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Sanctified be the Lord of all mankind, at the mention of Whose name all the atoms of the earth have been made to vibrate, and the Tongue of Grandeur hath been moved to disclose that which had been wrapt in His knowledge and lay concealed within the treasury of His might. He, verily, through the potency of His Name, the Mighty, the All-Powerful, the Most High, is the ruler of all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 5.
This beautiful prayer from Baha’u’llah meant even more to me after I went on my Baha’i pilgrimage and literally felt atoms vibrating. I know, it sounds far-fetched–but it’s a true story. As you read this series perhaps you’ll see why I’ll never forget my powerful pilgrimage experience.
As you learned in the first part of this series, my pilgrimage to the Baha’i Shrines in Israel started with a surreal, beautiful, and unforgettable mixture of spectacular views of Mount Carmel and the Baha’i gardens from my hotel room; meeting fellow members of the global Baha’i community; heading to a bomb shelter during Katyusha rocket raids; and receiving a gift of falling flowers from the tree at Abdu’l-Baha’s home.
Baha’is who go on pilgrimage have widely diverse experiences, memories, and reactions. A Baha’i friend once told me that everyone has a different experience inside the Holy Shrines. In this article, I’ll share my experience of the Shrine of the Bab with you.
First, Baha’is who make their pilgrimage to the Holy Land visit the Shrines of the Bab and Baha’u’llah numerous times during their stay. In July of 2006, however, international conflict dictated a different course of action. The Baha’i World Centre and the Universal House of Justice ensured the safety of all pilgrims by allowing us visitation times at the Shrine of the Bab only when they deemed it safe through prayerful consultation. So the few times we were allowed to visit, we humbly, gratefully, and appreciatively accepted.
The terraces and gardens surrounding the Bab’s Shrine, and the Shrine itself, encompassed the most beautiful place I have ever seen on Earth, with the most carefully pruned shrubs and trees, the clearest flowing fountain of water, and the most resplendent flowers. The path to the Bab’s Shrine entailed walking among the gorgeous fountains, flowers, and foliage, nearing the entrance with my prayer book, and taking my shoes off at the entrance.
To me, sitting, meditating and praying in the Shrine of the Bab seemed beyond magical. Words can’t possibly do justice to the beauty I felt inside the Shrine. Birds chirped happily outside, and calm, gentle breezes blew the scent of jasmine inside. In fact, the birds chirped even when sirens warned of incoming rockets, and their cheerful warbling made me feel safe.
As I knelt and prayed there, I thought deeply about the Bab’s short life and ministry, his martyrdom, and his humble and kind spirit. While thinking those thoughts, I felt a magnetic pull, like something gently but firmly holding me to the spot. Scenes of my life, thoughts and feelings, and people I knew ran through my mind in a quick blur. I cried tears of happiness, and I found myself praying for loved ones and praying for resolution regarding my own concerns and worries. The Shrine of the Bab released me when it was ready, and I smiled.
I lifted my head, and as I knelt there, I admired the beautiful deep-red rose petals scattered about. I longed to touch one and reached out for a petal. Amazed, I felt a strong vibration as it sat in my palm. The petal itself seemed to vibrate!
I closed my hand around the precious petal, stepped away, and sat next to my husband in the back of the Shrine, allowing the next person who wished to go forward and pray.
I placed the petal in my husband’s hand, and our eyes met, full of awe. We later talked about how we’d both felt the vibration in the petal, and marveled at it.
Here again, I–being the anxious person that I am–worried that I should not have taken a rose petal from the Shrine of the Bab. My spirit wanted to keep it, but my logical and rule-oriented brain told me that I must return the cherished petal. So on my next trip to the Shrine, I carefully returned the petal, opened my prayer book, and prayed while I knelt there. As a breeze blew into the chamber, a rose petal flew into my open prayer book, almost like a book mark. It seemed that I was given another gift. Smiling, I accepted the gift with tears of joy.