Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Virtues of Others

When being unjustly banished from Adrianople to Akka, Baha'u'llah noted, "the weeping of the people of the Son exceeded the weeping of others -- a sign for such as ponder".  The Christian's were weeping more than anyone else, and this, according to the Blessed Beauty, is "a sign for such as ponder".

Given the fact that pondering, and contemplating, is rated so higly in the Kitab-i-Iqan, the Book of Certitude, I have spent a lot of time wondering about this statement.  In most instances we are told to consider the past, ponder the significance of the stories we have seen of long ago, meditate upon them and see how they apply to our lives today.  In this case, we are asked to ponder a virtue shown by another community: the virtue of compassion.

This simple statement, "a sign for such as ponder", has made me really think about the virtues shown by other communities, for I believe that they all have developed at least one strength that is noble and worthy of consideration.

As all of the world religions have come from God, it seems to me that they each have something worthy of study.  For example, Islam has a lot to offer about learning to submit to the will of God.  Christianity has plenty to offer about the importance of recognizing a Messenger of God.  Judaism, in my opinion, has a lot to offer about the role of the family and how it integrates into a culture.  These are, of course, only simple examples, and not meant to be comprehensive.

Today, my family and I went across the street to the Laotian Buddhist temple to take part in a celebration wishing one of the monks farewell.  He is returning home to Laos, and will be sorely missed over here.  He has touched the hearts of many in the community.

Over the years that we have "consorted" with this beautiful community, we have learned many things, and not just some marvellous recipes.  We have learned of a tradition that is truly inspirational and gained a different perspective of remembering the souls of our dear ones in the next world.

When we go to the Temple across the way, it is the custom to bring some food for the monks.  The monks, you see, do not prepare their own food.  The community prepares the food for them.  They have a breakfast sometime around 6 am, and then they have a lunch at 11:30.  After that, they do not eat again until the next morning.

As you can imagine, I was very curious about this and wanted to know more.

It seems that the gift of food given to the monks is not just a gift of food, but is also symbolic in nature.  When you give them some food, they say a blessing over it, releasing the spirit of the food to the next world for your ancestors to eat.  The monks then eat of the physical food until they are full.  Again they say a blessing over the food that is left over (and there is always a huge amount left over) and return it to the community.  We all eat our fill and any left over food (and again there is always a huge amount remaining) goes to people who can use it.  It therefore becomes a marvelous form of charity.

This tradition, along with all the symbolism attached to it, has engendered a truly inspirational sense of generosity amongst this community, amd Marielle and I wanted to learn from it.

We spoke at length about the manner in which the Baha'i Feast was held in our community, and how there is always a search for people to host the social portion.  I recalled a few times, many years ago, in which a family or two were hosting it, and I brought a dish to share.  Although I was thanked, it felt as if I were intruding on their space.  Slowly I found myself no longer bringing the occasional dish.

After looking at the Buddhist community, and the way in which they openly shared everything they had, Marielle and I began bringing a dish to Feast without telling anyone (shhh, it's a secret).  We spoke with a few other Baha'is about our experience with the Buddhists, and they, too, began bringing an occasional dish or two.

I shared this with a few other people on the internet, and they introduced this idea to their communities.  Now, rather than finding a single host family for their Feast, everyone brings a dish or two.  The immediate result was a greater variety of good food each month, as well as more conversation about recipes and food ideas.  People started inviting each other over for dinner more often, and generally became closer friends.

A secondary result that they mentioned was a noticable increase in the Fund contributions.  It seemed that this was helping them become more generous.

Now, I won't say that the Buddhist community across the street is perfect, but I have seen what they have to offer.  And it is admirable.

But then, it came from a Manifestation of God, so what else would I expect?

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