Who was `Abdu'l-Bahá, and why did He come to the West?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Letter of Light (Special Post)

The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States has issued several wonderful letters pertaining to this centenary year.  The one for this Feast is particularly inspiring. I will place it below, then comment on it. 

October 15, 2012

To the American Bahá'í community for the Feast of 'Ilm

Dearly loved Friends,

A hundred years ago, while sojourning in California, the beloved Master, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, attended a celebration of this very Feast in the spacious Oakland home of Helen Goodall-graciously hosted by Mrs. Goodall and her daughter, Ella Goodall Cooper. On the journey there, the Master marveled to His companions at the confirmations that had enveloped Him during travels that had, in just six months, taken Him coast to coast across the North American continent, each stage offering abundant opportunities to promote the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. He ascribed the innumerable successes that had attended His progress to the great purpose for which His Father had borne intense and unrelenting tribulations:

"On the way here we were saying that it never occurred to us that we would come to California and meet with the friends in this manner or that we would proclaim the Cause of God in great assemblies. How Bahá'u'lláh suffered, what persecutions and hardships He endured! He saw His property plundered and carried off. He was chained and imprisoned so that hearts would be connected, that the East and the West would find harmony, that the oneness of humanity would come about and that universal peace may reign."

Gathered at the Goodall home that day were more than 100 people from the Bay Area-some from as far away as Portland and Seattle-all of them having come together with joy and eager anticipation. The rooms in which they assembled were decked with fragrant flowers in rich fall colors of every description. "Pyramids of fruits" and other luscious foods had been laid out for their delectation as they partook of the spiritual sustenance provided by their all-loving Master. As one participant observed, "Gathered under one roof were people of different nations and various nationalities, the young and old, all meeting in love and fellowship, and in devotion to the Servant of God in this day."

When the time came, 'Abdu'l-Bahá addressed the gathering:

"Praise be to God! We are assembled in the home of Mrs. Goodall and Mrs. Cooper in utmost love and affection. Every delicacy is provided. All hearts are in utmost love and serenity. All eyes are turned to the Abhá Kingdom. It is a good gathering, it cannot be surpassed. The Supreme Concourse is now beholding this assemblage and crying out, 'Blessed are ye! Blessed are ye! O ye servants of the Blessed Beauty! Blessed are ye; blessed are ye with your radiant countenances! Blessed are ye; blessed are ye with hearts like unto rose gardens! Observe, what a favor is conferred upon you, what a bounty is bestowed upon you that 'Abdu'l-Bahá is in your midst, makes mention of you and congratulates and compliments you.'"

He continued:

"His Holiness Christ, on a certain eve, invited His disciples to His table, and while seated at that table He gave certain admonitions and precepts unto them. As a result of the benediction and admonitions, the supper was called the 'Lord's Supper.' Inasmuch as there was present the material bread, and likewise the heavenly manna which was descending upon them, it was verily the Lord's Supper.

"Now this evening you have gathered in this assemblage and are seated at this bounteous table. Praise be to God! [T]he material food is prepared for you. The heavenly manna also is present for you, and that consists of the love of God and the knowledge of God. You are turned toward the Kingdom of God, and you are overshadowed beneath His providence. The eternal bounty encompasses you all, and the light everlasting is all-surrounding.

"This table, likewise, is heavenly in character."

'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke as He walked to and fro among the guests seated at tables:

"This food is manna from heaven. I hope earnestly that the results of the Lord's Supper-that supper which was in the utmost of love and fellowship and severance from all else save God-may be realized at this supper also. Thus may you associate one with the other in perfect fellowship and friendship, and may all of you rejoice in many such feasts. Thus may the heart be exhilarated and the faces be turned to the Kingdom of ABHA. Then will you be instrumental in reconciling all the religions and all the races, and in creating a bond that will unite all the nations of the world. Thus, in the center of the world, shall be pitched the tent of the oneness of humanity, and the standard of universal peace shall be unfurled and wave throughout the world. Then in the future there will be no doubt as to this supper being the Lord's supper, for it is productive of love and fellowship, and will become the cause of the illumination of the world. Every supper that is productive of love and unity, the cause of radiance throughout the world, of international peace and of the solidarity of man, is undoubtedly the Lord's supper."

"The Feast was almost over," wrote one observer, "when suddenly 'Abdu'l-Bahá started up the stairway leading from the hall. There was a hush as we watched Him go, and we thought that He was leaving us. The Master stopped on a small balcony, halfway to the second floor, in front of a beautiful stained glass window. Then He stepped forward and, extending His arms with palms upturned, [offered a] beautiful benediction. . . . The Master continued up the stairs. Soon we all departed with hearts and minds filled with the wonder of 'Abdu'l-Bahá."

On another occasion, the Master wrote: "Whenever an illumined assembly of the friends of God is gathered, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, although bodily absent, is yet present in spirit and in soul. I am always a traveller to America and am assuredly associating with spiritual and illumined friends. "

Dearest friends! We ardently hope every one of today's Feasts may recall, in its celebratory tone and luminous spirituality, that immortal gathering a century ago. May each one be marked by such loving camaraderie and unity as to evoke the Master's Spirit and rejoice His great heart!

With loving Bahá'í greetings,


Kenneth E. Bowers

The part I find really interesting is the statement by 'Abdu'-Bahá: "I am always a traveller to America and am assuredly associating with spiritual and illumined friends."

The journey never ends!  We just have to be "spiritual" and "illumined" in order to perceive it / commune with the Master! 

Here is the entire reference, sent to me by Erica Toussaint-Brock:  (see also, my poem, below)

O thou who hast sought illumination from the light of guidance! Praise thou God that He hath directed thee to the light of truth and hath invited thee to enter the Kingdom of Abha. Thy sight hath been illumined and thy heart hath been turned into a rose garden. I pray for thee that thou mayest ever grow in faith and assurance, shine like unto a torch in the assemblies and bestow upon them the light of guidance.
     Whenever an illumined assembly of the friends of God is gathered, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, although bodily absent, is yet present in spirit and in soul. I am always a traveller to America and am assuredly associating with spiritual and illumined friends. Distance is annihilated and prevents not the close and intimate association of two souls that are closely attached in heart even though they may be in two different countries. I am therefore thy close companion, attuned and in harmony with thy soul.   (Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 102)

 The Journey that Does Not End

                        “I am always a traveller to America.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Hibiscus blooms turn and fold up only a day after they open.
Our dog came to us as a tiny pup and died at barely nine.
A thought emerges, then leaves without a trail.

Winter will come, killing off all of the grass, and
the birds will have to search hard for water.
Dead leaves get stuck in the French drain.
Dreams are forgotten before they appear.

Our skin will soon sag, our energy dissipate.
Words will be hard to hear, our vision will give way—
until it will be simpler not to breathe at all.

Life, after all, is transitory

But there is a mystery—something ever green,
a cycle occurring again and again.

He traveled, in 1912, and travels again each year,
April to December—three seasons, then a dormancy.
(No doubt He is packing for the next trip, preparing
to greet another round of swooning admirers and curious onlookers.)

But what if it was never just a physical journey, what if the lesson
is not in the where and when and who and why
but in a mystery folded and unfolded
like a linen napkin at an elegant dinner party
where there is always a new bottle of sparking elixer,
fresh grapes upon pyramids of luscious fruits—

            But I have fallen into tangibles
            When I am TRYING to describe the eternal.

“I am always a traveller to America,” He said,
“and am assuredly associating with spiritual and illumined friends.”

There’s the rub.
            How to be spiritual
            How to be illumined
            How to be a constant friend.

When His ship arrives or is always arriving
When the train pulls into the station in D.C., Boston, or Philadelphia
When the motorcar creeps between Dublin and Eliot
When a young Mohawk boy falls off a fence in surprise,
catching a glimpse of a wave and a turban,
When an illiterate miner hears His words in Persian and understands them in English
When a determined poor man rides under and above the trains to meet Him
When a wealthy woman fetes him at her country estate
When a portrait painter depicts His servitude to God
and a disciple begs to be recreated
When He heals the maladies of those who seek Him
and dispels the cobwebs of superstition
When He meets men of science
and women intent on getting the right to vote
When children encircle Him, fascinated
When the black, brown, yellow, red, and white races
are all embraced in His flower garden
When gingko leaves flourish and fall
When the moon of His life reflects the sun of his Father’s
When stars dance with delight—

I want to be there:
            standing with Him at Niagara,
            dining in the garden at Glenwood Springs,
            envisioning the future on Monsalvat . . .

And all we have to do to entice Him to come again and again into the journey of ourselves:
            Be spiritual
            Be illumined
            Be a constant friend.
                                                                                                Anne Gordon Perry

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