Notes of a talk given by Universal House of Justice Member Hartmut Grossman to the first group of Baha’i Pilgrims to enter the Cell of Baha’u’llah after a break of eight years. This talk was given on the evening of October 30th, 2003.
The Universal House of Justice views the re-opening of the Cell of Baha’u’llah as being a very significant event, so much so that prior to the pilgrims’ visit, all of the members went to the Cell as a Body to say special prayers.
We should remember the suffering that occurred at this prison - the prison designated by Him as the Most Great Prison, which is deeply significant considering the conditions under which He suffered in the ‘Black-Pit’, the Siyah-Chal, in Tehran. He had just arrived when he was forced to sell His carpet, the carpet He used to sleep on, to pay for the funeral expenses of one of the members of His entourage. Even after paying the expenses, the body was still treated very disrespectfully, but He had to make the attempt. It was while confined to this Cell that He sacrificed His son. Many, many other afflictions were faced by Him there.
Many events of note also took place in this Cell, one of which was His giving the Tablet to the Shah of Persia to Badi for its delivery. Baha’u’llah had written the Tablet prior to His arrival in Acco, but there was not a believer at that time who exhibited the necessary levels of devotion and sacrifice. So to give the Tablet to Badi, He bound the eyes of the guards so that Badi could be smuggled into His presence and safely back out again. The second Tablet to Napoleon and the Tablet to Queen Victoria were also written from this Cell.
The significance of the line “Now that ye have refused the Most Great Peace” is one that needs to be understood (from a Tablet to the kings of the earth written in the Cell, Baha’u’llah, Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, p. 12). During that time period, the kings and rulers of the earth had the power to accept His Cause and have their people accept it as well. Imagine for a minute that had they accepted Him the world could have changed in an instant - the Most Great Peace would have come into being immediately. Because of their refusal, however, and even worse the refusal of the heads of the various religions of the time, the power of the kings and rulers will be greatly diminished in the future and never again will humanity have a priesthood. The power and authority could have stayed with them, but they denied Him and so they have lost it forever. Continuing the line, “hold ye fast unto this, the Lesser Peace, that haply ye may in some degree better your own condition and that of your dependents.” is telling us that the power to rule has now been given to the common believer.
All of this happened in the Cell - what a very special privilege it is to visit there.
To be a Baha’i means that you have been chosen by God, ‘Abdu’l-Baha tells us this in the Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. It’s easy to enter the Kingdom of Abha. You may have thought it was your choice, but you didn’t choose - He said, “From amongst all mankind hath He chosen you, and your eyes have been opened to the light of guidance ..” (‘Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 35)
Why did He chose you? He chose you because you have some special abilities and capacities. Pilgrimage is the best of all opportunities to find out what they are, to ask Him ‘Why did you pick me out?’
The Baha’is are now God’s chosen people and we each have the capacity and abilities to do something. The Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Baha again say, “Out of all the mass of humankind God hath chosen the friends...His purpose is this, that we, all of us, should strive with our whole hearts to offer ourselves up, guide others to His path, and train the souls of men…” (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 272) What exactly does it mean to strive with our whole hearts to “offer ourselves up”?
The friends in the east understand what this means, to them it means martyrdom. Because of their offering, their sacrifice, the Faith has been brought out of obscurity.
To the friends in the west, however, it has a very different meaning. Shoghi Effendi has said that, for us, we are to be very conscious Baha’is 24 hours a day, that if we do this it is the same as martyrdom. You can do this, you have the abilities and capacities to very consciously be a Baha’i 24 hours a day or God would not have chosen you.
Guide others to the path:
A duty in the west is seen as something that we try to avoid. Like taxes - though if you are going to be a Baha’i you have to pay your taxes! But guiding others to His Cause is not a duty, it is not an obligation – it’s a privilege.
Baha’u’llah has stated, “That which He hath reserved for Himself are the cities of men's hearts; and of these the loved ones of Him Who is the Sovereign Truth are, in this Day, as the keys. Please God they may, one and all, be enabled to unlock, through the power of the Most Great Name, the gates of these cities.” (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 241) So you see, the believers are the keys to the cities of the hearts of men. You have the capacity to do this, or you would not have been chosen.
Train the souls of men:
He didn’t say that we were to encourage, enlighten or make happy the souls of men, not that these aren’t worthy things, but he said that we were to train them. Training, in this instance, means to systematically educate. So how do we do this?
In a letter dated October 2nd, 1951, Shoghi Effendi described the four types of Baha’is needed to fulfill the future plans of the Faith. He said that the Faith needed saints, heroes, martyrs and administrators. (Lights of Guidance, p. 629) He put them in order of difficulty from easiest to hardest.
Saints - show that they are a Baha’i 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is not so easy, have you ever tried to do this? Not too many of us have achieved this, but some have.
Heroes - A hero is someone who is able to audaciously show what the Faith is. To do this of course, they need to consciously be a Baha’i every minute of the day, to be a saint. Many of the pioneers and individuals like Martha Root are good examples of heroes. Not that these people are perfect or see themselves as being heroes. Martha Root once remarked that she had trouble crossing the street in New York City because an automobile would pass by every five minutes!
Martyrs -To heroic and saintly behavior, the martyr adds the element of suffering.
Administrators - This is the hardest of the four categories as it requires all three of the above. In this Dispensation we have a God-given tool to protect the Faith: Consultation. “Consult upon every matter” (‘Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 183) we have been told. The rules of consultation form the core of the Administrative Order. To carry this out you must be a saint by being totally selfless, be a hero by frankly offering your opinion regardless of how it will be received, and be a martyr because sometimes it’s not so easy to let go. And remember, you have the ability and capacity to do this, or you would not have been chosen.
The Faith has progressed through definite stages and we know what stages it will pass through in the future. It has gone from obscurity, through emancipation, and will shortly be entering the stage of oppression. The Universal House of Justice has created the Training Institutes as a way to prepare us for this.
Baha’u’llah (in Gleanings, p.261) has asked us to “Build ye for yourselves such houses as the rain and floods can never destroy, which shall protect you from the changes and chances of this life.” These houses will be with you in all the worlds of God. We need to do it for Baha’u’llah and as a service to humanity. A person’s highest aspiration is to find some place to call home. And remember, you have the ability and capacity to do this, or you would not have been chosen.