Here you will find articles on spiritual themes common to all religions and cultures. For the month of November (2017) Niki has accepted the #bahaiblogging challenge (one post per day). The posts are repeated on FaceBook. Visit Niki on FaceBook (www.facebook.com/nicola.g.daniels/) to comment and interact with the Blog.
|Posted on November 17, 2017 at 4:15 PM||comments (2)|
Day 17 #bahaiblogging
This talk of healthy eyes, visions of the future and the like (see Day 16) brought to the forefront of my mind a related topic: dreams. How is it related? Well, when we close our eyes and go to sleep, we can see things in our dreams. Sometimes it seems our minds somehow come up with answers to problems in our sleep. It seems to me that kind of vision is 'healthy,' do you agree? I know I am not alone when I say that sleeping on a problem very often leads to a solution that is simple and effective, whereas staying up nights thinking and worrying about it just makes me ill.
When questioned about the ***immortality of the spirit*** 'Abdu'l-Baha had some very interesting things to say about sleep and dreams. His take on this is recorded in Some Answered Questions (SAQ), Chapter 61. I will post a link below.
*** I see a direct correlation between the analogy of the 'whole body filled with light' from Matthew 6:22 and the idea of an 'immortal soul.' This concept of a life that continues beyond the here-and-now has been called different things at different times and in different religions. Becoming 'enlightened,' entering the 'kingdom of God,' having 'eternal life' are all - in my humble opinion - talking about the same reality: the life of the human spirit. ***
Here's a small excerpt from the chapter of Some Answered Questions (SAQ) posted below.
"How often it happens that the spirit has a dream in the realm of sleep whose purport comes to be exactly materialized two years hence! Likewise, how often it happens that in the world of dreams the spirit solves a problem that it could not solve in the realm of wakefulness. Awake, the eye sees only a short distance, but in the realm of dreams one who is in the East may see the West."
There's a fascinating compilation of dreams that were dreamed by various people who were Baha'is, or who dreamed about Baha'is and/or later became Baha'is. It is called "Dreams of Destiny in the Babi and Baha'i Faiths." One of the dreams recorded there always makes me cry. Briefly, it concerns a woman who dreamed 'Abdu'l-Baha told her to take money and some flowers - a certain kind of flowers - to the home of an acquaintance. When she got there, she found the woman was on the way out the door. Unknown to her friends, this woman had been depressed and in need of financial assistance, and not wanting to ask for help, had decided that very morning she would go and drown herself so she would not be a burden on others. The gift from the dreamer turned all that around, and of course the part that made me cry was that the flowers reminded the depressed woman of 'Abdu'l-Baha, who she said had in the past brought to her that same kind of flower.
Of course, not all dreams can be called dreams of destiny, but if you observe your own dreams and start to pay attention to the symbols in them (as well as to the world around you while you are awake) perhaps you will become aware of some truth, some need, some answer to a significant problem or question. As revealed in a prayer by 'Baha'u'llah: "I beseech Thee, by the potency of Thy will and the compelling power of Thy purpose, to make of what Thou didst reveal unto me in my sleep the surest foundation for the mansions of Thy love that are within the hearts of Thy loved ones, and the best instrument for the revelation of the tokens of Thy grace and Thy loving-kindness."
Here's SAQ Chapter 61
Sweet Dreams! Niki
|Posted on November 17, 2017 at 4:10 PM||comments (0)|
Day 16 #bahaiblogging
Part One (morning)
I get one Bible quote a day from a lady right here in South Carolina. She has a daughter with my name. A week ago - on Wednesday/Justice - she texted this quote, from Matthew 6:22
"The light of the body is the eye, if therefore thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light."
This brought to mind an image I hold in my mind of the 'body of Christ' from a sculpture by Jamaican artist Laura Facey. In that sculpture the head of the body is missing. I wrote a poem about that (it is somewhere in my timeline) saying that the body of Christ will miraculously become one, when Christ, the Head of that body, returns.
Note that the words in Matthew 6:22 are Jesus' words. This is the same chapter of Matthew where Jesus teaches His disciples to pray (the Lord's prayer), and gives them other guidance about how to live a humble and generous life. One concordance I looked into says the Greek word translated as "single" (and sometimes as "healthy") in this verse has a connotation of generosity.
If we think of the 'body' Jesus is talking about here as the body of Christ (meaning the believers in God/Jesus), then what does the 'eye' mean in the spiritual sense?
Part Two (evening)
I'm back. And by the way the Gospel of Luke also contains this verse/thought, in Chapter 11, verse 34. So if the body is the body of believers, what is the eye? Another word for eye is vision The Berean study bible translates this verse as: "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your vision is clear, your whole body will be full of light."
What is the lamp of the body of believers? Could it be the Word itself? The Holy Teachings that guide the way for all who believe? These Teachings, in all the Holy Books. tell us to be generous, to live by the Golden Rule (treat others the way we would want to be treated). The rationale behind that behavior is simple: we are all like children of one God - our Father in Heaven.
In previous posts (Days 4 and 5) I referred to the Messengers of God as pure mirrors, reflecting the light of God, in word and in deed. God's Messengers can also be thought of as Lamps. I believe that if we all, as individual members of the body of Christ, follow the light of God as it shines through the Lamps of His Messengers, the whole body of believers will be filled with light.
If you hang around Baha'is long enough you will probably hear them talk about the three "onenesses": One God, One Mankind, and One Religion. Another aspect of this teaching about Unity is that the Manifestations or Messengers of God are also 'One'. This is a mystery, and I don't pretend to understand it very well, but we are told by Baha'u'llah that: "Inasmuch as these Birds of the celestial Throne are all sent down from the heaven of the Will of God, and as they all arise to proclaim His irresistible Faith, they, therefore, are regarded as one soul and the same person. For they all drink from the one Cup of the love of God, and all partake of the fruit of the same Tree of Oneness."
With deep respect for all of the divine mirrors who have brought the light of Truth into the world: Peace and Love, Niki
|Posted on November 17, 2017 at 4:05 PM||comments (0)|
Day 15 #bahaiblogging
One of Baha'u'llah's Hidden Words is a favorite of a friend of mine. Ever since she told me so, I've been pondering what it means. Here's the actual text...
"The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes."
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Arabic Hidden Words 2)
Justice is something we have been talking about a lot in my country of residence (the United States of America). People young and old, of all ethnicities and genders, are calling out for justice for the victims of all the injustices known to mankind. Hate crimes, domestic violence, terrorism, enslavement, child abuse, animal abuse, rape, embezzlement, robbery, drunk driving. In just 24 hours, in this country alone, thousands are hurt, killed, humiliated and stolen from. It's a mad world, and every day over 100 US residents commit suicide as well.
What does it mean, then, to set justice before our eyes, to ponder it in our hearts, and to use it to see with our own eyes and to know with our own knowledge?
I have some thoughts, and I'd really like to hear from you all as well. Have you pondered the meaning of justice in your life?
To be continued on Day 16, and maybe Days 17 and 18 as well.
|Posted on November 14, 2017 at 8:25 PM||comments (0)|
Day 14 #bahaiblogging
Today I finished a book on time travel - All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai. The moral of the story is "there's no such thing as the life you're supposed to have." The hero of the novel, Tom Barron, learns this after traveling in time to live in three different 'worlds.'
At one extreme is a sleek and futuristic, but tamely decadent world, where energy is cheap and plentiful (and renewable), crime is almost non-existent because life is good and easy, and books are entertainment experiences tailored to suit the personality of the reader.
At the other extreme is a post-apocalyptic mess, with half the world (maybe more) destroyed and just about everybody else at war. There is no time to read books, but he learns the art of self-defense.
In the middle is this world we live in, with flawed parents, hard but honest work, 'real' books and true love.
In the end (trying not to give too much away here) Tom, and his alter-egos John and Victor, manage to each put their best foot forward (and their worst foot back!) and work together to 'save the world' for the children. BBC 2 recommends the book, and it is a GoodReads nominee for Best Science Fiction 2017.
My thanks to Mr Mastai for helping me get caught up on this blogging challenge. Have any of you read this? I enjoyed.
|Posted on November 14, 2017 at 8:25 PM||comments (1)|
Day 13 #bahaiblogging
Following on my thoughts about patience, I thought I would share once more a video blog I made in December 2014 on the virtues of determination and caring/compassion.
This piece contains the true story of Lua Getsinger, one of the pioneers of the Baha'i Faith in the USA. You can find out more about Lua Getsinger on bahaikipedia.org. She was ill for much of her life, but didn't let that stop her from being caring to others (though it was hard to be as caring as 'Abdu'l-Baha, as we see in this video!)
PS Just in case the video embed doesn't work, here is the URL to the video on YouTube. You will need to copy and paste - this text editor doesn't like the punctuation marks in the URL:
|Posted on November 14, 2017 at 8:20 PM||comments (0)|
Day 12 #bahaiblogging
Because I've blogged about sheep and several friends liked that, let's talk about one of the parables about sheep. In Matthew 18 (12-14) Jesus tells this parable:
"What do you think? If someone owns a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go look for the one that went astray? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that one of these little ones be lost." (New English Translation)
Luke tells it a little more personally. "So Jesus told them this parable: “Which one of you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, would not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go look for the one that is lost until he finds it? Then when he has found it, he places it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Returning home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, telling them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost.’ I tell you, in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent." (Luke 15:3-7 - New English Translation)
In Matthew's version this parable is told shortly after the disciples of Jesus were asking Him who is the 'greatest' in the kingdom of heaven. So one way to look at this parable is as a warning for us 'righteous' believers in Jesus to be humble, and not to think of ourselves as being better, or more 'deserving' persons than other people who we feel are not living right with God.
Matthew verses 5 and 6 tell us what we should do instead of worrying about how high a place is being reserved for us in heaven. Verse 5 says "And whoever welcomes a child like this in my name welcomes me." Verse 6 says: “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the open sea."
Is there a sheep or 'child' in your life? Maybe someone who doesn't seem to be getting with the program when it comes to doing the Will of the Lord? The Baha'i Writings give some great advice on how to guide someone like this.
"If ye be aware of a certain truth, if ye possess a jewel, of which others are deprived, share it with them in a language of utmost kindliness and good-will." (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 289)
Luke's version of the parable of the lost sheep is set in a different context than is Matthew's. In verses 1 and 2 of Luke 15 we read: "Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming to hear him. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”"
So according to Luke, it was the Pharisees and experts in the law, not the disciples themselves, whom Jesus was addressing with the parable. Luke's version of the parable continues on with a similar parable about a woman who had ten silver coins and lost one of them. I'd like to think Jesus used the parable of the coins in order to reach the minds and hearts of the tax collectors, who probably weren't feeling moved by talk of sheep!
In both gospels, the message is pretty clear. This is no time for believers in God the Father, and/or in Jesus (I include myself in that category) to rest on their laurels. The fact that you are a believer only means you have a responsibility to show love and compassion to those who for whatever reason at all are living outside of the safety of the community of believers.
May you find something you have lost today, and may you give it away to someone who needs it.
|Posted on November 12, 2017 at 11:30 AM||comments (0)|
Day 11 of #bahaiblogging
Last night I dreamed a writing prompt! First time ever doing that. A friend of mine, Mbala, was in the dream.
The prompt is to write a poem that includes three elements: mountain, bell, and blue.
The image of a mountain needs to be included in the poem (not necessarily the word, although it can be included).
The words bell and and blue do not need to be in the poem either, but there must be a reference in the poem to some related emotion(s) or action(s).
Examples: for 'bell' the word or idea 'alarm,' 'warn,' or 'startled' would qualify.
I hope to write such a poem before I die.
Coincidentally (probably causally rather than casually) I decided last night to write about the trio of The Bab, Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha. Baha'is, inlcuding me, often share quotes from these three personages, and I'm pretty sure the relationships between them must be a little confusing to people outside the Faith. So here goes...
If I had to choose one symbol for each of them, I would use the mountain for Baha'u'llah, because of the vastness of His Revelation/Writings. By vastness I mean:
a) the broad scope/subject matter of His Teachings,
b) the length of time (about 30 years if you start from the year of His Declaration in 1863, until His death in May 1892) during which He wrote the various texts, which are still being translated at the Baha'i World Center, and
c) the 'height' of His Teachings - an elevated vision of both individual and social moral ideals and structures.
For The Bab, I would choose the bell, symbolizing a warning or signal. The Bab was the forerunner of Baha'u'llah, a lot like John the Baptist was in relation to Jesus. Bab means 'gate'. The date when the Bab's identity (as the Gate) was made known to His first disciple is considered the date of the birth of the Baha'i Faith (May 24, 1844). The Bab died young (like Jesus, he was killed/martyred for sounding the alarm for the Day of the Kingdom of God). Baha'u'llah was one of the first to accept the Bab's message, and Baha'u'llah Himself, in 1863, declared He was the "Promised One of all Religions" prophesized by the Bab.
That leaves blue for 'Abdu'l-Baha (Baha'u'llah's first son, and the authorized interpreter of His Writings)... And that's interesting, because the emotion most commonly associated with the word blue is sadness. But 'Abdu'l-Baha is a source of happiness (if you've been reading this blog you may remember that). But words can have so many different meanings, eh? Blue is a favorite color for most people (according to color researchers) and like a blue sky, blue denotes freedom, calmness, and possibility.
Two coincidences link the births of these extraordinary people.
'Abdu'l-Baha was born the very night of the birth of the Baha'i Faith, in 1844.
The Bab / gate / bell was born on the 1st day of the 1st month of the Muslim year (1819) and Baha'u'llah was born on the 2nd day of that month, in 1817. So the bell rings, a wake-up call is made to all the peoples of the earth, and the next 'day' we can see that the tip of the mountain of the Faith has already begun to rise up into the brilliant blue spiritual spaces around the globe.
I am one happy woman today. Peace, Niki
|Posted on November 12, 2017 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
Day 10 of #bahaiblogging
Prayer is a most important concept in religion, and something that has been written and written and written about. I felt I had to say something about prayer in this blog.
Prayer flows naturally from my previous post about 'Abdu'l-Baha. Portals to Freedom - the book that led me to not just believe in Baha'u'llah but to fall in love with the Cause of God - is about a Unitarian Minister's encounter with 'Abdu'l-Baha (Baha'u'llah's son, and designated 'interpreter' of Baha'u'llah's own Writings). In it the Minister tells how 'Abdu'l-Baha taught him to pray by kneeling with him and praying silently and fervently (think of Mihaly's "flow"!) for hours.
To my best knowledge, the Baha'i Faith is unique among other religions in that the Prophet(s) of the Faith gave us a multitude of prayers to use. Prayer is said to be a 'conversation with God' so for some it might take some getting used to, to speak to God in someone else's words. I have found that these prayers actually do say what I mean in my heart, which is a wonderful miracle and a mystery! The more I reflect on them the more peace, compassion and patience I am able to muster when life gets difficult.
Shoghi Effendi (grandson of 'Abdu'l-Baha, whom 'Abdu'l-Baha appointed in his Last Will and Testament to lead the Baha'i Faith) has also given wonderful (and more intellectual) advice about praying, particularly with regards to steps to take AFTER one prays. I don't have a thing to add to what he said, and I recommend the following article on BahaiTeachings.org on the topic: bahaiteachings.org/5-steps-for-transforming-prayer-into-action.
PS You don't have to look hard to find Baha'i prayers online. There's even an app for your smartphone with hundreds of prayers, in categories (and you can read them in different languages, too!) Life is A-Mazing.
|Posted on November 10, 2017 at 10:40 AM||comments (0)|
Day 9 of #bahaiblogging
Patience is not
waiting for the night patrol
while the wolf takes off with your sheep
Patience is not
praying all night
that the sheep you let stray
will come back
Patience is not
faith in the wolf's promise
of the sheep's return
This is not a poem,
it is the life of a shepherd
You are not the shepherd?
I have news for you:
the wolf is looking after
The Friday Fix: Patience (video)
|Posted on November 9, 2017 at 10:05 PM||comments (0)|
Day 8 of #bahaiblogging
I'm reading a science fiction novel titled "All Our Wrong Todays". In this novel and many similar ones I have read and enjoyed, the future is envisioned as one relatively free from the physical effort and struggles of human existence. The author imagines a number of gadgets - made possible due to an invention which produces energy very cheaply, in unlimited supply - that people in this future world use to clothe, feed, groom, and transport themselves, eliminating the need to exert effort in almost every aspect of daily living.
This reminds me of earlier, even more naive sci-fi notions of a future where men and women become skinny, weak beings with large heads to house their continually-evolving brains. But many contemporary thinkers and writers have realized the perils of luxury and the care-free lifestyle. Effort is not a bad thing, it is a pre-condition for growth, and learning.
NPR interviewed University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - the man who coined the term "flow" for the science of 'ultimate human performance' or 'peak performance,' recently. URL: www.npr.org/2015/04/17/399806632/what-makes-a-life-worth-living
Mihaly believes we can achieve one of the most elusive needs — self-actualization — by finding a state of "flow" in our work or our hobbies. He gave a scientific explanation for the experience of many performers and athletes who say it is as if they 'lose themselves' while performing or competing. It goes like this (I am paraphrasing from memory - listen to the interview if you want the undiluted stuff): Each person has the capacity to process a certain number of 'bits' of information at a time (average about 120 bits, if I remember correctly). When a musician becomes so completely engrossed in performing a piece of music that every single bit of their attention is engaged, then their capacity is maximized, so any additional inputs - bodily pain or sensations, small noises, the presence of others in the room - will not be consciously registered.
The thing about this 'flow' is that it can happen with absolutely any activity. The interview also featured a piece about a man who makes a living slicing meat. He became such an expert at this specific task, that he could tell by the way the meat fell on the cutting board, by the weight and sound of it as he slapped it down, and the look of it laying there, exactly where the bones were. After a day of focused and intensive slicing, this man went home with a feeling of the sweetest satisfaction. He had done an excellent day's work. He was the best slicer of meat to be found anywhere in the world.
Csikszentmihalyi's ideas about flow (and yes, I realize that pronouncing his surname is an exercise in concentration for someone who speaks only English!) reminded me of this quote from the Baha'i Writings:
"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." (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p.326)
And this: "The education of each child is compulsory…. In addition to this wide-spread education each child must be taught a profession, art, or trade, so that every member of the community will be enabled to earn his own livelihood. Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship…." (‘Abdu’l-Bahá on Divine Philosophy, p. 83)
May the flow be with you
PS I know I am still a day behind, but the effort to catch up makes it all worthwhile