MIRACLES IN RELIGION Anil Sarwal

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MIRACLES IN RELIGION (A Study of the miraculous in religion in context of the Bahá’í Faith)

Anil Sarwal

Royale Publishers Lucknow

Approved by:

The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of India

© 1996, Anil Sarwal

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All rights reserved First Impression November 1996 2,000 copies

Published by Royale Publishers, Lucknow

Printed in India at Printart Offset, Lucknow

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“The aim of Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet of this new and great age which humanity has entered…is not to destroy, but to fulfil the Revelations of the past, to reconcile rather than accentuate the divergencies of the conflicting creeds which disrupt present-day society. His purpose, far from belittling the station of the Prophets gone before Him or of whittling down Their teachings, is to restate the basic truths which these teachings enshrine in a manner that would conform to the needs, and be in consonance with the capacity, and be applicable to the problems, the ills and perplexities, of the age in which we live.” *

* Call to the Nations , Extracts from the writings of Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í World Centre, New Delhi. 1977. pp. xi-xii.

CONTENTS page PREFACE

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1

PURPOSE OF RELIGION

4

2

MIRACLES OF GODS AND GODDESSES

10

3

IDOL WORSHIP

14

4

MIRACLES AND PROPHETS

20

4

5

DO MIRACLES HAPPEN?

26

6

EXPERIENCES OF THE HIMALAYAN MASTERS

31

7

BAHÁ’U’LLÁH’S ADVICE TO GODMEN

35

8

INDIAN REFORMERS ON MYTHOLOGY

46

9

BUDDHA ON MIRACLES

53

10

MIRACLES IN THE BIBLE

58

11

MUHAMMAD’S VIEWS ON MIRACLES

63

12

GURU NANAK AND MIRACLES

70

13

MIRACLES IN THE BAHÁ’Í FAITH

73

14

SPIRITUAL HEALING AND ETERNAL LIFE

78

15

MIRACLES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

82

16

SUPERNATURAL IN MAN

87

17

TAMPERING WITH PSYCHIC FORCES

91

18

COMMUNICATING WITH GOD

97

Prayer

98

19

Meditation

104

Fasting

112

THE GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL

114

NOTES AND REFERENCES

117

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PREFACE Humanity has made incredible progress in the twentieth century. Revolutions in the fields of science and technology have changed the face of the earth. Now we stand at the threshold of a new millennium ready to witness the glories of an era beyond the imaginations of the most revered of philosophers and thinkers. In direct contrast to the spirit of this age of enlightenment, religion continues to be unbelievably mixed up with superstition, idol worship, and miraculous events. Scientific thinking, universal education and individual investigation of truth are the hallmarks of the twentieth century but the followers of different religions do not read the Holy Books themselves. They depend more upon indirect knowledge gained through the so called spiritual masters—godmen, priests, sadhus, gurus, pirs, tantriks, etc. True religion, which is the science of union with God, has unfortunately been replaced by magic, voodoo, tantra, occult, spiritism, spiritualism, hypnosis, and the like. The true spirit of religion has been lost to the extent that it is increasingly being perceived to be the forte of the illiterate. Religious or political leaders exploit the innocent masses in the name of religion and inflict disunity, division and even war on the suffering humanity. On the other hand, this breaking away from religion has resulted in a woeful lack of moral and spiritual values in modern civilization. In India, petty beggars wearing saffron robes cheat the masses by performing magical tricks. They pretend to have the knowledge of the past and powers to look into the future. These fakirs often suggest remedies to their credulous clientele to ward off evil influences of planets basing their calculations on astrology, palmistry and numerology. Astounded at first by their miraculous powers, the layman becomes an easy victim of their designs. By the time he realizes his mistake, he has suffered substantial material loss, not to mention the emotional trauma he has undergone. The divine avatars and the true saints in India showed people the right path while warning them not to be misled. Most of the time this was done at a great personal loss to themselves. They made efforts to enlighten the masses about the eternal truths enshrined in all religions based upon the Word of God. This often resulted in their persecution and, at times, even death at the hands of their enemies belonging to the priestly class who perceived these saintly figures as threats to their positions of worldly power and riches. This book is written primarily to wean the readers away from the quest of the miraculous. Its purpose is to guide them to the path of spirituality shown in our days by the latest Manifestation of God, Bahá’u’lláh. He is considered by His followers to be the Promised One of all peoples and religions. One of the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is that religion must be in accord with science and reason. His followers, the Bahá’ís, see no conflict between religion and science, in fact they perceive their roles to be complementary.

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This book was initially written as a paper to be presented at a Seminar organized by the Association of Bahá’í Studies in India. It now includes views of the better known Prophets of God, as well as saints and sages, and social reformers of India. References have been included from most of the Divinely Revealed Holy Books. I am very grateful to my colleagues, the members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of India, who have patiently heard me expound my views on the topic. My special thanks to Prof. Mangesh Teli who diligently reviewed the book and made valuable suggestions. Almost miraculous was the appearance of Mr. Michael W. Thomas from Australia, who suddenly landed up in Chandigarh with a tiny but powerful laptop computer without which this work may not have seen the light of the day in this form. A word of appreciation must also go to my wife, Manju, who throughout the period of refining the work, not only gave much encouragement, but also took care of our ‘precious gems’, Aaron and Ashish, and kept serving tasty and filling snacks. Chandigarh

Anil Sarwal

July, 1996.

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CHAPTER : ONE

PURPOSE OF RELIGION

M

odern

man1,

bombarded

with

mundane

details

pertaining to his daily life, has lost touch with religion—the only agency that helps him to be in touch with his real self and his Creator. Hence, it is not surprising that very few people in the world have any real understanding of either what religion is or what its functions are in governing an individual's life. Scriptures teach us that the purpose of human life is spiritual development of the individual. Individual transformation ultimately results in bringing order in human society. However, not many people view religion in this light. For most people, religion is shrouded in mystery, ritual, and tradition. This makes religion very hard to understand. Mercifully, God always comes to the aid of man and renews His eternal religion through a fresh Manifestation at such times. Lord Krishna has promised in the Bhagavad Gita that whenever righteousness is on the decline, and unrighteousness is in the ascendant, then God, though birthless and deathless, and the Lord of all beings, manifests Himself through His own Yogamaya (divine potency) keeping His Nature (Prakrti) under control. 2 He says, “For the protection of the virtuous, for the extirpation of evil-doers, and for establishing Dharma (righteousness) on a firm footing, I am born from age to age.” 3 Similar promises and prophecies do exist in all religions of the world. The Word of God is thus taught to human beings through the Chosen Mouthpiece in every age. In our times, the Bahá’ís consider the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh (a title meaning the ‘Glory of God’ or ‘Vishnu Yasha’) as fulfillment of the prophecies contained in all the Holy Scriptures regarding the appearance of a Universal Manifestation. The five million followers of Bahá’u’lláh throughout the world believe that He is the One to Whom the Hindu Scriptures referred as the “Most Great Spirit”, the “Tenth Avatar”, the “Immaculate Manifestation of Krishna.” 4 He alone is the One indicated by the prophecy attributed to Gautama Buddha Himself, that “a Buddha named Maitreye, the Buddha of universal fellowship” should in the fullness of time arise and reveal “His boundless glory.” 5 To Him Jesus Christ had referred as the “Glory of God,” as “Alpha and Omega”, “the Beginning and the End”, and “the First and the Last”.6 The Apostle of God, Muhammad, alluded to Him in His Book as the “Great Announcement” and declared His Day to be the “Day of Judgment”.7 Bahá’u’lláh educates us about the aims of true religion. "The religion of God and His divine law,” Bahá’u’lláh has revealed, “are the most potent instruments and the surest of all means for the dawning of the light of unity amongst men. The progress of the world, the development of nations, the tranquillity of peoples, and the peace of all who dwell on earth are among the principles and ordinances of God. Religion bestoweth 8

upon man the most precious of all gifts, offereth the cup of prosperity, imparteth eternal life, and showereth imperishable benefits upon mankind.” 8 He exhorts the chiefs and rulers of the world to endeavour to their utmost to safeguard the position of religion, promote its interests and exalt its station in the world. The Bahá’í teachings on the aims and purposes of religion are an eye opener. Whereas today most religious leaders have made religion a cause of strife and contention, Bahá’u’lláh proclaims that the “…fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men.” 9 He hopes that the religious leaders and the rulers of the world will unitedly arise for the reformation of this age and the rehabilitation of its fortunes. He advises them to counsel together, meditate on the needs of the people and exercise their authority in moderation. As for religion, He strongly advises them not to make it “a source of dissension and discord, of hate and enmity.” 10 Bahá’u’lláh explains that the origin of all divinely revealed religions lies in the same divine source. In the manner of Lord Krishna, He has revealed “…that Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive process.” He teaches that “…religious truth is not absolute but relative,…that all the great religions of the world are divine in origin, that their basic principles are in complete harmony, that their aims and purposes are one and the same, that their teachings are but facets of one truth, that their functions are complimentary, that they differ only in the nonessential aspects of their doctrines, and that their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society.” 11 Therefore, Bahá’u’lláh asserts “…the divers communions of the earth, and the manifold systems of religious belief, should never be allowed to foster the feelings of animosity among men….” 12 This is the essence of the Faith of God and His Religion. Bahá’u’lláh describes religion as an instrument of unity. Of the different religious systems of the world, He says, “These principles and laws, these firmly-established and mighty systems, have proceeded from one Source, and are rays of one Light. That they differ one from another is to be attributed to the varying requirements of the ages in which they were promulgated.” 13 Thus, religion at the social level is seen in the Bahá’í Writings as “…the chief instrument for the establishment of order in the world, and of tranquillity amongst its peoples.” 14 Bahá’u’lláh emphatically states “The weakening of the pillars of religion hath strengthened the foolish, and emboldened them, and made them more arrogant. Verily I say: The greater the decline of religion, the more grievous the waywardness of the ungodly. This cannot but lead in the end to chaos and confusion. Hear Me, O men of insight, and be warned, ye who are endued with discernment!” 15 At the individual level, according to Bahá’u’lláh, the purpose “…of the one true God…in revealing Himself unto men is to lay bare those gems that lie hidden within the mine of their true and inmost selves.” 16 “Throughout, it is the relationship of the individual soul to God and the fulfilment of its spiritual destiny that is the ultimate aim of the laws of religion.” 17 “Think not,” is Bahá’u’lláh’s own assertion, “that We have

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revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power.” 18 Apart from stating the purpose of religion, the Bahá’í Writings throw light on its nature. Religion is seen as an adorning for the body of humanity. Bahá’u’lláh explains, “Know thou that they who are truly wise have likened the world unto the human temple. As the body of man needeth a garment to clothe it, so the body of mankind must needs be adorned with the mantle of justice and wisdom. Its robe is the Revelation vouchsafed unto it by God. Whenever this robe hath fulfilled its purpose, the Almighty will assuredly renew it. For every age requireth a fresh measure of the light of God. Every Divine Revelation hath been sent down in a manner that befitted the circumstances of the age in which it hath appeared.” 19 The process of Revelation is a great mystery which human mind finds very hard to penetrate and accept. Nevertheless, the history of religions proves beyond any shadow of doubt that whatever the Manifestations of God, whether Krishna, Buddha, Abraham, Zoroaster, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh revealed, was ultimately fulfilled and widely accepted. The trouble, however, is that purity of the teachings of the divine Messengers is diluted as Their message is passed on from one generation to another and at times it is totally forgotten. Bahá’u’lláh has come to renew the fundamental truths enshrined in all religions. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith asserts that there is no place for “…any misgivings as to the animating purpose of the worldwide Law of Bahá’u’lláh. Far from aiming at the subversion of the existing foundations of society, it seeks to broaden its basis, to remould its institutions in a manner consonant with the needs of an everchanging world.…It does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnical origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit…” 20 If at all, the Message of Bahá’u’lláh is directed against all forms of provincialism, all insularities and prejudices. The outdated rituals, customs and traditions have no place in the Bahá’í Faith. The beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, states, “If long-cherished ideals and time-honoured institutions, if certain social assumptions and religious formulae have ceased to promote the welfare of the generality of mankind, if they no longer minister to the needs of a continually evolving humanity, let them be swept away and relegated to the limbo of obsolescent and forgotten doctrines.” 21

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CHAPTER : TWO

MIRACLES OF GODS AND GODDESSES

I

ndia

is

viewed

as

a

land

rich

in

spirituality

and

religion.

However, very few people in modern India can claim to have an idea of the true spiritual precepts and practices. Most people in India today seek shelter in worshipping idols of gods and goddesses whose miraculous stories they have been fed with their mother’s milk in childhood. Faith in gods and goddesses is so strong that formal worship is considered to be essential, and “In temples consecrated according to scriptural rites, the images are considered to be ‘alive’.” 1 Thus people visit temples in large numbers with offerings to propitiate the various gods and goddesses there as fulfilment of their religious duties. Furthermore, if there is a problem in an individual’s life or a special event at home, a priest is consulted with or without a horoscope. His pronouncements for the present and future are listened to in rapt attention. Any remedies suggested to ward off an evil glance or attract beneficial benedictions are undertaken carefully and performed in all sincerity. These remedies mostly involve making material offerings to specific gods at certain times on auspicious days, or with the performance of rituals that are often senseless and irrelevant. Most striking is the fascination of the masses for miracles. The miracles sought generally relate to the attainment of greater worldly riches, trade or professional promotion, obtaining the desired progeny and the like. People flock in large numbers to the abodes of sidh purusas, sadhus, tantriks, and yogis who claim to read the past and glimpse into the future or offer remedies either to solve their problems or to fulfil their worldly ambitions. Mostly they are befooled into losing even what they have in the form of material goods, but fascination for such people who can perform magical deeds never ceases. These persons, who are called godmen, are often the only recourse for most people attempting to obtain spiritual enlightenment in India. Rarely is any spiritual knowledge or value gained. Many saints and sages of India have made attempts to educate the masses in keeping with the true spirit of religion. No divinely revealed Scriptures sanction idolatry. Mahatma Gandhi was against consulting priests or making offerings to the idols of various gods and goddesses. He did not believe in performing yajnas2 to ward off ‘evil’ propensities, to fight against fatal diseases, or guard against unforeseen calamities. However, he believed in chanting the name of God and considered it to be the healer of all ills. His only advice to a friend who was suffering from a disease was to pray to God for the gift of healing. Mahatma Gandhi explains, “How would it have helped him if I had advised him to have a yajna performed? He would not have got a genuine priest to conduct the yajna. There would be many other difficulties. Nor would I advise him to

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go to Jagannath Puri [a well-known centre of pilgrimage in Orissa] and make such and such an offering to such and such a deity. What if following my advice, he became an atheist?” 3 Mahatma Gandhi, who had studied the Gita and the other religious Scriptures deeply, asks “Who are god Indra and other gods?” He replies that Saraswati is “not a goddess living somewhere far away in the clouds, so are Indra and others not living in the heavens; they symbolize the forces of nature.” 4 He is not happy with worshipping animals or ghosts. “The Nagapanchami day,” he writes “is observed to save ourselves from harm by snakes. It is not right to observe any such day to appease snakes. And so also about ghosts and spirits. What are ghosts? They are merely creatures of our imagination. Our aim should be, instead, to worship the sustaining energy of God, to worship it in all its aspects.” 5 The Bhagavad Gita is emphatic on this point. Lord Krishna enlightens Arjuna, “Great is that yogi6 who seeks to be with Brahman7. Greater than those who mortify the body. Greater than the learned, Greater than the doers of good works; Therefore, Arjuna, become a yogi. He gives me all his heart, He worships me in faith and love, That yogi, above every other I call my very own.” 8 Lord Krishna further clarifies, “Men whose discrimination has been blunted by worldly desires, establish this or that ritual or cult and resort to various deities, according to the impulse of their inborn natures. But it does not matter what deity a devotee chooses to worship. If he has faith, I (the Manifestation of God) make his faith unwavering. Endowed with the faith I give him, he worships that deity, and gets from it everything he prays for. In reality, I alone am the giver. But these men of small understanding only pray for what is transient and perishable. The worshippers of the devas will go to the devas. So, also, my devotees will come to me.”9 He concludes, “The form of worship which consists in contemplating Brahman is superior to ritualistic worship with material offerings. The reward of all action is to be found in enlightenment.” 10

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CHAPTER : THREE

IDOL WORSHIP

O

ne

of

the

important

teachings

of

Bahá’u’lláh

is

the

essential harmony of science and religion. The Beloved Master of the Bahá’í Faith, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, states: “Religion must stand the analysis of reason. It must agree with scientific fact and proof so that science will sanction religion and religion fortify science. Both are indissolubly welded and joined in reality. If statements and teachings of religion are found to be unreasonable and contrary to science, they are outcomes of superstition and imagination. Innumerable doctrines and beliefs of this character have arisen in the past ages.” 1 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá illustrates His thoughts by referring to mythology. He says, “Consider the superstitions and mythology of the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians; all were contrary to religion and science. It is now evident that the beliefs of these nations were superstitions, but in those times they held to them most tenaciously. For example, one of the many Egyptian idols was to those people an authenticated miracle, whereas in reality it was a piece of stone. As science could not sanction the miraculous origin and nature of a piece of rock, the belief in it must have been superstition. It is now evident that it was superstition. Therefore, we must cast aside such beliefs and investigate reality.” 2 The Holy Scriptures teach us that “practices such as the eating of food that has been offered in sacrifice unto idols must be stopped. We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.” 3 In the Bahá’í Writings, the word ‘idol’ is used to describe one’s false imaginings. People expect the idol of their handiwork will appear with such signs as they themselves have conceived!4 Bahá’u’lláh praises those who have “utterly abolished the idol of self and of vain imagination.” 5 He blesses them “for having rent asunder the veil of idle fancy, through the power of the might of ... (their) Lord, the Supreme Protector, the Almighty, the one Beloved.” 6 On the other hand, those who “…are the worshipers of the idol which their imaginations have carved, and who call it Inner Reality…are…accounted among the heathen.” 7 It is a historical fact that idol worshippers have always imposed severe afflictions on the Prophets of God. What befell Lord Krishna or Jesus Christ is common knowledge. How severe were the afflictions that the leaders of the Jewish people, the idol-worshipers, had caused to rain upon Muhammad “…in consequence of His proclamation of the unity of God and of the truth of His Message!” 8 Though in doing so, they “…deprived themselves of the light of heavenly grace and of the showers of divine mercy” 9 Bahá’u’lláh exhorts us, “For how long will ye worship the idols of your evil passions? Forsake your vain imaginings, and turn yourselves unto God, your 13

Everlasting Lord.” 10 He tells us that only those persons believe in the Manifestation of God, who through the power of the Lord of Names, are able to shatter the idols of their vain imaginings and corrupt desires.11 The reason is that “a gentile or an idolater follows the religious footsteps of his father and ancestry”. This “is absolute imitation.” 12 According to the Bahá’í writings, “The chief idols in the desecrated temple of mankind are none other than the triple gods of Nationalism, Racialism and Communism, at whose alters governments and peoples, whether democratic or totalitarian, at peace or at war, of the East or of the West, Christian or Islamic, are, in various forms and in different degrees, now worshipping…” 13 In many countries, idol worship in this sense has led to a great commotion amongst peoples and communities and added to their misery. In India, different states have fallen a victim to narrow nationalism or separatism based on language or religion leading to militancy and violence. Many people lost their lives at the time of Babri Mosque demolition. This incident made world wide headlines. It is noteworthy that the Supreme Court of India, in its judgement on 24 October 199414, quoted from the Bahá’í statement on communal harmony.15 It stated that the Bahá’í Writings contain a neutral perception of the problem of communal harmony and offer solutions for its resolution. The leaders of the conflicting parties were told to resolve their dispute by consulting together. Not only in India, but in all countries of the world where governments and peoples have been worshipping the idols of the triple gods of communism, nationalism and racism, the inhabitants are facing insurmountable difficulties. Bahá’u’lláh gives a mighty call to the people of the world to become free from their vain imaginations and idle fancies. He says: “Arise, O people, and, by the power of God’s might, resolve to gain the victory over your own selves, that haply the whole earth may be freed and sanctified from its servitude to the gods of its idle fancies—gods that have inflicted such loss upon, and are responsible for the misery of, their wretched worshipers. These idols form the obstacle that impedeth man in his efforts to advance in the path of perfection.” 16 And further: “Tear asunder, in My Name, the veils that have grievously blinded your vision, and, through the power born of your belief in the unity of God, scatter the idols of vain imitation.” 17 In the context of idol worship, it is natural to think of temples. In the Bahá’í Holy Writings, the word temple is frequently used to denote the meaning of an outer shell that enshrines some sacred reality. The most striking is the use of this term to denote the human body. Bahá’u’lláh writes in Hidden Words, “O Son Of Man! The temple of being is My throne; cleanse it of all things, that there I may be established and there I may abide.” 18 He advises, “Attire thy temple with the ornament of My Name, and thy tongue with remembrance of Me, and thine heart with love for Me, the Almighty, the Most High.” 19 He further instructs his followers to adorn this temple with the ornaments of all divine virtues like justice, equity, righteousness, piety, God’s name, forgiveness, chastity, fidelity, truthfulness, sincerity, godliness, purity, etc. Trustworthiness occupies a very special place in the list of divine virtues. It is equated with loyalty, faithfulness, uprightness, honesty and so forth. Bahá’u’lláh reveals poetically, “Be thou of the people of hell-fire, but be not a hypocrite. Be thou an

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unbeliever, but be not a plotter. Make thy home in taverns, but tread not the path of the mischief-maker. Fear thou God, but not the priest. Give to the executioner thy head, but not thy heart. Let thine abode be under the stone, but seek not the shelter of the cleric.” 20 The purpose of Bahá’u’lláh in revealing these verses in His own words is to “…infuse life eternal into the mortal frames of men, (to) impart to the temples of dust the essence of the Holy Spirit and the heavenly Light, and (to) draw the transient world, through the potency of a single word, unto the Everlasting Kingdom.” 21 Clearly the human body is the real temple of God. The Divine Being resides in the human heart. It is the seat of the All-Merciful Lord and the throne wherein abides the splendour of His revelation. It needs to be sanctified for His descent lest it should forget its Creator, stray from His path, shut out itself from His glory, and be stained with the defilement of earthly desires. The importance of keeping the human heart pure and clean for the descent of God cannot be over-emphasized. God has Himself revealed in the Scriptures: “Earth and heaven cannot contain Me; what can alone contain Me is the heart of him that believeth in Me, and is faithful to My Cause.” 22 However, very often the human heart, which is the recipient of the light of God and the seat of the revelation of the All-Merciful, does move away from Him Who is the Source of that light and the Well-Spring of that revelation. This waywardness of the human heart removes it far from God, and condemns it to remoteness from Him. Bahá’u’lláh states that man may become forgetful of his own self, but God remains, through His all-encompassing knowledge, aware of His creature, and continues to shed upon him the manifest radiance of His glory. “It is evident, therefore, that, in such circumstances, He is closer to him than his own self. He will, indeed, so remain for ever, for, whereas the one true God knoweth all things, perceiveth all things, and comprehendeth all things, mortal man is prone to err, and is ignorant of the mysteries that lie enfolded within him….” 23 God is indeed nearer to us than our life vein. His love for His creatures is immense. It is we who need to make efforts to realize His love. The first counsel that God gives to man is to “possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting.” 24 Clearly, the human heart and his spirit are God’s place of revelation; these should be cleansed for His manifestation.25 This is the essence of all true worship. There is no need to worship any idols.

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CHAPTER : FOUR

MIRACLES AND PROPHETS “The Prophet arrives Veiled in the cloak of future thought, ‘Mid people hid in ancient garb, Who could not see the gift he brought. He is a stranger to this life, Stranger to those who praise or blame, For he upholds the Torch of Truth, Although devoured by the flame.” Khalil Gibran The Divine Presence in humanity has been mentioned since the very beginning in all the sacred literature of the world. This means that God periodically speaks to man through His Messengers whose actions and behaviour appear human. It is natural for most people to expect that these divine beings would possess some extraordinary powers. The life studies of divine Messengers seem to indicate that people were not too wrong in their beliefs. These divine personages are variously known as Prophets, Messengers, Avatars, etc. The Bahá’í Writings, describe Them as the Manifestations of God. It would be interesting to seek guidance from Bahá’u’lláh, Who, Himself, falls in this category, regarding the true station and powers of the Manifestations of God. Bahá’u’lláh explains that God “…Who is everlastingly hidden from the eyes of men can never be known except through His Manifestation, and His Manifestation can adduce no greater proof of the truth of His Mission than the proof of His own Person.” 1 In many of His Writings, Bahá’u’lláh elucidates the nature of the Manifestation and His relationship to God. He underlines the unique and transcendent nature of the Godhead. He explains that “…since there can be no tie of direct intercourse to bind the one true God with His creation”, God ordains that “in every age and dispensation a pure and stainless Soul be made manifest in the kingdoms of earth and heaven.” 2 The Divine Manifestation is “the Dayspring” of the signs of the true God, “the Dawning-Place” of His clear tokens, “the Manifestation” of His Excellent Names, and “the Source” of His attributes. This “mysterious and ethereal Being”, the Manifestation of God, has two natures—a human nature that pertains to “the world of matter” and a spiritual nature “born of the substance of God Himself”. He is endowed with a “double station”. The first station is related to His innermost reality that represents Him as One Whose voice is the voice of God Himself. The second station is the human station, exemplified by the following verses: “I am but a man like you.” “Say, praise be to my Lord! Am I more than a man, an apostle?”3

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Bahá’u’lláh affirms that, in the spiritual realm, there is an “essential unity” among all the Manifestations of God. They all reveal the “Beauty of God”, manifest His names and attributes, and give utterance to His Revelation. In this regard, He states: “Were any of the all-embracing Manifestations of God to declare: “I am God”, He, verily, speaketh the truth, and no doubt attacheth thereto. For it hath been repeatedly demonstrated that through Their Revelation, Their attributes and names, the Revelation of God, His names and His attributes, are made manifest in the world…” 4 The Manifestations reveal the names and attributes of God and are the means by which humanity has access to the knowledge of God and His Revelation. However, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, states that the Manifestations should “never…be identified with that invisible Reality, the Essence of Divinity itself”. About Bahá’u’lláh, the Guardian wrote that the “human temple that has been the vehicle of so overpowering a Revelation” is not to be identified with the “Reality” of God.5 Bahá’u’lláh describes the station of “Divinity” which He shares with all the Manifestations of God as “…the station in which one dieth to himself and liveth in God. Divinity, whenever I mention it, indicateth My complete and absolute self-effacement. This is the station in which I have no control over mine own weal or woe nor over my life nor over my resurrection.” 6 And, regarding His own relationship to God, He testifies: “When I contemplate, O my God, the relationship that bindeth me to Thee, I am moved to proclaim to all created things “verily I am God”; and when I consider my own self, lo, I find it coarser than clay!” 7 In His Most Holy Book, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh enunciates the doctrine of the “Most Great Infallibility” of the Manifestation of God. He asserts this infallibility to be the inherent and exclusive right of the Prophet.8 He writes, “He Who is the Dawningplace of God’s Cause hath no partner in the Most Great Infallibility. He it is Who, in the kingdom of creation, is the Manifestation of “He doeth whatsoever He willeth.”9 Elsewhere, Bahá’u’lláh explains, “The essence of belief in Divine unity consisteth in regarding Him Who is the Manifestation of God and Him Who is the invisible, the inaccessible, the unknowable Essence as one and the same. By this is meant that whatever pertaineth to the former, all His acts and doings, whatever He ordaineth or forbiddeth, should be considered, in all their aspects, and under all circumstances, and without any reservation, as identical with the Will of God Himself. This is the loftiest station to which a true believer in the unity of God can ever hope to attain. Blessed is the man that reacheth this station, and is of them that are steadfast in their belief.” 10 The Manifestations have thus been called the ‘Living Book’ of God. They reveal infallible guidance to overcome the ills of the age in which They appear. Their teachings and laws, based on equity and justice, eventually become the foundations of glorious civilizations. Bahá’u’lláh has written, “Know verily that the essence of justice and the source thereof are both embodied in the ordinances prescribed by Him Who is the Manifestation of the Self of God amongst men, if ye be of them that recognize this truth. He doth verily incarnate the highest, the infallible standard of justice unto all creation.” 11 Supreme, indeed, is the power of the Manifestation of God, and great His spiritual creative force. His Holiness, the Báb, the Forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh, eloquently writes of

17

the spiritual station of the divine Manifestations: “If in the Day of His manifestation a king were to make mention of his own sovereignty, this would be like unto a mirror challenging the sun, saying: ‘The light is in me’. It would be likewise, if a man of learning in His Day were to claim to be an exponent of knowledge, or if he who is possessed of riches were to display his affluence, or if a man wielding power were to assert his own authority, or if one invested with grandeur were to show forth his glory. Nay, such men would become the object of the derision of their peers, and how would they be judged by Him Who is the Sun of Truth!” 12 The supremacy of the Manifestations of God in all created things seems to be the basis of the stories of many wonderful miracles performed by Prophets of all religions in Their life time. There are stories of miraculous events connected with the births of both Lord Krishna and Jesus Christ. The lives of Abraham, Buddha, Moses, Zoroaster, Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh are also replete with the accounts of miracles performed by them. Even saints, sages and apostles have fables built around the miraculous powers they possessed. Rightly or wrongly, miracles hold the center stage in most religions. Current situation is that those who can perform the most stunning miracles are believed to be the most spiritual. It is generally believed that a spiritual or religious person will have some miraculous power that could be concerned as a proof of his spirituality. The Bahá’í Writings, however, clarify the meaning of spiritual sovereignty of the Manifestations of God. Bahá’u’lláh explains, “Nay, by sovereignty is meant that sovereignty which in every dispensation resideth within, and is exercised by, the person of the Manifestation, the Day-star of Truth. That sovereignty is the spiritual ascendancy which He exerciseth to the fullest degree over all that is in heaven and on earth, and which in due time revealeth itself to the world in direct proportion to its capacity and spiritual receptiveness….” 13 The purpose of the Manifestations of God is, thus, not to impress people with miracles that happen through Them, but to educate them in divine virtues. However, most people forget the essentials and concentrate on that which is an outward sign of a deeper spiritual reality. The essence of religion is the mystic feeling that unites man with God, his Creator. The Manifestations of God teach us how this union can be achieved. Considering this supreme truth, man can never adequately thank God for His Mercy. In the Bahá’í Writings, we read, “Say: O people, praise ye God, for its Manifestation, for verily it is the most great favour upon you and the most perfect blessing upon you; and through Him every mouldering bone is quickened. Whosoever turns to Him hath surely turned unto God…Verily, He is the remembrance of God amongst you and His trust within you, and His manifestation unto you and His appearance among the servants who are nigh.…Whereupon, thereunto testifieth God, then His angels, then His messengers, and then His holy servants.” 14

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CHAPTER : FIVE

DO MIRACLES HAPPEN?

P

rophets,

and

even

saints

and

sages

warn

us

not

to

be

lured into accepting the so called ‘holy men’ solely based on the performance of miracles, despite their impressive first appearances. A sincere person is thus left wondering whether the reports of these miracles are literally true or do they have some other meaning. Further, if all beings are under one universal law and organization from which they cannot deviate, how can miracles appear? The Bahá’í Writings provide answers to these and other related questions. Although the answers may not be simple, they are very satisfying. Shoghi Effendi asserts: “…miracles are always possible, even though they do not constitute a regular channel whereby God reveals His power to mankind. To reject miracles on the ground that they imply a breach of the laws of nature is a very shallow, well nigh a stupid argument, in as much as God Who is the Author of the universe can, in His Wisdom and Omnipotence, bring any change, no matter how temporary, in the operation of the laws which He Himself has created.” 1 Miracles do occur, although we may not be able to explain them in our language with the help of contemporary science. These must, however, be differentiated from the magical tricks of jugglers, who, at times, pretend to be godmen. For example, even if all the myths associated with the lives of the Manifestations of God are not accepted as true, some events have no simple explanation. Glaring examples are: the virgin birth of Christ; the inability of a 750 strong firing squad to execute His Holiness the Bab2; and the fulfilment of Bahá’u’lláh’s prophetic warnings to the kings and priests that their kingdoms would soon be brought to naught because they had turned away from the Word of God! 3 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá affirms, “The Holy Manifestations are the source of miracles and the originators of wonderful signs. For Them, any difficult and impractical thing is possible and easy. For through a supernatural power wonders appear from Them; and by this power…They influence the world of nature. From all the Manifestations marvellous things have appeared.” 4 Hence, no matter how scientific or rational we may consider ourselves to be, it would be unreasonable to dismiss all the supernatural events in the lives of the Manifestations of God as mere imaginations of the authors of the Holy Books. Having said this, it must be immediately stated that the miracles are absolutely of no importance to the Manifestations of God and They do not use miracles as proof of the truth of Their Mission. For, if the miracles are proofs for those who are present, according to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, they fail as proofs for those who are absent.5 Wonderful signs, mostly based on trickery, hypnosis or magic6, are continually associated with false gods. Many books have been written on this theme based on the 19

testimony of those who suffered at their hands.. In almost all cases, when false godmen are challenged to perform under the penetrating eye of science, they withdraw into their shells. Many of them are constantly engaged in playing hide and seek game with the police. Once their game is exposed, their gullible victims are left repenting for the rest of their lives. The work of Dr. Abraham Kovoor7 of the Rationalist Association is quite well known in this field. He challenged godmen, godwomen, saints, astrologers, palmists, yogis, sidhas, gurus, swamis and all others who claimed that they had acquired miraculous powers through spiritual exercises or divine boons. He promised an award of one lakh Sri Lanka rupees to any one who could demonstrate supernatural powers under fraud-proof conditions. Nobody was able to win one cent from him despite the challenge being published all over the world. The popular babas and bhagwans did not come forward to demonstrate their miraculous powers. During his life time, Dr. Kovoor was a terror to those who cheated the innocent masses in the guise of holy men or miracle performers. A recently published sociological appraisal of the modern godmen in India8 throws more light on the phenomenon. The writer states the number of babas, swamis, gurus, bapus, bhagats and their ilk in India is legion. They evoke fierce loyalties and attract an expanding clientele for a while and then fade away. People rank these sects according to the number of their adherents, specially if among them are famous personalities and foreign disciples. Some of these godmen have established empires in foreign lands. They live in regal splendour and have radio and TV stations, planes and a fleet of expensive cars. All this adds to the prestige of the godman. “These godmen,” states a reviewer of Mehta’s book, “are credited with performing miracles. The faithful implicitly believe in them and add their own embellishments to these tales, such as materializing gold rings and other gifts out of thin air.…They are credited with foreknowledge of events distant in time and space, or with powers to fly in spirit long distances and return to their base in no time.…Another common factor for all these sects is that they have pretty girls, and not rough men or plain women, to deal with [the] public. At the lower level, they have women in preference to men. Their sanyasis wear gorgeous silks and satins. They (godmen) are politicians playing dirty politics directly or indirectly.”9 The book gives details of how godmen even finance elections of their favourite politicians and indulge in other shady deals with the help of their political patrons. The religion being revived by these godmen does not emphasize prayer, meditation, penance, purity, charity, or the realization of God. Modern gurus show the path to worldly success, big wealth, good health, winning elections and name and fame. Fortunately, the promotion of scientific thinking has helped to expose many godmen whom Dr. Kovoor aptly describes as “spiritual frauds”. Occasionally their followers have lain bare their fraudulent practices. Despite this, con men still succeed in cheating the innocent masses in search of the miraculous by performing simple magical tricks or enticing talk promising great material riches. What do we learn from this? There is nothing wrong with the belief that miracles are possible. However, in our quest of God, we should not be lured into believing in

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some so-called godman or spiritual master by seeing him perform certain tricks that our experience is unable to explain.

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CHAPTER : SIX

EXPERIENCES OF THE HIMALAYAN MASTERS “Why cool the flames, Yogi, stay the stream? Why dost thou walk fast upward in the sky? Why milk the bullock? Why magic dream? Why these base feats of the juggler try?” 1

- Hindu Scriptures.

M

any

Indians

and

foreigners

go

to

the

Himalayas

in

search of godmen with miraculous powers. However, miracles should not be taken as a proof of someone’s spirituality or prophethood. This subtle distinction is now being made even by those who have lived in the Himalayas and claim to have had first hand experience of the psychic or supernatural powers of the individuals living there. It may be possible to develop psychic powers such as communicating with the spirits, reading another person’s thoughts or performing some more complex functions in the realm of the supernatural. However, acquisition of these powers is, in most cases, not related to the development of spirituality in a person’s life. The aim of persons indulging in such practices is to gather name, fame and wealth by displaying some supernatural feats to their innocent followers. Further, the development of such powers is generally undertaken at a great cost both physically and spiritually to the individuals interfering with psychic forces. Most saints and sages agree with this view point. Swami Rama has recently published a revealing and weighty testimony on the Himalayan Masters based on a life time spent with them. He dismisses most practices such as lying on a bed of nails, piercing the body with needles, transporting goods from one place to another by mere sight, etc. He considers these practices not only a waste of time, a departure from one’s aim of life and path of spirituality, but worse, harmful to all involved in the process. “Mostly,” says the Swami, “such phenomena are tricks. Whenever they are found to be genuine, they are black magic.2 Spirituality has nothing to do with these miracles. The third chapter of Yoga Sutras explains many methods of attaining siddhis (powers), but these siddhis create stumbling blocks in the path of enlightenment. One person in millions does indeed have siddhis, but I have found that such people are often greedy, egotistical, and ignorant. The path of enlightenment is different from the intentional cultivation of powers. The miracles of Buddha, Christ, and other great sages were performed spontaneously and for a purpose. They were not performed with selfish motives or to create a sensation.

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“On the path of yoga [the science of union with God], sometimes one comes across the potentials of siddhis. A yogi without having any desire for a siddhi might get one, but one who is aware of the purpose of his life never misuses them. Misuse of siddhi is the downfall of a yogi.” 3 The reasons for Swami Rama’s assertions are easy to understand. The desire for the attainment of these powers, like riches, diverts the mind from the path of God. Such latent faculties are prematurely cultivated to fulfil one’s greed for wealth, fame or other worldly games. Similar conclusions have been arrived at by Dr. Paul Brunton who toured India extensively to arrive at the truth of the so-called yogis and fakirs claiming to possess supernatural powers. Dr. Brunton writes, “One heard so much of certain so-called holy men who possessed repute of having acquired deep wisdom and strange powers; so one travelled through scorching days and sleepless nights to find them—only to find wellintentioned fools, scriptural slaves, venerable know-nothings, money-seeking conjurers, jugglers with a few tricks, and pious frauds.” 4 Even in the modern times, there is much spurious spirituality in India like everywhere else. “There is an innumerable crowd of mental acrobats and contortionists through which the seeker after pure spirituality must elbow his way… These are all interesting enough in their way and are well worth study by scientific men interested in psychic phenomena. But they are not the real thing. They are not the springs whence spirituality comes gushing.” 5 In all this confusion, Dr. Brunton does find something to learn from the Indian sages of the past and from the very very few who live today. He believes that the present day materialistic ideas will not dominate the world for a long time and can perceive prophetic indications of a coming change of thought. However, he does not believe in miracles. He thinks that “…our knowledge of Nature’s laws is incomplete, and that when the advance guard of scientists who are pushing forward into unexplored territory have found out a few more of those laws, we shall then be able to do things which are tantamount to miracles.” 6 Spiritually inclined seekers of truth, after investigation conclude that the urge for superpowers is born out of the egotistical lower self and is therefore unholy. The real purpose of human life is to know God and to worship Him, and finally to attain His nearness. The aspiration for any supernormal powers is thus seen by the spiritually advanced beings as an ignoble and accursed thing because it is born out of a hankering for material gains and a desire for fame and applause.

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CHAPTER : SEVEN

BAHÁ’U’LLÁH’S ADVICE TO GODMEN

S

ignificantly,

in

the

only

reference

to

India

in

the

Most

Holy Book (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas), Bahá’u’lláh beautifully comments upon the quest of the supernatural in India. He eloquently describes the real nature of godmen, such as fakirs, sadhus, mystics, ascetics, monks and priests, and exposes their hollowness. Bahá’u’lláh writes, “And among the people is he who layeth claim to inner knowledge, and still deeper knowledge concealed within this knowledge. Say: Thou speakest false! By God! What thou dost possess is naught but husks which We have left to thee as bones are left to dogs. By the righteousness of the one true God!” 1 Clearly, this is a reference to people who claim access to esoteric knowledge and whose attachment to such knowledge veils them from the spiritual teachings and precepts contained in the divinely revealed Holy Books. Bahá’u’lláh affirms: “They that are the worshippers of the idol which their imaginations have carved, and who call it Inner Reality, such men are in truth accounted among the heathen.” 2 It is common knowledge that most godmen, bereft of divinity, adopt many postures to attract the masses. They wear such costumes and jewellery traditionally associated with saintly persons. Further to show their humility, they insist on sitting on the floor amongst the lowly. Bahá’u’lláh reveals that their real desire is to rule over those on whom they pretend to shower their blessings. “Amongst the people is he who seateth himself amid the sandals by the door whilst coveting in his heart the seat of honour. Say: What manner of man art thou, O vain and heedless one, who wouldst appear as other than thou art?” 3 He continues, “Were anyone to wash the feet of all mankind, and were he to worship God in the forests, valleys, and mountains, upon high hills and lofty peaks, to leave no rock or tree, no clod of earth, but was a witness to his worship—yet, should the fragrance of My good pleasure not be inhaled from him, his works would never be acceptable unto God. Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the Lord of all. How many a man hath secluded himself in the climes of India, denied himself the things that God hath decreed as lawful, imposed upon himself austerities and mortifications, and hath not been remembered by God, the Revealer of Verses.” 4 Bahá’u’lláh amplifies these provisions in Words of Paradise. He records on the tenth leaf of this Tablet: “O people of the earth! Living in seclusion or practising asceticism is not acceptable in the presence of God. It behoveth them that are endued with insight and understanding to observe that which will cause joy and radiance. Such practices as are sprung from the loins of idle fancy or are begotten of the womb of superstition ill beseem men of knowledge. In former times and more recently some people have been taking up their abodes in the caves of the mountains while others have repaired to graveyards at night. Say, give ear unto the counsels of this Wronged One.

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Abandon the things current amongst you and adopt that which the faithful Counsellor biddeth you. Deprive not yourselves of the bounties which have been created for your sake.” 5 Thus, in His Most Holy Book, Bahá’u’lláh prohibits asceticism, mendicancy, monasticism and undertaking of penances. He further abolishes the institution of priesthood, and disallows the use of pulpits and the kissing of hands. In the Tablet of Bisharat, even while acknowledging the “pious deeds” of some monks and priests, Bahá’u’lláh still calls upon them “to give up the life of seclusion and direct their steps towards the open world and busy themselves with that which will profit themselves and others.” 6 Living in the world, He tells them to seclude themselves in the stronghold of God’s love. This, truly, is the seclusion that befits them, could they but know it. Bahá’u’lláh emphasizes, “He that secludeth himself in his house is indeed as one dead. It behooveth man to show forth that which will benefit mankind. He that bringeth forth no fruit is fit for the fire.” 7 Having thus brought the monks into the world from their secluded places, churches and cloisters; Bahá’u’lláh grants them leave “to enter into wedlock that they may bring forth one who will make mention of God, Lord of the seen and the unseen, the Lord of the Exalted Throne.” 8 Indicating that many of the monks are a slave to their secret passions, He warns them, “We, verily, have forbidden you lechery, and not that which is conducive to fidelity. Have ye clung unto the promptings of your nature, and cast behind your backs the statutes of God? Fear ye God, and be not of the foolish.” 9 Let it be understood that the aim of Bahá’u’lláh or His followers is not either to degrade or belittle the rank of the world’s religious leaders, whether Hindu, Christian, Muslim, or of any other denomination. It is extremely important, though, that the conduct of religious leaders should conform to their professions. They should be worthy of the positions they occupy. In many of His Writings, Bahá’u’lláh makes mention of those godmen who “outwardly attire themselves with the raiment of knowledge, but who inwardly are deprived therefrom.” 10 Such “divines” are described by Bahá’u’lláh in these words: “O ye that are foolish, yet have a name to be wise! Wherefore do ye wear the guise of the shepherd, when inwardly ye have become wolves, intent upon My flock? Ye are even as the star, which riseth ere the dawn, and which, though it seem radiant and luminous, leadeth the wayfarers of My city astray into the paths of perdition.” 11 Likewise, He says: “O ye seeming fair yet inwardly foul! Ye are like clear but bitter water, which to outward seeming is crystal pure but of which, when tested by the Divine Assayer, not a drop is accepted. Yea, the sunbeam falls alike upon the dust and the mirror, yet differ they in reflection even as doth the star from the earth: nay, immeasurable is the difference!” 12 Bahá’u’lláh, admonishes the distinguished divines in the name of God, and summons them unto the Most Sublime Horizon, “that perchance they might, in the days of His Revelation, obtain their portion of the ocean of the utterance of Him Who is the Desire of the world, and remain not utterly deprived thereof.” 13

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He asks the so called godmen, “Say: O concourse of divines! Hear ye not the shrill voice of My Most Exalted Pen? See ye not this Sun that shineth in refulgent splendour above the All-Glorious Horizon? For how long will ye worship the idols of your evil passions? Forsake your vain imaginings, and turn yourselves unto God, your Everlasting Lord.” 14 As in the times of Lord Krishna, there are always present religious leaders who outwardly spend their lives in prayer and worship, but do not recognize the Lord when He appears in human form. Many times, they oppose Him as is also reported in the Mahabharata. In our own days, Bahá’u’lláh has revealed, “Consider likewise, how numerous at this time are the monks who have secluded themselves in their churches, calling upon the Spirit, but when He appeared through the power of Truth, they failed to draw nigh unto Him and are numbered with those that have gone far astray. Happy are they that have abandoned them and set their faces towards Him Who is the Desire of all that are in the heavens and all that are on the earth.” 15 The divines fail to apprehend the true meaning of the Word of God and cling to the literal interpretation of the words. They, therefore, become deprived of the streaming grace of the new Revelation and its showering bounties. The ignorant among the community, following the example of the leaders of their faith, are likewise prevented from beholding the beauty of the latest Manifestation of God.16 Bahá’u’lláh states, in this context, of His own Revelation, that: “The glory with which this Day is invested hath been explicitly mentioned and clearly set forth in most heavenly Books and Scriptures. However, the divines of the age have debarred men from this transcendent station, and have kept them back from this Pinnacle of Glory, this Supreme Goal.17 Bahá’u’lláh describes the condition of such godmen: “O concourse of divines! When My verses were sent down, and My clear tokens were revealed, We found you behind the veils. This, verily, is a strange thing. Ye glory in My Name, yet ye recognized Me not at the time your Lord, the All-Merciful, appeared amongst you with proof and testimony. We have rent the veils asunder. Beware lest ye shut out the people by yet another veil. Pluck asunder the chains of vain imaginings, in the name of the Lord of all men, and be not of the deceitful. Should ye turn unto God and embrace His Cause, spread not disorder within it, and measure not the Book of God with your selfish desires.” 18 He further exhorts the divines to cast away the things they have composed with the pens of their idle fancies and vain imaginings. He calls upon them to turn to God and seek His protection so that they do not become veils between God and His creatures. The divines take pride in their understanding of the Scriptures. However, they end up corrupting the scriptural text by interpreting God’s holy Book according to their idle imaginings and vain desires. They reject the Manifestation of God when He appears saying that His teachings do not conform to those contained in the previous Scriptures they accept. His Holiness, the Báb, warned the divines about His own revelation, “O concourse of divines! Fear God from this day onwards in the views ye advance, for He Who is Our Remembrance in your midst, and Who cometh from Us, is, in very truth, the Judge and Witness. Turn away from that which ye lay hold of, and which the Book of God, the True One, hath not sanctioned….” 19

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All the Manifestations of God teach that the true interpretation of the Word of God or holy Scriptures can be given only by a subsequent avatar (Manifestation). For instance, when Arjuna was in doubt about the true meaning of the Vedas (literally knowledge), Lord Krishna revealed to him that He, Himself, was the Revealer as well as Knower of the Vedas.20 He also sought total obedience from Arjuna to His Commandments though they seemingly appeared to be in contradiction to the Vedic teachings as understood by most people at that time. Religious leaders, godmen of the age and the wealthy, scorn and scoff at the Harbinger of every new Revelation. They say of the Divine Manifestation, “We see in Thee but a man like ourselves and we see not any who have followed Thee except our meanest ones of hasty judgment, nor see we any excellence in you above ourselves: nay, we deem you liars.” 21 They cavil at the holy Manifestation, and protest saying: “None hath followed you except the abject amongst us, those who are worthy of no attention.” 22 Their aim is to show that no one amongst the learned, the wealthy, and the renowned believe in the Messenger of God. By these and similar proofs they seek to demonstrate the falsity of Him Who speaks naught but the truth.23 People are also misled because they cannot believe that priests and divines, the exponents of learning, with all their authority, their pomp and pageantry, have erred, and failed to distinguish truth from falsehood. They think of the Divine Manifestations as ordinary men who are not fit even to be compared with the godmen. Bahá’u’lláh rightly comments on the situation: “If numbers and excellence of apparel be regarded as the criterions of learning and truth, the peoples of a bygone age, whom those of today have never surpassed in numbers, magnificence and power, should certainly be accounted a superior and worthier people.” 24 In general, most divines, following their corrupt desires, rejected the claim of Bahá’u’lláh and described Him as an ‘imposter’, a ‘sorcerer’, etc., and schemed against Him. In His Wisdom, God divested such divines of all their powers: “O concourse of divines! Ye shall not henceforth behold yourselves possessed of any power, inasmuch as We have seized it from you, and destined it for such as have believed in God, the One, the All-Powerful, the Almighty, the Unconstrained.” 25 Bahá’u’lláh states that He is none other than the Universal Manifestation of God promised in all the Holy Scriptures, and that His Revelation “…is the Day when the loved ones of God should keep their eyes directed towards His Manifestation, and fasten them upon whatsoever that Manifestation may be pleased to reveal. Certain traditions of bygone ages rest on no foundations whatever, while the notions entertained by past generations, and which they have recorded in their books, have, for the most part, been influenced by the desires of a corrupt inclination. Thou dost witness how most of the commentaries and interpretations of the words of God, now current amongst men, are devoid of truth. Their falsity hath, in some cases, been exposed when the intervening veils were rent asunder. They themselves have acknowledged their failure in apprehending the meaning of any of the words of God.” 26 It is clear that Bahá’u’lláh has come to renew the eternal religion of God. He is the Manifestation of that Universal Spirit that finds expression in all the previous dispensations. To the Jews He is “neither more nor less than the incarnation of the

27

“Everlasting Father”, the “Lord of Hosts” come down “with ten thousands of saints”; to Christendom Christ returned “in the glory of the Father”; to Shi’ah Islam the return of the Imam Husayn; to Sunni Islam the descent of the “Spirit of God” (Jesus Christ); to the Zoroastrians the promised Shah-Bahram; to the Hindus the reincarnation of Krishna; to the Buddhists the fifth Buddha. ” 27 His aim is “to widen the basis of all revealed religions and to unravel the mysteries of their scriptures. He…restates the eternal verities they enshrine, coordinates their functions, distinguishes the essential and the authentic from the non-essential and spurious in their teachings, separates the God-given truths from the priest-prompted superstitions….” 28 It is noteworthy that despite the widespread ignorance among the divines as to the true nature of the Religion of God, there were some learned divines in the days of Bahá’u’lláh who acknowledged the truth of His Revelation and followed God’s religion. Bahá’u’lláh thus speaks of them: “In this most resplendent Dispensation, however, this most mighty Sovereignty, a number of illumined divines, of men of consummate learning, of doctors of mature wisdom, have attained unto His Court, drunk the cup of His divine Presence, and been invested with the honour of His most excellent favour. They have renounced, for the sake of the Beloved, the world and all that is therein.” 29 However, He hastens to add: “Let it be known, however, that none of these doctors and divines to whom we have referred was invested with the rank and dignity of leadership. For wellknown and influential leaders of religion, who occupy the seats of authority and exercise the functions of leadership, can in no wise bear allegiance to the Revealer of truth, except whomsoever thy Lord willeth. But for a few, such things have never come to pass.” 30 The godly persons who acknowledge the Manifestation of God receive divine blessings and are filled with true knowledge. Bahá’u’lláh says: “Whosoever among the divines of every age receiveth, in the Day of Reckoning, the testimony of faith from the Source of true knowledge, he verily becometh the recipient of learning, of divine favour, and of the light of true understanding. Otherwise, he is branded as guilty of folly, denial, blasphemy, and oppression.” 31 The Bahá’ís are required to respect such divines who follow the teachings of the Manifestations of God as elaborated in the Holy Scriptures. “Respect ye the divines and learned amongst you, they whose conduct accords with their professions, who transgress not the bounds which God hath fixed, whose judgments are in conformity with His behests as revealed in His Book. Know ye that they are the lamps of guidance unto them that are in the heavens and on the earth. They who disregard and neglect the divines and learned that live amongst them—these have truly changed the favour with which God hath favoured them.” 32 “Those divines,” Bahá’u’lláh has affirmed, “…who are truly adorned with the ornament of knowledge and of a goodly character are, verily, as a head to the body of the world, and as eyes to the nations. The guidance of men hath, at all times, been and is dependent upon these blessed souls.” 33

28

CHAPTER : EIGHT

INDIAN REFORMERS ON MYTHOLOGY The Brahmin claims to be the teacher of the Word, But he himself both lives and dies in illusion; He spends his life in arguments over the four Vedas, And thereby gains absolutely nothing.

- Kabir.

S

ocial

reformers

and

sages

of

the

past

like

Kabir,

Surdas,

and Mira, and the more recent ones like Swami Dayananda, Vivekananda, and Sri Aurobindo, along with many others, tried to educate people in the true meaning of religion. Most of them discovered the deep symbolism hidden in the mythological stories built around various gods and goddesses. They realized that the real purpose of these tales was to inculcate spiritual values in the common masses. Swami Dayananda rejected idolatry entirely, “…not only as harmless, but as positively sinful.”1 He did not believe in either the Vedantic or Hindu pantheism. He always challenged the priests to produce passages from the Vedas sanctioning idolatry or Pashanadipujanalit (worship of stones, etc.). He defined devas (gods) as “…those who are wise and learned; asuras, those who are foolish and ignorant; rakshas, those who are wicked and sin-loving; pishachas, those whose mode of life is filthy and debasing.”2 The means of attaining nearness to God, according to Swami Dayananda, are “…the worship of God or the contemplation of His nature and attributes with concentrated attention, the practice of virtue, the acquisition of true knowledge by the practice of Brahmcharya, the company of the wise and learned, the love of true knowledge, purity of thought, active benevolence, and so on.”3 “Devapuja (or the worship of the gods) consists in showing honour and respect to the wise and learned, to one’s father, mother and preceptor, to the preachers of the true doctrine, to a just and impartial sovereign, to lovers of righteousness, to chaste men and women.” He says, “To respect and serve the good (as explained and detailed in this paragraph) is real worship, but the worship of the dead (in the belief that it benefits them) I hold to be wrong.”4 Swarga (heaven), for the Swami, represents the state of happiness and Narka (hell) pain and suffering. According to him many misconceptions about the Vedas, the Scripture of the Aryans, are due to a misunderstanding of the expressions used in the Vedas. For instance, the names of so-called gods which one meets in the Vedas according to strict etymological interpretations simply represent the various aspects and powers of the One Supreme Deity. The Vedas actually teach monotheism.

29

The well-known verse from the Rig Veda, admittedly the most ancient book in the World, may be quoted here. Rishi Dirghatamas says, “The Existent is One, but sages express It variously; they say Indra, Varuna, Mitra, Agni; they call It Agni, Yama, Matariswan.”5 This conclusive point should be taken as the key to the interpretation of all apparently polytheistic expressions in the Vedas. Swami Dayananda’s aim was to ascertain the nature of religious truth. He was open to correction of his views. He believed that if the learned men in all religions “…give up prejudice, accept all those broad principles on which all religions are unanimous, reject differences, and behave affectionately, much good can be done to the world.”6 Swami Vivekananda, a well-known Hindu saint and social reformer, when asked about the form of worship in his religion, is reported to have said that “…idols formed a part of his religion insomuch as the symbol is concerned.”7 The aim of true religion “…should be to help one to live and to prepare one to die at the same time.”8 He also believed in uniting materialism of the West with the spirituality of the East although it was possible that “…in the attempt the Hindu faith will lose much of its individuality.”9 At the Parliament of Religion in Chicago in 1893, Swami Vivekananda expounded in clear and simple terms the Vedanta system of philosophy. He told the congress that “…if there is ever to be universal religion, it must be one which will be infinite, like the God it will preach, and whose sun will shine upon the followers of Krishna and of Christ, on saints and sinners alike; which will not be Brahmanic or Buddhistic, Christian or Mohammedan, but the sum total of all these, and still have infinite space for development; which in its catholicity will embrace in its infinite arms, and find a place for every human being, from the lowest grovelling savage, not far removed from the brute, to the highest man, towering by virtues of his head and heart almost above humanity, making society stand in awe of him and doubt his human nature. It will be a religion which will have no place for persecution or intolerance in its polity, which will recognize divinity in every man and woman, and whose whole scope, whose whole force, will be centred in aiding humanity to realize its own true, divine nature.”10 Swami Vivekananda was fully convinced that “…without the help of practical Islam, theories of Vedantism, however fine and wonderful they may be, are entirely valueless to the vast mass of mankind. We want to lead mankind to the place where there is neither the Vedas nor the Bible, nor the Koran; yet this has to be done by harmonizing the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran. Mankind ought to be taught that religions are but varied expressions of THE RELIGION, which is Oneness, so that each may choose the path that suits him best.”11 He further wrote, “For our motherland a junction of the two great systems, Hinduism and Islam—Vedanta brain and Islamic body—is the only hope.”12 Swami Vivekananda foresaw that India would arise out of the present day chaos and conflict, “…glorious and invincible, with Vedanta brain and Islamic body.”13 It will be clear to a discerning reader that the ‘Universal Religion’ has already been ushered in by the spirit breathed into this world by Bahá’u’lláh. It is rooted in His Most Great Law of the reality of the Oneness of mankind. Apart from fulfilling every criterion for such a religion as propounded by Swami Vivekananda in his Chicago address, the Bahá’i Faith is destined

30

in the fullness of time to establish a divine civilization for the entire planet. Bahá’u’lláh has not only enunciated principles and ideals that will inevitably lead mankind to its destined goal, but also provided the channels and perfected the means and instruments for the practical realization of these ideals. Sri Aurobindo, another prominent Indian thinker, believed that “The language of Veda itself is sruti, a rhythm not composed by the intellect but heard, a divine Word that came vibrating out of the Infinite to the inner audience of the man who had previously made himself fit for the impersonal knowledge. The words themselves, drsti and sruti, sight and hearing, are Vedic expressions; these and cognate words signify, in the esoteric terminology of the hymns, revelatory knowledge and the contents of inspiration.”14 He further asserts that “…in the Vedic idea of the revelation there is no suggestion of the miraculous….”15 Sri Aurobindo notes that the interpretation of the true meaning of the Vedas is made more difficult due to the addition of a number of elements (mythological, Puranic, legendary and historic, etc.) to the Divine Word. The present form of the Vedas includes: remnants of old spiritual, philosophical or psychological interpretations of the Shruti (literally “Divine Word”); superficial understandings of the myths and stories of the gods in the Puranas in their outward form while ignoring the symbolic or spiritual meaning; traditional stories of old kings and Rishis in the Brahmanas or later traditions explaining the obscure allusions of the Vedas; and the identification of natural forces with the supernatural deities such as Indra, the Maruts, Agni, Surya, Usha, etc. A ritualistic understanding pervades all the above, and despite the hymns being the supreme authority for knowledge, they are “…principally and fundamentally concerned with Karmakanda…”16 —that is, the ritualistic observation of the Vedic sacrifices. The rituals are signified by the characteristic words of the Vedas—food, priest, giver, wealth, praise, prayer, rite, sacrifice. The most egoistic and materialistic objects are proposed as the aim of sacrifice, possessions, strength, power, children, servants, gold, horses, cows, victory, the slaughter and the plunder of enemies, the destruction of rival and malevolent critic. No wonder Lord Krishna, in the Gita, while acknowledging “…the Veda as divine knowledge (Gita, XV.15) yet censures severely the champions of an exclusive Vedism (Gita, II.42), all whose flowery teachings were devoted solely to material wealth, power and enjoyment.”17 To explain the true spiritual meaning of the Vedas, Sri Aurobindo propounds the Psychological Theory that is based on the systematic symbolism of the Vedas. In the Vedas, the mystics, in their wisdom, “…favoured the existence of an outer worship, effective but imperfect, for the profane, an inner discipline for the initiate, and clothed their language in words and images which had, equally, a spiritual sense for the elect, a concrete sense for the mass of ordinary worshippers.”18 A sharp practical division came into existence—“…the Veda for the priests, the Vedanta for the sages.”19 Later the Brahmanas and the Upanishads took the sacred text and ritual of the Vedas as “…a starting point for a new statement of spiritual thought and experience.”20 However, Sri Aurobindo feels that “…the whole problem of interpretation of Veda still remains an open field in which any contribution that can throw light upon the problem should be welcome.”21

31

The Bahá’í Writings, while recognizing Hinduism and Buddhism as the only existing true religions of the Far East, acknowledge the obscurities in them. The Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, Shoghi Effendi, writes, “…The origins of this (Hindu) and many other religions that abound in India are not quite known to us, and even the Orientalists and the students of religions are not in complete accord about the results of their investigations in that field.” 20 He, however, urges those who are interested to study the subject, “…although its immensity is well-nigh bewildering….” 23 Lord Krishna and Buddha are accepted in the Bahá’í Writings as the Prophets of Hinduism and Buddhism respectively. However, the Guardian points out that we can not be sure of the authenticity of their Scriptures.24 The Guardian was asked ‘whether Brahma is to be considered as referring to absolute deity and Krishna as the Prophet of the Hindu Religion?’. His secretary wrote that “…such matters, as no reference occurs to them in the Teachings, are left for students of history and religion to resolve and clarify.” 25 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá teaches that “the message of Krishna is the message of love. None has ever thought that war and hate are good….” 26 He is emphatic that “…Brahma, Krishna and Buddha never advocated polytheism. They were eminent teachers of monotheism as were all other Prophets of God; but succeeding generations misconstrued their words and in order to further their own selfish interest fabricated these false doctrines.” 27

32

CHAPTER : NINE

BUDDHA ON MIRACLES

A

disciple

asked

Buddha,

“Is

not

Amitabha,

the

Infinite

Light of Revelation, the Source of innumerable miracles?” The Blessed One replied, “Amitabha, the Unbounded Light is the Source of Wisdom, of Virtue, of Buddhahood. The deeds of sorcerers and miracle mongers are frauds, but what is more wondrous, more mysterious, more miraculous than Amitabha?”1 The Buddha further stated: “A true follower of the Tathagata2 does not found his trust upon austerities or rituals but, giving up the idea of self, relies with his whole heart upon Amitabha, which is the unbounded light of Truth.”3 Buddha was undoubtedly a prophet—a divine educator—for the mission of prophethood is education. He educated the body-politic and trained mighty nations in the true religion of God.4 He taught people not to run to mountains, forests, sacred trees or shrines, but to seek refuge in the Buddha, the Law and Order and the four noble truths.5 Dhammapada specifies, “Not nakedness, not matted hair, not dirt, not fasting, not lying on the ground, not rubbing with ashes, not sitting motionless purify a man who is not free from doubt.”6 The Buddha states a man is not an elder simply because his hair is grey. An elder is a person in whom dwell truth, virtue, non-violence, and restraint. He is wise and free from impurity.7 The Four Noble truths shown by Buddha are: Dukha (sorrow), Samudaya (the cause of Sorrow), Nirodha (the removal of sorrow) and Marga (the way leading to it). The Noble Eight-fold path that leads to Nirvana consists of: right view, right aspiration, right speech, right conduct, right means of livelihood, right endeavour, right mindfulness and right contemplation.8 He also acknowledged the Causeless Cause—the Absolute, Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, and Unformed. All things originate from this one Essence and they are developing according to one Law.9 Buddha issued strict injunctions against fortune telling, charm selling and mediumistic feats. He said, “I forbid you, O bikkhus, to employ any spells or supplications, for they are useless, since the Law of Karma governs all things. He who attempts to perform miracles has not understood the doctrine of the Tathagata.”10 This is in keeping with the Bahá’í Writings, which attach no importance to astrology, numerology, or horoscopes. In their use “…no exact science is involved, though sometimes some truth seems involved, but the percentage is small.”11 As for Astrology, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith considers it as a pseudo-science that is “…for the most part ‘non-sensical’, as it is mostly made up of superstitious beliefs and practices.”12 As to the influence of the stars and planets on the life of an individual, he recommends that such ideas should be entirely dissociated from the teachings of the

33

Bahá’í Faith. There is no reference to the influence of the stars on the healing of diseases in the Bahá’í Writings. These “…astrological ideas are for the most part considered sheer superstitions.”13 The Guardian advises that we should be patient with people “who believe in such things, and gradually wean them away from reliance on such things.”14 In present day Buddhism, apart from fortune-telling, there is a great stress on spiritism, ghosts, tantra, ritualistic worship, etc. Obviously, these practices were never recommended by Buddha. Whereas many are confused as to the truth of these phenomena, the Bahá’í Writings provide infallible guidance. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states: “As to the question of evil spirits, demons and monsters, any references made to them in the Holy Books have symbolic meaning. What is currently known among the public is but sheer superstition.” 15 In another place, the Beloved Master explains that “…the evil spirit, Satan or whatever is interpreted as evil, refers to the lower nature in man.” 16 What are generally called evil spirits are a purely imaginary creation and have no reality at all. If evil spirits are deprived of eternal life, how can they exercise any influence? The influence of holy spirits, on the other hand, exists in all the Divine worlds. Evil is to be perceived as an absence of goodness. However, it does not mean that there is no power in evil. It is negative and can take control of a man’s life but he has the power to become free of such forces. The solution to such beliefs and problems lies in the education of the masses. They will then stay away from all those illusions and practices that are potentially destructive of their spiritual and material well-being. The Supreme Bahá’í body, the Universal House of Justice offers this advice: “We must use the Writings of the Prophets as our measurement. If Bahá’u’lláh had attached the slightest importance to occult experiences, to seeing of auras, to the hearing of mystic voices…He, Himself, would have mentioned all of these things in His Teachings. The fact that He passed over them in silence shows that to Him, they had either no importance or no reality, and were consequently not worthy to take up His time as the Divine Educator of the human race.” 17 Like all other Prophets, Buddha had founded his Faith on truth and purity. However, the beliefs and rites of the Buddhists have not continued according to His fundamental teachings. The Bahá’í Writings indicate that Buddha had originally “established the Oneness of God, but later the original principles of His doctrines gradually disappeared, and ignorant customs and ceremonials arose and increased until they finally ended in the worship of statues and images.”18 No wonder, the Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda accepted Buddha as an Incarnation, but was critical of the practices like idol worship and excessive rituals of later day ‘degraded Buddhism’. He wrote that he would be pleased if the followers carried off “…the remnant of this religion with its hideous idols and licentious rites.”19 Today the situation is no different. Most people are engrossed in the materialism that surrounds the world. If they attend prayer services and devotions at all, it is according to the traditions and imitations of their fathers and ancestors. Few independently investigate reality.. They have become accustomed to spending a period of time in temple worship and conforming to blind and bigoted imitations and ceremonies

34

that lead to ancestral forms of worship. Nations and religions thus blindly profess religious beliefs without investigation, making unity and agreement impossible. All Holy Books, including those of Buddha and Confucius, announce that radiance appears when the world is surrounded by darkness.20 This is expressed variously and symbolically, but priests interpret these prophecies literally. The Buddhist Holy Scriptures abound in miraculous stories built round the life of Buddha. They eulogize Buddha’s manifestation in many kingdoms, including the plant, animal, human, and divine kingdoms. Similarly there are stories connected with His reincarnation as Maitreye Amitabha. The Bahá’í Writings indicate that there are prophecies concerning the future Manifestation of the Enlightened One, the Fifth Buddha (or Bahá’u’lláh) in the Buddhist books. However, “…they are in symbols and metaphors, and some spiritual conditions are mentioned therein, but the leaders of religion do not understand. They think these prophecies are material things, yet these signs are foreshadowing spiritual occurrence.” 21 We should ponder deeply to discover the true meaning and spiritual significance of the miraculous events associated with the lives of the prophets or mentioned in prophecies about their return This would reduce confusion and misunderstandings and help the true seeker to recognize the Promised One.

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CHAPTER : TEN

MIRACLES IN THE BIBLE

A

ll

Holy

Scriptures

contain

reports

of

miracles

that

occur

through divine intervention. However, Prophets generally dissuade their followers from believing in the truth of their missions merely on the basis of miracles that have occurred through them. Regardless of Their teachings on the subject, writers who record the Prophets’ words after Their passing, choose to emphasize the miraculous in Their lives, not realizing that these events had deeper inner meanings. The Old and the New Testaments contain many stories of miracles performed both by Moses and Jesus. From a study of these Holy Books, it appears that the majority of the people of that time were illiterate, and little development had taken place in the fields of science and technology. Hence, they were more willing to believe in the spiritual missions of the Prophets after witnessing some miraculous events. The New Testament contains an account of the miracles said to be performed by Jesus Christ: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.”1 “Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, ‘This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.”2 Many people considered the miracles performed by Jesus as conclusive proof of the truth of His Mission and so they wanted to personally witness the miraculous events. For instance, Herod “…had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.”3 One reason why people seek miracles is that they want God to help them through His invisible power during times of difficulties. God has frequently reassured people of His help.4 In the Bible, we find Gideon saying, “Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where [be] all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” The LORD then looked upon him, and said, “Go…and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites.?”5 Many who followed Jesus in letter and in spirit are reported to have got the gift of performing miracles in His name. Jesus wanted to avoid any controversy. About one such follower, He said, “Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.”6 However, not everyone who saw Jesus or Moses perform miracles believed in them. One such incident is related in the New Testament: People “considered not [the miracle] of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.”7 Miracles appeared through Jesus, but many were reluctant to believe in Him. About Jesus some of the Pharisees are reported to have said, “This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day.

36

Others said, ‘How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?’ And there was a division among them.”8 At times those who witnessed the miracles in person later denied them for personal reasons and even made attempts to stop reports of these miracles from being circulated. People opposed to the apostles of Christ made efforts to silence them despite seeing them perform miracles. They said, “What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them [is] manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny [it]. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.”9 The prophets of God were aware that many rejected the truth of Their Missions despite having witnessed many wonderful signs. Moses had this experience even after “…his miracles, and his acts, which he did in the midst of Egypt unto Pharaoh the king of Egypt, and unto all his land.”10 He said, “…all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice.”11 Moses called all Israel, and said to them, “…Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles: Yet the LORD hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.”12 Jesus knew that miracles were not sufficient proofs to those whose spiritual eyes were closed. “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast [day], many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all [men]. And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.”13 He taught His followers that they believed in Him because their hearts were pure and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. He thus spoke to them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled (with the Holy Spirit).”14 In Jesus’ time many people believed in miracles, and miracle workers abounded. Jesus did not want to be regarded merely as another miracle worker. When certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees asked Jesus to show them a sign, He said to them “…an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign: and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.”15 There are many reports of miracle making by sorcerers and priests in the Bible. One of them is reported to have deceived the people by “…miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.”16 Of such people the Bible says, “For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles…”17 Their ultimate destruction is thus depicted: “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”18

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The Bible reports a number of miracles, but teaches that miracles are not proofs of performer’s spirituality. Even some false prophets and sorcerers are said to have the power to perform miracles. Jesus taught that the significance of the miracles attributed to Him was spiritual. He never performed miracles either to satisfy the curiosity of the idle or for gaining peoples’ attention.

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CHAPTER : ELEVEN

MUHAMMAD’S VIEWS ON MIRACLES

M

uhammad

discouraged

his

followers

from

believing

in miracles. When He proclaimed His Mission, his countrymen demanded miracles as proof of His divine station. In the Qur’án, we read about their demand in these words: “Yet they say; why are not signs sent down to Him from His Lord?”1 They asked Muhammad to put a ladder up to heaven2 and bring down a Book from God in their very sight or turn a mountain into gold or make streams to gush out in the desert. “Then we would believe,” they said.3 In response to their unreasonable sceptical demands, Muhammad said that he was neither an angel nor were the treasuries of God in His hands. He told them that He only followed what God revealed to Him. “Say: Indeed the signs (miracles) are with God: And verily I am a clear-cut warner.”4 People who had been told of the miracles performed by Moses and Jesus wanted similar signs from Muhammad. In reality, God is the source of all signs, wonders, miracles, and the supernatural events which are associated with the lives of the Prophets. The opponents of Muhammad frequently pestered Him to show them miracles as a sign of his divinity. They scornfully spoke these words to Him: “Lo! Allah hath charged us that we believe not in any messenger until he bring us an offering which fire (from heaven) shall devour.”5 People wanting to test Muhammad asked him to work another miracle, and give them another sign! They wanted him to ‘make a part of the heaven to fall down’6 upon them or to ‘rain down stones’7 upon them from heaven. They asked him to ‘bring back’8 their fathers if he spoke the truth. These people sought to exchange the divinely revealed verses for their foul, vile, and idle desires. Muhammad was guided by God to answer them thus: “Messengers came unto you before me with miracles, and with that (very miracle) which ye describe. Why then did ye slay them? (Answer that) if ye are truthful!”9 “Is it not enough for them that we have sent down to Thee (O Muhammad) the Book which is rehearsed to them? Verily, in it is a mercy and reminder to those who believe.”10 Two clear cut proofs were given to the people to assure them that the Qur’án was divinely revealed and not a product of Muhammad’s mind. Everybody knew that Muhammad was not educated and He could not read, write or even sign his name. The other proof advanced is the Qur’án itself. It was revealed a little at a time over a period of twenty three years according to the immediate needs of the people, but remains totally consistent. Such is the quality of its verses that none of Muhammad’s opponents could produce even one of their like when challenged to do so. The miracle of the Qur’án lies in its purity of style, its wisdom and truth. In response to the repeated demands for miracles, Muhammad, the Prophet of God, is made

39

to point to the Qur’án—the Message from on High—as “The Miracle”. God, Its real author, challenges the doubters: “Do they not consider the Qur’án (with care)? Had it been from other than God, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy.”11 Many contemporaries of Muhammad perceived the Beauty and Majesty of the Qur’án, the Nobility of its Call and the Magnanimity of its Message, the Sign and Miracle of God’s Handiwork, and accepted Islam. These two proofs apply not only to Muhammad and His revelation but to all the prophets and Manifestations of God in whichever time or region they might have appeared. All Holy books containing the Word of God have a tremendous influence on men’s hearts and minds. The divinely revealed Word causes the ultimate transformation of the individual believer and society at large and helps to establish a divine civilization on earth. Many mysteries lie hidden in the Holy books of all religions that can be safely described as the treasuries of the gems of divine knowledge. A fascinating study of the Qur’án undertaken in the computer age has confirmed the consistency of the Qur’án and its divine origin. Dr. Rashad Khalifa12 computed the frequency of occurrence of the letters (including the Qur’ánic initial letters—see below) in each Sura of the Qur’án and discovered that the Qur’án contains an intricate interlocking system based on the number nineteen. This means any tampering with the text of the Qur’án will become obvious. The mathematical pattern would be destroyed by additions, deletions or interpolations of letters or words. Thus using the ultimate in scientific proof, namely mathematics, the author has given the physical, examinable evidence that the Qur’án is the infallible Word of God.13 The frequent occurrence of the factor of nineteen in the Qur’án appears to explain the meaning of the verse “Over it are nineteen.”14 The author gives a visual presentation of the occurrence of the factor of nineteen in the Qur’án. The opening statement of Qur’án or the Seal (‘Bismillah’—“In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”) of the Qur’án consists of 19 letters The first Qur’ánic revelation (verses 96:1-5) has 19 words and 76 (19×4) letters. The first Sura (96) revealed is 19th in position from the end of the Qur’án, and consists of 19 verses comprising 285 (19×15) letters. The last Sura revealed to Muhammad (Sura 110) consists of 19 words and the first verse contains 19 letters. There are 114 (19×6) Suras or chapters in the Qur’án. The frequency of occurrence of the four words in Bismillah (Ism–Name, Allah– God, Rahman–the Most Gracious, and Rahim–the Most Merciful) in the numbered verses (including the Seals in verses 1:1 and 27:30) of the Qur’án are 19, 2698 (19×142), 57 (19×3), and 114 (19×6) respectively. The frequency of occurrence of the four words in the Bismillah (19, 2698, 57 and 114) corresponds to the numerical value of one of God’s names. All compiled lists of the known names of God (more than 400) were found to include only four names with numerical values divisible by 19. These four names are the same four whose numerical values correspond to the frequency of occurrence of the four words of the Bismillah. A number of Suras have a combination of Arabic letters (‘Initials’ or ‘Code Letters’) in verse one without any known meaning. A count of the number of these letters in the Sura in which they occur reveals a frequency that is a multiple of nineteen. 40

These Initial letters have been faithfully copied despite there being no apparent reason for their presence. Dr. Rashad Khalifa gives many more intricate details in relation to the factors of number 19. He remarks that Muhammad, by Himself, could not have achieved such a complex pattern and offers it as an undeniable proof that the Qur’án is indeed the divinely revealed Word of God.. Why is the number 19 given such importance? Ahmed Deedat, in his book based on Dr. Khalifa’s work, offers a number of possible reasons. Nineteen is mathematically a “prime” number, and it is also unique because it begins with the lowest and ends with the highest numerals. Hence it seems to be the “alpha and omega” of our mathematical system.15 On this subject, Ahmed Deedat makes the interesting statement that “Muslims had discovered the existence of this Miracle [Qur’ánic numerical code] only 132 years after [the] Bahá’ís.”16 This statement is partly based on the Bahá’í calendar having nineteen months consisting of nineteen days each. The Bahá’ís have not claimed to have known the Qur’ánic numeric code. However, it is highly likely that the Twin Manifestations in the Bahá’í Revelation being successors of Muhammad were well aware of the significance of this Qur’ánic verse. There is, of course, a significant likeness in the assertions of Muhammad and both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh about the absolute integrity of Their Writings as the Word of God. The Báb writes: “For if one from whose life only twenty-four years have passed, and who is devoid of those sciences wherein all are learned, now reciteth verses after such fashion without thought or hesitation, writes a thousand verses of prayer in the course of five hours without pause of the pen, and produceth commentaries and learned treatises on such lofty themes as the true understanding of God and of the oneness of His Being, in a manner which doctors and philosophers confess surpasseth their power of understanding, then there is no doubt that all that hath been manifested is divinely inspired. Notwithstanding their life-long diligent study, what pains do these divines take when writing a single line in Arabic! Yet after such efforts the result is but words which are unworthy of mention. All these things are for a proof unto the people; otherwise the religion of God is too mighty and glorious for anyone to comprehend through aught but itself; rather by it all else is understood.”17 Similarly Bahá’u’lláh has asserted, “By My life! Not of Mine own volition have I revealed Myself, but God, of His own choosing, hath manifested Me.” In a Tablet addressed to the Shah of Irán, He further wrote, “O King! I was but a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-Knowing. And He bade Me lift up My voice between earth and heaven, and for this there befell Me what hath caused the tears of every man of understanding to flow. The learning current amongst men I studied not; their schools I entered not. Ask of the city wherein I dwelt, that thou mayest be well assured that I am not of them who speak falsely. This is but a leaf which the winds of the will of thy Lord, the Almighty, the All-Praised, have stirred. Can it be still when the tempestuous winds are blowing? Nay, by Him Who is the Lord of all Names and Attributes! They move it as

41

they list. The evanescent is as nothing before Him Who is the Ever-Abiding. His allcompelling summons hath reached Me, and caused Me to speak His praise amidst all people. I was indeed as one dead when His behest was uttered. The hand of the will of thy Lord, the Compassionate, the Merciful, transformed Me.”18 Finally, Bahá’u’lláh thus exhorts His followers: “Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths. Take heed that ye do not vacillate in your determination to embrace the truth of this Cause—a Cause through which the potentialities of the might of God have been revealed, and His sovereignty established. With faces beaming with joy, hasten ye unto Him. This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future. Let him that seeketh, attain it; and as to him that hath refused to seek it— verily, God is Self-Sufficient, above any need of His creatures.”19

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CHAPTER : TWELVE

GURU NANAK AND MIRACLES

G

uru

Nanak

according

to

the

Supreme

Bahá’í

body,

the

Universal House of Justice, was endowed with a “saintly character”1 and “was inspired to reconcile the religions of Hinduism and Islam, the followers of which religions had been in violent conflict.”2 The Bahá’ís thus view Guru Nanak as a ‘saint of the highest order’.3 A saint in the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is “one who leads a life of purity, one who has freed himself from all human weaknesses and imperfections.”4 He continues, “Saints are men who have freed themselves from the world of matter and who have overcome sin. They live in the world but are not of it, their thoughts being continually in the world of the spirit. Their lives are spent in holiness, and their deeds show forth love, justice and godliness. They are illumined from on high; they are as bright and shining lamps in the dark places of the earth. These are the saints of God.”5 Guru Nanak and the other Sikh Gurus raised a voice against miracle making in the name of religion. Ironically historians have spiced their lives with various miracles for the consumption of the lay man. They might have done so partly because of their love and devotion for these saintly figures and partly because they wanted to impress the masses about the divinity of the mission of their masters. Guru Nanak attached no value to the trickeries or incantations, charms and mantras. He deprecates going to graves and crematoria, wandering in doubt from place to place, living in woods, visiting many places of pilgrimages, donning many garbs or living without clothes, torturing the body, walking barefoot, putting ashes on the head, living in the wilderness wearing rosaries, reading scriptures to argue or to show off, etc. The Guru gave the verdict, “The supra-physical powers are quite irrelevant for a man of God.”6 He completely disagreed with the yogis’ measurement of spirituality with miracles. For him, the spiritual power was the true index of one’s greatness and this should come through the love of the Lord. The seeker’s attention should never be diverted from his real objective—the union of the soul with the Universal Soul or attaining nearness to God. Talking of the pundits, priests or so called godmen, he says, “He (pundit) has in his home (the images) of Narayan with all his courtiers. He worships it and keeps it washed. He offers saffron sandal and flowers to it and falls at its feet again and again to propitiate it. But he begs his food and raiment from men. The blind man is being punished for his blind deeds. The idol neither gives food to the hungry nor can protect them from death. The blind crowd is engaged in a blind contention.”7 Idol worshippers are completely mistaken and have taken the wrong path. Nanak says of them, “They worship stones, which neither see nor speak. They are ignorant…and are in total darkness. The stone itself sinks, how can it take one across.”8

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A change of heart is very important. If inner transformation has not occurred, indulging in any outward means of purification will not help. “False inside with a show of piety outwards are hypocrites in this world. They may bathe at sixty eight places of pilgrimage, their dirt will not be removed.”9 “Nanak impurity will not be removed thiswise, true knowledge will wash it away.”10 Guru Nanak taught not to engage in useless rituals. According to him, pure are those, “…in whose hearts God is enshrined.”11 For him, “Thy (God’s) praise is my Ganges and Banaras, in which my soul bathes.”12 Guru Gobind Singh, in Akal Ustat, speaks similarly and gracefully thus: “The evil propensities cannot be dispelled through the power of tantras, mantras or magic. It can be dispelled by possessing the Lord alone.”13 Guru Amar Dass has declared, “To hanker after occult powers or worldly treasures, is a false attachment, it shuts out the love of the name, a symbol of the love of God.”14 Truly indeed one who loves spirituality loses any taste for supra-physical powers.

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CHAPTER : THIRTEEN

MIRACLES IN THE BAHÁ’Í FAITH

B

ahá’í

Writings

teach

us

that

if

we

wish

to

discover

whether any one of the Messengers was in reality a Prophet of God, we must investigate the facts surrounding His life and history. The “…first point of our investigation will be the education He bestowed upon mankind. If He has been an Educator, if He has really trained a nation or people, causing it to rise from the lowest depths of ignorance to the highest station of knowledge, then we are sure that He was a Prophet. This is a plain and clear method of procedure, proof that is irrefutable. We do not need to seek after other proofs. We do not need to mention miracles, saying that out of rock water gushed forth, for such miracles and statements may be denied and refused by those who hear them.”1 The miracles of Bahá’u’lláh may not be mentioned for the above reasons. Also they may be described by some as traditions that are liable to both truth and error. Though if we wish to mention the supernatural acts of Bahá’u’lláh, they are numerous. Many Bahá’ís, after the way of Islam, have also related the great miracles that they had, with their own eyes, seen Bahá’u’lláh perform, and the marvels they had heard.2 They “…are acknowledged in the Orient, and even by some non-Bahá’ís. But these narratives are not decisive proofs and evidences to all; the hearer might perhaps say that this account may not be in accordance with what occurred, for it is known that other sects recount miracles performed by their founders. For instance, the followers of Brahmanism relate miracles. From what evidence may we know that those are false and that these are true? If these are fables, the others also are fables; if these are generally accepted, so also the others are generally accepted. Consequently, these accounts are not satisfactory proofs. Yes, miracles are proofs for the eyewitness only, and even he may regard them not as a miracle but as an enchantment.”3 Further, extraordinary feats have also been related of some conjurers. The purpose is not to deny such miracles; but to point out that they do not constitute decisive proofs, and that they have an inner significance. The miracles of Bahá’u’lláh will be acknowledged if there is fairness in the world; but there are some people who, even if all the proof in the world be adduced before them, still will not judge justly! Bahá’u’lláh was imprisoned and exiled many times for revealing the Divine teachings based on truth and justice. However, throughout His lifetime, He was intensely active. His energy was unlimited. Scarcely one night was passed in restful sleep. He bore all ordeals, suffered many calamities and difficulties in order “that a manifestation of selflessness and service might become apparent in the world of humanity; that the Most Great Peace should become a reality; that human souls might appear as the angels

45

of heaven; that heavenly miracles would be wrought among men; that human faith should be strengthened and perfected; that the precious, priceless bestowal of God—the human mind—might be developed to its fullest capacity in the temple of the body; and that man might become the reflection and likeness of God, even as it hath been revealed in the Bible, ‘Let us make man in our image.”5 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá speaks of one of the greatest miracles of Bahá’u’lláh in prison in these words: “And this is one of Bahá’u’lláh’s greatest miracles: that He, a captive, surrounded Himself with panoply and He wielded power. The prison changed into a palace, the jail itself became a Garden of Eden. Such a thing has not occurred in history before; no former age has seen its like: that a man confined to a prison should move about with authority and might; that one in chains should carry the fame of the Cause of God to the high heavens, should win splendid victories in both East and West, and should, by His almighty pen, subdue the world. Such is the distinguishing feature of this supreme Theophany.”4 The Writings of Bahá’u’lláh are many. The precepts and teachings they contain are universal, covering every subject. He has revealed scientific explanations ranging throughout all the realms of human inquiry and investigation—astronomy, biology, medical science, etc. He has given expositions of the meanings of the Gospel and other heavenly Books in the Kitáb-i-Iqan (literally, the Book of Certitude). He wrote lengthy Tablets upon civilization, sociology and government. Every subject is considered. His Tablets are matchless in beauty and profundity. Even His enemies acknowledge the greatness of Bahá’u’lláh, saying He was the miracle of humanity. This was their confession although they did not believe in Him. He was eulogized by Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and Muslims who denied His claim. They frequently said, “He is matchless, unique.” A Christian poet in the Orient wrote, “Do not believe him a manifestation of God, yet his miracles are as great as the sun.” Mirza Abu’l-Fadl has mentioned many poems of this kind, and there are numerous others. The testimony of His enemies witnessed that He was the “miracle of mankind,” that He “walked in a special pathway of knowledge” and was “peerless in personality.” His teachings are universal and the standard for human action. They are not merely theoretical and intended to remain in books. They are the principles of action.6 The forerunner of the Bahá’í Revelation, His Holiness, the Báb predicted the appearance of Bahá’u’lláh as: ‘Him Whom God shall make manifest.’ He describes Bahá’u’lláh thus: “He is, verily, the eternal Truth come from God, and according to the divine judgement given in the Mother Book, He is the most distinguished among the writers of Arabic and most eloquent in His utterance. He is in truth the Supreme Talisman and is endowed with supernatural powers, as set forth in the Mother Book….”7 Not only the central figures of the Bahá’í Faith had miraculous lives. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá mentions qualities in some of the friends that were nothing short of a miracle to those who knew them. Among the most eminent of those who left their homeland to join Bahá’u’lláh was Mirza Hasan, who did a great deal of research and discussion besides his profession. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says that “His speech was laconic, but in itself a kind of miracle.”8

46

Husayn-Aqay-i-Tabrizi was a pioneer who took over the coffee service at the Most Great Prison. He was accomplished, patient, and docile in the face of extreme difficulties. Day and night, over a fourty year period, he faithfully attended friend and stranger alike who thronged the doors of the prison. During all that time he “never offended a soul, nor did anyone, where he was concerned, utter a single complaint. This was truly a miracle, and no one else could have established such a record of service. He was always smiling, attentive as to the tasks committed to his care, known as a man to trust. In the Cause of God he was staunch, proud and true; in times of calamity he was patient and long-suffering.”9 The saving grace of God vouchsafed to the Bahá’ís in times of trouble is a miraculous bounty worth mentioning. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states of one such time of great difficulty: “Throughout these years of disturbance and commotion when the world of humanity was physically and spiritually afflicted, the friends of God passed the day in rest, ease and comfort. In the western countries only a few shared in the hardship and affliction of other souls while the mass of the friends and the maid-servants of the Merciful…have been living quietly and peacefully. In the Orient every nation became distracted and every gathering dispersed save the friends of God who remained all protected and sheltered from every trouble and calamity in the Fort of Bahá’u’lláh’s protection. Verily this is a divine miracle—that we helpless, friendless, unprotected, unsupported wanderers in these regions should be saved amidst the fire of oppression and tyranny. This is God’s miracle.” 10

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CHAPTER : FOURTEEN

SPIRITUAL HEALING AND ETERNAL LIFE “Turning the face towards God brings healing to the body, the mind and the soul.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá

A

lot

of

people

seek

miracle

men

for

receiving

gifts

of

health and healing. One reason is that there are reports of miraculous healing and even awakening of the dead in all Holy Scriptures. It is, therefore, pertinent to understand the significance of such statements and stories. The religious books give account of a number of events which are miraculous in effect. These indicate the transforming effect of the divine Word that is made manifest through the mediation of the Holy Spirit. The Word of God is depicted to wield a great influence on the minds and hearts of men. The tales are taken from the physical world, but they have a great similarity with the events occurring in the spiritual realms. Therefore, at times, what seems to be a description of miracles in the religious literature, is symbolic of deeper inner meanings and transformation occurring in human life through spirituality and the power of the Holy Spirit. The awakening of the dead, resurrection, ascending to heaven, etc., for example are references to spiritual awakening and attainment of a spiritual station in life. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “The outward miracles have no importance for the people of Reality. If a blind man receive sight, for example, he will finally again become sightless, for he will die and be deprived of all his senses and powers. Therefore, causing the blind man to see is comparatively of little importance…”1 “Whenever in the Holy Books they speak of raising the dead, the meaning is that the dead were blessed by eternal life; where it is said that the blind received sight, the signification is that he obtained true perception….”2 “The meaning is not that the Manifestations are unable to perform miracles, for They all have power. But for them inner sight, spiritual healing and eternal life are the valuable and important things.”3 In the Bahá’í Writings the power of the Holy Spirit to provide material gifts or healing is not discounted, but our search should be for permanent healing or gifts that are spiritual in nature. Also, at times, if seeking physical healing or gifts in our prayers, we must act in all sincerity to achieve those goals. For instance, when we pray for the healing of our sickness, we must also be treated by the best available doctor. According to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá there are two ways of healing sickness: material means and spiritual means. “The first is by the use of remedies, of medicines; the second consists in praying to God and in turning to Him. Both means should be used and practised.”4 The Bahá’í teachings consider the body as an instrument in the hands of the soul to fulfil its mission in the material world. Whereas the human body is temporary, man’s

48

soul is everlasting. However, the body should be kept, at all times, in perfect health so that the soul can fully develop before leaving the body. To achieve this goal, the Bahá’í Writings emphasize a simple life based on the principle of moderation, and not asceticism. This applies to eating and drinking as to everything else. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá writes, “All that has been created is for man, who is the apex of creation, and he must be thankful for the divine bestowals.”5 However, the use of narcotics and intoxicants of any kind, except as remedies in case of illness, is strictly forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh. In general, a vegetarian diet is recommended for various reasons. It seems that man’s body is not constituted for eating animal flesh. The natural food of man is cereals and fruit. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says that “Even without eating meat, he [man] would live with the utmost vigour and energy. For example, the community of the Brahamins in India do not eat meat; notwithstanding this they are not inferior to other nations in strength, power, vigour, outward senses or intellectual virtues. Truly, the killing of animals and the eating of their meat is somewhat contrary to pity and compassion, and if one can content oneself with cereals, fruit, oil and nuts,…it would undoubtedly be better and more pleasing.”6 Cleanliness is an other important principle for ensuring health. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “External cleanliness, although it is but a physical thing, has great influence upon spirituality…The fact of having a pure and spotless body exercises an influence upon the spirit of man.”7 A person who leads such a life would be contended, his mind always be peaceful, and his heart at rest. During sickness, medical treatment should not be neglected, but it should be given up immediately after health has been fully restored. The treatment of choice is through foods, aliments, fragrant fruits and vegetables, and by various waters, hot and cold in temperature. The present day medical science, though in its infancy is already recognizing these as important elements in treatment of diseases. Beyond the physical means of healing, the Bahá’í Writings recognize the power of God to heal diseases. The spiritual power of a strong person can help the sick one. The power of the Holy Spirit to restore health does not depend upon contact or physical presence. It is achieved through the prayer of the holy person and Manifestations of God definitely have this gift. The divinely revealed prayers for the purpose of healing “…are both for the spiritual and material healing. If healing is best for the patient, surely it will be granted.”8 The spiritual and the scientific are thus beautifully blended in the Bahá’í Writings. Neither is the power of God to grant the gift of spiritual healing disregarded, nor is the power of the modern medicine to cure diseases undermined. Man’s greatest effort, beyond seeking the gifts of the material kingdom, should be towards the attainment of everlasting life rich in divine virtues and spirituality. Thus living in the material world, he would constantly dwell in the higher spiritual worlds. Ultimately, such a soul would attain immortality both in this world having led an exemplary life and the in the worlds beyond by virtue of his pious life based on the divine commandments. CHAPTER : FIFTEEN

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MIRACLES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

T

he

twentieth

century

has

been

portrayed

in

the

Bahá’í

Writings as the century of miracles because of the great progress that has been made in the fields of science and technology as well as in the realm of spirituality. The Beloved Master, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, describes the achievements of the twentieth in these words: “…Praise be to God!…This century is, verily, the spring season. The world of mind and kingdom of soul have become fresh and verdant by its bestowals. It has resuscitated the whole realm of existence. On one hand, the lights of reality are shining; on the other, the clouds of divine mercy are pouring down the fullness of heavenly bounty. Wonderful material progress is evident, and great spiritual discoveries are being made. Truly, this can be called the miracle of centuries, for it is replete with manifestations of the miraculous.”1 The unity of the East and West, the Orient and Occident, “is a miracle of the twentieth century which proves that the seemingly impossible may become real and possible in the kingdom of man.”2 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “The East can communicate with the West in a few minutes. This is a miracle transcending nature’s control.”3 And further, “The time has come when all mankind shall be united, when all races shall be loyal to one fatherland, all religions become one religion, and racial and religious bias pass away. It is a day in which the oneness of humankind shall uplift its standard and international peace, like the true morning, flood the world with its light.”4 The achievements of the twentieth century have far surpassed the total progress made by man so far. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “…In the estimation of historians this radiant century is equivalent to one hundred centuries of the past. If comparison be made with the sum total of all former human achievements, it will be found that the discoveries, scientific advancement and material civilization of this present century have equalled, yea far exceeded the progress and outcome of one hundred former centuries.”5 He continues, “The production of books and compilations of literature alone bears witness that the output of the human mind in this century has been greater and more enlightening than all the past centuries together. It is evident, therefore, that this century is of paramount importance.”6 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá draws our attention towards the main characteristics of the twentieth century in these words: “Reflect upon the miracles of accomplishment which have already characterized it: the discoveries in every realm of human research. Inventions, scientific knowledge, ethical reforms and regulations established for the welfare of humanity, mysteries of nature explored, invisible forces brought into visibility and subjection—a veritable wonder-world of new phenomena and conditions heretofore unknown to man now open to his uses and further investigation.”7 In this radiant century “the East and West can communicate instantly. A human being can soar in the skies or speed in submarine depths. The power of steam has linked

50

the continents. Trains cross the deserts and pierce the barriers of mountains; ships find unerring pathways upon the trackless oceans. Day by day discoveries are increasing. What a wonderful century this is! It is an age of universal reformation. Laws and statutes of civil and federal governments are in process of change and transformation. Sciences and arts are being moulded anew. Thoughts are metamorphosed. The foundations of human society are changing and strengthening.”8 In the Bahá’í view, all scientific discoveries and attainments are the outcomes of knowledge and education. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains, “All the marvellous developments and miracles of what we call civilization would have remained hidden, unknown and, so to speak, nonexistent, if man had remained in his natural condition, deprived of the bounties, blessings and benefits of education and mental culture. The intrinsic difference between the ignorant man and the astute philosopher is that the former has not been lifted out of his natural condition, while the latter has undergone systematic training and education in schools and colleges until his mind has awakened and unfolded to higher realms of thought and perception; otherwise, both are human and natural.”9 Through education, in this century, man has evolved in all fields of human endeavour. A new age in human evolution has begun for which a new pattern of life is necessary. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “Today sciences of the past are useless. The Ptolemaic system of astronomy and numberless other systems and theories of scientific and philosophical explanation are discarded, known to be false and worthless. Ethical precedents and principles cannot be applied to the needs of the modern world. Thoughts and theories of past ages are fruitless now. Thrones and governments are crumbling and falling. All conditions and requisites of the past unfitted and inadequate for the present time are undergoing radical reform.”10 In keeping with the spirit of the age, religion also has been renewed. All superstitions, dogmas, rituals and harmful traditions must be rejected in this century. In this age of enlightenment, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá emphasizes that “…counterfeit and spurious religious teaching, antiquated forms of belief and ancestral imitations which are at variance with the foundations of divine reality must also pass away and be reformed. They must be abandoned and new conditions be recognized.”11 The moral values of humanity must change for the better. Otherwise, these can result in disunity and lead to great disasters. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “The morals of humanity must undergo change…. Just as the thoughts and hypotheses of past ages are fruitless today, likewise dogmas and codes of human invention are obsolete and barren of product in religion. Nay, it is true that they are the cause of enmity and conducive to strife in the world of humanity; war and bloodshed proceed from them, and the oneness of mankind finds no recognition in their observance.”12 The Bahá’í Writings explain that true religion is the cause of love and fellowship in humanity. All religions stress the need for unity while retaining human diversity. Unity of God, Unity of Mankind and Unity of Religions are the three key themes of the Bahá’í Revelation. The invisible force of God is at work in all efforts towards unity, whether in the scientific, economic, religious or political fields. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá calls upon every one to “…investigate the essentials of divine religion, seek the realities underlying the oneness of the world of humanity and discover

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the source of fellowship and agreement which will unite mankind in the heavenly bond of love.” He warns “…if we remain fettered and restricted by human inventions and dogmas, day by day the world of mankind will be degraded, day by day warfare and strife will increase and satanic forces converge toward the destruction of the human race.”13 The miracles of the twentieth century—the great progress made in all fields of human endeavour as well as the revolutions in the fields of science, technology and communication—should, therefore, help the peoples of the world in living with each other in unity and peace. If such a state were to be achieved, it would fulfil the prophecies of all Prophets that predict the ultimate unity of mankind. This would be the realization of the Hindu ideal of ‘Vasudhaiva-Katumbakam’ (the whole of humanity is but one family) as well as the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth, as foretold by Christ.

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CHAPTER : SIXTEEN

SUPERNATURAL IN MAN

M

an

continues

to

search

for

supernatural

powers

in

the

outside world but remains unaware of those that are latent within his own being. The Bahá’í Writings tell us that man has qualities in him that are not found in nature. He is capable of perception, intelligence, memory, conscious reflection and susceptibility. Through these qualities he rules over all that is there in the domain of nature, including the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms. Like all other things in nature, man is not bound by its limitations. In the proportion that the human body is weak, the spirit of man is strong. It controls natural phenomena. In reality, the spirit of man “…is a supernatural power which transcends all contingent beings.”1 The origin of the stupendous progress that man has made in the field of science and technology, lies in man’s supernatural powers through which he discovers new and beautiful things. This process is the very foundation of the evolution of human civilization.2 Man, while living upon the earth, discovers the stars and their satellites. He travels underground, finds metals in the depths of the earth and unlocks the secrets of geological ages. He can cross the abysses of interstellar space and discover the motion of inconceivably distant suns. How wonderful it is!3 The Bahá’í Writings indicate that the virtue of science in man exalts his station beyond that of an animal. Science is the by product of the human intellect which “is a bestowal of God; it is not material; it is divine.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains, “All the powers and attributes of man are human and hereditary in origin—outcomes of nature’s processes—except the intellect, which is supernatural. Through intellectual and intelligent inquiry science is the discoverer of all things. It unites present and past, reveals the history of bygone nations and events, and confers upon man today the essence of all human knowledge and attainment throughout the ages.”4 He points out that materialists find it difficult to accept this fact: “Not withstanding the gift of this supernatural power, it is most amazing that materialists still consider themselves within the bonds and captivity of nature. The truth is that God has endowed man with virtues, powers and ideal faculties of which nature is entirely bereft and by which man is elevated, distinguished and superior.”5 If man’s intellectual power were not supernatural and extraordinary, many accomplishments of the twentieth century would not have been possible. The supernatural power in man “…discovers the realities of things and possesses the power of idealization or intellection. It is capable of discovering scientific laws, and science we know is not a tangible reality. Science exists in the mind of man as an ideal reality. The mind itself, reason itself, is an ideal reality and not tangible.”6

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Interestingly, science has been described in the Bahá’í Writings as “an effulgence of the Sun of Reality, the power of investigating and discovering the verities of the universe, the means by which man finds a pathway to God.”7 Science is described as being of two kinds: material and spiritual. “Material science is the investigation of natural phenomena; divine science is the discovery and realization of spiritual verities. The world of humanity must acquire both.…Material and spiritual science(s) are the two wings of human uplift and attainment. Both are necessary—one the natural, the other supernatural; one material, the other divine. By the divine we mean the discovery of the mysteries of God, the comprehension of spiritual realities, the wisdom of God, inner significances of the heavenly religions and foundation of the law.”8 No matter how perfect is man’s health and physical powers, he must use his intellectual or spiritual powers to rise above the level of an animal. Research and investigation must continue along both spiritual and scientific lines to develop all the inner and outer human virtues. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “In the same proportion that the body of man is developing, the spirit of man must be strengthened; and just as his outer perceptions have been quickened, his inner intellectual powers must be sensitized so that he need not rely wholly upon tradition and human precedent. In divine questions we must not depend entirely upon the heritage of tradition and former human experience; nay, rather, we must exercise reason, analyze and logically examine the facts presented so that confidence will be inspired and faith attained.”9 A cycle of radiance, an age of mercy dawns when divine Manifestations or Prophets appear in the world. Everything is renewed. This is the second birth mentioned in the heavenly Books. Its accomplishment is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Consider this present century of radiance, and compare it with the past centuries. Minds, hearts and all human forces are reformed, perfections are quickened, sciences, discoveries and investigations are stimulated afresh, and everything appertaining to the virtues of the human world is revitalized. The resuscitation or rebirth of the spirit of man is through the science of the love of God. In this century, Bahá’u’lláh has appeared and so resuscitated spirits that they have manifested powers more than human. Thousands of His followers have given their lives; and while under the sword, shedding their blood, they have proclaimed, “Ya Bahá’u’l-Abha!” Such resuscitation is impossible except through a heavenly potency.10

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CHAPTER : SEVENTEEN

TAMPERING WITH PSYCHIC FORCES

S

ome

miraculous

feats

are

presumed

to

be

linked

with

the development of latent psychic faculties in man. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Beloved Master of the Bahá’í Faith, admits the reality of the ‘super normal’ psychic faculties, but deprecates attempts to force their premature development. “To tamper with psychic forces while in this world interferes with the condition of the soul in the world to come. These forces are real, but, normally, are not active on this plane.”1 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá uses the example of a child in the womb to explain the idea. The child has eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc., but they are not in activity. Only once the child is born in the material world, do these organs become active. Similarly, psychic powers are not to be used in this world, and it is dangerous to cultivate them here. When asked if a departed soul can converse with someone still on earth, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá answered, “A conversation can be held, but not as our conversation. There is no doubt that the forces of the higher worlds interplay with the forces of this plane. The heart of man is open to inspiration; this is spiritual communication. As in a dream one talks with a friend while the mouth is silent, so is it in the conversation of the spirit. A man may converse with the ego within him saying: ‘May I do this? Would it be advisable for me to do this work?’ Such as this is conversation with the higher self.”2 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá points out that there can be, under certain rare circumstances, such as those experienced by the Prophets, communion with some soul gone before into the invisible world. Most other experiences of this type that people claim to have with departed souls are the product of their imaginations—however real they may seem to them to be.3 Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith points out, “Truly mystical experiences based on reality are very rare, and we can readily see how dangerous it is for people to go groping about in the darkness of their imagination after the true thing. That is why,…we are warned against all psychical practices by the Master.”4 The whole purpose of life in the material world is the coming forth into the world of Reality where psychic forces will become active. Practices such as intercourse with spirits of the departed, telepathy, etc., ought not to be indulged in either for curiosity or for their own sake. Shoghi Effendi explains that such powers “…should be left dormant, and not exploited, even when we do so with the sincere belief we are helping others. We do not understand their nature and have no way of being sure of what is true and what is false in such matters.” He adds, “If children are inclined to be psychic they should not be blamed for it too harshly; they should not be encouraged to strengthen their powers in this direction.”5 In most cases, psychic phenomena indicate deep psychological disturbance, and we should avoid giving undue consideration to such matters.

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When asked about dreams and visions, the Guardian replied that it is very difficult to distinguish truth from imagination. However, he explained that “True visions…can be granted to those who are spiritually pure and receptive, and are not therefore confined to the Prophets alone.”6 The Guardian explains, “Briefly, there is no question that visions occasionally do come to some individuals, which are true and have significance. On the other hand, this comes to an individual through the grace of God, and not through the exercise of any of the human faculties. It is not a thing which a person should try to develop. When a person endeavours to develop faculties so that they might enjoy visions, dreams etc., actually what they are doing is weakening certain of their spiritual capacities; and thus under such circumstances, dreams and visions have no reality, and ultimately lead to the destruction of the character of the person.”7 The Bahá’í Writings emphasize that the Manifestations of God reveal the divine will to us and there is little need for individual revelations.8 Similar comments are made about receiving inspired written messages or automatic writing. The Guardian clarifies that “…the world’s greatest writers and painters have not been under psychic influence, but through innate ability, practice and study, have given us their masterpieces; this is the normal way for inspiration to reach us, through the channels of our own abilities, and not through control by forces which…are neither consistent nor reliable.”9 About automatic writing, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains: “This power is neither heavenly nor spiritual; neither is it an influence from disembodied spirits. It is human spirit-magnetism within the self of the one doing the writing. When the thoughts have taken possession of the mind and are not consciously directed, one becomes subject to their promptings, and, unconsciously, or automatically, takes a pencil and writes them down. The oftener this is done the stronger becomes the magnetic prompting.”10 It is the same process as learning a lesson or poem by heart, taking a walk often on the same road unconsciously or automatically. It is both a privilege and duty, however, for those in this world and those who have passed on to the next world to love and pray for each other. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains, “Those who have ascended have different attributes from those who are still on earth, yet there is no real separation. In prayer there is a mingling of station, a mingling of condition. Pray for them as they pray for you.”11 He gives a beautiful analogy: “The rich in the other world can help the poor, as the rich can help the poor in here. ”12 This is the true meaning of help and assistance in the other world. Not surprisingly, a great emphasis is laid in all religions on prayer ceremonies for those who have passed on to the other side of the veil. In many cases rituals and priest craft have overshadowed the real practices. The point is that “Undeveloped souls must gain progress at first through the supplications of the spiritually rich; afterwards they can progress through their own supplications….”13 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá elaborates, “The wealth of the other world is nearness to God. Consequently it is certain that those who are near the Divine Court are allowed to intercede, and this intercession is approved by God…. It is even possible that the condition of those who have died in sin and unbelief may become changed; that is to say,

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they may be the object of pardon through the Bounty of God….”14 However, in most cases the idea of taking the help of a spiritually strong person is translated into hiring a priest to pray for the dead. The Bahá’í approach towards those who have passed over to the next world is very different from those who dabble in spiritualistic practices. The Bahá’í Writings clearly warn against indulging in spiritualist practices like holding seances, materialization of spirits, or communicating with the dead through spirit mediums. Regarding the materialization of spirits through mediums, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says: “A person finding himself in a state of trance, or unconsciousness, is like one who sleeps; whatever he feels and sees he imagines to be matter and of material things, but in realty they are wholly immaterial.”15 He clarifies that apart from the Bounty of the Holy Spirit all that is said about “…mesmerism or trumpet communications from the dead are sheer imagination.”16 Thus paying attention to persons thought to be imbued with spiritualistic ideas is rather useless because what they think to be the truth has much of personal imagination added to it. Many investigative books written on the subject support this view. Some popular spirit mediums, who later on chose to reveal the truth, have also indicated that they had certain psychic powers like reading other person’s thoughts. They took to becoming spirit mediums to earn more money from their credulous clientele. Many have also lain bare their secret practices and tricks through which they produced so-called supernatural phenomena. The Bahá’í Writings teach that evil souls who have passed away can exercise no power over people. Good is stronger than evil. Evil souls have very little power, even when alive. How much less they have after they are dead.17 The influence of psychic ‘arts’ “…is dependent on the conviction, even the sub-conscious conviction, of the person affected and, similarly, the power of the ‘priests’ to overcome the influence is likewise an outcome of the sufferer’s conviction that it is from the ‘priest’ that he or she will be able to obtain help.”18 Similarly, the Bahá’í Writings teach that heaven and hell are conditions within our beings.19 Heaven is described as a state of nearness to God and hell as being far removed from Him. The Bahá’ís are warned not to indulge in occult practices as these can cause considerable mental harm, and thus permanently injure the mind as well as the body. Even the company of such people is to be avoided because we may unconsciously fall under their baneful influence.20 The Bahá’ís are advised to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. This power is now manifest through the appearance of Bahá’u’lláh. Shoghi Effendi has assured that no force of heaven or earth or any negative influences can affect us if we place ourselves “wholly under the influence of the Holy Spirit”.21 In one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote, “If you seek immunity from the sway of the forces of the contingent world, hang the ‘Most Great Name’ in your dwelling, wear the ring of the ‘Most Great Name’ on your finger, place the picture of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in your home and always recite the prayers…. Then you will behold the marvellous effect they produce. Those so-called forces will prove but illusions and will be wiped out and exterminated.” 22

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CHAPTER : EIGHTEEN

COMMUNICATING WITH GOD T

e l o f M a

T

h t t a

W

l L j

u s n a y l i n u n ’ s

y h h g

l e e o

n s h a

o l i

e a d

t

h d s

h o

r w

o v e w o r l l o v e n

o

d p e n

t o

o

a

t

e

t f o

e

l

e

-

h

m

o f

a

f

r

g l

a e

o

d

e

t n

g

.

h e n w a s t h e i t

A

o

a r

c

n o

v

t k e e r f r

s r s o

e

t

t e

h r

e s

t

h

e s

a a

d

y t c

t h n d n c

n o a

a

m

n u

g g

u h

t n

h g

e

e e t

,

t

o

e i

. - Sa’di.1

T

here

is

a

strong

desire

in

all

human

beings

to

communicate with a higher supernatural force. This is a manifestation of the yearning of the human soul, the reality of man, to make contact with its Creator. The path to achieve this spiritual union with God has been revealed by the Divine Messengers in all religions. The chief means to attain this blissful state are prayer and meditation on the Word of God. Other processes helpful for the purification of the human heart and communion with God recommended in the Scriptures are: fasting; self-analysis; inner transformation; inculcation of divine virtues; the company of the godly; and above all, living life according to the divine commandments. However, the quest of most people to fulfil this innate desire to commune with God, often leads them to miracle makers and even participation in experiments involving communication with spirits, both benevolent and malevolent. They begin to indulge in practices that are not prescribed in the Scriptures and are even harmful. Ignorance; simple curiosity; eagerness to witness other worldly events in person; seeking solutions to intricate problems; interest in life after death; etc., are among the many reasons for this indulgence. Obviously, almost none of these persons are able to attain what they initially set out to achieve. The true communion with God is achieved through prayer and meditation. Prayer

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The Bahá’í Writings describe prayer as a conversation with God. When in prayer, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “We should speak in the…language of the spirit and heart. It is different from our language as our own language is different from that of the animals, who express themselves only by cries and sounds.” “It is the language of the spirit which speaks to God. When, in prayer, we are freed from all outward things and turn to God…Without words we speak, we communicate, we converse with God and hear the answer.”2 He assures us that “All of us, when we attain to a truly spiritual condition, can hear the voice of God.”3 The law of prayer has been a fundamental element in the Revelation of all the Prophets of God. The form and the manner of this law, however, have been adapted to the varying requirements of every age.4 Bahá’u’lláh teaches that the true seeker should commune with God every day, at dawn and in the evening. Prayer is to be offered individually free from all rituals and ceremonies. The practice of congregational prayer is thus annulled in the Bahá’í Faith. No idols are to be worshipped because these are mostly the result of idle fancies and vain imaginings whereas Bahá’u’lláh has described God as an “Unknowable Essence.”5 Bahá’u’lláh has given the right to all people to read the Holy Scriptures because the Word of God has a positive and transforming influence on the human soul. Since He strongly advocated the cause of universal education and foresaw it as an achievable goal, He has totally abolished the institution of priesthood and there is no question of seeking their help. Instead of the priesthood, the divinely ordained and non-politically elected world-wide Bahá’í Administrative institutions help in performing marriages and conducting the last rites. The Bahá’í Houses of Worship are famous for their beauty, architecture, peaceful atmosphere and cleanliness all over the world. There are no statues in them. At the time of prayer, the Word of God is read or chanted from all the Holy Scriptures. The Gita, Dhammapada, Bible, Qur’án, and the Bahá’í Holy Writings are used for this purpose and no musical instruments are employed. The audience is generally composed of people from almost all religious backgrounds, nations and races. No specific language is advocated for worship. Prayers are chanted in those languages that are easily understood by the gathering. Temples are ‘symbols of God on earth’.6 They remind us of our Creator and make us aware of the divine purpose of our creation. However, Bahá’u’lláh does not limit the act of praying to the sanctum sanctorum of the Houses of Worship. Any place is sanctified where mention of God is made and His praise glorified. The only condition that He puts forward is the purity of the human heart that is the real temple where God resides. The utmost cleanliness of the surroundings has been emphasized and use of rose water and pure perfume has been recommended. The Bahá’í Writings teach that the “…most acceptable prayer is the one offered with the utmost spirituality and radiance; its prolongation hath not been and is not beloved by God. The more detached and the purer the prayer, the more acceptable is it in the presence of God.”7 The quality of the prayerful state is of utmost significance. How long one prays is not important.

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Man’s Creator is a prayer hearing and prayer answering God. Bahá’u’lláh asks, “Who is there that hath cried after Thee, and whose prayer hath remained unanswered? Where is he to be found who hath reached forth towards Thee, and whom Thou hast failed to approach? Who is he that can claim to have fixed his gaze upon Thee, and toward whom the eye of Thy loving-kindness hath not been directed?”8 No doubt, God answers the prayers of His servants even before they approach His Court. Bahá’u’lláh describes the prayer answering quality of God in these words: “I bear witness that Thou hadst turned toward Thy servants ere they had turned toward Thee, and hadst remembered them ere they had remembered Thee.”9 Of course, not everything we ask for is automatically provided. “But whatever we ask for which is in accord with divine wisdom, God will answer. Assuredly!”10 The Bahá’í Writings further emphasize: “The true worshipper, while praying should endeavour not so much to ask God to fulfil his wishes and desires, but rather to adjust these and make them conform to the Divine Will. Only through such an attitude can one derive that feeling of inner peace and contentment which the power of prayer alone can confer.”11 Bahá’u’lláh has revealed hundreds of prayers that are unsurpassable in beauty and matchless in style. The three Bahá’í Obligatory Prayers occupy a sublime station in the Bahá’í Revelation.12 These are known as the Long, Medium and Short obligatory prayers. One of these prayers is to be said the specified number of times each day. Ablutions have been prescribed before saying the obligatory prayers. The Short obligatory prayer must be said between noon and sunset every day after washing hands and face. It reads: “I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth. There is none other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.”13 Such is the significance of the Obligatory Prayers that no man under no pretext whatever is excused from saying one of these prayers “…unless he be mentally unsound or an insurmountable obstacle prevent him.”14 Water seems to play an important role in all religions for performing ablutions before offering prayers. In Christianity, water is sprinkled for christening—often the infants are immersed in water to symbolize their spiritual rebirth. Devotees in the Hindu Faith are encouraged to bathe and to complete daily ablutions before saying their prayers. Water is freely used while performing yajnas small quantity of charnamrit, or holy water from the lotus feet of gods and goddesses, is drunk after offering prayers in temples. Water is used at the time of baptism in the Sikh Faith. Temples of various religions are often encircled by pools of water. It is also customary to have a holy dip in these pools, ponds or certain rivers flowing by the places of worship. What is the significance of water used in this manner? Obviously, water is the most efficient cleaning agent or purifier available to man; it is usually cheap and found in great abundance. It is important to wear clean clothes and find an unsullied and quiet spot before we turn to God in prayer. Water ensures outer cleanliness, and reminds us that our hearts should be cleansed of all material dross so that we turn to our heavenly Father in all purity. Prophets seem to prescribe the use of water for the purposes of cleanliness according to its availability. Bahá’u’lláh has prescribed washing of face and hands

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before offering the Obligatory Prayer. Since the Bahá’í Faith is a truly Universal Religion, the limited use of water may be to allow for the lack of water in some places of the world. The few simple directions given by Bahá’u’lláh for chanting certain prayers have a spiritual significance and assist the individual “to fully concentrate when praying and meditating.”15 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá indicates that “in every word and movement of the Obligatory Prayer there are allusions, mysteries and a wisdom that man is unable to comprehend, and letters and scrolls cannot contain.” 16 He says that such prayers are “conducive to humility and submissiveness, to setting one’s face towards God and expressing devotion to Him.” 17 Through these prayers “…man holdeth communion with God, seeketh to draw near unto Him, converseth with the true Beloved of his heart, and attaineth spiritual stations.”18 There is no prescribed way for reciting other Bahá’í prayers. All are free to use such prayers in gatherings or individually as they please.19 Thus Bahá’í prayer is not confined to the use of prescribed forms, though they may be important. The Bahá’í idea is that one’s whole life should be a prayer. Work done in the right spirit is equivalent to worship. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá emphasizes: “Prayer need not be in words, but rather in thoughts and attitude. If this love and this desire are lacking, it is useless to try and force them. Words without love mean nothing.”20 He further states that: “In the highest prayer, men pray only for the love of God, not because they fear Him or hell, or hope for bounty of heaven…. When a man falls in love with a human being, it is impossible for him to keep from mentioning the name of his beloved. How much more difficult is it to keep from mentioning the Name of God when one has come to love Him…. The spiritual man finds no delight in anything save in commemoration of God.”21 Prayer is like gentle rain. The blessings of God fall drop by drop and drench the soul completely in everlasting joy. In a truly prayerful state, with his thoughts completely turned towards God, man longs for more and more heavenly showers. He likes this blissful state to last for ever more and to never end. Man feels his whole being covered by the divine armour and his heart totally reassured after communing with his heavenly Father in this manner. Khalil Gibran, the renowned poet and philosopher states, “Prayer is the song of the heart. It reaches the ear of God even if it is mingled with the cry and the tumult of a thousand men.”22 A spiritual man is always engaged in singing the praises of the Lord. He complies with wholehearted joy and happiness the prescribed commandments of each prayer, including the chanting of God’s name. Bahá’ís are enjoined to chant “Alláh-u-Abhá” (God is Glorious) ninety five times every day along with other prayers after performing ablutions.23 This is indeed a great bounty, for a spiritual person always looks forward to sitting down in solitude to sing the praises of his Lord. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says: “The prayerful condition is the best of conditions, for man in such a state communeth with God, especially when prayer is offered in private and at times when one’s mind is free, such as at midnight. Indeed, prayer imparteth life.”24 Meditation 61

“Wonder not, if my Best-Beloved be closer to me than mine own self; wonder at this, that I, despite such nearness, should still be so far from Him.”25 Meditation has been acclaimed, through out ages and centuries, as an important means for communing with God. The importance of meditation is that it opens the doors of knowledge and inspiration and in the process our spiritual life is enriched. However, there are many misconceptions about meditation. Some consider it to be the exclusive domain of godmen or ascetics. Others think of it as a tool for the attainment of miraculous powers. They connect it with such phenomenon as levitation, astral travelling, telepathy, self-hypnosis, communicating through a medium, automatic writing, etc. There are still others who have made yogic exercises and breath control an integral part of the process of meditation. Therefore, many find it impossible to practise meditation without the help of an accomplished guru. They are apprehensive of the illeffects of meditation if undertaken without proper supervision. What is meditation in reality and how do we meditate? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains the process in simple and clear terms: “It is an axiomatic fact,” says He, “that while you meditate you are speaking with your spirit. In that state of mind you put certain questions to your spirit and the spirit answers: the light breaks forth and the reality is revealed. You cannot apply the name ‘man’ to any being void of this faculty of meditation; without it he would be a mere animal, lower than the beasts.”26 He continues: “Through the faculty of meditation man attains to eternal life; through it he receives the breath of the Holy Spirit—the bestowal of the Spirit is given in reflection and meditation.”27 “The spirit of man is itself informed and strengthened during meditation; through it affairs to which man knew nothing are unfolded before his view. Through it he receives Divine inspiration, through it he receives heavenly food.”28 The Bahá’í Writings point out that “…one hour’s reflection is preferable to seventy years of pious worship.”29 The Names, Attributes and the Word of God are the best sources for meditation. For instance, Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings naturally evoke in the reader the spirit of meditative reverence. He has stated: “Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye many unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths.”30 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains: “Meditation is the key for opening the doors of mysteries. In that state man abstracts himself; in that state man withdraws himself from all outside objects; in that subjective mood he is immersed in the ocean of spiritual life and can unfold the secrets of things-in-themselves.31 Illustrating this, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says that we should “…think of man as endowed with two kinds of sight; when the power of insight is being used the outward power of vision does not see.”32 The meditative faculty in man can be compared to a mirror. If we hold the mirror before earthly objects, it will reflect them. In other words if we contemplate upon earthly subjects, we will be informed of these. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá confirms that the faculty of meditation “…brings forth from the invisible plane the sciences and arts.”33 Through it, He says, “…inventions are made possible, colossal undertakings are carried out” and even “the governments can run smoothly.”34

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“But,” says ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “if you turn the mirror of your spirits heavenwards, the heavenly constellations and the rays of the Sun of Reality will be reflected in your hearts, and the virtues of the Kingdom will be obtained.”35 He asserts, “This faculty of meditation frees man from the animal nature, discerns the reality of things, puts man in touch with God.”36 Briefly, meditation can be described as a type of deep and silent contemplation that is the sign of human intellect. One cannot speak and meditate at the same time. A word of caution may be necessary. We must guard against superstitions or vain imaginations creeping into the practice of prayer and meditation. Examples include meeting or seeing God, perceiving Him as a particular colour of light, conversing with spirits, ghosts, angels, gods, etc. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá comments, “…some thoughts are useless to man; they are like waves moving in the sea without result.”37 Similarly, we should be careful that excessive reading and too many acts of piety should not make us vainglorious. For example, never should it be thought that the Divine Being is, under any circumstances, comparable unto men, or can, in any way, be associated with His creatures. Bahá’u’lláh states that “Such an error hath been committed by certain foolish ones who, after having ascended into the heavens of their idle fancies, have interpreted Divine Unity to mean that all created things are the signs of God, and that, consequently, there is no distinction whatsoever between them. Some have even outstripped them by maintaining that these signs are peers and partners of God Himself. Gracious God! He, verily, is one and indivisible; one in His essence, one in His attributes. Everything besides Him is as nothing when brought face to face with the resplendent revelation of but one of His names, with no more than the faintest intimation of His glory—how much less when confronted with His own Self!”38 Commenting on the hollowness of such ideas, He exclaims, “How puny and insignificant is the evanescent drop when compared with the waves and billows of God’s limitless and everlasting Ocean, and how utterly contemptible must every contingent and perishable thing appear when brought face to face with the uncreated, the unspeakable glory of the Eternal! We implore pardon of God, the All-Powerful, for them that entertain such beliefs, and give utterance to such words. Say: O people! How can a fleeting fancy compare with the Self-Subsisting, and how can the Creator be likened unto His creatures, who are but as the script of His Pen?”39 In His Writings, Bahá’u’lláh clearly indicates that God excels all things, and is sanctified from, and immeasurably exalted above, all creatures. He further elaborates the idea that each created thing in the world has to function in its own sphere. When God shed His radiance upon the universe, every created thing had, according to a fixed decree, been endowed with the capacity to exercise a particular influence, and been made to possess a distinct virtue. According to the divine Writ, “To transgress the limits of one’s own rank and station is, in no wise, permissible. The integrity of every rank and station must needs be preserved. By this is meant that every created thing should be viewed in the light of the station it hath been ordained to occupy.”40 Thus it is a fallacy to think that man can become one with his Divine Creator at any stage.

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During our meditation, we do commune with God, but it is impossible to comprehend His Reality. In the Qur’án it is revealed: “No vision taketh in Him, but He taketh in all vision, and He is the Subtile, the All-Informed!”41 Bahá’u’lláh has testified: “The meditations of the profoundest thinker, the devotions of the holiest of saints, the highest expressions of praise from either human pen or tongue, are but a reflection of that which hath been created within themselves, through the revelation of the Lord, their God. Whoever pondereth this truth in his heart will readily admit that there are certain limits which no human being can possibly transgress.”42 Bahá’u’lláh explains that the conceptions of the devoutest of mystics, the devotions of the holiest of saints, the meditations of the profoundest thinker, the attainments of the most accomplished amongst men, the highest expressions of praise from either human tongue or pen “are all a product of man’s finite mind and are conditioned by its limitations.”43 How can a human being attaining direct access to God, when even the Prophets cannot fully comprehend the Divine Reality. Bahá’u’lláh writes of them, “Ten thousand Prophets, each a Moses, are thunderstruck upon the Sinai of their search at His forbidding voice, ‘Thou shalt never behold Me!’; whilst a myriad Messengers, each as great as Jesus, stand dismayed upon their heavenly thrones by the interdiction, ‘Mine Essence thou shalt never apprehend!”44 Bahá’u’lláh clarifies that all that the sages and mystics have said or written has never exceeded, nor can they ever hope to exceed, the limitations to which man’s finite mind has been strictly subjected. He writes, “To whatever heights the mind of the most exalted of men may soar, however great the depths which the detached and understanding heart can penetrate, such mind and heart can never transcend that which is the creature of their own conceptions and the product of their own thoughts.”45 From time immemorial, God has been “veiled in the ineffable sanctity of His exalted Self, and will everlastingly continue to be wrapt in the impenetrable mystery of His unknowable Essence.”46 It is a well-known fact that in the past, every attempt to attain to an understanding of God’s inaccessible Reality has ended in complete bewilderment. Similarly in the future too, every effort to approach His exalted Self and envisage His Essence is bound to result in hopelessness and failure. God is immeasurably exalted above the strivings of human mind to grasp His Essence, nor can any human tongue ever describe His mystery. Bahá’u’lláh asserts that “No tie of direct intercourse can ever bind Him to the things He hath created, nor can the most abstruse and most remote allusions of His creatures do justice to His being. Through His world-pervading Will He hath brought into being all created things. He is and hath ever been veiled in the ancient eternity of His own exalted and indivisible Essence, and will everlastingly continue to remain concealed in His inaccessible majesty and glory. All that is in heaven and all that is in the earth have come to exist at His bidding, and by His Will all have stepped out of utter nothingness into the realm of being. How can, therefore, the creature which the Word of God hath fashioned comprehend the nature of Him Who is the Ancient of Days?”47 It is understandable that the nature of divine Reality is beyond the grasp and reach of the minds of the most accomplished mystics and sages. However, it is true that man is informed of the pearls of divine wisdom through the faculty of meditation. This faculty

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is God’s gift to man through which he can commune, though within certain limits, with his Creator and thus become informed of the divine mysteries. Blessed are those who meditate. Bahá’u’lláh recommends meditation on the divinely revealed Word contained in the Scriptures to know God through His own Self and not through others. For no one else besides God can ever profit man. He writes, “Meditate upon that which hath streamed forth from the heaven of the Will of thy Lord, He Who is the Source of all grace, that thou mayest grasp the intended meaning which is enshrined in the sacred depths of the Holy Writings.”48 In the divinely revealed words, lie treasured the mysteries of divine wisdom and meditation on them make man aware of the purpose of God for him.49 Bahá’u’lláh advises us, “Meditate profoundly, that the secret of things unseen may be revealed unto you, that you may inhale the sweetness of a spiritual and imperishable fragrance, and that you may acknowledge the truth… so that light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error, happiness from misery, and roses from thorns.”50 Truly indeed, meditation helps man to shun such deeds and words which are not according to the divine Will, and also to give up worldly desires The Bahá’í Writings emphatically state that a single letter of the divine verses can quicken the spiritually dead with the spirit of faith thus pulling them out of the of the valley of self and desire. Thus each one of the divine verses is unto all the peoples of the world an unfailing testimony and a glorious proof of God’s truth. Each of them verily suffices all mankind, were men to meditate upon the verses of God. In them pearls of mysteries lie hidden. Whatever be the ailment, the remedy They offer can never fail.51 In one of His meditations, Bahá’u’lláh entreats God to supply the believers with “the choice Wine” of His mercy, that it may cause them to be forgetful of anyone except Him, and to arise to serve His Cause, and to be steadfast in their love for Him.52 Fasting Fasting for the Bahá’ís is “…essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.”54 Bahá’u’lláh states that “…obligatory prayer and fasting occupy an exalted station in the sight of God.”53 The Bahá’ís observe nineteen fasts from March 2 to 20 every year. During this period they completely abstain from food and drink from sunrise till sunset every day. In fasting, prayer and meditation, the principle of moderation is to be upheld as in all other aspects of our lives. There are many who pray, meditate or fast excessively and in the process lose their balance. There are others who are guilty of gluttony even during the fasting period.

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Another important principle that needs to be observed is detachment. One of the main purposes of observing the fast is to learn detachment. We do not pray, meditate or fast with some ulterior motive in mind. We do it for the love of God and happily agree with His Will. The realization of Divine love fills our heart and soul with divine ecstasy. Bahá’u’lláh mentions this state of divine ecstasy in the last of the Seven Valleys that a true seeker must cross in his quest to attain union with God. “In this Valley, the wayfarer …reacheth a oneness that is sanctified…. Ecstasy alone can encompass this theme, not utterance nor argument; and whosoever hath dwelt at this stage of the journey, or caught a breath from this garden land, knoweth whereof We speak.”55 Prayers, fasting and meditation are the right means to commune with God. They help the individual to transform his life and spend it in the service of His creatures.

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CHAPTER : NINETEEN

THE GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL

T

he

greatest

miracle

that

the

Manifestations

of

God

perform is the complete transformation of the individual and human society in which They appear. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, giving the example of Christ points out, “Recollect that Christ, solitary and alone, without a helper or protector, without armies and legions, and under the greatest oppression, uplifted the standard of God before all the people of the world, and withstood them, and finally conquered all, although outwardly He was crucified. Now this is a verifiable miracle which can never be denied. There is no need of any other proof of the truth of Christ.”1 The glorious examples of Lord Krishna and all other Manifestations of God readily come to mind. The sacred reality enshrined in all religions is the inculcation of spirituality or divine virtues in man like love, kindness, mercy, tolerance and truthfulness in man’s heart. This process draws him nearer to his Creator and contributes towards growth of an ever advancing civilization. The development of virtues should be the guiding principle in the life of every true seeker rather that the quest for miracles. By what means man one acquire spirituality? How can he obtain merciful gifts and powers? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says: “First, through the knowledge of God. Second, through the love of God. Third, through faith. Fourth, through philanthropic deeds. Fifth, through self-sacrifice. Sixth, through severance from this world. Seventh, through sanctity and holiness. Unless he acquires these forces and attains to these requirements, he will surely be deprived of the life that is eternal.”2 This means we should live the life centred around prayer, reading the Holy Writings every morning and evening, meditation on the Word of God, fasting, performance of one’s duty in the spirit of service, contribution to funds for the welfare of our community and teaching the Cause of God. Bahá’u’lláh assures us that the remembrance of God is the healer of all our ills and asks us to forget it not.3 Such is the importance of prayer that Bahá’u’lláh has written, “Blessed is the spot and the house, and the place, and the city, and the heart, and the mountain, and the refuge, and the cave, and the valley, and the land, and the sea, and the island, and the meadow where mention of God hath been made, and His praise glorified.”4 One of the prayers revealed by Bahá’u’lláh gives us an idea of God’s infinite mercy and absolute power. He stresses that it is God, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, “…through Whose names the sick are healed and the ailing are restored, and the thirsty are given drink, and the sore-vexed are tranquillized, and the wayward are guided, and the abased are exalted, and the poor are enriched, and the ignorant are enlightened, and the gloomy are illumined, and the sorrowful are cheered, and the chilled are warmed, and the downtrodden are raised up.”5 Truly indeed, reliance on prayers and

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true worship of God is our best insurance against all troubles and travails of this earthly life. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the beloved Master, expresses this beautifully in a prayer He has revealed: “O thou who art turning thy face towards God! Close thine eyes to all things else, and open them to the realm of the All-Glorious. Ask whatsoever thou wishest of Him alone; seek whatsoever thou seekest from Him alone. With a look He granteth a hundred thousand hopes, with a glance he health a hundred thousand incurable ills, with a nod He layeth balm on every wound, with a glimpse he freeth the hearts from the shackles of grief. He doeth, as He doeth and what recourse have we? He carrieth out His Will, He ordaineth what He pleaseth. Then better for thee to bow down thy head in submission, and put thy trust in the All-merciful Lord.” Whom else, then, should we approach? What greater assurance do we need? What better miracle should we seek? NOTES AND REFERENCES

Chapter One 1. The word ‘man’ is used throughout this book as a generic term to include both man and woman. 2. The or The Song Divine, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, India, 1994, IV:6. 3. ibid., IV:8. 4. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Illinois, 1965, p. 95. 5. ibid., p. 95. 6. ibid., p. 95. 7. ibid., p. 96. 8. Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 129-130. 9. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, translated by Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Publishing Committee, Wilmette, Illinois, 1946, p. 215. 10. Bahá’u’lláh, Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh to the Kings and Leaders of the World, Bahá’í World Centre, Haifa, 1972, p. 112. 11. Shoghi Effendi, Call to the Nations, Extracts from the writings of Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í World Centre, New Delhi, 1977, p. xi. 12. Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 13. 13. ibid. 14. ibid., p. 28. 15. ibid. 16. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 287. 17. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book), Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, New Delhi. 1992: Other Sections, pp. 2-3. 18. ibid., p. 21. 19. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 81.

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20. Shoghi Effendi, Call to the Nations, p. 28. 21. ibid., p. 29.

Chapter Two 1. Swami Harshananda, Hinduism: Through Questions and Answers, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras, p. 19. 2. Gandhi defines yajna variously. In the layman’s concept, yajna is a ceremony accompanied by a fire ritual at home and conducted by a priest. Here by yajna, Gandhi means ‘sacrifice’. “Among the Hindus, too, the practice of human sacrifice was prevalent at one time. Then followed animal sacrifice. Even today, thousands of goats are sacrificed to Mother Kali. Yajnas are also performed for securing the fulfilment of many worldly desires. The root word in the English term “sacrifice” had a good meaning; it meant “to sanctify”. In Sanskrit yaj means “to worship”. In the Old Testament, the word for yajna means “to renounce”. But the underlying idea, that all actions performed for the good or service of others are forms of yajna, will be accepted by everyone.” M. K. Gandhi, The Bhagvadgita, Orient Paperbacks, New Delhi, 1993, p. 75. 3. ibid., pp. 39-40. 4. ibid., p. 77. 5. ibid. 6. “Yoga is that which ‘unites’ (yuj—to yoke) the Jivatman (the individual soul) with the Paramatman (the Supreme self or God). Any path of spiritual discipline which helps achieve this union is ‘Yoga’”. [Swami Harshananda, Hinduism: Through Questions and Answers, p. 38.] So, a yogi is one who practises the science of union with God. 7. “Brahman is that which is immutable, and independent of any cause but itself…The creative energy of Brahman is that which causes all existences to come into being.” Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood (Translators), Bhagavad-Gita (The Song of God), Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras, p. 157. 8

ibid., p. 147.

9

ibid., pp. 153-4.

10 ibid., pp. 119-120.

Chapter Three 1. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, Wilmette, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982, pp. 175-6. 2. ibid., p. 176. 3. Based on: Bible, King James version (KJB), 1 Corinthians 8:4. “As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol [is] nothing in the world, and that [there is] none other God but one.” 4. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 20. 5. ibid., p. 291. 6. ibid. 7. ibid., p. 338. 8. ibid., p. 57

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9. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Iqan (The Book of Certitude), translated by Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Illinois, 1950, p. 117. 10. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book), Bahá’í World Centre, Haifa, 1992, p. 34. 11. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 12. 12. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 327. 13. Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, 1980, p. 113. 14. Supreme Court of India, Civil Original Jurisdiction Transferred Case (C) Numbers 41, 43 and 45 of 1993, Writ Petition (Civil) Number 20B of 1993, Transferred Case (C) Number 42 of 1993, Writ Petition (C) Number 186 of 1994. “A neutral perception of the requirement for communal harmony is to be found in the Bahá’í Faith in the booklet, ‘Communal Harmony—India’s Greatest Challenge’….” 15. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of India, Communal Harmony—India’s Greatest Challenge, Baha'i Publishing Trust, New Delhi. Some excerpts included in the judgement of the Supreme Court are: “The spirit of tolerance and assimilation are the hallmarks of this civilization. Never has the question of communal harmony and social integration raised such a wide range of emotions as today…. Lasting harmony between heterogeneous communities can only come through recognition of the oneness of mankind, a realization that differences that divide us along ethnic and religious lines have no foundation. Just as there are no boundaries drawn on the earth to separate nations, distinctions of social, economic, ethnic and religious identity imposed by peoples are artificial; they have only benefited those with vested interests.” 16. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 93. 17. ibid., p. 143. 18. Bahá’u’lláh, Arabic Hidden Words, (translated by Shoghi Effendi), No. 58, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India, 1973, p. 58-62. 19. Bahá’u’lláh, Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 18-19. 20. Trustworthiness (A Cardinal Baha’i Virtue), compiled by The Research Department of The Universal House of Justice, Baha’i Publishing Trust, P.O.Box 19, New Delhi-110001, 1987, pp. 21-22. 21. ibid. 22. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 186. 23. ibid., p. 186. 24. Bahá’u’lláh, Arabic Hidden Words, p. 1. 25. ibid., pp. 58-62. No. 59. [“O SON OF BEING! Thy heart is My home; sanctify it for My descent. Thy spirit is My place of revelation; cleanse it for My manifestation.” Bahá’u’lláh.]

Chapter Four 1. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 49. 2. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: Notes 160, p. 233. 3. ibid. 4. ibid. 5. ibid., pp. 233-234. 6. ibid., p. 234.

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7. ibid. 8. ibid: Other Sections, p. 14. 9. ibid., p. 36. 10. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 167. 11. ibid., p. 175. 12. Báb, Selections from the Writings of The Báb, compiled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice and translated by Habib Taherzadeh with the assistance of a committee at the Baha'i World Centre, Baha'i World Centre, Haifa, 1978, p. 100. 13. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Iqan, pp. 107-108. 14. Bahá’í World Faith, Selected Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Illinois, 1976, p. 205.

Chapter Five 1. Lights of Guidance, compiled by Helen Hornby, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India, 1983, p. 489. 2. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 52 3. ibid., p. 212. Refer to Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh for original Tablets addressed to the kings, priests, leaders, and peoples of the world. 4. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, compiled and translated by Laura Clifford Barney, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Illinois, 1984 (1990), p. 100. 5. ibid. 6. Here, magical tricks. 7. Dr. Abraham Kovoor, Begone Godmen! Encounters with Spiritual Frauds, edited by V. A. Menon, Jaico Publishing House, Bombay. Fifth Edition, 1991, pp. ix-xi. 8. Uday Mehta, Modern Godmen in India, Popular Parkashan, Bombay, 1996. 9. The Sunday Tribune, Chandigarh, India, reviewer: P. D. Shastri, 31 March, 1996, p. 4 of the Sunday Reading section.

Chapter Six 1. Jamshed Fozdar, Buddha Maitrya-Amitabha Has Appeared, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, New Delhi,1976, p. 199. 2. Since the Bahá’ís do not believe in the existence of the devil or evil spirits, this would be interpreted to mean indulgence in harmful practices. 3. Swami Rama, Living with the Himalayan Masters (Spiritual Experiences of Swami Ajaya), Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the USA, Honesdale, Pennsylvania, 1978, pp. 102-3. 4. Paul Brunton, A Search in Secret India, B. I. Publications, Bombay, 1994, p. 13. 5. ibid. Foreword by Francis Younghusband., pp. 7-8. 6. ibid., p. 20.

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Chapter Seven 1. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 31. 2. ibid. Notes. p. 195. 3. ibid., p. 31. 4. ibid. 5. Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 71. 6. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Notes, p. 195. 7. Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf , p. 49. 8. Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 24. 9. Epistle to the Son of the Wolf , p. 49. 10. ibid., p. 15. 11. ibid., p. 16. 12. ibid. 13. ibid., p. 127. 14. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 34. 15. Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 10. 16. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 26. 17. Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 259. 18. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 79. Swami Vivekananda too came down heavily upon the priests who failed to see the truth. He writes, “Come, be men! Kick out the priests who are always against progress. Because they would never mend; their hearts would never become big. They are the offspring of centuries of superstition and tyranny. Root out priestcraft first. Come, be men. Come out of your narrow holes and have a look abroad. See how nations are on the march. Do you love man? Do you love your country? Then come, let us struggle for higher and better things, look not back, no, not even if you see the dearest and nearest cry. Look not back, but forward.” [Extracted from Letters of Swami Vivekananda, Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, Almora, Himalayas, Fourth Edition, 1948, p. 64.] 19. Báb, Selections from the Writings of The Báb, p. 44. 20. Bhagavad-gita, The Song Divine, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, India. 1994, p. 147 [Ch. 15:15]. 21. Qur’án 11:27. 22. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, pp. 179-180. 23. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 222. 24. ibid., p. 165. 25. Bahá’u’lláh, Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 80. 26. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, pp. 171-2. 27. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Notes, p. 234. 28. Shoghi Effendi, Call to the Nations, p. 11. 29. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 222. 30. ibid., pp. 228-229. 31. ibid., p. 36.

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32. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 128. 33. Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf . pp. 16-7.

Chapter Eight 1. Lajpat Rai, The Arya Samaj, An Account of its Origin, Doctrine and Activities, with a Biographical sketch of the Founder, DAV College Managing Committee, New Delhi, p. 28. 2. ibid., p. 55. 3. ibid., p. 54 4. ibid., p. 55 5. Rig Veda, I.164.46. 6. Swami Dayananda, The Light of Truth (English Translation of Swami Dayananda’s Satyartha Prakasa). Translator: Ganga Prasad Upadhyaya. Dr. Ratna Kumari Swadhyaya Sansthana, Allahabad, 1981, p. 3. 7. Swami Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Mayavati Memorial Edition, Volume VII, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1972, p. 285. 8. ibid., p. 284. 9. ibid. 10. Swami Vivekananda, Chicago Addresses, Advaita Ashrama (Publication Department), Calcutta, September 1993, p.48. 11. Swami Vivekananda, Letters of Swami Vivekananda, Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, Almora, Himalayas, Fourth Edition, 1948, p. 427. 12. ibid. 13. ibid. 14. Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda, Volume 10, Birth Centenary Library, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1972, p. 8. 15. ibid. 16. ibid., p. 20. 17. ibid. 18. ibid., p. 6. 19. ibid., p. 13. 20. ibid., p. 11. 21. ibid., p. 28. 22. Shoghi Effendi, Dawn of a New Day, Messages to India 1923-1957, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, p. 198. 23. ibid. 24. Lights of Guidance, A Bahá’í Reference File, Compiled by Helen Hornby, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, 1988. [From a letter dated November 25, 1950]. p. 503. 25. ibid [April 14, 1941]., p. 503. 26. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 35. 27. ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Abdu’l-Bahá in Egypt, p. 86. [As quoted in Bahá’í Digest, Bahá’í House, 1026, Sector 8-C, Chandigarh, India. Dec.-Mar. 1995.]

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Chapter Nine 1. Shirin Fozdar, Lord Buddha and Maitreiya Amitabha, Arcee Press, New Delhi, p. 14. 2. Title of Buddha meaning ‘He who has thus come’. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan explains that after attaining enlightenment, Buddha referred to Himself as Tathâgata: he who has arrived at the truth. [S Radhakrishnan, Religion and Culture, Orient Paperbacks, Madarsa Road, Kashmere Gate, Delhi-110006, 1987. p. 121.] 3. ibid., pp. 15-16. 4. Japan Will Turn Ablaze (Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Letters of Shoghi Effendi and Historical Notes About Japan). Bahá’í Publishing Trust, Japan, 1974, p. 35. 5. Dhammapada, vv. 188-192. 6. ibid., v. 141. 7. ibid., v. 188. 8. Jamshed Fozdar, Buddha Maitraya-Amitabha has Appeared, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, 1976, p. 194. [Quote from Mahaparinibbana Sutta]. 9. ibid., p. 193. 10. ibid., p. 199. 11. Lights of Guidance, p. 516. 12. ibid. 13. ibid. 14. ibid. 15. ibid., p. 512. [From a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Spiritualism and Psychic Phenomena, p. 3]. 16. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 294, 1982 edition. 17. Lights of Guidance, p. 521. 18. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 165. 19. Swami Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, pp. 506. 20. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 221 21. Japan Will Turn Ablaze, p. 20.

Chapter Ten 1. KJB, The Acts of the Apostles 2:22. 2. ibid., John 6:14. 3. ibid., Luke 23:8. 4. J. E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, The Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 27 Rutland Gate, London SW1 1PD, 1974, pp. 178-9. 5. KJB, The Book of Judges 6:13-14. 6. ibid., Mark 9:39.

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7. ibid., Mark 6:52. 8. ibid., John 9:16. 9. ibid., The Acts of the Apostles 4:16-18. 10. ibid., Deuteronomy 11:3. 11. ibid., Numbers 14:22. 12. ibid., Deuteronomy 29:2-4. 13. ibid., John 2:23-25. 14. ibid., John 6:26. 15. ibid., Matthew 12:38-39. Jonas (Jonah) was asked by the Lord to warn the people of Nineveh to leave their waywardness and worship the one true God. Out of fear, Jonas disobeyed, was punished, and finally forgiven. 16. ibid., The Revelation of John 13:14. 17. ibid., The Revelation of John 16:14. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith explains that “the condition of those people who are described as being possessed of devils; this should be interpreted figuratively; devil or Satan is symbolic of evil and dark forces yielding to temptation.” [Letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi dated November 2, 1938: Spiritism, Psychic Phenomena and Related Subjects, p. 4] 18. ibid., The Revelation of John 19:20.

Chapter Eleven 1. Qur’án 29:50. 2. ibid., 4:153. 3. ibid., 17:90-3. 4. ibid., 29:50. 5. The Meaning of The Glorious Qur’án, translation by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, Islamic Arab Libyan Popular Socialist, Tripoli, 3:183. 6. Qur’án 26:187. 7. ibid., 8:32. 8. ibid., 45:24. 9. ibid., 3:183. 10. ibid., 29:51. 11. ibid., 4:82. 12. R. Khalifa, Miracle of the Qur’an - Significance of the Mysterious Alphabets, Islamic Productions, Tuscon, Arizona. 13. Ahmed Deedat, Al-Qur’an, The Ultimate Miracle, Academy of Islamic Research, Madras, India, 1984. 14. Qur’án 74:30. 15. Ahmed Deedat, Al-Qur’an, The Ultimate Miracle, p. 28. 16. ibid., p. 78. 17. Báb, Selections from the Writings of The Báb, p. 109.

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18. Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf , pp. 11-12. 19. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, pp. 85-86.

Chapter Twelve 1. Universal House of Justice. Letter dated 27 October, 1985 to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of India. 2. ibid. 3. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of India. Letter dated 7 July 1986 to the State Bahá’í Council of Punjab. 4. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 60. 5. ibid., pp. 60-61. 6. Narain Singh, Guru Nanak Dev’s View of Life, Amplified, Published by Bhagat Puran Singh, All India Pingalwara Society, Amritsar. p. 386. Guru Nanak, Japuji. [“ridhi sidhi awra sadu”]. 7. Bhai Jodh Singh, Gospel of Guru Nanak (In His Own Words), Languages Department, Punjab, 1988, p. 151. [Var Sarang S.1.P.9] 8. ibid., p. 150. [Var Bihagra S.2.P.20] 9. ibid., p. 153. [Var Asa S.1.P.19]. 10. ibid. [Var Asa S.2.P.20]. 11. ibid., p. 152. [Var Asa S.1.2.P.17]. 12. ibid. [Asa 4.2.32]. 13. Narain Singh, Guru Nanak Dev’s View of Life, Amplified, p. 592-3. Guru Gobind Singh, Akal Ustat. [“na jantr mai na tantra mai na mritu basi awai”]. 14. ibid., p. 594. Guru Amar Das. [“ridhi sidhi sabhu mohu hai namu na vaseh mani aai”].

Chapter Thirteen 1. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 364. 2. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 50. 3. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 37. 4. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Memorials to the Faithful, p. 27. 5. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 28. 6. ibid., p. 155. 7. Báb, Selections from the Writings of The Báb, p. 45. 8. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 22. 9. ibid., p. 159. 10. Bahá’í World Faith, pp. 386-7.

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Chapter Fourteen 1. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 101. 2. ibid., pp. 101-2. 3. ibid., p. 102. 4. Bahá’í World Faith, p. 376. 5. J. E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 99. 6. Lights of Guidance, p. 295. 7. J. E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 100 8. ibid., p. 105.

Chapter Fifteen 1. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 153. 2. ibid., p. 101. 3. ibid. pp. 351-2. 4. ibid., p. 153. 5. ibid., p. 143. 6. ibid. 7. ibid. 8. ibid., p. 144. 9. ibid., p. 309-10. 10. ibid., p. 144. 11. ibid. 12. ibid. 13. ibid.

Chapter Sixteen 1. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 264. 2. ibid., p. 17-18. 3. ibid., p. 264. 4. ibid., p. 49. 5. ibid., p. 51. 6. ibid., p. 360. 7. ibid., p. 49. 8. ibid., p. 138. 9. ibid., p. 327.

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10. ibid., p. 277.

Chapter Seventeen 1. J. E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 178. 2. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 179. 3. Lights of Guidance, p. 540. [Shoghi Effendi. Letter dated Oct. 25, 1942]. 4. ibid., p. 515. [Shoghi Effendi. Letter dated October 25, 1942]. 5. ibid., p. 513. [Shoghi Effendi. Letter dated March 4, 1946]. 6. ibid., p. 514. [Shoghi Effendi. Letter dated November 26, 1939]. 7. ibid., p. 515. [Shoghi Effendi. Letter dated May 6, 1952]. 8. ibid. [Shoghi Effendi. Letter dated December 22, 1947]. 9. ibid., p. 517. [Shoghi Effendi. Letter dated February 24, 1947]. 10. ibid. [‘Abdu’l-Bahá Abbás, Daily Lessons Received at ‘Akká, pp. 43-44, Bahá’í Publishing Society]. 11. J. E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, pp. 178-9. 12. ibid., p. 178. 13. ibid. 14. ibid., p.176. 15. Lights of Guidance, p. 519. [Daily Lessons Received at ‘Akká, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Abbás, 1979, p. 82]. 16. ibid. [‘Abdu’l-Bahá Abbás, Daily Lessons Received at ‘Akká, 1979, p. 85]. 17. Lights of Guidance, p. 521. 18. ibid., p. 520. [From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, August 30, 1984]. 19. ibid. [From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian, November 14, 1947]. 20. ibid., p. 522. [From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian, August 5, 1939]. 21. Lights of Guidance, p. 519. [Shoghi Effendi. Letter dated August 11, 1957]. 22. ibid., p. 520.

Chapter Eighteen 1. Sa’di as quoted by Bahá’u’lláh in the Seven Valleys and Four Valleys, pp. 48-9. 2. J. E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, pp. 85-6. 3. ibid., p. 86. 4. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 39. 5. ibid., p. 98. 6. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 163. “Temples are symbols of the reality and divinity of God—the collective center of mankind. Consider how within a temple every race and people is seen and represented—all in the presence of the Lord, covenanting together in a covenant of love and fellowship, all offering the same melody, prayer and supplication to God. Therefore, it is evident that the church is a collective center for mankind. For this reason there have been churches and

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temples in all the divine religions; but the real Collective Centers are the Manifestations of God, of Whom the church or temple is a symbol and expression. That is to say, the Manifestation of God is the real divine temple and Collective Center of which the outer church is but a symbol.” 7. Báb, Selections from the Writings of The Báb, p. 78. 8. Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations, p. 254. 9. ibid. 10. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 247. 11. The Importance of Prayer, Meditation and the Devotional Attitude, compiled by the Universal House of Justice, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, P. O Box 19, New Delhi-110001. 1980. p. 37. (Shoghi Effendi. Letter dated 26 October, 1938 to an individual believer). 12. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: Other Sections, p. 145. 13. Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations, p. 314. 14. Bahá’í World Faith, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. p. 368. 15. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: Notes. p. 167. 16. ibid., p. 167. 17. ibid., p. 166. 18. ibid. 19. ibid., p. 173. 20. J. E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 90. 21. ibid. 22. Khalil Gibran, Spiritual Sayings of Kahlil Gibran, Anthony R. Ferris, 1963. p. 50 [different translation, same meaning] 23. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 26. 24. Lights of Guidance, p. 455. 25. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 185. 26. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp. 174-5. 27. ibid., p. 175. 28. ibid. 29. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 238. 30. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 85. 31. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 175. 32. ibid. 33. ibid. 34. ibid. 35. ibid., p. 176. 36. ibid., p. 175. 37. ibid. 38. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 187. 39. ibid., pp. 187-8.

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40. ibid., p. 188. 41. Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf , p. 13. 42. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 317-8. 43. ibid., p. 52. 44. ibid. 45. ibid., p. 317. 46. ibid., p. 53. 47. ibid., p. 318. 48. Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 143. 49. Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 153. 50. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 5. 51. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 210. 52. Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations, p. 183. 53. Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Questions and Answers, p. 134. 54. ibid., Notes. pp. 176-7. 55. Bahá’u’lláh, Seven Valleys and Four Valleys, p. 39.

Chapter Nineteen 1. Some Answered Questions, p. 101. 2. Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 226. 3. Bahá’u’lláh, Persian Hidden Words (translated by Shoghi Effendi), No. 32, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India, 1973, “The healer of all thine ills is remembrance of Me, forget it not…”, and the short Healing Prayer “Thy name is my healing, O my God….” 4. Family Life, p. 385. 5

Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations, p. 236.

About the Book....

Do miracles happen? Is it true that one can attain miraculous powers through following some religious practices? Why did the Prophets perform miracles? What is the true meaning and significance of the miraculous events described in Holy Scriptures? Religious history of mankind is replete with accounts of supernatural events. Even in the modern world, many continue to express their interest in psychic phenomenon, spiritual healing and communication with spirits. Others reject these attempts as being superstitious. What is the truth? These and many more questions have been answered in this book. Authentic materials have been used from all the Holy Scriptures. Experiences of those, who have participated in this search, have been included. The Bahá’í Revelation, is the latest in the series of the divinely revealed religions. Therefore, an attempt has been made to include the invaluable guidance contained in the Bahá’í Holy Writings on the subject in this book.

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About the Author...

Professor Anil Sarwal teaches English as a Second Language to graduate and post-graduate students in India. He holds specialist degrees in English Language Teaching (ELT), Distance Education and Creative Writing. He developed a keen interest in the investigation of Religious Reality at an early age. His search led him to the Bahá’í Faith which he accepted in 1974. Since then he has served on many local, state and national institutions in India and elsewhere. At present he is a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of India. Professor Sarwal has visited thirteen countries in four continents on religious lecture tours to give the healing message of Baha'u'llah to the suffering humanity. He is a free-lance journalist and his articles have been published in many leading newspapers. He has been the editor of Bahá’í Sikkim, Bahá’í J & K, and Bahá’í digest. What should be the attitude of an enlightened person towards such precepts and practices. In what way is spirituality connected with the inculcation of supernormal powers? Such are the questions facing every true seeker.

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miracles in religion

thinking, universal education and individual investigation of truth are the ... spiritual masters—godmen, priests, sadhus, gurus, pirs, tantriks, etc. ...... He holds specialist degrees in English Language Teaching (ELT), Distance Education.

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