Friday, February 19, 2010

Paragraph 2

The essence of these words is this: they that tread the path of faith, they that thirst for the wine of certitude, must cleanse themselves of all that is earthly -- their ears from idle talk, their minds from vain imaginings, their hearts from worldly affections, their eyes from that which perisheth. They should put their trust in God, and, holding fast unto Him, follow in His way. Then will they be made worthy of the effulgent glories of the sun of divine knowledge and understanding, and become the recipients of a grace that is infinite and unseen, inasmuch as man can never hope to attain unto the knowledge of the All-Glorious, can never quaff from the stream of divine knowledge and wisdom, can never enter the abode of immortality, nor partake of the cup of divine nearness and favour, unless and until he ceases to regard the words and deeds of mortal men as a standard for the true understanding and recognition of God and His Prophets.

This paragraph very much follows the first paragraph, as it is an explanation of it.  Baha'u'llah, with grace and mercy, gives us the "essence of these words".  It is difficult to sum up this paragraph, as it is already a summary.  The best we can hope to do is analyze it a bit.

The word "tread" means "to form by the action of walking". It implies that we are already walking, that there is already movement. We are not beginning our journey with this Book, for we must have some spiritual background to follow the line of argument in this Text. We are continuing our journey. Beyond this, we are further forming the path that others will follow.
Next, we are given a definition of what would qualify as "earthly", but surely there is more to it.  Why are those four attributes, the ears, minds, hearts and eyes, in that order?  Is He reminding us that first we hear something, and then we believe it?  Once we believe it, our heart becomes attached to it?  When our heart is attached to it, we then focus all our attention on it?  If this path is correct, then we really need to pay attention to what we subject our ears to.

Regarding how you cleanse your "ears from idle talk", we learned, with the help of a dictionary, that 'idle' means purposeless or worthless.  This gives us criteria by which we can judge the value of what we hear.  Does it have purpose?  Is it worth listening to?  Or is it merely the cause of "vain imaginings"?

These questions can be applied in so many areas of life.  They can affect what we read, what movies we watch, the music we listen to.  The list is endless. For a more comprehensive list, look at the Guardian's description of "absolute chastity" as a spiritual weapon, found in The Advent of Divine Justice.

All of this can then lead us to questions of the ego.  Do we say we believe something because it is what everyone else says they believe?  Are we listening to a particular type of music because our peers are?  Are we attaching ourselves to something out of fear that we may be ridiculed or ostracized if we do not?  Are we setting our eyes on "that which perisheth"?

Simply put, why are we doing what we are doing?  This paragraph is a bold reminder to be aware and conscious of our actions: to think for ourselves, to act for ourselves, and to base our actions upon our understanding of the Sacred Texts.

We should put our trust in God, and in no other.

That, of course, only looks at the first half of the paragraph.

If we follow the advice in that first half, then we may be worthy of the light that shines upon us. If we approach everything looking for its purpose, then we will approach the Sacred Writings in that way, too. We will read a Book such as the Kitab-i-Iqan with the question of how we can apply it in our life. If we choose not to do that, but merely see it as entertainment, or a nice diversion without seeing how to apply it, then are we really worthy of reading it? If we are not planning on living by these Writings, then what is our motive in reading Them?

When we approach the Writings with the eye of action, apply what we learn in our life, then the Concourse on High will descend upon us and bless our actions. We will become the "recipients of a grace that is infinite and unseen". But if we choose not to act, then those unseen forces can not help us.

This approach, however, is not commonly seen within society. Many people will deride us for acting upon our faith. How often have we seen people chastised in the media for practicing their religious beliefs? Surely this is not the standard we should value. We need to value the standard set forth in the Writings.

We need to study the Writings, immerse ourselves in the ocean of His Words, look for those pearls of wisdom and apply them in our life. We need to make them the basis for our every step and our every breath. It is through this dedication that we will come to a better understanding of the importance of these Teachings and the role of the Manifestations of God.

Baha'u'llah, in addition to all this, seems to allude to a path that we may follow. We begin by hoping "to attain unto (this) knowlege", and to do that, we must "quaff from the stream". Once we have refreshed ourselves with this water we can then enter "the abode". Inside this house, this dwelling-place, we can then "partake of the cup of divine nearness". Of course, this is a different type of beverage than drinking from the stream, yet both are refreshing and carry manifold benefits. What type of beverage is in this cup? Could it be the "wine of certitude" mentioned in the beginning of this paragraph?

Finally, as we walk this journey toward the shores of the ocean, we pause in the abode of immortality, and Baha'u'llah shows us hospitality by giving us a drink. What greater bounty can you imagine?

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