The Baha’i unity prayer is not only beautiful, it gives us a prescription for living:
O my God! O my God! Unite the hearts of Thy servants, and reveal to them Thy great purpose. May they follow Thy commandments and abide in Thy law. Help them, O God, in their endeavor, and grant them strength to serve Thee. O God! Leave them not to themselves, but guide their steps by the light of Thy knowledge, and cheer their hearts by Thy love. Verily, Thou art their Helper and their Lord. – Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, p. 203.
Achieving unity within our community sounds easy on the surface—but can rapidly become confusing as we attempt to achieve it.
The desire for progress toward seeking unity came slowly in my life. That slow progress has been marked by fits and starts centered on what I perceive as emotional distress. By attempting to solve what I consider severe mental and emotional problems through writing poetry; and more importantly, searching the Baha’i writings for clues to answers, I have found some concepts that helped my journey.
So far, among those learned concepts are three major lessons: 1. to leave behind a desire to blame others, 2. to develop a purpose and sense of direction based on the Faith, and 3. to work toward that direction with a sense of detachment.
I began with an inkling that there was somewhere to go spiritually. After all, Baha’u’llah called the first valley in his mystical book The Seven Valleys “the valley of search.” We all begin by searching for answers in life. Yet, this passage from Baha’u’llah’s Hidden Words seems to say that we don’t need to go anyplace. What we need to find is right here, wherever we are:
O Son of Man! Wert thou to speed through the immensity of space and traverse the expanse of heaven, yet thou wouldst find no rest save in submission to Our command and humbleness before Our Face. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 13.
This piece, written in the 1970’s before I learned about Baha’u’llah and the Baha’i teachings, addresses some of the confusion I was living with:
On a journey, high as sky
I have a tale to tell
That dream and hope before my fly
Unbridled by my will.
I am blind and cannot see
The key that fits the wheel
To hope and dreaming’s destiny.
I search by what I feel.
I want to ride with those that live.
They take no hangers-on.
The fare is a key they cannot give
It must be found and “one.”
Dream and hope before me fly
Unbridled by my will.
I’ve cast my lot with those that die
But, left the one ones that kill!
– by Vanilla Bright
I assumed that continuing on a journey toward unity within the Baha’i Faith would make me happy—but happiness in this physical world is elusive, as these two adjacent Hidden Words attest. When I first read them, they seemed to contradict each other:
O Son of Man! Rejoice in the gladness of thine heart, that thou mayest be worthy to meet Me and to mirror forth My beauty. – Ibid.
I wondered—are we supposed to be “happy in our hearts” or only “not sorry” that we don’t have a life of our own? Pondering that question, I wrote this poem, “Coins of Clay” in the 1980’s after I became a Baha’i. I had begun to realize that it was a Faith centered on what Baha’u’llah had planned for the world, and not what I had planned for the Faith to give to my world view. I slowly realized that my life did not work well if I expected the Faith and others to support the personal plans I created for my life and livelihood.
Coins of clay
Beyond a shadow’s searching eye,
I left my hate to slowly die.
On to walk love’s warming ray.
I thought that joy would light my day!
The True One said to find His Home
That I must search with all I own.
Love, Hate like night and day are
Head and tails, both coins of clay.
He said to soar on eagle’s wing,
I must detach all earthly things.
I told Him that this burdened one
Could barely walk, much less run.
He said to trust His Guiding Hand
To keep my love from burning sand.
That I should cry ‘bove everyone
Baha’u’llah says, “Mankind is one.”
Perchance some “one” would question why
This strange, new chirp is in the sky
And thereby start their noble flight
To join the followers of the Light.
– by Vanilla Bright
Last October, I found myself worrying about a decision a friend was making, which I was sure was an error. The friend did not want to listen to me nor to my admonitions. What was I to do? Who needed to change? Once again, I found the answers in the Baha’i teachings. God has only given us one person to change—ourselves:
O Son of Being! Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant. – Ibid., p. 4.
Reflecting on that beautiful, wise passage, I wrote this poem, which helped me develop the detachment to allow my friends to make their own personal decisions, and allow me to interact with them on a more positive footing.
Reflection on Arabic #5
Detachment is a letting go;
The exhalation of a care.
We breathe out to sweep the dirt away
Then in to refresh our air.
Since our world essence is polluted
With suffocating strife
We risk death by not allowing
The replenishment of life.
“Love Me, that I may love thee”:
Hidden Words to guide our way
To find God’s breathalyzer
And test the dross we made today.
By “If thou lovest Me not,”
He affirms our prideful fear
That ego has drenched our life blood
With any passion we hold dear.
Then, “My Love can in no wise reach thee.”
Like mother duck quacking to her brood,
Tells us that we have free rein
To follow any path we choose.
“Know this, O servant.”
A final call to face
Our decision to die or live
Within God’s saving grace.
– by Vanilla Bright
The fourth stanza of that poem came from watching ducklings and their mother duck climb concrete steps. First one, then the next, and the next, until all but one had made it up the step. All the while the mother duck was quacking and the ducklings were echoing those quacks in a frenzied way until they passed their test. At any time a duckling could have given up and not tried to follow. That last duckling finally made it up the steps and the group continued on their way with only an occasional quack from mother duck. and a subdued echo from the brood.
“ … quack … quack …”