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The man of wisdom is never of two minds; the man of benevolence never worries; the man of courage is never afraid. – Confucius
My story of how I became a Baha’i is a rather simple one, but it’s interesting enough that I’ll write the story someday. But my husband’s journey to the Baha’i Faith offers a much more fascinating tale, and that’s the story I’ll share with you now.
Before we met, my husband Kurt lived in Florida, stationed there in the United States Navy. At the time, he searched for spirituality and meaning in his life. His search led him to a seemingly unlikely place–karate, a Japanese martial art. Unbeknownst to him, karate would lead him to the next phase of his spiritual journey.
His sensei, or teacher, taught him the virtues of his type of karate-do: courage, benevolence, and wisdom (the virtues mentioned in the quote at the beginning of this article). Some of the people Kurt encountered who studied karate were followers of Buddhism. Intrigued, Kurt went to the library and researched Buddhism. His studies answered some of his spiritual questions–and created more questions, too.
After completing his Navy service, and spending time with loved ones in Illinois and Tennessee, Kurt’s sensei offered him a position teaching karate at his dojo. Kurt returned to Florida, taught karate, and continued his search into Buddhism. He attended a Buddhist monk’s presentation, but his search for answers went on.
His sensei knew Kurt was seeking spiritual meaning in his life. He gave Kurt a book called Sand and Foam by Kahlil Gibran, and told him to read a little each day, reflect on what he read, and that they’d discuss it every evening. Their discussions were enlightening, and brought Kurt closer to the object of his search—but he still felt something missing.
During a visit with family and old friends back in the Midwest, Kurt entered the next stage of his spiritual journey. His friends asked him along on a trip that entailed visiting a mutual friend attending college in mid-western Illinois. Kurt had the only working car, so he drove his friends to the get-together. This trip resulted in Kurt meeting me (please see my BahaiTeachings.org article ‘The Bird of Humanity: Equality of Women and Men‘ for that part of the story).
When Kurt and I started dating, we’d spend hours and hours in person, on the phone, and at late-night cafés discussing everything from religion to growing up in Illinois. It turned out that we graduated from the same high school, and had lived just blocks from each other.
As Kurt and I talked, I learned that he’d studied Buddhism; he learned that I’m a Baha’i. I was struck with his intelligence, his charming smile, and his open mindedness.
Kurt shared one of his favorite books with me: Sand and Foam. Excited, I read the book, cover to cover. I loved the poetic language and the universal truths that Kahlil Gibran wrote about in his book. In addition, the writings of Kahlil Gibran were important to me because there was a remarkable connection between Gibran and the Baha’i Faith: Gibran had met Abdu’l-Baha, (the son of the founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah), had been inspired by him, and had even painted a portrait of him.
Kurt and I soon began attending local Baha’i gatherings together. At one gathering, a Baha’i lent him The Dawnbreakers, a deeply-moving, hefty (600+ pages) book that covers the early history of the Babi Faith, the forerunner to the Baha’i Faith. That well-documented history, with its first-hand accounts and vivid detail, led Kurt to certainty. Soon after reading that book, he became a Baha’i. He told me it was a combination of our shared beliefs, our deep spiritual connection, and the answers he found in The Dawnbreakers.
Now that you know the tale, don’t you find it amazing that every choice you make, every person you meet, and every book you read can play a vital role in leading you on a path toward your spiritual goals? Would you have guessed that there were less than six degrees of separation between karate, Buddhism, and the Baha’i Faith?
I’ll leave you with another striking connection, this time between the Baha’i writings and Kurt’s sensei’s teachings regarding courage, benevolence, and wisdom. The following quote, which discusses the virtues that exalt mankind, is found in a Baha’i book aptly named Some Answered Questions:
…the root of the exaltation of man is the good attributes and virtues which are the adornments of his reality. These are the divine appearances, the heavenly bounties, the sublime emotions, the love and knowledge of God; universal wisdom, intellectual perception, scientific discoveries, justice, equity, truthfulness, benevolence, natural courage and innate fortitude…. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 79.