Happy Ayyam-i-Ha!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happy Ayyam-i-Ha everyone! I skipped posting on the blog last week since I was getting ready for my Ayyam-i-Ha party this weekend. I hadn't had an Ayyam-i-Ha celebration in my home in a really long time and I wanted it to be great. For those of you who may not know what Ayyam-i-Ha is, I will explain.

The Baha'i calendar has 19 months with 19 days each which leaves 4 days left over (5 in a leap year) in order to align with the 365 days of the Gregorian solar calendar. Bahá'u'lláh, The prophet-founder of the Baha'i Faith, declared that these days should be celebrated with acts of love, fellowship, unity, charity, gift-giving and goodwill. Ayyam-i-Ha means "The Days of Ha". “Ha” is an Arabic term that essentially means the “Essence of God.”

When I was young my mom decided to create a tradition to help us celebrate by creating an "Ayyam-i-Ha Tree". This year, I decided to re-create my childhood Ayyam-i-Ha tree in order to make it more of a celebration. The symbolism behind all the decorations/ornaments (leaves, flags, doves and nine pointed stars) come directly from the Baha'i Writings. The relevant quotes are directly below the pictures. I think the tree turned out great! What do you think?

"God has created man in order that he may be a dove of the Kingdom, a heavenly candle, a recipient of eternal life. God has created man in order that he may be resuscitated through the breaths of the Holy Spirit and become the light of the world."(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 185)

"It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 250)

"The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 218)

"These sanctified Mirrors, these Day Springs of ancient glory, are, one and all, the Exponents on earth of Him Who is the central Orb of the universe, its Essence and ultimate Purpose. From Him proceed their knowledge and power; from Him is derived their sovereignty. The beauty of their countenance is but a reflection of His image, and their revelation a sign of His deathless glory. They are the Treasuries of Divine knowledge, and the Repositories of celestial wisdom. Through them is transmitted a grace that is infinite, and by them is revealed the Light that can never fade. These Tabernacles of Holiness, these Primal Mirrors which reflect the light of unfading glory, are but expressions of Him Who is the Invisible of the Invisibles. By the revelation of these Gems of Divine virtue all the names and attributes of God, such as knowledge and power, sovereignty and dominion, mercy and wisdom, glory, bounty, and grace, are made manifest." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 47)

Thank you one and all for sharing this celebration of Ayyam-i-Ha! Having my friends there really made it special and it meant a lot to me! Happy Ayyam-i-Ha and I hope to see you all next year! Enjoy these pictures from the Gag-Gift Ayyam-i-Ha party that we had last night!

Endeavor to grow

Sunday, February 13, 2011

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” - Benjamin Franklin

Today's blog is a little of a rehash of a blog from last year. But I felt like it was important to revist since it is kinda the whole reason I started this - I am trying to think and grow and learn in spiritual ways. For years and years I completely ignored the spiritual side of my self. I did not work at developing my spiritual qualities or virtues. I closed off the side of my self that wanted to grow and develop, to become more than what I was. I had no interest in anything other than fulfilling my human needs, my physical desires, my selfish thoughts.

Now that I am trying to grow and develop and focus on my spirituality I have found that it is a constant challenge to remain focused on my goals. Who do I want to be? How do I want to act? What qualities do I want to exhibit? How can I function effectively in a world that doesn't seem to value spirituality? Or care about focusing on the transcendent?

I found the following video today on a really cool website I enjoy visiting called http://www.globalonenessproject.org/. Check it out.

His thoughts truly mirror some of my own. I believe in oneness and ultimately, that somewhere deep down, the best parts of our selves are infinitely more beautiful than we realize. We are spiritual beings, with intuition and a mind full of thoughts and feelings. It is important to use that mind to study, to question and to talk with others so we can share and learn and connect in more profound and powerful ways. To me, there is nothing more important than striving to become better, to focus on developing my spiritual self - to become more patient, more compassionate, more just, more thoughtful, more loyal, more brave, more polite, more honest...more loving.

So, what do you think about growing and developing? Do you believe in striving to become better? What "philosophy" on growth do you adhere to? Thoughts? Quotes?

"...until material achievements, physical accomplishments and human virtues are reinforced by spiritual perfections, luminous qualities and characteristics of mercy, no fruit or result shall issue therefrom, nor will the happiness of the world of humanity, which is the ultimate aim, be attained." (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 283)

"Happiness consists of two kinds; physical and spiritual. The physical happiness is limited; its utmost duration is one day, one month, one year. It hath no result. Spiritual happiness is eternal and unfathomable. This kind of happiness appeareth in one's soul with the love of God and suffereth one to attain to the virtues and perfections of the world of humanity. Therefore, endeavor as much as thou canst in order to illumine the lamp of thy heart with the light of love." (Compilations, Baha'i Scriptures, p. 472)

Let no one cling to what is pleasant or unpleasant.
Not to see what is pleasant is painful,
as it is to see what is unpleasant.
Therefore do not become attached to anything;
loss of what is loved is painful.
Those who have neither likes nor dislikes have no chains.

From pleasure comes grief; from pleasure comes fear.
Whoever is free from pleasure knows neither grief nor fear.

From attachment comes grief; from attachment comes fear.
Whoever is free from attachment knows neither grief nor fear.

From greed comes grief; from greed comes fear.
Whoever is free from greed knows neither grief nor fear.

From lust comes grief; from lust comes fear.
Whoever is free from lust knows neither grief nor fear.

From craving comes grief; from craving comes fear.
Whoever is free from craving knows neither grief nor fear.

Whoever has virtue and insight,
who is just, truthful, and does one's own work,
the world will love.

The one in whom a desire for the ineffable has arisen,
whose mind is satisfied
and whose thoughts are free from desires
is called one who ascends the stream." (Dhammapada, Sayings of the Buddha 2)

According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."(King James Bible, 2 Peter 1:3-8)

"There comes a day, O Spitama Zarathustra! or a night, when the master leaves the cattle, or the cattle leave the master, or the soul leaves that body full of desires; But his virtue, which is of all existences the greatest, the best, the finest, never parts from a man."(The Zend-Avesta, Avesta Fragments)

Is Everyone a Little Bit Racist?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I was brought up in a household that was very focused on the elimination of racial prejudice and the belief that all of humanity is one. I was taught not to make distinctions based on race, color, culture or class. I truly believe in unity in diversity and I deplore racism. One of the most famous sayings from the Baha'i Faith about mankind is that "Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch".

Over a year ago I went to a diversity conference in Virginia and developed the video below for use on the really cool website www.SoulPancake.com. It asks the question "Is Everyone a Little Bit Racist?" Check it out.

I think the answer is probably "Yes". At least a little bit. And that is only due to the way our culture functions in this day and age. I am one of the least racist people you could ever hope to meet due to the way I was raised. However my family and Faith couldn't completely protect me from the prejudices of a corrupt society. Sadly, some fears and stereotypes have leaked through and warped my perceptions. Not a lot. But some.

But when I recognize them, do I let them cloud my vision? Absolutely not. I strive to eliminate them. As I said earlier, I believe in race unity and the essential goodness of the entire human race. I do not think we are born with prejudices. I think they are learned behavior.

What say you? What did you think of the video? I have some quotes on this topic from a few world religions below. Do you have thoughts and/or quotes to share?

"The world of humanity is like a garden and the various races are the flowers which constitute its adornment and decoration. In the animal kingdom also we find variety of color. See how the doves differ in beauty yet they live together in perfect peace, and love each other. They do not make difference of color a cause of discord and strife. They view each other as the same species and kind. They know they are one in kind. Often a white dove soars aloft with a black one. Throughout the animal kingdom we do not find the creatures separated because of color. They recognize unity of species and oneness of kind. If we do not find color distinction drawn in a kingdom of lower intelligence and reason, how can it be justified among human beings, especially when we know that all have come from the same source and belong to the same household? In origin and intention of creation mankind is one. Distinctions of race and color have arisen afterward."(Abdu'l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 34)

"He sees indeed who sees in all alike
The living, lordly Soul; the Soul Supreme,
Imperishable amid the Perishing:
For, whoso thus beholds, in every place,
In every form, the same, one, Living Life,
Doth no more wrongfulness unto himself,
But goes the highest road which brings to bliss.
Seeing, he sees, indeed, who sees that works
Are Nature's wont, for Soul to practise by
Acting, yet not the agent; sees the mass
Of separate living things- each of its kind-
Issue from One, and blend again to One:
Then hath he BRAHMA, he attains!"(Hindu, Bhagavad Gita (Edwin Arnold tr))

"Occasions of hatred are certainly never settled by hatred. They are settled by freedom from hatred. This is the eternal
law."(Buddhist, Dhammapada - Sayings of the Buddha 1 (tr. J. Richards))

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men."(King James Bible, Romans 12:9-18)

"O YE children of men! The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men. Suffer it not to become a source of dissension and discord, of hate and enmity. This is the straight Path, the fixed and immovable foundation."(Baha'u'llah, The Proclamation of Baha'u'llah, p. 112)

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