`Abdu'l-Baha's Encomium on Happiness
Saturday, November 19, 2022
thap Gems on the Scintillating Crown of Human Happiness
`Abdu'l-Baha's Encomium on Happiness
Star of the West, Vol. 13, p. 150-153
"Happiness is the scintillating crown of humanity the shining gems of which are the teachings of the past prophets and the principles of his holiness Baha'u'llah."
Although it is not scripture, this quote is significant to me because it points to the fact that the Baha'i principles, my life's work, are meant for our happiness. This prompted me to reproduce the entire thing here, including the following stories about Esmail the Persian Jew was published in the early Baha'i publication, Star of the West, here:
Since for some reason this diary is not available online now, I will reproduce it all here. It mentions asphodels, so here is the definition of the word:
asphodel ăs′fə-dĕl″ noun. Any of several chiefly Mediterranean plants of the genera Asphodeline and Asphodelus, having linear leaves and elongate clusters of white, pink, or yellow flowers.
Any of several other plants, such as the bog asphodel.
In Greek poetry and mythology, the flowers of Hades and the dead, sacred to Persephone.
FROM THE UNPUBLISHED DIARY OF AHMAD SOHRAB
During his sojourn in Palestine with the Center of the Covenant, Abdul Baha, while the Great War was raging all over the world.
THE STORY OF ESMAEL, THE PERSIAN JEW
The carriage was waiting for us at the foot of the mountain. We entered it and started on our way. The road was so muddy and slushy that the wheels sank up to their spokes. In the carriage there was a Persian Jew by the name of Esmael who had been a friend of the Master's for forty years. He is an orthodox Jew with a strong faith in prophecy, believing firmly that the Messiah will appear in two years. He knows a great deal about the Baha'i Revelation and has met Baha Ollah. Several times he promised the Master that if the Messiah did not appear at such and such a date he would leave Jewish traditions. But on the grounds that his reckonings were wrong each time he changed the date. Now he swears that this will be the last date and in two years his promised Messiah will appear and will make all the people Jews.
Since our arrival in the Holy Land the Master has seen him many times and helps him always. He is an old man with a thin, white beard and he has been in Acca and Haifa for forty two years. Yesterday he came to Abou Senan and this morning the Beloved took him back.
"Now tell me, Esmael," the Master said, "while patting him gently on back and cheeks, art thou sure that the Messiah will appear in two years? If he does not appear at that time wilt thou continue to believe in the Talmud and the Rabbinical lore? Several times thou hast covenanted with me, and every time thou hast broken the compact. This must be the very last time; otherwise I will punish thee." Esmael pledged his word that this would be the last time and that he was sure, very sure, that the Promised One would appear in 1916. Then the Master spoke about the Mohammedan and Christian calendars, the prophetic dates mentioned in the Book of Daniel, the scattering of the Jews at the time of Titus, and the destruction of Jerusalem. Then he asked me to read aloud, for the benefit of Esmael, the articles published in "Servati Founun," especially the translation of his address in the Jewish Synagogue in San Francisco.
As we neared Acca he related some funny stories of his experiences in Tiberias in former years.
"Esmael" he said at last, "through the power of God I have been able to prove the divine station of Christ to thousands of Jews in America. What can I do with thee? They are the real Israel. They are free from prejudice. But thou art different."
When we reached Acca we were glad to find ourselves once more under the sheltering roof of the home of Baha' Ollah. When `Abdul Baha entered his room he sat quietly on his divan and said:
"Ah! We escaped from Abou Senan, did we not? Although the weather there was dry and delightful, I did not feel at home. In His room, the room of the Blessed Perfection, I feel happy and composed. Nowhere else do I feel so joyous and happy as in this room. Here, here I realize the peace of the spirit!"
Luncheon was served and Esmael and I found ourselves at the table. The Master said: "Hast thou read Vahye Kouchek' (the little revelation)? It contains many prophesies concerning events in Acca. It is a wonderful book. Mirza Yagoub, who was a good Jewish Baha'i brought it to me. If you can get this hook you will enjoy its contents."
Esmael did not eat the food cooked by the Baha'is so the Master with his supreme attention to all details had ordered a dish suitable to his taste. "We let everyone enjoy freedom of conscience." He said. "We have no prejudice."
THE STORY OF THE MISER OF BALSORA
The Master often tells us stories abort the misers of different countries. Here is one of them:
Once upon a time there was a merchant in the city of Balsora. His name was Reza Although he was very wealthy he was the most closefisted, narrow-hearted man that ever lived in his town. For avarice and penuriousness he had become a proverb among his countrymen. Through his stinginess he made his family suffer hunger and starvation.
In his office he had a clerk to whom he paid a very small salary. This clerk had a large family and though he practised the greatest economy he could not make both ends meet. Often he dreamed of a raise in salary, but in vain. At last an idea flashed into his mind and gave him hope that surely there would be a raise soon. There was but one more week before New Year's day and the poor clerk thought that if he gave a present to his master he would undoubtedly reciprocate and increase his salary.
Hence, on that very day he went to the market, bought the head of a sheep, cooked it in his oven and carried it on a tray to the house of his master. The week passed without any sign and finally, on New Year's day he called at the house of the merchant to wish him happiness. He was most hopeful, and anticipated a bright future.
When he entered the room the merchant greeted him effusively. This made him more hopeful still,
"I thank you very heartily," the master said to his clerk. "for the gift you sent to our house. It saved us a great deal of expense, I assure you. We have been feasting on it for the past week. The first day we ate the ears; the second day, the eyes; the third day, the skin of the head; the fourth day, the tongue; the fifth day, the meat; the sixth day we cleaned the bones and on the seventh day we ate the brains.
The clerk was so disgusted with this exhibition of stinginess that he left him, and left the town, and sought his fortune elsewhere. After traveling for several years and acquiring experience as well as riches he returned to his native city and opened a business of his own. One day as he was walking through the main street his attention was attracted by a most palatial residence. He peeped through the gate and beheld a most beautiful garden. He finally inquired from one of the many servants lounging about whose house this was.
Art thou a stranger?" they asked.
Well, how is it that thou dost not know that this is the house of Kareem, the son of Reza?"
"Oh," gasped the former clerk, "what the father hoarded the son is spending!" and disappeared through the crowd.
ANOTHER INCIDENT REGARDING ESMAEL, THE JEW
This morning Abdul Baha called us into his room. Esmael, the Jew, was also present. The Master was in a jovial mood and asked Esmael whether bread, tea and olives were "Kosher." He replied, "They are Kosher."
"Art then thyself Kosher or Taref?" `Abdul Baha asked him pleasantly.
"I hope I am Kosher. I wish good to everyone. I am not seeking to harm any soul. If a man curse me or beat me I still like him. I am living according to the religion of my father. If these things constitute the condition of being Kosher, then I am Kosher."
Well said. replied the Master, "I know thou art sincere in the profession of thy religion and that is the reason why I love thee so much."
Esmael replied: "I know one thing. Any moment I am ready to sacrifice my life for the Master. For the last forty two years you have ever been kind to me and on several occasions have saved my life. This has nothing to do with faith. This is love. I declare by Jehovah, if you ask me at this very moment I will die for you gladly, knowing well that I have won the good pleasure of Abraham, Jacob and Moses."
Then the Master asked Esmael: "How old was Moses?''
"One hundred and twenty years," he replied. "But the patriarchs, such as Noah and others lived many hundreds of years."
The Master said: "The age of those ancient prophets as recorded in the Old Testament is symbolic. It has a spiritual interpretation. Wert thou informed of the science of anatomy thou wouldst realize that this human mechanism and these material organs cannot last more than one hundred and twenty years."
Esmael inquired: "Where is the seat of thought?
The Master replied: "It is generally understood that the seat of thought, consciousness and volition is in the brain. The brain is the organ of the intellect and understanding. The heart also plays a part through the central nervous system. Thus the activities of the brain and the heart by means of afferent and efferent nerve fibers are linked together. Figuratively speaking, the brain is like a mirror. When it is turned toward any object, whether in the east or in the west, that object will immediately be reflected on its surface and consciousness is realized. In the world of dreams consciousness is awake and works uninterruptedly."
Come, come, friends, the Master said, as we waited at the threshold. "Let us talk tonight of the old times." He asked me what news I had. I told him I had heard that Badi Effendi's school in Abou Senan had increased in numbers and that it was no more my room but a Baha'i school. He laughed and said: "What dost thou want with a room of stone and clay? I have prepared for thee glorious rooms the walls, the roofs, the floors, and the furniture of which are of pure deeds and immortal virtues." Therein thou shalt abide forever. Badi Effendi is a capable, efficient teacher and loves the children. He is striving in service and wishes to perfect the work which he undertakes. Perfection of work is man's greatest reward. When a man sees his work perfected and this perfection is the result of incessant labor and application he is the happiest man in the world. Work is the source of human happiness.
About two hours before sunrise I was called from my bed by one of the two Baha'is who spent the night here in the house. The Master was up; the samovar was boiling and tea was prepared for our delectation. It was thirst for the spiritual tea which awakened me and I dressed hurriedly and made my way through the darkness to the other house.
I opened the door of the blessed room and entered unannounced. The Master was sitting in his accustomed place on the divan in the corner next to the window.
Only a candle was burning on the opposite table which was strewn over with books. There was a pause and a stillness and the dim light added to the mystery and the magic of those sacred moments.
`Abdul Baha's eyes were closed, his white beard shone; over his countenance was spread the calm of the deep. His spotless white turban towered above his head and as I looked I beheld his silvery locks flowing beautifully over his broad shoulders.
Out of the unutterable stillness the voice of the Beloved of the hearts was heard.
Happiness is the ambrosia of the spirit and the nectar of the souls. It confers on man the boon of immortality and the gift of spiritual vision. Happiness is the morning star guiding the wandering to the perennial abode of the blessed. Happiness is the crystalline river flowing from the heavenly mountains through the paradise of the mind and causing to grow upon its banks the imperishable ideals of humanity. Happiness is the cherubim of the Almighty which inspires mankind to perform feats of self -sacrifice and deeds of disinterested philanthropy. Happiness is the melodiously singing nightingale which transforms the darkened world of sorrow into the gleaming realm of celestial beatitude. Happiness is the surging ocean in the depths of which the diver finds the pearls of resignation and the corals of renunciation. Happiness is the Elysium wherein grow the asphodels of goodwill and the amaranths of forgiveness. Happiness is the heaven of God, the blue fields of which are studded with the bright rolling orbs of satisfaction and the fixed stars of contentment. Happiness is the scintillating crown of humanity the shining gems of which are the teachings of the past prophets and the principles of his holiness Baha'u'llah.
“The happiness of man is not dependent upon outward things such as riches, ornaments and clothes. It is, however dependent upon the susceptibilities of the heart and the attitude of the mind.''