Praise be to Thee, O Lord my God! I beseech Thee by this Revelation whereby darkness hath been turned into light, through which the Frequented Fane hath been built, and the Written Tablet revealed, and the Outspread Roll uncovered, to send down upon me and upon them who are in my company that which will enable us to soar into the heavens of Thy transcendent glory, and will wash us from the stain of such doubts as have hindered the suspicious from entering into the tabernacle of Thy unity.
I am the one, O my Lord, who hath held fast the cord of Thy loving-kindness, and clung to the hem of Thy mercy and favors. Do Thou ordain for me and for my loved ones the good of this world and of the world to come. Supply them, then, with the Hidden Gift Thou didst ordain for the choicest among Thy creatures.
These are, O my Lord, the days in which Thou hast bidden Thy servants to observe the fast. Blessed is he that observeth the fast wholly for Thy sake and with absolute detachment from all things except Thee. Assist me and assist them, O my Lord, to obey Thee and to keep Thy precepts. Thou, verily, hast power to do what Thou choosest.
There is no God but Thee, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. All praise be to God, the Lord of all worlds.
hey—just in time for the Fast, I’ve calculated and posted Ottawa’s Baha’i fasting times for 2009, along with links to print out fasting calendars for other major Canadian cities. Hope you find them useful, and here’s wishing you and yours a joyous and spiritually transformative 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.
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…
the 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.
I have lots of memories of growing up Baha’i—there’s a lot of stuff I didn’t understand back then that seems a lot clearer now (naturally, I suppose). For example, my mother was on the Spiritual Assembly in the town where we lived, so I remember going with Mom to meetings now and then, hanging around in a separate room playing with toys while the adults discussed boring and serious things in the living room. Who knows? They were probably talking about the same kinds of things I did while pioneering and serving on Spiritual Assemblies in the province of Quebec, some 15 years later—correspondence, administrative procedure, the healthy growth and progress of the Baha’i community, planning for upcoming Holy Days and the 19-day Feast.
I always loved attending the 19-day Feast (well, most of the time, I suppose—everyone has their off days too). Back then, our local Baha’i community was fairly small, so Feast was always held in people’s houses, allowing different families to offer hospitality each time. And it was always so beautiful! Pleasant, restful music playing as the friends entered, prayer books in small piles on a coffee table, candles lit and softly flickering throughout. Everything was so big back then, so grand and amazing. High-topped dressers filled with books like God Passes By and Lights of Guidance, with curios and mementoes, and here and there you’d see an engraving with the ringstone symbol on it, or, up on the highest shelf, you’d see a beautifully framed reproduction of the Greatest Name of God. You’d see art from many cultures along the walls, and you’d smell perfume in the air—perhaps rose or jasmine. And then, when it was time to eat, you’d get up and walk (don’t run!) to the table at the back where the hosts would lay out platters of persian rice with tahdig (or “tahdeeg” or whatever), kookoo sabzi, adas polo, baghali polo, chicken drumsticks, and so on. I can smell it all now just writing about it. (On a side note, I’m somewhat glad the Fast is over.) Listening to prayers, either chanted in lilting tones or spoken softly, has left me with fond memories and a great love of Persian chanting. Sometimes I would recite prayers too, along with the other children. Sometimes, I fell asleep (hey, it got late, and the chanting sometimes sounds like a bedtime song).
We’ve learned a lot about the place of children in the community since I was young. “Our children need to be nurtured spiritually and to be integrated into the life of the Cause,” the Universal House of Justice wrote in its message to the Bahá’í world on Ridván, 157 B.E. (April 2000). Continue reading →