Thursday, March 24, 2011

Paragraph 16

With fixed and steady gaze, born of the unerring eye of God, scan for a while the horizon of divine knowledge, and contemplate those words of perfection which the Eternal hath revealed, that haply the mysteries of divine wisdom, hidden ere now beneath the veil of glory and treasured within the tabernacle of His grace, may be made manifest unto you. The denials and protestations of these leaders of religion have, in the main, been due to their lack of knowledge and understanding. Those words uttered by the Revealers of the beauty of the one true God, setting forth the signs that should herald the advent of the Manifestation to come, they never understood nor fathomed. Hence they raised the standard of revolt, and stirred up mischief and sedition. It is obvious and manifest that the true meaning of the utterances of the Birds of Eternity is revealed to none except those that manifest the Eternal Being, and the melodies of the Nightingale of Holiness can reach no ear save that of the denizens of the everlasting realm. The Copt of tyranny can never partake of the cup touched by the lips of the Sept of justice, and the Pharaoh of unbelief can never hope to recognize the hand of the Moses of truth. Even as He saith: "None knoweth the meaning thereof except God and them that are well-grounded in knowledge."[Qur'án 3:7] And yet, they have sought the interpretation of the Book from those that are wrapt in veils, and have refused to seek enlightenment from the fountain-head of knowledge.

This is the last of four paragraphs that lead us to consider some of the reasons for the denials, contention, conflict and all of the other myriad problems that the Messengers of God faced. In the first paragraph (13), Baha'u'llah pointed out that all of Them suffered the same pattern, and They also gave signs for the next Messenger's appearance. In the second paragraph (14), He gave us some of the reasons for the people denying Them, including being led astray by the leaders of religion. In the third one (paragraph 15), He drew our attention to the motives of the clergy, saying it was due to lust of leadership, as well as ignorance. Now He tells us, quite plainly, that it is their "lack of knowledge and understanding" that is the main reason for all these problems. And so we think that this whole paragraph can be understood in terms of this point. But, once again, we are not going to go there. Baha'u'llah already did, and He did it far better than we can. Instead, as is becoming our new norm, we're going to look at few tangental points, after taking a brief glance at one of the phrases we find interesting.

"Scan... the horizon" - isn't this like watching the horizon for the sun to rise during the early morning dawn? But then He mentions the tabernacle, so it is a tent, the holy tent, that is there somewhere on the horizon. And then the leaders of religion raise the standard of revolt against this sacred tent. But all this only means that these leaders are looking with their own eyes, and not the eye of God. We should look with an eye of humility, not with pride in our own knowledge and understanding.

We often say that the Jews wandered in the desert, lost, for forty years, but this is not really the case. As long as they knew where the tabernacle was, they were not lost. That was their centre. You are only lost if you cannot find that which you are seeking. After all, as Baha'u'llah says in the Hidden Words, "Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved?"

But here, the focus of the leaders of the religion is a bit off. They are not focused on the tabernacle. They are, instead, looking at their own learning and understanding. The leaders have contemplated the Writings, for that was the basis of their studies, but they haven't seen the mysteries within them. They are still ignorant of the spiritual truths of their faith, even though they are very familiar with the hermeneutics and theology (wow, pretty big words for us). These mysteries are often missed by those who study their faith from a purely intellectual perspective. They often forget that religion is fundamentally mystical at its core. They have missed the spiritual truths, and are not living according to the principles of their religion. They are obeying the letter of the law, but not its spirit. Why would this be? Well, early on, in paragraph 2, we are given the conditions our heart must manifest.
Because they haven't understood "the signs that should herald the advent of the Manifestation to come," and thought they had, they actually ended up raising the standard of revolt.

Now, rather than analyzing and repeating what is said here, we would like to look at something else Baha'u'llah is doing (or at least seems to be doing, in our own unofficial opinion). You have no doubt noticed that Baha'u'llah is constantly quoting the Qur'an. If this is supposed to be a model for how we are to effectively teach the Faith, then doesn't this imply that we should also ground our arguments in the Word of God that is recognized by the listener?

"...(S)can for a while the horizon of divine knowledge, and contemplate those words of perfection which the Eternal hath revealed"? Doesn't this seem to imply looking at all of the sacred Texts that have been revealed?

This is something that most people tend not to do. They generally only quote their own sacred texts, but not the sacred texts of others. How often have we, as Baha'is, tried to quote Baha'u'llah to "prove" our point? This isn't very effective if the person we're talking to doesn't recognize Baha'u'llah. We need to show the proofs in their sacred text. Jesus, for example, always answered the religious leaders of His day with quotes from their texts, the Tanakh (or the Old Testament, if you must), and not from His own parables. He used those to unveil to His followers new truths.

Here, Baha'u'llah isn't quoting the Writings of the Bab. He is quoting the holy Qur'an.

To us, this implies a need for a deeper understanding of the importance of interfaith work. As we dive into the sacred texts of other faiths, we find that we come to a greater appreciation of those works and can share in the love of that faith with its followers. We also find that, as we look at these texts through the lens of Baha'u'llah's teachings, we have a greater understanding of those books than we did before we were Baha'i. They just seem to make more sense.

It is also interesting to note that as we speak, with love and reverence, about these sacred texts, and try to discover some of the truths hidden within them, other people generally begin to see the widsom of the simple explanations that we offer. It is this simple look at the spirit of what is there within those texts that wins over the minds of these people. But it is our love and respect that wins over their hearts.

Only the Messengers can truly be said to understand the Word of God. Those who dwell in the everlasting realm are also privy to those same melodies, but we, who are so far from there, can only try to pass on those few phrases that we hear. It is like a song that can only be heard in the town square. We can try to offer some of that divine melody to others, in our own imperfect manner. We can train ourselves to better convey its melody, or meaning, but we must recognize that it is truly only the Messengers that can be said to understand it in its fullness.

These words are a gift. And as was said way back at the beginning of this book, it is only by purifying our heart that we even stand a chance of understanding even a bit of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment