Saturday, July 05, 2008

thap bliss


By John Taylor; 2008 July 05, 12 Rahmat, 165 BE


My 8-year-old son Tomaso has always been very inquisitive. I used to have a nickname for him, "The Randomizer," because of the state he left the garage in after his investigations were finished. Generally speaking, three minutes of cleanup for every minute he spent down there. Now his investigations are less physical. I am bombarded by questions all day long. Yesterday at the Youth Impact Center I was playing chess with Gord (one miserable loss, one glorious victory); at various points we were asked questions like: What is the hardest substance in the world? Which is more dangerous, an atom bomb or a hydrogen bomb? On the way out of the house, remembering a prayer he had read for our Baha'i class, he asked: What is bliss? Offhand, I said that it is happiness mixed with contentment, peace and ecstasy. This morning I read this and thought that it hints at what bliss is, total selflessness before God and His Manifestation.


"Glorified art Thou, O my God! Thou knowest that my sole aim in revealing Thy Cause hath been to reveal Thee and not my self, and to manifest Thy glory rather than my glory." (PM 103)


This says something about the selfless motivations of the Manifestation of God. Bliss is joy shining through pain. But from our point of view, we His followers, He surely speaks advisedly here. We too must stand before Him not for ourselves but for His glory and nothing else. The more sincere we are in this, the more content we will be, the richer our bliss. The Guardian wrote to a Baha'i who evidently was going through some kind of episode of guilt or depression,


"Regarding your own condition: he (the Guardian) strongly urges you not to dwell on yourself. Each one of us, if we look into our failures, is sure to feel unworthy and despondent, and this feeling only frustrates our constructive efforts and wastes time. The thing for us to focus on is the glory of the Cause and the Power of Baha'u'llah which can make of a mere drop a surging sea! You certainly have no right to feel negative; you have embraced this glorious Faith and arisen with devotion to serve it, and your labours are greatly appreciated by both the Guardian and your fellow-Baha'is. With something as positive as the Faith and all it teaches behind you, you should be a veritable lion of confidence, and he will pray that you may become so." (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha'i Community, 13 October 1947, p. 446)


Not long ago I posted on the blog a couple of renditions of "Nearer my god to thee," one of which is in a female voice, like that of Lua, who, facing the shrine of Baha'u'llah, sang the song with such feeling that it brought tears to the eyes of the Master.




I looked up the song on Wikipedia, and it explains that this song was written with the image of Jacob's ladder in mind, a vision of the future life, with souls ascending and descending a celestial escalator.


"`Nearer, My God, to Thee' is a 19th century Christian hymn based loosely on Genesis 28:11-19, the story of Jacob's dream. Genesis 28:11-12 can be translated as follows: "So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it...."


For a Baha'i, what a clear description this is of the holiest spot on earth, the Shrine of Baha'u'llah! A reader wrote not long ago,


"Hello John, Point of information - did Abdu'l-Baha ever write directly to Lua? Or were there cultural norms in force that prevented him from corresponding with another man's wife?"


Yes, indeed, He did. Her biographer records this,




The enraptured Lua received her first Tablet from the hand of Abdu'l-Baha dated January 18, 1899. She cherished the copy in the Master's own handwriting:


Forty-sixth year from the Year of Dawning.

He is God!

O thou shining and spiritual gem!

Glad-tidings to the from the Generosity of thy Lord. Be happy on account of the Gift of the GOD which shall soon surround thee. And thou art confirmed in the covenant.

(Signed) Abdu'l-Baha Abbas (Translated by Anton Haddad, from Lua Getsinger, Herald of the Covenant, by Velda Piff Metelmann, George Ronald, Oxford, 1997 p. 23)




The message the Master gave to Lua (who suffered from periodic and terrible episodes of what she herself called "nervous prostration") is clear and applies to all: we experience bliss not because of what we were or are now but because of the gift of God that will surround us soon, in the future. Our joy is born of what is to come, not of what we did or do now. The font of all our bliss is in the future, so buck up, and live for that, and live up to that.


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