Monday, July 18, 2011

Prayer for Canada

The Baha'i Council of BC, the western most part of Canada and where I currently reside, has asked the friends in the region to recite one of the prayers for Canada every day for the next little while. As I try to be obedient to the institutions of the Faith, I am happy to do so. Besides, I love this prayer.

Oh, sorry. Which prayer, you ask? There are a few of them? Yes, you're correct. Here it is:
"The spreaders of the fragrances of God should recite this prayer every morning:"

O God, my God! Thou beholdest this weak one begging for celestial strength, this poor one craving Thy heavenly treasures, this thirsty one longing for the fountain of eternal life, this afflicted one yearning for Thy promised healing through Thy boundless mercy which Thou hast destined for Thy chosen servants in Thy kingdom on high.

O Lord! I have no helper save Thee, no shelter besides Thee, and no sustainer except Thee. Assist me with Thine angels to diffuse Thy holy fragrances and to spread abroad Thy teachings amongst the choicest of Thy people.

O my Lord! Suffer me to be detached from aught else save Thee, to hold fast to the hem of Thy bounty, to be wholly devoted to Thy Faith, to remain fast and firm in Thy love and to observe what Thou hast prescribed in Thy Book.

Verily, Thou art the Powerful, the Mighty, the Omnipotent.
You'll notice that I include the direction for when to say the prayer, too. Why? I'm so glad you asked, dear Reader.

Actually, when I first copied it, I didn't include it. It was only after I began analyzing it that I had an inkling of its import.

Well, the truth is that it was my wife who did the analysis. I'm only riding on her coattails, so to speak. But her analysis was amazing. I'm only adding a little bit to what she said. If there is anything worthwhile in this little analysis, you can be sure it is her input. If there is anything that reminds you of a clown that you may have seen at a circus when you were a little child, and a clown that made you laugh and not cry, then that is probably from me. Of course, if there is anything in there that reminds you of the clown that made you a little bit scared, that is definitely from me. (Kidding. Just kidding.)

To make it easier for you to read, I'm just going to write down the analysis as if it's all from my own perspective. You can assign blame where you will.

To start, I noticed that there were three main paragraphs, plus the intro and the outro. (What do you call the opposite of an intro?) The first paragraph deals with my personal development. The second talks about my job. The third refers to what is required to do the job. Then it ends with praise of God, naturally.

Looking at paragraph 1, it seems to really talk about where we are, and what qualities we need to develop. We're weak, and we are hoping for strength. We're poor and we hope to get not just any treasure, for we know that gold will fade, but heavenly treasure. We're thirsty and want something to drink. But again, we know that if we only get water, we'll be thirsty again. What we really want is to attain the fountain of eternal life, for then we will never thirst again. We also are ill and long for healing. But here is the catch: we hope for that special healing that has been promised to the chosen few. Who are those chosen ones? And how will we recognize them? Let's hold onto that question for a moment.

I could easily go on and on about the order of these, what the historical significance of each one is, and so on, but really, what I say doesn't matter much. I think it is better to let the beauty and power of these words just wash over you.

What really intrigues me is this second paragraph. It opens with the recognition that whatever we do comes from God. It reminds us of our utter reliance upon the favours and bounties of God, and if we happen to forget that, the rest will go nowhere.

That second sentence, though, is the heart of the matter, to me. And please remember, this is nothing official. It's only my own meager opinion.

This is where we are asking God to help us diffuse His fragrances, with the aid of His angels, and then to spread abroad His teachings amongst the choicest of His people. And what, pray tell, does that mean?

What is a fragrance? Oh, and please note the parallel to the direction at the beginning, where the Master is referring this prayer to the "spreaders of the fragrances of God". It may just be me, but I think that is a bit of a clue as to its significance.

A fragrance is a sweet and pleasant scent, something that comes from a plant in order to attract the insects and birds to help it reproduce. It is diffused throughout the entire area, carried away by the wind. Without the breeze, the scent would only linger around the plant and not attract anything from further away.

In terms of this prayer, it seems to me that we are the ones  diffusing the holy fragrances, and that it is the angels that are carrying them all over the place. In fact, this reminds me of that passage from Baha'u'llah, in which He says, "Whoso reciteth, in the privacy of his chamber, the verses revealed by God, the scattering angels of the Almighty shall scatter abroad the fragrance of the words uttered by his mouth, and shall cause the heart of every righteous man to throb." We do a bit of an action, and it may have some effect. But if we are sincere, and are performing this deed with the best attitude we can, then those angels shall carry the effect of our action even further than we can imagine. The scent of the divine fragrance shall be spread all around.

When I try to imagine this, I picture a plant that just smells amazing. Perhaps it is a rose, or a lavender. When it is in bloom, and the flower is at its most fragrant, the wind will carry the scent quite some distance. I know that I am attracted to those scents whenever I smell them, so I can just imagine someone else sort of stopping whatever they are doing and just appreciating it, whether or not they are aware that they are smelling something. And that is what I look for: someone who seems to have stopped and caught the scent, from either my own actions, or someone else's.

Aside: We should never underestimate the effect of our own actions, even if we are not the one to them. When I was overseas in the "country of the future", someone had offered to give me a bit of a tour, for a price, of course. He proved to me that it would be worth my time, so I paid him the agreed upon amount. Then, during our tour, he said something that could have been seen as an insult to Christians, and he stopped in mid-step and apologized. I said that it was ok. I wasn't insulted. Besides, I wasn't Christian. I was a Baha'i. He then took another step back and said, "Oh, that explains it."

Now it was my turn to be a bit worried. "Explains what?"

Well, dear Reader, when he was asking what I wanted to see, I said that I was more interested in seeing how people lived, instead of the tourist spots. I wanted to see the markets, the housing area, that sort of stuff. And it seemed that I was the sixth Baha'i he had given a tour to, and we all had exactly the same interest. We were more interested in people than things. Now, on the sixth go, he was ready to ask about the Faith. Those other five Baha'is had truly sown the seeds, and whereas I thought that I would also be sowing seeds, it seemed that I was actually helping reap the harvest through little effort of my own (except perhaps for the prayers I said that morning).

So there it is, to me. We spread the fragrances and then see who notices that beautiful aroma. once we have identified them, have seen their joyous reaction, then we offer them the gift of the teachings.

Looking at that third paragraph, it seems to me that we really need to be detached in all that we do, and be grateful for those gifts that come our way, such as that tour guide in my own life. By being devoted to the Faith and sharing what I can when I can, it seems to me that more and more of these bounties come my way (for which I am very grateful). It also seems to me that whenever I really strive to follow what Baha'u'llah tells us to do, more of those gifts come my way. (And yes, whenever I slip, or forget to do those things, such as my 95 Allah'u'Abhas, or my obligatory prayer, those gifts suddenly seem to cease. Go figure.)

And so the very last paragraph is the answer: try to be strong. Isn't it interesting that the three attributes of God that the Master uses in this prayer are all about strength?

Well, I could go on more and more about this prayer, but it is late, and I am tired.

Thanks for joining me on this little explore of a beautiful prayer. Oh, and if you want to join me, and all the other Baha'is in BC on our prayer campaign, I'm sure we'd appreciate it.

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