart of the project, as it chronologically follows in His footsteps. Episode 1 begins with Abdu’l-Baha’s very first public address, where He stood at the pulpit of a 17th century church, seated on the Western edge of the city of London and spoke about a “new cycle of human power” and its last episode is about His departure from America in December of 1912; you can hear two separate accounts of His departure from the perspectives of Juliet Thompson and Howard Colby Ives, as well as the Master’s farewell address aboard the SS. Celtic on December 5, 1912. When the podcast was first live, it was exciting to hear the talks read aloud on the same day as He had given them, 100 years before, but listening to the podcasts in sequence at any time is still thrilling.

In participating in this project, two things stood out to me then and continue to astonish me. For one, there is a wealth of information at our disposal about the early Western Baha’is and about Abdu’l-Baha’s travels. There are books of His talks, biographies of those who met Him, books that gather together newspaper clippings from His journeys, and so on. Many of these sources informed the podcast and the articles on the website but there is so much out there to discover. There was a small flourishing of new books about Abdu’l-Baha in honor of the centenary of His travels and so there are now even more materials at our disposal! What is also remarkable when you listen to the podcasts and follow His journeys chronologically is that you can’t help but be in awe of how much Abdu’l-Baha did during His travels. His tireless efforts to touch hearts, to speak to groups large and small, and to lovingly educate those in His presence — whether it was a lesson in how to pray, or a gesture of racial equality by asking an uninvited African American Baha’i to sit by His side as His guest of honour — the podcast gives you a faint but broad sense of the immensity and scope of what Abdu’l-Baha accomplished.

In describing His journeys, the Universal House of Justice wrote:

The words uttered by Abdu’l-Baha during His travels, and the deeds He undertook with such consummate wisdom and love, offer an abundance of inspiration and manifold insights from which the body of the believers can today draw, whether in their efforts to embrace receptive souls, to raise capacity for service, to build local communities, to strengthen institutions, or to exploit opportunities emerging to engage in social action and contribute to public discourse. We should, therefore, reflect not only upon what the Master achieved and set in motion but also on the work that remains undone to which He has summoned us.

I hope this article might entice you to check out the podcast series and to listen to Abdu’l-Baha’s journeys brought to life and to hear some of His talks read out loud.

All episodes of The Journey West can be listened to and/or downloaded here: soundcloud.com/bahai-blog/sets/the-journey-west-podcast

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

Seeking a State of Heaven: A Book About the German Templers by Carolyn Sparey Fox

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 2:46pm

Carolyn Sparey Fox’s newest book is titled Seeking a State of Heaven and it tells the story of the German Templers who settled at the foot of Mount Carmel beneath the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa, Israel.

Their avenue of homes has become an iconic landmark of Haifa and for Baha’is they have become symbolic of those who are searching and yearning to hear about Baha’u’llah’s teachings of unity, equality and oneness. To be honest, that’s the extent of my knowledge of the German Templers so my curiosity was definitely piqued when I learned that a book about them has been written.

It was great to catch up with Carolyn Sparey Fox, who I had interviewed before, about her latest book. Here’s what she shared with me:

 Baha’i Blog: What was the inspiration for putting this book together?

Since writing my first book, The Half of it was Never Told, many Baha’is have spoken to me about the German Templers, wrongly believing that they settled at the foot of Mount Carmel because they believed that the return of Christ was about to take place there. I knew that this wasn’t entirely correct, but I didn’t really have the answer, so I started doing some research — it turns out that the Templers initially called themselves “Friends of Jerusalem” and Jerusalem was actually the focus, the goal of the German Templers’ spiritual journey, not Haifa. Initially my plan was to come up with a few sentences, but as I read more and more my sentences became paragraphs, my paragraphs became chapters, and before I knew it I was launched into writing a book, which describes all about how the Templers ended up in Haifa, instead of Jerusalem.

I was also fascinated by the connection between the German Templers in Haifa and the Baha’is living in Akka, and latterly Haifa. Abdu’l-Baha knew several of the Templers personally of course, and Baha’u’llah actually wrote a Tablet to David Hardegg, one of the two men who were behind the creation of the Templers.

Baha’i Blog: What was something you learned during the process of writing this book that you cherish?

Author Carolyn Sparey Fox

It was a real eye opener for me to discover how widespread Adventism was during the 19th century (not to be confused with 7th Day Adventism of course). I already knew that it was a big movement, but it wasn’t until I really got into the business of writing this latest book that I realised just how massive it was. It was humbling really. So many people believed so strongly that the return of Christ was imminent, and they really put their personal lives on hold in order to follow their dream.

Baha’i Blog: What was a challenge you had to overcome in the process of putting this book together?

Patience!! I managed to make contact with a lovely Templer living in Australia, who offered to send me an in-depth history of the Templers which had been translated from German into English. He told me that there were dozens of copies and that he was happy to send me one for nothing! I was thrilled, and really keen to get my hands on it as soon as possible, but since he sent it by sea it took over two months to reach me here in Scotland, by which time I was just about giving up hope. But it was certainly worth the wait.

Baha’i Blog: How has writing this book changed you?

There’s no easy answer to this. In one way it hasn’t changed me at all, because my first book, The Half of it was Never Told, had already put me on the map as someone with in-depth knowledge on 19th Century Adventism. In another way it has changed me, because it’s given me even more enthusiasm for the subject, which I’m still researching.

Baha’i Blog: What do you hope others will take away from this book?

I’m hoping that Baha’is who visit Haifa on pilgrimage will finally have a true understanding of the German Templers who built their homes at the base of Mount Carmel. I also hope that anyone reading the book will be inspired by the extraordinary spirit of those intrepid Templers who gave up their country and their comforts in order to travel to a virtually unknown country and culture in order to follow a deep spiritual conviction.

Baha’i Blog: Thank you, Carolyn, for discussing your new book with us!

You can purchase a copy of Seeking a State of Heaven here on Amazon.

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

“What I Saw of Abdu’l-Baha”: Vignettes by Laura Barney

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 12:44pm

May 16, 1909, New York City: a group has gathered to hear Laura Clifford Barney speak. Her name is familiar to the audience from Some Answered Questions, which was published last year. This book brought Abdu’l-Baha’s commentary on subjects ranging from the New Testament to criminal justice to the newborn Baha’i community in the United States.

Barney, the book’s compiler and translator, has spent most of the past decade far from this, her homeland, living in Paris and Akka. She lived for months at a time in Abdu’l-Baha’s household—a “village” bustling with Baha’is of all ages, as she fondly recalls—from 1904 to 1906, when she compiled Some Answered Questions. During these Akka sojourns, she had many opportunities to interact with and observe Abdu’l-Baha.

“It is not what I think [that] is of much importance but what I saw…of the characteristics and habits of Abdu’l-Baha,” she tells her New York audience. One attendee has a pen poised above a stack of lined paper, ready to transcribe Barney’s words. Thanks to this unnamed scribe, we have a record of Barney’s comments that day. For this post, passages have been arranged by topic: first, anecdotes of Abdu’l-Baha; second, reminiscences of life in His household; and third, reflections on His attributes and guidance. These excerpts have been lightly edited for readability. 

STORIES OF ABDU’L-BAHA The Solomon of Akka

As to Abdu’l-Baha Himself, it is very difficult to describe Him owing to His diversity—so many aspects. Perhaps I had better give you the view as to how outsiders look upon and think of Him.

All around the surrounding country of Akka He is known as Abbas Effendi. They look upon Him as a very wise man, likening Him to Solomon. They come to Him for advice and many difficult questions are put before Him for solution. They all trust Him, and even though He is a prisoner, the Governor himself has come to Him for comfort and consultation. He is felt to be a wise and remarkable saint. He is extraordinary in His dealings with the poor, being their best friend.

A Prisoner’s Outing

The Governor one day asked Him to go on an outing. He complied with this wish, but all during the outing, He was calm and meditative. Finally He spoke and said, “This outward prison is of no importance. It is the prison of self from which we must be free.” The prisoner in this case was more powerful than the Governor, as the Governor had really to request the Prisoner to go out of the prison.

A Troubled Governor

Once a governor was there who insisted on being bribed to permit the Master’s friends to visit Him. Yet the Master refused to pay these bribes. He never bribed any one. Shortly after, this governor was sent away and became disgraced and in trouble. Then did the Master—when all other men had left the governor to [fend] for himself—send the exact sum of money to him.

Abdu’l-Baha’s Belongings

A large basket of fruit being sent to Him passed through the Custom House and came to the household half empty. He questioned, “How comes this?” The reply was that the officers helped themselves freely in the Custom House. He frowned for a moment, then His face lit up with a smile, and He said, “Did they do this secretly? Then they should be punished, yet did they do it openly. Bravo, for those things that belong to Abdu’l-Baha belong to all men.”

Compassion for the Sorrowful

I remember one day He came in for lunch, looking weary and grieved. After a few moments, we asked, had anything happened? Could we send a message to any one?

Then He related a heartbreaking experience which he had gone through that day. How He had been passing the barracks where they were enlisting soldiers. How a father and mother were bitterly weeping over the enlistment by the government of their only son. They had no other consolation but the love of God…

Abdu’l-Baha realizes the difficult position people pass through. He has a heart filled with love for humanity and realizes the necessity of peace in the hearts of the people.

LIFE IN ABDU’L-BAHA’S HOUSEHOLD Welcoming Pilgrims

When a pilgrim goes to Akka, Abdu’l-Baha knows his true condition, but He does not judge by the outward expression but judges by their inward self. He seems to know intimately the action of their secret minds.

One of the questions is after personal welfare: “Are you happy and have you rested?” He has this kindly greeting for everyone.

Exemplar for the Baha’i World

Akka is the center of the world. It is the place of meeting for all pilgrims. Many of my dearest friends are pilgrims. Many of my dearest friends are people I have met there, Muhammadans, Jews, Zoroastrians, etc. Not only there do we feel that bond of unity. It is everywhere we meet the Baha’is. They are all connected with one another and like one great happy family.

This bond of sympathy creates beautiful actions and it is really wonderful what we can accomplish in this world.

Abdu’l-Baha is wonderful in His example. He displays two principles which are very powerful. They are toleration and vigilance… We must be tolerant to all mankind and vigilant not to harm.

ABDU’L-BAHA’S ATTRIBUTES AND GUIDANCE Love for Humanity

His life of activity is remarkable. There is never any great haste. Everything seems to be well balanced. His idea is that anything begun should be finished with the same pains as when the undertaking was started.

His interest in all of us is one of wonderful insight. He seems to focus all that is in us so that we are a mirror to Him.

It is almost a miracle how He reads and understands all letters written to Him and how He answers all according to their needs. Everyone is carefully considered and yet everyone receives that which they long for.

What pains in detail He takes for those that love and come to Him. It is the principle that Baha’u’llah taught, the force of love. … It depends on us to love Him. When He spreads the love of God, it falls upon this universe, and everything takes that love differently. It all depends how we accept that love.

Reliance on God

As the Centre of the Covenant, His station is humility. He would be a brilliant being in any walk of life and would have made a success in any material undertaking because He depends wholly upon that force which is of God.

Imagine a pool of water: not connecting with any other water, it soon becomes stagnant, but when connected with the ocean itself, it remains always pure. So it is with us. We must be connected with God and always fill that Connection, and then we will always be attuned with the infinite.

Patient Guidance

Abdu’l-Baha is sensitive and poetical in the midst of all this activity. When He is about to answer a question He is calm and meditative, and seems to be looking out on nature. He seems to forget your presence, and by and by when He answers, all that which seemed difficult for you to comprehend becomes easy to understand. All mysteries are imparted unto you.

Vision for America

Abdu’l-Baha says of the various groups and masses in America that their true state of understanding the real brotherhood of man will be accomplished through our efforts, as we continually grow in the love of Baha’u’llah. Then we will be able to reach these great masses, and will altogether through His love and thoughts of Him grow and grow until love becomes universal.

The transcript of this talk is held in the US National Baha’i Archives. You can learn more about Laura Barney’s writings from my article in the Journal of Baha’i Studies (which you can access here).

 

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

New Letter from the Universal House of Justice About Abdu’l-Baha

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 11:12pm

In these precious hours between the Day of the Covenant and the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha, when our hearts and our minds are turning towards Him, the Baha’i world has been gifted with a letter from the Universal House of Justice (this letter can be read in full or downloaded from the Baha’i Reference Library here). For ease of reference, we have quoted it in full below: 

26 November 2018

To the Baha’is of the World

Dearly loved Friends,

In this season, from the Day of the Covenant to the commemoration of the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha, every Baha’i heart is stirred by remembrance of Him Who is the Mystery of God, the Centre of Baha’u’llah’s impregnable Covenant, the Mainspring of the Oneness of Humanity, the embodiment of every Baha’i ideal, the Most Mighty Branch of God whereunder all can find shelter. May His boundless love and tender solicitude give you reassurance and sustenance as you strive to fulfill the trust He bestowed upon you in His Testament and His Divine Plan. At night in that hallowed room in His home where He departed this life for reunion with His beloved Lord, we will testify to your fidelity to His call, evident in your tireless labors to create a refuge for humanity at this moment of increasing injustice and affliction.

Three brief years remain until the centenary of the Master’s passing, when Baha’is the world over will gather and take account of the distance traversed over the first century of the Formative Age. May His loved ones, individually and collectively, little by little and day by day, increasingly embody His counsels: to be united in the Cause and firm in the Covenant; to avoid calumny and never speak ill of others; to see no strangers but regard all as members of one family; to set aside divergent theories and conflicting views and pursue a single purpose and common goal; to ensure that the love of Baha’u’llah has so mastered every organ, part, and limb as to leave no effect from the promptings of the human world; to arise with heart and soul and in one accord to teach the Cause; to march in serried lines, pressed together, each supporting the others; to cultivate good character, perseverance, strength, and determination; to know the value of this precious Faith, obey its teachings, walk in this road that is drawn straight, and show this way to the people.

That you may fulfill His highest expectations, we pray for each of you.

– The Universal House of Justice

You can download this message, and many others, from the Baha’i Reference Library here: www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/the-universal-house-of-justice/messages

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

New English Translations of Prayers, Tablets, Extracts and Talks by Abdu’l-Baha

Sun, 11/25/2018 - 7:22am

In honor of the Day of the Covenant (the day when Baha’is celebrate the appointment of Abdu’l-Baha as the Centre of Baha’u’llah’s Covenant), we thought it would be a perfect time to bring our readers’ attention the exciting news of the newly translated prayers, tablets, extracts and talks by Abdu’l-Baha, recently made available on the Baha’i Reference Library.

These new English translations consist of 19 new prayers, and 26 new tablets, extracts and talks by Abdu’l-Baha, covering a diverse range of topics including things like Tahirih and the Conference of Badasht, fasting, prophecy, and the Declaration of Baha’u’llah.

You can either access them online, and/or download a PDF document containing all of these newly translated prayers, tablets, extracts and talks using the links below:

* 19 Additional Prayers Revealed by Abdu’l-Baha – (Download PDF).

* 26 Additional selections of Tablets, Extracts and Talks by Abdu’l-Baha – (Download PDF)

We hope you find these new translations as exciting as we do!

You can find out more about Abdu’l-Baha here on Bahai.org, and you may also enjoy this collection of 19 Beautiful Quotations of Abdu’l-Baha on Instagram.

Also, in case you missed it, there are also Newly Translated Prayers Revealed by Baha’u’llah.

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

Rooftops and Sidewalks: An Album by Jose Maria Fierro

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 8:59pm

While I was visiting Green Acre Baha’i School in the US a couple of years ago, a young man came over to chat with me and to thank the Baha’i Blog team for all the work we had done in the online space, and to especially thank us for our dedication to encouraging Baha’i-inspired musicians. Little did I know that the young man was Jose Maria Fierro, a voice I had heard on numerous Baha’i-inspired songs over the years with the likes of artists such as Colby Jeffers, Karim Rushdy and Bass Adjustment. As fate would have it, about a year later, I was temporarily living in Phoenix, Arizona, and Jose Maria helped organize some Baha’i Blog Studio Sessions there. We even recorded one of his songs called ‘In Thy Hands‘.

I’m excited to let everyone know that Jose Maria has just released an exciting new double album called Rooftops and Sidewalks so I decided to find out more about the album and his inspiration behind it:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about the album and what it’s about?

The album is a double album called Rooftops & Sidewalks. The first CD, Rooftops, is predominantly Baha’i quotes set to music. It was made to have a real/communal vibe, so it gives off a very live and acoustic feel with real instruments and is made in a way that all ages can sing along and enjoy. The second CD, Sidewalks, is more focused on the hip-hop and RnB style of music and tries to take spiritual concepts and put them into songs that provoke thought and sound more like what’s currently playing on the radio. I love both sides equally and I feel like they’re both representative of me, just different parts of me. The name Rooftops & Sidewalks comes from two quotes from the Baha’i Writings. The first talks about the call to prayer that comes from the minarets of mosques. I really liked the visual of someone singing from up high, so I called the devotional album Rooftops. The second quote speaks to the idea that spiritual battles will be won on street corners and in school hallways, which sparked the idea for Sidewalks. The album moves from the rooftops to the sidewalks to symbolize that it’s great to praise and proclaim, but real work has to be done in order to see our communities progress and advance.

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to do the album?

I consider myself a socially and spiritually focused artist, and I’m currently based in Phoenix, Arizona. I use my faith, family, and life experiences as inspiration for my songs, and apart from creating music, I’m also involved in many community building activities and other forms of social action and service. I love teaching others and am an instructor at ‘The Rap Camp’, a foundation which focuses on creating welcoming and encouraging spaces where youth can express themselves through music, dance, theater, and of course, rap. In this way, I strive to make the arts a part of everything I do. It’s my hope that through my music and conversation, I can inspire people to work for change.

I believe that we are a product of what we consume. If we listen to certain messages day after day for hours on end, we will start to internalize those concepts, either consciously or subconsciously. So given that the current messages in popular music are ones that are centered around misogyny, complacency, and materialism, I feel that there should be an alternative to those messages that doesn’t sacrifice the quality of the sound. When I looked around, I found very few artists that were creating music with that elevated standard, so I decided to make some myself for anyone else that might be searching.

Baha’i Blog: What do you hope listeners will take away from the album after they’ve listened to it?

I feel like a lot of times there’s certain stigma or prejudice around religion and God, but the overarching idea of this album is basically being unashamed in the fact that we are people that have a relationship with God and are trying to create change in the world. I hope that the people that listen to this album will experience that feeling and hopefully be inspired to share more about that side of their lives.

Baha’i Blog: What was the process of working on the album like? Are there any lessons learned that you can share?

The process of working on the album was very intense. It was my first time recording a serious project and I kind of learned as I went. I recorded all 19 songs in only three days at the studio, and then edited them and did preliminary mixing before shooting them off to the very talented engineer who mixed and mastered the tracks for the album. In the moment though, coordinating multiple people and trying to organize everything into one coherent project was very difficult. Additionally, this project contains songs spanning from all the way back from six years ago to a song written the last day in the studio right before recording, so the album has many different styles and levels of professionalism/polish. Looking back, there were a lot of things I could have changed or done differently, but I am happy with how the project turned out. I think it’s very diverse and unique. I am, however, definitely going to take those learnings from this album and apply them to my next project.

Probably the most important thing that I’ve learned through this album and the collaborations is that the process of creating a song varies so widely from artist to artist, and there is no “right” way to make it happen. Some people want to create and collaborate from the beginning to the end, others will send you a finished song and ask you to just write a small verse about the theme of the song. Some people want to work in the same physical space, and some people live halfway across the world. Whatever the situation, the music that comes out is unique and special, and I really appreciate that. It was very interesting working with so many artists though. It was definitely a nice surprise seeing how many artists and friends came together to help create this project. Most of the songs on this project have guest verses and features from artists that I’ve looked up to as well as friends that I’ve known since I was young, and I think that really encapsulates what this album is about: a community of people coming together to discuss, praise, create, and share with others.

Baha’i Blog: What message do you have to other musicians and artists out there?

The only message that I would have for other musicians and artists is to not let fear paralyze you. For a long time I was afraid to put any of my music out because it requires such an intense level of detachment and vulnerability. I was also a perfectionist and I wanted everything to sound good. I wanted to get better instruments or rerecord to make it “worthy”. In fact, I was still nervous and hesitant about releasing this album, but I realized that it’s a step in my journey as an artist. I will keep creating and getting better and this gives me a stepping stone to build off of. So I would say that if an artist is creating and wants to put something out, to create something they like and are proud of, but to also not let themselves get in the way. Additionally, something that I learned throughout this project was that you don’t always have to release everything that you create.

Baha’i Blog: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I would just like to express gratitude to my parents, my siblings, my community, and everyone that made this album possible. This journey has really served as a catalyst for my music creation. In fact, I’m already working on my second album as well as a collaboration album with some of my mentors and artists that helped me get into music creation. There are big things on the way so stay tuned.

Baha’i Blog: How can people find out, listen and purchase about the album?

The simplest way to connect with me for updates, purchases, or inquiries is through my website (www.josemariafierro.com). For more frequent updates or a closer glimpse into the creation and performance aspects of my music, social media would also be a great way to connect. I’m on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube as “JMFMusic19.”

If anyone is interested in listening to or purchasing the album, I’d suggest going to this link:

www.josemariafierro.com/rooftops-sidewalks

Thank you so much for letting me share my story and give you a glimpse into the new album. I really appreciate it. Much love!

Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview Jose Maria, and congratulations again on your new album! I’m loving it!

You can watch the music video to the song ‘Dawn Breaks (ft. Karim Rushdy)’ from his Rooftops and Sidewalks album, plus watch his song ‘In Thy Hands’ on Baha’i Blog’s Studio Sessions below:

Jose Maria Fierro – Dawn Breaks (ft. Karim Rushdy) [Official Music Video]

Baha’i Blog Studio Sessions: ‘In Thy Hands’ by Jose Maria Fierro

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

The Symptoms of the Soul

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 7:05am

The body is great at telling us when something isn’t functioning. Aches, pains, rashes, lumps… all of these tell us that something is wrong with the body and we need to find out what it is. The symptoms are signs leading to a deeper underlying problem. But we don’t just have a body; we also have a soul. In fact, we are souls living with a body. So, if there are signs in the body of good and bad health, are there similar signs in the soul?

The perplexing thing about the soul is that it is so elusive and mysterious. We cannot see or touch it. Baha’u’llah says of the soul:

Verily I say, the human soul is exalted above all egress and regress. It is still, and yet it soareth; it moveth, and yet it is still. ((Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p.161))

He also explains that the soul is not affected by physical sickness:

Know thou that the soul of man is exalted above, and is independent of all infirmities of body or mind. That a sick person showeth signs of weakness is due to the hindrances that interpose themselves between his soul and his body, for the soul itself remaineth unaffected by any bodily ailments.

But can the soul itself be sick?

One of the fundamental concepts in the Baha’i Teachings is that humans were created in the image of God, which means that we all have qualities of God latent within us, ready to be developed. These Godly-qualities are the array of virtues like kindness, love and forgiveness. And it is by developing these attributes that we draw closer to God. We could say then that these positive qualities are the signs of a healthy soul. Someone who lives an honest, kind and generous life of sincere service has a healthy soul, a soul that is getting in great shape for its coming life in the spiritual world. On the other hand, a person who lies, cheats, and hurts others has an unhealthy soul that is trapped in the world of the self. And the unhappiness that comes from this is a sign that the soul is sick. So, we could say that each virtue has its antithesis: kindness – cruelty, generosity – greed, love – hate.

Not only do these spiritual diseases affect the soul, they also affect the body:

Jealousy consumeth the body and anger doth burn the liver: avoid these two as you would a lion.

One of the problems many people have with modern Western medicine is that it often doesn’t search for the cause but just treats the symptoms. The implications of this are cases where someone is leading a very unhealthy lifestyle and just wants a quick fix to alleviate their symptoms so that they can continue living their chosen lifestyle. But they are neglecting to learn from the symptoms. The symptoms could be there to teach the person that there is something wrong with the way they live and they need to change it. The same, we could say, is true with the soul. When we feel angry, jealous, or unhappy, I believe we are experiencing the symptoms of the soul. Just like physical symptoms, these are not to simply be covered over, or removed without examining if there is a fundamental cause. As with the body, we can deal superficially with the symptoms of the soul with drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, excessive materialism, backbiting and gossip.

What we need to do is pay attention to these signs of the soul, as unpleasant as they are. This requires a lot of honesty, courage and humility. If we are feeling guilty about something that we did or failed to do, we need to take an honest look at ourselves to determine if it was our failure. But this means being willing to experience the pangs of guilt. And if we do have the courage to feel this guilt, we also have to go the distance and see what this guilt can teach us. When I feel guilty about something, I often find myself trying to rationalise my way out of it, and justify my actions, when in many cases I simply need to admit my mistakes to myself, learn from them, and move on.

I think that we have to be grateful for the way that God has created us in relation to our purpose in life. He created us to draw closer to Him through purifying ourselves: “Rejoice in the gladness of thine heart, that thou mayest be worthy to meet Me and to mirror forth My beauty.” Drawing closer to God is the greatest joy. Whenever we move away from God, we receive feedback or signs telling us that we are drifting from our purpose. But we have to pay attention within ourselves. If we remove ourselves from God and don’t look within ourselves, we may not see these symptoms and so the sickness of our soul will remain hidden. I think that is why daily prayer and reflection are so vital.

 

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