An estimated 100 million people make some kind of pilgrimage every year, some for a few hours, others for days or months.To address the environmental impact of these journeys – and to assist the world’s holy places to become as environmentally sustainable as possible – a new network has been launched which brings together pilgrim sites from 10 faith traditions. They range from the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, and the Armenian Orthodox holy city of Etchmiadzin, to Jerusalem – a major pilgrimage destination for the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. The Baha’i World Centre – and the city of Haifa, Israel, where it is located – have also become founding members of the Green Pilgrimage Network. Last year alone, the Baha’i holy places attracted around 750,000 pilgrims and visitors. “The Green Pilgrimage Network will ask the faithful to live, during the most intense of religious experiences, in a faith-consistent way,” said Martin Palmer, Secretary-General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), which has established the Network in association with WWF. “To travel to a holy place in such a way as to treat the whole world as sacred is to be a true pilgrim,” said Mr. Palmer.
Gossip and backbiting are often thought of as pretty low down the scale of social ills but I think this view underestimates the real spiritual damage caused by this activity. In its minor form it causes hurt and division and in its extreme form it can destroy reputations and lives. I think these are some of the reasons that Bahá’u’lláh teaches us in his writings that the seeker of God
…should also regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul. He should be content with little, and be freed from all inordinate desire. He should treasure the companionship of those that have renounced the world, and regard avoidance of boastful and worldly people a precious benefit.
The Kitab-i-Iqan, Pages 161-200: gr214
One of the notable aspects of this teaching is how it highlights the spiritual damage done to those who backbite not just to those who are its victims.
Bahá’u’lláh also describes how denigrating others is often used as a way of avoiding dealing with our own shortcomings.
O SON OF BEING! How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me.
O SON OF MAN! Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I bear witness.
The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh
Be not the slave of your moods, but their master. But if you are so angry, so depressed and so sore that your spirit cannot find deliverance and peace even in prayer, then quickly go and give some pleasure to someone lowly or sorrowful, or to a guilty or innocent sufferer! Sacrifice yourself, your talent, your time, your rest to another, to one who has to bear a heavier load than you – and your unhappy mood will dissolve into a blessed, contented submission to God.
Sorry people- I had thought that this was a quote by ‘Abdul Baha- just found out that it cannot be reliably attributed to him- but it still seems very good advice….