Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Gift of Translation

"What is the greatest gift that you think Baha'u'llah has given us?"

That's a tough question, because, well, there are too many to name. But one of them is the ability to translate.

Marielle and I were talking this morning and she shared with me something that I'd known for a long time, but hadn't quite put it in the context she shared.

Last night, she went to a sweatlodge, and while there an elder talked about how the only way he can approach the Creator is through the Grandfathers. He said that there are so many different understandings of what the Creator is, whether we call Him God, Allah, the Earth Mother, Mother Nature, Gitchi Manitou, the divine Spirit, or what have you, that it is difficult to be inclusive. (No, I've never met anyone who has referred to God as the great "what have you", but it does sound good.) And he said that the only way he could talk about God in a meaningful way was by speaking about Him through the elders that came before him.

Doesn't that just sound like how Baha'u'llah says we can only approach God through the Manifestations? Or how Jesus says "No man comes to the Father but through Me"?

What I had known for a long time, and what I have spoken about quite often, is this idea that God does not change, but our understanding of God grows. I often use the metaphor of being in a glass building, looking up. Just above us are the elders. We point to them and say, "That is God". And we're correct, because we're pointing up. We look up and see these elders that we love and respect and decide that God must be really old. We point up. That is God.

But to someone standing outside the building, they will say, "No, that's just a bunch of elders. God is way above that." And they're right, too. It's just a matter of perspective, where you're standing.

Some people will see the Manifestations of God, on a floor quite a bit higher than the elders, and their eyes will focus on Them. They will point to Jesus and say, "That is God." And they're correct, for they are pointing in the right direction. Up.

But again, someone standing on the outside will say, "No, that's just Jesus. God is way above that." And you know what? They're correct, too. Again, perspective.

Muhammad comes along and points to the a "higher floor", one that has the attributes of God on it, and we point to that floor and say, "The All-Knowing? The All-Wise? That must be God." Pointing up? We're good. Still in the right direction.

Someone outside? "God is above that." Still correct.

And now Baha'u'llah comes along and says, "(I)f I proclaim Thee by the name of Him Who is the All-Compelling, I readily discover that He is but a suppliant fallen upon the dust, awe-stricken by Thy dreadful might, Thy sovereignty and power." He even goes on to say, "Whoso claimeth to have known Thee hath, by virtue of such a claim, testified to his own ignorance..." Once again, our vision is raised. We are being directed to a "higher" understanding of God.

But let's go back to that first floor.

We still have to go up. We have to honour our parents, and our elders, for without that, we can never truly know how to honour God.

Then we can move up to honouring the Manifestations of God. We can go through that floor to a greater understanding of the importance of the attributes of God, as manifested by the Manifestations. Every time, it seems to me that we need to go through understanding one stage to get to the next.

Nobody can get to the "Father" except by going up through all these different floors.

And you know what? It was only through reading Baha'u'llah's Writings that this began to make any sort of sense to me. So now, when someone talks about the elders, I can see that they are pointing towards God. When someone talks about Jesus, I can see that they are pointing towards God. When someone refers to the Bear Spirit, I can see that they are talking about God.

Baha'u'llah has given me a great tool for translating what someone else is saying and allowing me to see the truth in their words.

And you know what else? That also works with prayer, and all sorts of other things. I now understand that prayer is that attitude we have inside, not the ritual outside of us by which we pray. That allows me to have a greater respect and understanding of others when I see them in that state of being.

Pretty cool that.

Unless you're in a sweatlodge. Then it's pretty warm.

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