November 23, 2009

The Lesser Peace and the Most Great Peace – by Ali Nakhjavani

(Transcript of a talk as part of six talks given during a week-long course in February of 2004 on the “World Order of Baha'u'llah”. The event was sponsored by the NSA of Italy. The notes also include questions raised by the participants and Mr. Nakhjavani’s answers. This text, excluding the quotations section, was published in 2005 under the title "Towards World Order". A chapter on “The Covenant” was added in the 2007 edition.)

In order to place this subject in its proper context it would be useful to have a general understanding of the twin processes, frequently expounded in the writings of Shoghi Effendi, of disintegration and integration, as they unfold in the world today.

I feel it would be helpful to look at the parable of the Lord of the Vineyard, as given by Jesus Christ. "A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. Then said the Lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the Lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others." (New Testament, Luke 20:9-16)

Here are a few comments:

November 19, 2009

Education, Scholarship, and Global Civilization - by Peter Khan

(A slightly edited transcript of a talk given by Dr. Peter Khan on 13 August 2006 at the Association for Bahá’í Studies conference in San Francisco, California.
Headings have been added)


The Universal Applicability of Bahá’í Laws and Principles

By way of preamble, I would like to draw your attention to one of the distinctive features of our religion: the fact that we have, as an integral element of the structure of our teachings, the concept of the supremacy of the rule of law. By that I mean that the laws and teachings of our Faith are applicable to all members of the Bahá’í community irrespective of any other consideration. This is relatively unusual; so often in religious communities there are certain individuals who, rightly or wrongly, feel themselves excused from some aspects of their teachings by virtue of their rank, their social standing, or some other consideration; whereas in our religion there are a number of universal principles applicable, without distinction, to all. I want to spend a few minutes – before getting into the meat of my subject – I want to spend a few minutes exploring a few of those universally applicable principles, and I think they can be gathered together under the heading of the “enlightened mind”.

We are all familiar with the fact that religions have, as a matter of course, down through the span of human history, religions have concerned themselves with enlightenment. It’s even been carried to the point of caricature. Janet and I have just spent a few days being very lazy, which included watching television in Northern California. Those of you who have been equally indolent may be familiar with a TV ad for Yellow Pages, some poor soul climbs a mountain to find an individual who is some kind of guru and a source of enlightenment and our traveler seeks guidance from him on how all information can be obtained and this enlightened soul refers him to the Yellow Pages. Be that as it may, the attainment of enlightenment has always been the goal of religion.

November 18, 2009

Learning and the Evolution of the Bahá’í Community - by Paul Lample

Plenary talk given at the 32nd annual conference of the Association for Bahá’í Studies – North America

29 August to 1 September 2008

[Before change took place in the current culture of the Bahá’í community ]

“It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding,” Bahá’u’lláh states, “to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action.”1 To be a Bahá’í, to “live the life,” means to comprehend the Word of God and act on it, individually and collectively. It is to make the reality of one’s personal life and the pattern of society at large reflect the teachings. Bahá’u’lláh Himself affirms that “the object of every Revelation” is to “effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions.” Otherwise, He observes, “the futility of God’s universal Manifestations would be apparent.”2

Collectively, we receive the gift of the Word of God, and through its application we are to raise the Kingdom of God on earth; that is, we are to gradually contribute to the building of a new social order that is shaped by the truths of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh. This statement appears simple, yet implicit in it is a challenge to reflect deeply about how we are to understand and behave. Achieving Bahá’u’lláh’s intended purpose for the human race requires new morals, new ways of generating knowledge, new ways of communicating, new ways of acting, and new institutions. How do we Bahá’ís, with our diverse, sometimes conflicting, understandings of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings, collaborate to bring about the society that reflects His will? The answer will have to be found in learning, over time, to better understand the text and translate it into efficacious action consistent with its divine intent.

November 16, 2009

Reflections on the Ridvan 2009 Message - by Dr. Peter Khan

A talk by Dr. Peter Khan on 3 July 2009

The Ridvan Message

I’m very very pleased to have the opportunity to speak about a document as significant and of such far reaching importance as the Riḍván 2009 Message.

As you know it was and is unique, as far as I can tell, among the various messages of the Universal House of Justice in its brevity and in its tone. It comes hard on the heels of a remarkable event, unprecedented in the history of the Cause, or indeed in the history of the religion throughout the world; and that was the convening, at the instruction of the Universal House of Justice, and with the invaluable assistance of the Members of the International Teaching Centre, of a series of 41 Conferences held throughout the length and breadth of the planet, attended by some eighty thousand people.

As you are, I am sure, aware, that series of conferences had a galvanizing effect on the Bahá’í Community throughout the world and ultimately on the larger society. It was a tangible demonstration of the global spread of the Faith and it created a most welcome surge toward the goal of 1500 Intensive Programs of Growth by the end of the present plan.

This Riḍván Message can be regarded as celebratory in term: celebrating the fact that we have achieved an important milestone in reaching some 1000 Intensive Programs of Growth by Riḍván 2009, and expressing the confidence of the Universal House of Justice that the goal of the Five Year Plan would be accomplished.

My purpose tonight is not to dwell specifically on those details, but rather to share with you my thoughts about what I see to be two underlying issues, the exploration of which I believe to be crucial to a deeper understanding of this Riḍván Message and indeed of the direction in which the faith is now going.

These two issues which I will address in turn have firstly to dwell upon the significance of Bahá’í activity at the present time in the history of the world, and secondly to examine the question of change in religion.

November 13, 2009

Baha'i Saints, Heroes, Martyrs and Administrators - by Hartmut Grossman

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.