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Recently I had the bounty of briefly visiting the Baha’i World Centre, the spiritual and administrative nexus of the global Baha’i community.
In my four-day stay I visited the Shrine of Baha’u’llah, the Shrine of the Bab and the beautiful surrounding gardens and terraces. I had the opportunity to meet new and old friends, and to engage in meaningful and distinctive conversations.
As I initiated my journey from the UK to Haifa, Israel, I started to think about the purpose of my visit, and asked myself: “Why had I decided to undertake this journey?”
Two analogies came to mind. One is based on the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi’s view of the continual flow of pilgrims to the Baha’i World Centre, “whom he considered the ‘life-blood’ of the heart and nerve centre of the world-embracing Faith of Baha’u’llah.” In one way, I thought, they carry that spiritual oxygen to the rest of the body. I imagined this oxygen as reflective insights, spiritual inspiration, and a more intense love for the Faith and its heroes and martyrs.
I think the other analogy was inspired by this passage from Baha’u’llah:
O My Servant! Thou art even as a finely tempered sword concealed in the darkness of its sheath and its value hidden from the artificer’s knowledge. Wherefore come forth from the sheath of self and desire that thy worth may be made resplendent and manifest unto all the world. – The Hidden Words, p. 47.
During our daily lives, we are presented with tests and opportunities to grow and become closer and nearer to the Creator. One could say we are being shaped the same way the blacksmith shapes a sword in the burning heat of the forge. Occasionally, the blacksmith must remove the sword from that fire, immerse it in water to quench and temper the hot metal, and then assess the stage of the process to determine the next spots that need to be worked on.
Similarly, I saw going to the Baha’i World Centre as an opportunity to remove myself from the fire of daily life, become immersed in the water of a spiritual spring, and assess the process of my spiritual growth, how I am serving humanity and what next steps I need to work on.
I found the same metaphor but with a different meaning while reading An Early Pilgrimage by May Maxwell, who quotes Abdu’l-Baha in saying:
We are like a piece of iron in the midst of the fire which becomes heated to such a degree that it partakes of the nature of the fire and gives out the same effect to all it touches–so is the soul that is always turned toward God, and filled with the spirit.
So, it was in this spirit that I went to the Baha’i World Centre, with many questions about where to live, how to serve, what job to get, what type of company to work for, how to use my time wisely, how to address certain difficulties, etc. I wanted to find an answer to my ultimate question: “What profession and location should I pursue in the near future that will allow me to best serve humanity through participation in the community building process and through my daily work itself?”
Originally I had thought about this trip as a way to sort out my life and make a bunch of decisions for what would come next. But following the advice of a friend, I visited the Baha’i Shrines with the simple aim of praying for the love of God, to praise Him and simply try to commune with Him, instead of praying for specific things, as suggested by this quote from Abdu’l-Baha:
In the highest prayer men pray only for the love of God, not because they fear him or hell or hope for bounty or heaven. Thus the souls in whose hearts the fire of love is enkindled are attracted by supplication. True supplication to God must therefore be actuated by love to God only …. The spiritual man finds no delight in anything save in commemoration of God. When one is confirmed his heart becomes rejoiced through the commemoration of God. – Star of the West, Volume 5, p. 43.
After a few days visiting the Baha’i Shrines trying to pray to God simply out of love, I departed Haifa with no concrete answers to my questions, but fully without the need for those answers in the first place.
Without knowing, bigger questions had been answered during those moments of prayer, meditation and reflection. There I felt three interrelated points became clear: the beauty of longing for non-existence, the security of relying in God and the relief of appreciating life as a process.