A Precious Bounty

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I have received my official invitation to go on the 9-Day Baha'i pilgrimage in June of next year! I have fourteen months to prepare, which seems like forever! I am so excited I can hardly stand it!

Most world religions have some sort of pilgrimage that their followers can take in order to pray and worship at their holy places. In the Baha'i Faith, pilgrimage is considered a privilege and a bounty of inestimable value. It is not only a physical journey to the historical and sacred sites of the Faith, but an important inner journey of immense spiritual significance.

Below I have gathered some of the images of various holy sites of pilgrimage from many of the different world religions. Have you ever been on pilgrimage to a site you find sacred? Do you hope to some day? Please share your experiences, thoughts or feelings on pilgrimage from your spiritual tradition.

The image above is from the Baha'i World Centre on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel. The building you see is the Shrine of The Báb (which means "The Gate"). The Báb was the Founder of the Babi religion and the Herald of Baha'u'llah. I will be staying at a hotel on Mount Carmel during my pilgrimage and it will be a short walk for me to visit this Shrine.

This is the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh located in Bahjí near Acre, Israel. It is the most holy place for Bahá'ís and represents our Qiblih, or direction of prayer. It contains the remains of Bahá'u'lláh and is near the spot where he died in the Mansion of Bahjí. This is the most sacred place I will be visiting during my pilgrimage.

The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish religion, until its destruction in 70 CE. Since then, the western retaining wall of the original temple, known as the Wailing Wall, or Western Wall remains in the Old City of Jerusalem and this has been the most sacred site for religious Jews.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the walled Old City of Jerusalem. The site is venerated as Golgotha (the Hill of Calvary), where Jesus was crucified and is said to also contain the place where Jesus was buried (the sepulchre). The church has been an important Christian pilgrimage destination since at least the 4th century.

The Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world, and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God (Allah).

Gautama Buddha is said to have identified four sites most worthy of pilgrimage for his followers, saying that they would produce a feeling of spiritual urgency. One of them pictured above, is in Kushinagar, where there rests a 1500 year old statue of the Buddha as he attained Parinirvana (Great Nirvana or passing away).

The Badrinath temple in India is widely considered to be one of the holiest Hindu temples, and is dedicated to the god Vishnu. The temple and town are one of the four Char Dham pilgrimage sites. It was traditionally believed that one who undertakes a pilgrimage to all four sites will attain moksha, the release from samsara (cycle of rebirths), at the time of death.

Keep Your Head Up!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

This weekend I am trying to take it a little easy, so the blog is going to be very brief (normally I spend hours looking up quotes and pictures). I thought a good thing to do would be to just post the coolest Baha'i video I have seen in a long time.

It is actually a music video by Andy Grammer, son of Red Grammer. The version shown below is only one of many versions of this video. The original is filmed like one of those old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books they had back in the 80's. It can be found here - http://www.andygrammer.com/. At that site you can actually make choices throughout the video as to what you would like to see happen. For example, Andy can bump into movers or be dumped by the bikers at the beginning. There are numerous choices like that throughout. Super fun! Not to mention, the song itself is very uplifting and catchy and Rainn Wilson from the Office is in it.

I hope everyone is having a fabulous weekend and enjoy the video!

Cleansing the Soul

Sunday, March 6, 2011

So, I started the annual Bahá'í Fast this last Wednesday, and I am really excited about it this year. I don't know why necessarily, except that I've grown a lot in the last three years and I am more focused on developing spiritually than I've ever been before. And that is what fasting is all about.

All Bahá'ís in good health fast for nineteen days every year, from March 2nd thru March 20th. It starts immediately following the festival of Ayyam-i-Ha and ends right before the Bahá'í New Year(Naw Ruz). During the Fast we refrain from food and drink (including water) from sunrise to sunset. Absolutely nothing is supposed to pass our lips during daylight hours. The purpose is to become re-energized and refocused on what is most important in life - our spirituality and relationship with God.

Bahá'u'lláh says that God "hast endowed every hour of these days with a special virtue" which is "inscrutable to all" but Him, that the Fast is "conducive to preservation and protection from tests" and is "the supreme remedy and the most great healing for the disease of self and passion". Basically, the Fast helps us grow closer to God by becoming detached from worldly desires.

So, every morning during the Fast I get up early and say my prayers and eat and drink enough to get me through the day. Then, after the sun sets, I thank God for helping me get through the day and then eat dinner and replenish my fluids. It can be hard sometimes. The second day of the Fast this year was no picnic (you don't want to know).

But the spiritual benefits FAR outweigh the physical challenges. During the Fast I am reminded how lucky I am to have such easy access to both food and clean drinking water. Did you know that every 20 seconds a child dies from a water related disease? That is 1.4 million every year. When refraining (by choice) from basic necessities that you typically take for granted, you can't help but feel immensely and acutely grateful for all that you have.

And I do grow spiritually, a little more every day. That's why I love the Fast.

What do you think about fasting? Does your spiritual tradition practice fasting? Have you ever done it? Do you have some quotes to share? Tell me all about it then!

"These are the days of the Fast. Blessed is the one who through the heat generated by the Fast increaseth his love, and who, with joy and radiance, ariseth to perform worthy deeds. Verily, He guideth whomsoever He willeth to the straight path." -Bahá'u'lláh

"Fasting and obligatory prayer are as two wings to man's life. Blessed be the one who soareth with their aid in the heaven of the love of God, the Lord of all worlds." -Bahá'u'lláh

"The wisdom of obligatory prayer is this: That it causeth a connection between the servant and the True One, because at that time man with all his heart and soul turneth his face towards the Almighty, seeking His association and desiring His love and companionship. For a lover, there is no greater pleasure than to converse with his beloved, and for a seeker, there is no greater bounty than intimacy with the object of his desire. It is the greatest longing of every soul who is attracted to the Kingdom of God to find time to turn with entire devotion to his Beloved, so as to seek His bounty and blessing and immerse himself in the ocean of communion, entreaty and supplication. Moreover, obligatory prayer and fasting produce awareness and awakening in man, and are conducive to his protection and preservation from tests." -Abdu'l-Baha

"Cling firmly to obligatory prayer and fasting. Verily, the religion of God is like unto heaven; fasting is its sun, and obligatory prayer is its moon" -Bahá'u'lláh

"This Fast leadeth to the cleansing of the soul from all selfish desires, the acquisition of spiritual attributes, attraction to the breezes of the All-Merciful, and enkindlement with the fire of divine love." -Abdu'l-Bahá

"We, verily, have set forth all things in Our Book, as a token of grace unto those who have believed in God, the Almighty, the Protector, the Self-Subsisting. And We have ordained obligatory prayer and fasting so that all may by these means draw nigh unto God, the Most Powerful, the Well-Beloved. We have written down these two laws and expounded every irrevocable decree. We have forbidden men from following whatsoever might cause them to stray from the Truth, and have commanded them to observe that which will draw them nearer unto Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Loving. Say: Observe ye the commandments of God for love of His beauty, and be not of those who follow in the ways of the abject and foolish." -Bahá'u'lláh

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