O SON OF MAN! Thou art My dominion and My dominion perisheth not; wherefore fearest thou thy perishing? Thou art My light and My light shall never be extinguished; why dost thou dread extinction? Thou art My glory and My glory fadeth not; thou art My robe and My robe shall never be outworn. Abide then in thy love for Me, that thou mayest find Me in the realm of glory. –Bahá’u’lláh
‘The man who makes a piece of notepaper to the best of his ability, conscientiously, concentrating all his forces on perfecting it, is giving praise to God. Briefly, all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity. This is worship: to serve mankind and to minister to the needs of the people. Service is prayer. A physician ministering to the sick, gently, tenderly, free from prejudice and believing in the solidarity of the human race, he is giving praise’.
National Geographic News reports that that Scandinavians of 2,000 years ago were more genetically diverse than previously thought. A DNA test of the remains of an Iron Age man found in Denmark suggests he may have been a descendant of female slaves transported from the Middle East or a Roman soldier serving on the Empire’s northern frontier. All of which shows that we humans have been been mixing together for thousands of years .In the words of Bahá’u’lláh addressed to humankind-
“Ye are all fruits of one tree, the leaves of one branch, the flowers of one garden.”
‘Ferocity and savagery are natural to animals, but men should show forth the qualities of love and affection. God sent all His Prophets into the world with one aim, to sow in the hearts of men love and goodwill, and for this great purpose they were willing to suffer and to die. All the sacred Books were written to lead and direct man into the ways of love and unity…’
I have just returned from giving a presentation on ‘Spiritual Solutions To Economic Problems’. I had an interesting conversation with members of the audience (including a Sikh and a Hindu gentleman). It was heartening to hear the common agreement on the need for a new economic paradigm based on spiritual values. One of the quotations I used was from a message from the supreme governing body of the Baha’i Faith, The Universal House Of Justice. It reads-
‘This unprecedented economic crisis, together with the social breakdown it has helped to engender, reflects a profound error of conception about human nature itself. For the levels of response elicited from human beings by the incentives of the prevailing order are not only inadequate, but seem almost irrelevant in the face of world events. We are being shown that, unless the development of society finds a purpose beyond the mere amelioration of material conditions, it will fail of attaining even these goals. That purpose must be sought in spiritual dimensions of life and motivation that transcend a constantly changing economic landscape and an artificially imposed division of human societies into “developed” and “developing”.
“The face of him on whom I gazed I can never forget, though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one’s very soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow…. No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain!”
Such was the description of Bahá’u’lláh by a Cambridge University Professor, Edward Granville Browne who visited the ‘Blessed Beauty’ in Palestine in 1890, a description which never fails to move me…
In my unbiased opinion my wife Minoo is an expert in rice technology.;-) This is her (not so secret) recipe… ‘Polou-ye-Sefid’ or ‘White Rice’ is the foundation of Iranian cooking. It is served with the various ‘khoresht’ dishes I have described elsewhere in ‘Myriad Lives’ Recipes. In the amounts indicated it should feed about four people.
· 2 cups basmati rice
· Vegetable Oil
1. Rinse rice in pan, carefully pouring out the ‘cloudy’ water (this will avoid the rice going sticky)
2. Add 4 cups of fresh water, 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil to the rice in the pan
3. Boil for around 15 minutes, until rice is par-boiled
4. Drain rice in a colander.
5. Cover the bottom of the pan with a few teaspoons of cooking oil
6. Put the par-boiled rice back into the pan, if possible heap it in the middle (Don’t know why-it seems to cook better…).
7. Wrap the pan lid with a muslin-type cloth and cover
8. Cook on a low heat for a further 30 minutes or so
Ideally it should become crunchy at the bottom, forming what the Iranians call ‘tahdiq’. You should be able to turn over the pan onto a tray so that the rice ‘pops out’ in an aesthetically-pleasing round pan shape.
I have just read again this illuminating passage by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on the inability of the human mind to comprehend the divine essence-
‘In the Old Testament we read that God said, ‘Let us make man in Our own image’. In the Gospel, Christ said, ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in Me’. In the Qur’án, God says, ‘Man is my Mystery and I am his’. Bahá’u’lláh writes that God says, ‘Thy heart is My home; purify it for My descent. Thy spirit is My place of revelation; cleanse it for My manifestation’.
All these sacred words show us that man is made in God’s image: yet the Essence of God is incomprehensible to the human mind, for the finite understanding cannot be applied to this infinite Mystery. God contains all: He cannot be contained. That which contains is superior to that which is contained. The whole is greater than its parts.
Things which are understood by men cannot be outside their capacity for understanding, so that it is impossible for the heart of man to comprehend the nature of the Majesty of God. Our imagination can only picture that which it is able to create’.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks: UK Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1972 eleventh edition reprint
Summer Solstice celebrations are being held in the United Kingdom. Sometimes known as Midsummer, Litha, or St. John’s Day it is the longest day of the year and the beginning of summer. As I understand it for some contemporary pagans the Summer Solstice is seen as the day the ‘Goddess’ manifests as ‘Mother Earth’ and the ‘God’ as the ‘Sun King’. A union from which will come forth the fruit of the future harvest.
Of course I am a believer in Divine Unity but I still find this a moving metaphor for the generosity of God, one of the ‘divine attributes’. In this sense the fruitfulness of the earth itself can be seen as a metaphor for divine generosity. This reminds me of the words of Bahá’u’lláh–
‘Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is a direct evidence of the revelation within it of the attributes and names of God, inasmuch as within every atom are enshrined the signs that bear eloquent testimony to the revelation of that Most Great Light..’
The Baha’i International Community reports that the seven members of the national Baha’i committee imprisoned in Iran have each been allowed a brief phone call to their families. The calls were the first contact with the imprisoned Baha’is since six of them were arrested in Tehran in May. The seventh was arrested in March in the city of Mashhad. I have previously reported in my blog that Mrs. Mahvash Sabet and Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi were allowed to make brief phone calls to their families on the 3rd of June. Mrs. Sabet was detained in Mashhad in March but moved to Evin Prison in Tehran on the 26th May. It is thought that the others are also being held in this notorious prison. It was later confirmed that Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm have also been allowed brief phone calls to their families. So far no charges have been made against any of the seven individuals. This is not surprising given that their detention is without any reasonable justification and is a manifest abuse of their Human Rights…
www.archaeology.org reports the discovery of two stone artifacts in the ancient rock quarry known as the Topper Site in South Carolina. It is thought that these items may have been arrowheads or blades crafted 11,000 years ago during the Early Archaic period. This evidence of ancient civilisation is fascinating. I find it even more fascinating to consider the spiritual development of ancient humanity. Who were the spiritual teachers of the Early Archaic Period? From the Bahá’í perspective there has been an unbroken chain of divine educators stretching back into the pre-historic past. Each ‘Manifestation of God’ beginning a ‘universal cycle’ in world history. In the the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá–
‘Briefly, we say a universal cycle in the world of existence signifies a long duration of time, and innumerable and incalculable periods and epochs. In such a cycle the Manifestations appear with splendor in the realm of the visible until a great and supreme Manifestation makes the world the center of His radiance. His appearance causes the world to attain to maturity, and the extension of His cycle is very great. Afterward, other Manifestations will arise under His shadow, Who according to the needs of the time will renew certain commandments relating to material questions and affairs, while remaining under His shadow’.
We are in the cycle which began with Adam, and its supreme Manifestation is Bahá’u’lláh‘
‘Haleem Bademjan’ is a Persian dish made with mashed aubergine (egg-plant). It can be eaten as a meal on its own or as a starter. Apart from family meals we sometimes serve this at Bahá’í holy days. Personally this is one of my favourites. (Yes I know, I say that about all Persian food..).
The following recipe serves about 4-5 people.
4X Medium aubergines (mashed)
2 pounds of lamb cut into cubes
1 cup of lentils
1 cup of rice
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup of ground walnuts
2 large onions, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
A handful of finely chopped mint
A couple of tablespoonfuls of ‘Kashk’ (a kind of Persian dried Yoghurt; in its absence you could use some Greek Yoghurt instead, not really the same but..).
1) Peel the aubergines and remove the stem. Slice lengthwise, sprinkle with a little salt and leave in a sieve to drain. Fry until brown and soft, absorbing the oil. Turn off heat and allow to stand.Mash with potato masher.
3) Fry the meat, 1 chopped onion, and 2 cloves of garlic over in a medium pan on a moderate heat until they turn golden-brown.
4) Add water (about 1 cup). Cook on a medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.
5) Add lentils, mashed aubergines, rice, ‘kashk’ (or yoghurt) and ground walnuts and cook for a further 40 minutes, stirring to avoid sticking to the pan. (You will know when it is ready as the mixture will blend together, the meat separating into ‘fibres’ and the rice and lentils will cook and break down into the mixture). Add salt and pepper (to taste).
6) In a separate pan fry the remaining onion and garlic. When onion and garlic has turned golden brown add chopped mint and fry for a few more minutes. (This is called ‘Nana dagh’ in Persian).
7) Serve hot sprinkled with ‘Nana dagh’. (We usually eat Haleem Bademjan with bread).
globeandmail.com reports G8 finance ministers as saying ‘surging commodity prices threaten to end years of robust global economic growth, stoke inflation and force millions of the world’s most vulnerable people deeper into poverty’. Forgive me but I am not so sure that the term ‘robust economic growth’ is a very apt description of the debt-fuelled bubble I saw expanding over the last decade. Sadly accurate however, is that the present crisis will force millions more into deprivation. It seems to me that a new moral attitude is required from us all (including the rich and powerful) if we are to solve this problem. Current financial speculation on the basics of life-such as fuel, food and shelter- does not seem likely to reduce commodity prices in any short order. Making money is fine but surely not at such a cost to others. In the words of Bahá’u’lláh
‘O CHILDREN OF DUST! Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor, lest heedlessness lead them into the path of destruction, and deprive them of the Tree of Wealth. To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with My virtues’.
Yahoo! News reports that a mob burned a Mozambican man alive in South Africa in what seems to be a continuing wave of xenophobic attacks. According to the police the unfortunate victim was stoned and then burned. It is a sobering thought that in the 21st Century we are still killing each other because of differences in race or nationality. It also shows that the concept of the oneness of humanity although widely agreed is far from being widely practiced. As Abdu’l-Bahá warns-
‘What profit is there in agreeing that universal friendship is good, and talking of the solidarity of the human race as a grand ideal? Unless these thoughts are translated into the world of action, they are useless. The wrong in the world continues to exist just because people talk only of their ideals, and do not strive to put them into practice. If actions took the place of words, the world’s misery would very soon be changed into comfort. A man who does great good, and talks not of it, is on the way to perfection. The man who has accomplished a small good and magnifies it in his speech is worth very little. If I love you, I need not continually speak of my love—you will know without any words. On the other hand if I love you not, that also will you know—and you would not believe me, were I to tell you in a thousand words, that I loved you. People make much profession of goodness, multiplying fine words because they wish to be thought greater and better than their fellows, seeking fame in the eyes of the world. Those who do most good use fewest words concerning their actions’.
I have received some recent news on the fate of seven Bahá’í s wrongfully detained in Iran. Barnabas quotidianus reports that Mrs.Mahvash Sabet, Mrs.Fariba Kamalabadi, and Mr.Jamaloddin Khanjani have been allowed brief telephone contact with their families. Sadly, there is no news of the other detainees having direct contact with their families but the report indicates that Evin Prison authorities have requested Vahid Tizfahm’s family to bring clothes to the jail. It is also reported that Evin Prison authorities have asked Mrs. Kamalabadi’s family to bring her reading glasses to the prison. (It is to be emphasised that neither family have met their loved one in Evin). There is still no word on the whereabouts of Mr.Behrouz Tavakkoli , Mr.Saeid Rezaie or Mr. Afif Naeimi. Although I am reassured to hear some news, their continued detention is both inhumane and unwarranted. The Bahá’í Faith prohibits involvement in partisan politics and the sole reason for the continuing detention is their religious beliefs. Further background to the persecution of the Bahá’ís in Iran can be found at http://www.bahai.org/persecution/iran