Thursday, September 22, 2011

Gleanings CXXVIII, take 2

Well, that was unexpected. I didn't expect the feedback I got from the previous article, but then again, I guess it shouldn't be too much of a surprise. After all, I was writing about a drop of that fathomless Ocean. (Actually, what has surprised me is that of all the comments that came in, not a single one was in the comment section on the blog itself. Any reason for that, dear Reader? Anything I can do to make it easier to leave comments?)

Anyways, I heard your request and I do take it to heart.

Oh, I'm sorry. Which request? Well, as you so sagely pointed out, I only looked towards the end of that passage in Gleanings, the last 3 out of the 11 that are there. "Why", you asked, "don't you begin at the beginning?"

Okey dokey, artichokey.

Aside: Have I ever mentioned that I love my Mother? (And yes, I know that "Mother" should only be capitalized when used as a name. Tough.) I'm sure I have. Well, one of her most endearing traits is her sense of humour. There was a time when she was in Japan for a wedding, and was talking with the grandmother of the bride, a little old Japanese lady. (The grandmother, not the bride.) Anyways, during this conversation, my Mom used the phrase "okey dokey artichokey". And this little old lady who spoke very little English loved it. So, what did Mom do? She taught it to her. And boy, did this woman use it. She went around for the rest of the wedding and whenever she agreed with anything, she would pipe in, "okey dokey ahta chokee." It brings a smile to my face whenever I picture her saying it.

I'm sorry. Where was I? Oh, yes. Back to Gleanings. Might as well start at the beginning and go 1 paragraph at a time. Well, here it is. Paragraph 1 of Gleanings CXXVIII (128, for those of who don't read Roman):
Say: Doth it beseem a man while claiming to be a follower of his Lord, the All-Merciful, he should yet in his heart do the very deeds of the Evil One? Nay, it ill beseemeth him, and to this He Who is the Beauty of the All-Glorious will bear Me witness. Would that ye could comprehend it!
Now, please remember, I'm reading this passage as if it were all about teaching the Faith, but this is not the only way to read it. It's just the way I'm reading it today. In other words, I'm not an authority, and this is just my own thought on it.

Here, in the beginning of this passage, Baha'u'llah poses a very interesting question. Is it reasonable to say that you are a follower of God, but to do nasty things in your heart? Obviously, the answer is no.

But let's look again at what He actually says. He's not talking about committing the "deeds of the Evil One". He's talking about doing them in our heart.

This reminds me of Jesus, in Matthew 5:28, where He says, "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." It's a very interesting condemnation, for it is, in a sense, addressing thought-crime. It follows, in a very real sense, Exodus 20:17, the 10th Commandment, which says, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." Note that this is not about adultery or stealing, but about coveting. Having the desire itself is breaking the Commandment. (Theft and adultery are covered in number 7 and 8.) (And lying about it to try and cover your tracks is addressed in number 9, so there just isn't any way around it.) In fact, if you don't even allow yourself to desire, then there is really no chance of breaking the other Commandments. As Paul says, in his letter to James, "Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."

Baha'u'llah seems to be reminding of this important Commandment right here at the beginning of this passage.


Well, obviously I don't know, but it seems to me that this all ties in to purifying ourselves in order to be the most effective teacher we can. People can spot a hypocrite a mile away, and we if are talking about things that we don't believe in, people can sense it. Later, in this very section, Baha'u'llah tells us, "Unless he teacheth his own self, the words of his mouth will not influence the heart of the seeker." So here, right at the start, He is guiding us towards this.

As Baha'u'llah is moving us further into the piece, let's go on to the second paragraph:
Cleanse from your hearts the love of worldly things, from your tongues every remembrance except His remembrance, from your entire being whatsoever may deter you from beholding His face, or may tempt you to follow the promptings of your evil and corrupt inclinations. Let God be your fear, O people, and be ye of them that tread the path of righteousness

You see, it all comes back to the heart. I wonder how many times I've used that phrase in this blog. Lots, I imagine. The prayer, "Unite the hearts of the Thy servants", begins and ends with the heart. The Arabic Hidden Words begins, in a sense with the heart: "...possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart..." In the beginning of the Kitab-i-Iqan, Baha'u'llah tells us to "sanctify your souls", and explains that one part of doing this is to cleanse our "hearts from worldly affections". Even at the very beginning in Gems of Divine Mysteries, He comments that "the sweet accents of thy soul were heard from the inmost chambers of thy heart".

Yes sir. The heart is extremely important. It is, after all, His home, "the habitation of My beauty and glory".

A few paragraphs later, He goes on to explain what is meant by "the world", but for now it is enough to see what He says here. We need to cleanse our hearts, our tongues and our entire being from anything that could lead us to temptation. Quite the tall order, that, but one that has been suggested in virtually all the sacred Books of the past.

Finally, He offers the guidance that will aid us in this: "Let God be your fear..." I wrote a bit about the idea of the "fear of God" in a previous post, so I won't go into it too much more here. But since it was so obviously misunderstood in one of the comments, I'll just re-iterate a bit here. We, mostly in the West, have mis-understood the word "fear". It is not the same as terror. It means a mild discomfort, a cautionary awareness of the immense power at play. When you fear the fire, it doesn't mean that you are mortally terrified of it, but that you exercise due caution when utilising it.

In one of His Tablets, He writes, "The fear of God hath ever been a sure defence and a safe stronghold for all the peoples of the world. It is the chief cause of the protection of mankind, and the supreme instrument for its preservation. Indeed, there existeth in man a faculty which deterreth him from, and guardeth him against, whatever is unworthy and unseemly, and which is known as his sense of shame. This, however, is confined to but a few; all have not possessed and do not possess it."

In other words,shame will protect us from committing bad acts, but not everyone has this sense. It is like the sense of sight: there are a few who are blind. If we are devoid of this sense of shame, then the fear of God will be a good substitute. We can be concerned about disappointing our Creator, seeming unworthy of His creation of us. This, too, will help keep us on the right track, that "path of righteousness."

But this probably enough for today. I could easily go on and on about this topic, but I have to conduct a workshop on meditation in an hour, so I better go get ready. Hopefully I'll be able to look more at this section again tomorrow.


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