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The following article is adapted from an address given by Dr. Vahid Saberi to a recent conference in Victoria, Australia.
The task of transforming the human race begins with transforming ourselves.
The Four Year Plan, Twelve Month Plan and the last and the current Five Year Plans are nothing more than instruments to achieve this great goal. The power to achieve this rests with us individuals.
Bahá’u’lláh deliberately left the assignment of transforming the human race to countless ordinary, unassuming people like us. Look at the first disciples of Jesus; they were just fishermen, but they took on the world and changed it utterly.
We are now called upon to do the same, but on a far more momentous scale.
He has entrusted us to begin by transforming ourselves.
Consider the plight of the world; never, at any other time in history, have so many people been so materially prosperous, and at the same time, so spiritually lost. Never has there been so much despondency, depression, dysfunction, loss of purpose and fear. Why is this happening?
We know that the “…world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order….revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System.”
Shoghi Effendi has told us that only Bahá’ís “….know full well whence it comes, and what it will ultimately lead to [and that] they clearly recognize its genesis, are aware of its direction, acknowledge its necessity ….” And it is cleansing the world. Gripped in the clutches of this tempest, humanity, even while it is bewildered, continues painfully to move towards peace and unity.
That turmoil will continue because humanity has not yet turned away from Godlessness. That is why Shoghi Effendi told us that “…all humanity is disturbed and suffering and confused; we cannot expect to not be disturbed and not to suffer – but we don’t have to be confused.”
We know that the only panacea of the world’s ills is the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, which is why …. “The believers must rest assured that having the Faith, they have everything”.
That is why we must act. Through taking ownership of our personal suffering and spiritual development, we can learn to be more compassionate and concerned for others, until “confidence and assurance, hope and optimism are our prerogative”.
But how do we measure our efforts?
Shoghi Effendi clearly states that ….. “The successful carrying out of our various Plans is the greatest sign we can give of our faith and inner assurance, and the best way we can help our fellow-men out of their confusion and difficulties.”
Bahá’u’lláh Himself took on humanity’s turmoil when He was imprisoned in the “Siayh-Chal”. In this grim place of utter darkness reserved only for the most degraded of criminals; amidst foul stench, deprived of food and drink, rest and sleep, with a huge chain galling his neck, Bahá’u’lláh experienced a moment of intense illumination which revealed His task to be the Manifestation of this unprecedented Age of Fulfilment. In the Black Pit, God promised Bahá’u’lláh that “Ere Long shall the Lord send forth and reveal the treasures of the earth, men who shall give Thee victory by Thyself and by They name …”
So, how can we be silent? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’’ reminded us of this responsibility when He wrote: “Why then are ye quenched, why silent, why leaden and dull? Ye must shine forth like the lightning, and rise up a clamouring like unto the great sea. Like a candle must ye shed your light, and even as the soft breezes of God must ye blow across the world … know ye the value of this chance, ere it slip from your hands.”
In reality, the time we give to serve the Faith matters above all else. As many aspects of society continue to break down and the surrounding community begins to disintegrate, Bahá’ís must respond by building a genuinely loving, compassionate and inclusive community.
Gradually, we can learn to purify our motives, live prayerfully, strive to understand and do only what is right, and work together in love and harmony. Our victories over ourselves must be demonstrated through how we work and consult together, both with each other and with those around us.
Above all, we must enthusiastically involve ourselves in the implementation of the Five Year Plan. We must implement the core activities, which are nothing more or less than creative opportunities to teach.
They are about opening the hearts to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s message, They are about listening intently, like ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did. They are about using Bahá’u’lláh’s Words, rather than our own, to teach.
They are about learning to be responsive to the needs of seekers. They are about gaining new skills and personal resources.
Above all, they are about making teaching the dominating passion of our lives.
So, my task and yours are crystal clear; take the next step whatever it is. Those who have completed Book 1can move onto Book 2. Those who have completed Book 7 can become tutors. And once your cluster achieves an “intensive programme of growth”, the heartbeat of each of the core activities begins to quicken.
When starting a fire, you fan a tiny spark. Then, carefully shielding it, you softly blow until it is ready to burst into flame. More time and purposeful effort is needed to bring that flame to a fire and ensure it becomes a blazing inferno. This is how the intensive programme of growth works. It starts slowly and then organically grows and intensifies.
So, let us not neglect our task. Let us not lose our chance. If we neglect our role, we have no right to call ourselves Bahá’ís.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá has added: “Soon will our handful of days, our vanishing life, be gone, and we shall pass, empty handed into the hollow that is dug for those who speak no more.” There is no need to be overwhelmed when we can: “Be confident in Bahá’u’lláh’s help. His Spirit will help you, and will feed your soul with that spiritual sustenance whereby you will be able to overcome the obstacles which seem to so hopelessly beset your path”.
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Sharing the Teachings, Cidade de Bahia, Brazil
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The Blessed Perfection, in a clear text, hath promised us in the Book: “Verily I behold you from the Horizon of Abha and will make victorious whomsoever will arise in the service of my cause with the hosts of the Supreme Concourse and the cohorts of the favored angels!” Praise be to God! that this victory and confirmation became visible and manifest and hath shone forth from the horizon of the world like unto the sun. Therefore, O ye friends of God! Show ye forth an earnest endeavor and display ye a resolute effort, so that ye may become assisted in the adoration of the Ancient Beauty and the Manifest Light; to be the cause of spreading the light of the Sun of Truth; to infuse into the dead, antiquated body of the world a new spirit; to cast in the fields of the hearts pure seeds; to arise in the service of the Cause; to speak with eloquent tongues; to become candles of guidance in the assemblage of the world; to become shining stars in the horizon of the existent being; to become merciful birds in the rose-garden of oneness; to sing the melodies of realities and significances; to spend every breath of your lives in the most great Cause; and to devote the period of your existence to the service of this conspicuous Light; so that in the end ye may be freed from loss and failure and attain to the inexhaustible treasury of the Kingdom. For the life on man is wholly subject to danger and impermanency. A person cannot put his assurance even in one moment’s continuity. Notwithstanding this, the nations of the world, deceived by the mirage of superstition, imagine themselves secure in the heavenly way.
Alas! Alas! Former communities in bygone ages entertained the same perishing thoughts; but by one of those periodical fluctuations they were all hidden under the ground and afflicted with deprivation and loss, except those souls who had become pure evanescence and had arisen with great self-abnegation in the path of God. Such souls shine forth as brilliant stars from the Horizon of the Ancient Glory, and the results which emanated from their lives in succeeding ages and cycles are the proofs of this statement. Therefore, do ye not rest, neither day nor night; seek ye not for composure; talk ye of the mystery of servitude, and seek ye the path of thralldom; so that through the promised confirmations ye may become assisted from the Kingdom of Oneness.
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas, 566-7
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(Article reprinted from “The Australian Bahá’í, March 2008”) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community, view it in the gallery here)