in quest of a study circle

the work of a regional institute coordinator is pretty hard…

these great oppressions / o son of man

Here’s a really cool version of everybody’s favourite musical fireside song, These Great Oppressions—performed by Canadian Baha’i musician Dean Kalyan.

These great oppressions
That have befallen the world
Are preparing it for the advent
Of the Most Great Justice

These fruitless strifes
These ruinous wars
Shall pass away
And the Most Great Peace shall come

And, as an added bonus, here’s JB Eckl and Eric Dozier performing another musical fireside song, O Son of Man, at a concert in Austin, TX. See more!

If thou lovest me,
turn away from thyself
If thou seekest my pleasure,
regard not thine own
That thou mayest die in me
And I may eternally live in thee
O Son of Man!

breaking the fast

Tonight at the Ottawa Baha’i Centre, there’s a community potluck organized by the east-end Baha’is (from “Sector 1” as it’s habitually called). The sun isn’t down yet and already the tantalizing smell of food wafts through the air—oven-baked pasta, casseroles, persian rice, curries and meat. Fasting heightens the senses, especially when it relates to eating—the smell and taste of food seem amplified, and so much fuller. People have been slowly trickling in with bowls and platters large and small. Now, a program is starting in the main hall as I sit and type these words in the bookstore; one of the youth is delivering a presentation about his first time fasting. “Today is the fourteenth day of fasting, and I’m still going strong,” he says. “Fasting is of two kinds, material and spiritual,” he says, quoting from the writings of the Guardian of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi. “The material fasting is abstaining from food or drink, that is, from the appetites of the body. But spiritual, ideal fasting is this, that man abstain from selfish passions, from negligence and from satanic animal traits. Therefore, material fasting is a token of the spiritual fasting.” Prayers and devotions follow, as the Baha’is observe this “ideal fasting” in their hearts and spirits, sharing time as a community in worship of their loving Creator. One of the Persian friends, with a strong, solid, and melodious voice which reverberates in the reverent silence, chants a prayer in his native tongue, calling on God to accept our fast. Whether or not they understand the words, the friends—from every race and nationality understand the spirit of this call. He explains to me the gist of the chant once the program ends: “A lover suffers a great deal before he reaches his beloved, but in the process he teaches everyone patience.”

The time is 7:08 PM; the time of “sunset” has officially come, and my mother brings me a glass of water. Another day of fasting is done.

backbiting music video

Polynesian music group Mana wins the awesomeness award of the month with their new music video pulled straight from the pages of Ruhi Book 1 and the writings of Bahá’u’lláh:

That seeker should also regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul.

Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Iqan (The Book of Certitude), p. 194

la la la

hey – still fasting. extremely busy at work right now, and pretty fatigued; as such I haven’t had much energy to put into creative endeavours (videos, etc) like I usually do. been reading Baha’i Views a lot, and ooh’ing and ahh’ing at all the marvelous content popping up on it. also discovered a wonderful blog called nineteen days, written by two Baha’i bloggers across the world from each other blogging their experience of the Fast.
going to Catherine’s place tonight to break the Fast around 7ish. I wonder if she’ll have more satanseitan pie 😉 finding the Fast hard this year, due to the fatigue and health problems that have started accumulating (had a short kidney stone attack last week, and began the Fast with the remnants of a nasty cold/flu/whatever). more later…

baha’i fasting season and spiritual life

lunar eclipsethe Baha’i month of fasting began on Sunday; from March 2nd to March 20th inclusive, Baha’is refrain from eating or drinking from sunup to sundown. This physical Fast is symbolic of a spiritual Fast—just as fasting helps cleanse our bodies from physical impurities, the Baha’i Fast is a time to cleanse the spirit of selfishness, earthly desires and vain imaginations. I’ll give an example of what I’ve been doing—maybe not the perfect schedule; I’m open to suggestions! I’ve set my alarm for 5:00 AM to give me enough time to wake up and prepare myself for sunrise, which is happening at around 6:30 AM right now (you can follow the 2008 sunrise times in the calendar on the upper right hand corner of this blog’s home page). I’ll plod downstairs somewhat groggily and get some food into me: usually a combination of granola or oatmeal with soy milk, fruits and fruit juice, vitamins, and some form of protein such as eggs or a breakfast burrito. Oh, and lots of water – usually the equivalent of 4 to 6 cups of it before sunrise. The remaining time before sunrise is dedicated to reading from the Sacred Writings of the Baha’i Faith, particularly those of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. I’ve also been reading from the book The Path Toward Spirituality: Sacred Duties and Practices of the Bahá’í Life, published by Palabra Publications (publishers of the Ruhi Institute course materials). It’s a simple, straightforward book that offers a clear outline of all the facets of Bahá’í life; its contents roughly mirror the requisites to spiritual growth outlined by the Universal House of Justice.

I have to confess something (ok, well not really “confess”—just mentioning it for the sake of context): I tend to get distracted easily. Big time. In my everyday tasks, at work, during prayer, while reading, while writing, while enjoying myself—all the time. So, as long-time readers of this blog will attest to, consistency in my own daily spiritual practice is often a challenge for me. When I blogged about my Baha’i pilgrimage to Haifa and ‘Akká, I drew a lot of inspiration from the long obligatory prayer—partly because of the impact of visiting the qiblih, but also as a way of reminding myself of how vital, how refreshing and how fundamentally life-giving the long obligatory prayer is. The truth is, I struggle with the obligatory prayers sometimes, and with all the basic building blocks of spirituality, like daily readings and study, meditation, teaching the Cause, service to humanity, and so on. I think the root of the struggle, for me at least, is attachment to material comfort. Sometimes I feel it’s just easier, or more comfortable, for me to give in to the distraction and go to bed without thinking of anything—turn off my brain, as it were—instead of taking the time every evening to remember God and bring myself into a peaceful, centered state, renewing my connection with a Power greater than myself. Of course, without hitting that “centered” state, I just start the next day feeling unbalanced, off base. And so it continues until I finally snap out of it and say to myself, “Enough is enough, I’m going to say the long obligatory prayer even if it keeps me up past midnight!”

Instead of making the generalization “I’m not following Bahá’í teachings, I must be a bad Bahá’í”, and becoming discouraged or (God forbid!) estranged from the Bahá’í community, we can remember that we are commanded to strive to observe Bahá’í teachings. We’re always striving—that is, until we give up. Apart from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who was known as the Perfect Exemplar of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings, and who reminded us to take our struggles “kam kam, ruz bih ruz” (little by little, day by day), nobody can claim to be perfect. As long as we keep trying day by day to bring our behaviour more in accordance with the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh—whether it means writing a note for ourselves so that we don’t forget that day’s obligatory prayer, or leaving a book of daily readings on our pillow so we’ll remember to read them before going to bed—we are not “bad Bahá’ís”, just normal human beings trying to transform ourselves from beings of earth and water into beings of spirit and light.