While riding in the countryside of Nur, Bahá’u’lláh came across a dervish. A dervish was one who had given up worldly things to seek the spiritual path. They lived nomadic and simple lives seeking to come nearer to God. This dervish, was cooking his food by the side of the road. Bahá’u’lláh dismounted and asked him what he was doing. As the dervish saw God in everything, even the food he was eating, he simply replied, “I am engaged in eating God, in cooking God and burning him” Bahá’u’lláh smiled, and sat down beside him. Talking to him tenderly, He explained the true nature of God. The humble dervish listened, and many shadows in his imagination vanished before him. A new and powerful insight unveiled itself, he felt like a bird released from a cage, his spirit sang with joy. As Bahá’u’lláh left him, the dervish followed, leaving all his cooking and utensils and danced with joy behind Bahá’u’lláh’s horse, singing praises to Him from his heart.
(Ruhi Book 4)
When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1913, He related an incident from His early childhood: ‘It is good to be a spreader of the Teachings of God in childhood. I was a teacher in this Cause at the age of this child (eight or nine years). This reminds me of a story. There was a man, highly educated, but not a Bahá’í. I, but a child, was to make of him a believer. The brother of this man brought him to me. I stayed with him, to teach him. He said, “I am not convinced, I am not satisfied.” I answered, “If water were offered to a thirsty one, he would drink and be satisfied. He would take the glass. But you are not thirsty. Were you thirsty, then you too would be satisfied. A man with seeing eyes sees. I can speak of the sun to every seeing one, and say it is a sign of the day; but a blind person would not be convinced because he cannot see the sun. If I say to a man with good hearing, listen to the beautiful music, he would then listen and be made happy thereby. But if you play the most beautiful music in the presence of a deaf man, he would hear nothing. Now go and receive seeing eyes and hearing ears, then I will speak further with you on this subject.” He went; but later he returned. Then he understood and became a good Bahá’í. This happened when I was very young.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 118)
When Elizabeth Cheney finally reached the end of her journey, further disaster awaited her. She had been given letters of introduction to various people political leaders, editors, and so on - who, it was hoped, might be of assistance to her. But, during the course of this delayed journey, there had been a revolution – and all of the men to whom Elizabeth carried her letters were either in prison or in exile or hiding. She met with nothing but shrugs and smiles and closed lips. No doors were open to her; she was blocked at every turn. So, once again, she retired to pray and to meditate. Then, knowing that prayer must be followed by action, she went out to walk the streets, praying as she walked for guidance. Her steps were slow and hesitant in order that, when guidance came, she might not be distracted by her own haste. At last - still with no answer to her prayers that might guide her - she found herself away from the heart of the city and in a broad avenue lined with spacious lawns and gardens surrounding beautiful homes. Here her steps slowed and she became aware of her own sharpened attention as if the time had come for her to listen carefully. And finally her steps stopped completely. There was no further urge to go on. She stood quite still and looked around her. She was standing beside a tall wrought-iron fence, and beyond the fence, beyond a low hedge, there was a man, kneeling beside a bed of flowers. Elizabeth – not knowing what else to do - stood quietly and watched him. She saw him start, as he realized he was being watched, then he stood up, dusted his knees and walked toward her. And in her halting Spanish Elizabeth heard herself mentioning the name of one of the men to whom she‘d been given a letter. The man showed great surprise, but Elizabeth went on talking, telling him why she had come - giving him the Message. Finally, bowing and smiting he left her - and Elizabeth waited. In a few moments the man returned to open the gates and usher her into the house, where the man to whom her letter was addressed was in careful hiding and was waiting to receive her. This was the turning point for Elizabeth - from then on her way was easier and her teaching successful.
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 12)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá had such an easy way of leading into a meaningful conversation. He would begin ‘with some simple reference to a natural thing, the weather, food, a stone, tree, water, the prison, a garden or a bird, our coming, or some little act of service, and this base would be woven into a parable and teaching of wisdom and simplicity, showing the oneness of all Spiritual Truth, and adapting it always to the life, both of the individual and of mankind. All of His words are directed toward helping men to live. Unless questions of metaphysics, dogmas and doctrines be introduced, He seldom mentioned them. He speaks easily, clearly, in brief phrases, each of which is a gem.’
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)
Howard Colby Ives (my father) first heard of the Faith through Clarence Moore (the father of Emily Kalantar) and, from the very first mention, he was skeptically reluctant to put such faith in this wonderful Message. For years he had put his faith in various things and in the end, found that faith betrayed. In his search, he had become a Unitarian minister and was, at the time of his meeting with Clarence Moore, becoming, as he had before with other beliefs, disillusioned and unhappy within the confinement of a dogma. So he was not about to pin this tattered hope of his to any new masthead only to have it torn down once more. He and Clarence had many hours of discussion, but Father, longing so desperately to find the Truth that would, for all eternity, prove itself to be unflawed and real, refused to be moved from his stand of doubt and fearfulness. ‘It is a beautiful Message", he told Clarence, “It is a beautiful dream. It is good that you and others are able to dream it. But I - I have dreamed too much and too often and the awakening has always been too bitter. I cannot dream again and wake again.” It was too painful for him even to contemplate. Then came the Spring when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was arriving in New York. And, Clarence, radiant, said, “Howard, you must meet Him and I am sure all will be well with you.” Father refused. “What good would it do?” he asked. “We would be lost in a vast crowd of people. He would be wholly concerned with his audience I would be lucky if I glimpsed the top of his turban. What would be the use? Now if I might meet Him face to face - if we might commune heart-to-heart - alone with no one to interrupt, Ah, then we might truly meet.” Father’s tone betrayed his hope - but Clarence sighed and shook his head. “No one meets ‘Abdu’l-Bahá alone – it is necessary that all His words be recorded; He is always accompanied by His secretaries and friends.” But, in spite of this attitude of Father’s Clarence persisted, and finally he brought Montfort Mills to add his persuasion - and between them they finally managed to bring Father to the Hotel Ansonia, where at that time ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was staying. And it was exactly as Father had imagined it to be. The living room of the suite was crowded, there was barely room to stand and the air was filled with chatter. Father, disgusted that he had permitted himself to be talked into such a hopeless hubbub and realizing a fresh the absurdity of even thinking he‘d discover any truth in all the confusion, walked over to a window and looked down on the Broadway traffic. It was then he heard a door open and turned. A door had opened and in the doorway stood a Persian who, as he caught Father’s eye, beckoned to him. Father hesitated this was not possible, the man was, of course, beckoning to someone else. But he beckoned again, unmistakably, and Father moved across the room and entered the doorway. It was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s bedroom that he stepped into and, as Father crossed the threshold, everyone in the room left by another door, Father and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá were alone. For a moment they stood and looked at each other then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá opened his arms and Father walked into them, “My son my very dear son” – murmured ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and embraced him deeply. Then He motioned to a chair and Father sat down. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sat down close by. Nothing at all was said, The moments flowed by. Occasionally ‘Abdu’l-Bahá reached out and patted Fathers knee, gently and lovingly. And Father sat there. Later he said, “I knew then that I had found all and more than I was seeking - I had found a Man for the first time in my life who was truly possessed of the Pearl of Great Price, I had found flowing all around me and pouring through me, the infinite peace of which I had dreamed for all my life long.” In that long sweet silence in the presence of the Master my Father had been given the bounty of deep, unshakable, unquestioning, everlasting Faith. And for all the remaining years of his life he dedicated every breath he drew to sharing this Faith with everyone he met.
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 32-33)
Just before Mrs C left the household of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in ‘Akka, ‘He came into her room to say farewell, and seating Himself by the window looked off upon the sea in silence for so long a time that His guest began to wonder if He had forgotten her presence. ‘Then at length He turned to her and said, with that eager speech that is one of His peculiarities: “Mrs C when you go back to New York talk to people about the love of God. People in the world do not talk enough about God. Their conversation is filled with trivialities, and they forget the most momentous subjects. Yet is you speak to them of God they are happy, and presently they open their hearts to you. Often you can not mention this glorious Revelation, for their prejudice would interfere, and they would not listen. But you will find that you can always talk to them about the love of God."’ ‘Then He went away, and Mrs C sat a long time in the gathering darkness, while the glory of the sun descended upon the glittering waters of the Mediterranean. The fragrant shadows seemed to echo softly with the last words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “You will find that you can always talk to them about the love of God."’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 163)
A young Bahá ‘i lady pioneered to Bolivia in the 1930 s to open it to the Faith. Having no success in teaching anyone, she began to write to the Guardian expressing feelings of failure. With each passing month she wrote and he replied encouraging her to stay, to remain steadfast, to have faith and to pray. So obediently she continued on. Every day she went to the centre of a small town and in one of the regions found a spot by a fountain and tearfully prayed for the progress of the Faith. After two years the beloved Guardian consented to her wish to return home. The story of this young lady was lost and unknown to the friends in Bolivia. Years later when they experienced entry by troops they organised regional teaching conferences. At the end of one of them they decided to take a group photograph. They found a sunny spot big enough for 1,200 friends to gather. Mr Vojdani took a copy of this photo everywhere to show to the friends on his travels.
Years later, friends from many countries had gathered in Paris for a huge anniversary celebration and Mr Vojdani attended as part of a delegation from the Americas. In the crowd a very old lady using two walking sticks hobbled over to them and asked if there was anyone from Bolivia. He said yes. She asked if there were many Bahá ’s there, again he said yes, then she asked if he had any photographs from Bolivia. He showed her the one of the teaching conference group photo. She took it and looked at it for a few moments and then fainted. Later in hospital, when she came round, the shocked friends asked her what had happened. In a frail voice she told her story that she had been sent to Bolivia by the Guardian and every day for two years she had sat down in the exact spot where the photograph had been taken to pray and beseech Bahá‘u’llah to open the doors of His Faith to the people of Bolivia. Seeing the photograph she realised then, years later, that her prayers had been answered. Three days later she died. http://pioneer-desk-mauritius.blogspot.gr/
Before He left London in 1913 at the close of His second visit, He gave a talk at Cadogan Gardens, clearly stating that teaching the Bahá’í Faith called for ‘undivided attention’. ‘Teach the Cause to those who do not know. It is now six months that Siyyid Asadu’llah implored that I write a few lines to my sister, my daughters. I have not done this because I find I must teach. I enter all meetings, all churches, so that the Cause may be spread. When the “Most Important” work is before our sight, we must let go the “Important” one.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 161)
Five years after Grace told me these stories she went on an extensive teaching trip through the nearsouthern states. For three of these five years she had been very ill - most of the time very close to the Open Door. Finally, when she was beginning to convalesce, she was sent, by a generous and devoted sister-Bahá’í, to a large convalescent home. This was at the time of our beloved Guardian’s first call for pioneers to South America - a call that Grace, until this time, had been too ill to comprehend. But now she did comprehend, and all the way to the convalescent home she prayed from the depths of her hungry soul that she might, in some way, be able to respond to the Guardian’s call. She arrived at the home and discovered that, that very evening, a masquerade was planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Grace at once began to plan a costume for herself. She was very ingenious and clever about such things, and she was delighted that, so soon, she might have an opportunity of meeting her fellow guests -
and maybe giving the Message- who knew? Eagerly she began to dress. She was powdering her nose in the bathroom when she fell. Whether she slipped or whether she fainted she herself was not sure. But when they found her she was lying unconscious - and unable to walk. She was put to bed and there was no party for her that night. And the next day when she finally went down stairs to meet people she met them from a wheel chair. And the people she met were from Chile and Argentina and Peru and Brazil! All the countries she had so longed to pioneer in - all the countries her beloved Guardian had said should be given the Message. So Grace being Grace, saw the beautiful joke that had been played on her - and she began to laugh. And all the people said, “Why, Mrs. Ober, how can you laugh when this dreadful thing has happened to you?” And Grace said, “Because I am a Bahá’í do you know what that means?” Of course they didn’t so she told them. And from her wheel-chair she did her pioneering in South America and these people from Chile and Argentina and Peru and Brazil, took the Message home with them together with all the literature Grace gave them.
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 21)
Bahá’u’lláh had immediately and without question accepted the Bab’s station, and arose to proclaim His message. That He was the promised one, The Qa‘im, and the Herald of One to come who was greater than He.
Eager to share this message with all around Him, He set off on horseback across the mountains back to His home district of Nur and set forth, to all that would listen to the flow of His sweet words, the message proclaimed by the Bab. Those who accepted it became known as Babis. Bahá’u’lláh said that if there was one who sought the truth a hundred leagues away, who was unable to come to Him, He would set out himself to give him that most precious of all messages.
The news of the Bab and His followers was on everyone’s lips and soon the students of the mujtahid of Nur, Mulla Muhammad were asking him about it. Bahá’u’lláh visited the mujtahid, and was courteously received by him. He respectfully told him He was not there to pay an official visit but to inform him of a new and wondrous message, divinely inspired and fulfilling the promise given to Islam. Whoever had inclined his ear to this message had felt its irisistable power and been transformed by the potency of its grace. He asked him, what was perplexing his mind or hindering him from recognising the truth?
The mujtahid replied nervously that he took no action without first consulting the holy Quran. It was a custom in those days, to open the holy book at random, and to take guidance from the first verse the eyes fell upon. So Bahá’u’lláh invited him, encouraged him, indeed consult the holy Quran. Mullah Mohammad opened the holy book, but the verse he read we shall never know. He studied it silently, and quickly slammed the book shut,
” I have consulted the book of God… I deem it inadvisable to proceed with this matter."
Bahá’u’lláh bid him a courteous and friendly goodbye. The matter was between the mujtahid and God. The truth could be forced on no-one.
(Ruhi Book 4)
At the Annual Bahá’í Convention held in Chicago in 1923 Jinab-i-Fadil told the following story: A woman went to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, received His teachings and blessings, and asked for a special work. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, ‘Spread the law of love. Live in accord with love, reciprocity and cooperation.’
She answered, ‘I want something special. All Bahá’ís are asked to do this.’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá answered, ‘Very well. Come tomorrow morning, when you are about to leave, and I will give you the special work.’
She was very happy all that day and night, in anticipation. The next day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said to her, ‘I am going to give you my son that you may educate him physically, mentally and spiritually.’
She was surprised, and was made happy at this. But her surprise gave way to wonder when she reflected that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had no son. What could He mean? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked, ‘Do you know this son of mine?‘
Then He told her: In her city there had lived a man, her worst enemy. He had died leaving a son, who no one to take care of him: this was now her task. When she heard this she was overwhelmed. She was spiritually reborn. She wept and said, ‘My Master, I now know what the Bahá’í Cause means.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 106)
Once, in the early days, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sent an eager believer there to ’sow the seed, deliver the Message.’ The man went, and two years later returned very discouraged. “I
have sown the seed. I have delivered the Message through the length end breadth of India and they will not listen. Not one single soul has declared his belief in Bahá’u’lláh! What shall I do now?” And ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said rather sternly, “Go back and sow the seeds. I did not tell you to gain believers. I told you to sow the seeds.” (Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 39)
When He was here in America in 1912 He spoke in many places and, as we read these talks in the Promulgation of Universal Peace, it is very often noticeable how much He repeats Himself, approaching the point He wishes to make from many angles. One evening a woman, after telling Him how much she had enjoyed His Talk, complained of this. He smiled at her gently. “And what is it I repeat?” He asked. Of course she couldn’t tell Him.
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 37)
One of the most beautiful stories we have is the one of May Maxwell (the mother of Ruhiyyih Khanum) and Thomas Breakwell. This was in the very early days, when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was still a prisoner in Acca and May Maxwell was a young girl probably (judging by the dates available to me) 1905. The story was told to me by my father and by May Maxwell herself, but in this account, I am paraphrasing May Maxwell’s own words to be found in the Star of the West. She herself is not certain of the exact date though she will never forget the details. It happened in the Spring when May’s mother and brother were planning to leave Paris for Brittany and of course they wished May to accompany them. But ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had requested that she remain in Paris so, upon her mother’s insistence, she wrote to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for His permission to leave. This was refused. He wished her to remain in Paris. So, finally May’s mother and brother left without her and she went to stay with a friend. It was not long after this that a Mrs. Milner, who had just arrived from America, brought a young man whom she had met on shipboard to meet May. In May’s own words: “I shall never forget opening the door and seeing him standing there. It was like looking at a veiled light. I saw at once his pure heart, his burning spirit, his thirsty soul, and over all was cast the veil which is over every soul until it is rent asunder by the power of God in this day.” Mrs. Milner introduced him as a young man interested in spiritual things, who was at the moment a Theosophist. They stayed only a short time, but as he was leaving, he said that Mrs. Milner had mentioned some teaching that May was interested in and might he call again to hear about it? He returned the next morning and May, realizing his great capacity, gave him the full Message - which he accepted completely and instantly. Three days later he wrote to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá saying with great simplicity, “My Lord! I believe; forgive me. Thy servant, Thomas Breakwell.” “That evening", writes May, “I went to the Rue du Bac to get my mail and found a cablegram which had just arrived saying, ‘You may leave Paris.’ and signed Abbas.” (Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 29)
Early in the days of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s imprisonment in the barracks in ‘Akka, news of His wisdom spread from a butcher’s shop. He and a few of Bahá’u’lláh’s companions had left the barracks to procure food and other necessary items from the markets. In the butcher’s shop where the Master waited to be served, a Muslim and a Christian were apparently expounding the merits of their respective faiths. The Christian was winning the discussion. Thereupon, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá entered the conversation and with simplicity and eloquence proved the validity of Islam to the satisfaction of the Christian. The news of this incident ’spread and warmed the hearts of many people of ‘Akka towards the Master; this was the beginning of His immense popularity among the inhabitants of that city.’ There even came a time when the governor of the city, Ahmad Big Tawfiq, sent his own son to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for instruction and enlightenment.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 119)
On one occasion the Master reminded His friends as follows: ‘We must execute the divine ordinances. The Blessed Beauty says, “If you have a word or a truth, which others are deprived of, present it with utmost compassion. If it is accepted, the aim is attained. If otherwise, you should not interfere. Leave him to himself, while advancing to God, the Mighty, the Self-subsisting."
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 89)
In the days when steamships, such as the Mauritania and Franconia, made round-the-world trips, Loulie went several times for the sole purpose of stopping at each port-of-call to make whatever contacts she might to proclaim the coming of Bahá’u’lláh. The Captains of these ships always proved most cooperative, making every possible effort to be of assistance. So one time when the ship was approaching Manila he came to her very disturbed. It seemed that because of various delays the stop at Manila would be very much shortened. In fact, they would dock there only for an hour. Loulie, who had planned for at least a day or two, at once began to pray for guidance. What, in her
precious hour, could she do that would reach some hungry seeking soul in this city? Finally, when the ship docked, Loulie rushed to a library but when she asked permission to place books on the shelves she was refused. There was no place in that library for a new and strange religion. So, in despair - time was passing so swiftly - she begged that she might go into the shelves and tuck a few pamphlets here and there. This was, reluctantly, granted her - so back she went to tuck her pamphlets. Time passed and Loulie returned to New York. Then months later came a letter from Manila her parnphlets had been discovered; the man who found them had interested friends and where could he get more literature? Loulie, delighted, sent him more - and more. Then came the war and these new believers were scattered and, Loulie feared, lost. But no - when Peace came, they found each other, they got in touch with Loulie again and, once more the Bahá’í Community of Manila was thriving. All because Loulie had tucked pamphlets in a library during one precious hour of pioneering.
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 10)
In 1914 the Master wrote to the friends in Denver concerning how to convey the message of Bahá’u’lláh: ‘The three conditions of teaching the Cause of God are the science of sociability, purity of deeds and sweetness of speech. I hope each one of you may become confirmed with these three attributes.’
Earlier in New York City, He had spoken to His friends about their going to Green Acre, the Bahá’í summer school in Maine: ‘You must give the message through action and deed, not alone by word. Word must be conjoined with deed. You must love your friend better than yourself; yes, be willing to sacrifice yourself. The cause of Bahá’u’lláh has not yet appeared in this country. I desire that you be ready to sacrifice everything for each other, even life itself; then I will know that the cause of Bahá’u’lláh has been established. I will pray for you that you may become the cause of upraising the lights of God. May everyone point to you and ask “Why are these people so happy?” I want you to be happy in Green Acre, to laugh, smile and rejoice in order that others may be made happy by you.’
On the same subject He wrote: ‘Caution and prudence, however, must be observed even as recorded in the Book. The veil must in no wise be suddenly rent asunder.’ The teacher should also be concerned about the listener’s physical needs. This practical approach was apparent in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s words: ‘Never talk about God to a man with an empty stomach. Feed him first.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 119)
Dear Elizabeth Cheney tiny, plump, copper haired was one of the first to answer the call to pioneer in South America. Dedicated and radiant, she went forth to plant the standard of Bahá’u’lláh, and from the first she was beset by difficulties. Everything in the world seemed to happen to her. She was ill, funds she had counted on failed to materialize, the various methods of transportation that were scheduled were either detoured or failed entirely - but. nothing daunted her. With determination and great courage, she continued to press on. Finally, she reached the last leg of her journey - a river boat that was to take her to her destination. With relief and joy, she boarded the boat, only to be awakened close to midnight - the boat had struck submerged rocks and was sinking. Elizabeth had only time to get out of her stateroom, run on deck and, with the water rising nearly to her waist, plunge over the rail and into the river. It was pitch dark, moon less, and no stars. The water was cold. Elizabeth floundered, went under, rose, prayer on her lips and in her heart - and grasped a log that was floating. A moment later she realized she was not alone grasping the log - another woman spoke to her out of the darkness. And there, with muddy river water smacking against her face, thick darkness pressing around her, the wrecked boat sinking lower and lower and the cries of the drowning echoing around her, Elizabeth gave the Message that she had come pioneering to give - and at the other end of the log her first contact listened.
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 11)
In Paris on one occasion a man from India stated frankly to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: ‘My aim in life is to transmit as far as in me lies the message of Krishna to the world.’ In His loving way the Master replied: ‘The Message of Krishna is the message of love. All God’s prophets have brought the message of love. None has ever thought that war and hate are good. Every one agrees in saying that love and kindness are best.’ A negative approach would have hurt this man. The Master did not offer argument. Instead He showed appreciation, and thus He encouraged this devout follower of Krishna.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 58)
‘I told Him I was in the wine business and grossed fifteen thousand tons of grapes in one season, which makes over two million gallons of wine. “Oh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,” I said, “I am a foreigner, born in Switzerland, and have not the command of the English language. I would love to be a speaker. All I am doing is to give away pamphlets and as many books as are printed.” ‘He looked serious. He said, “You are doing well. I am satisfied with you. With you it is not the movements of the lips, nor the tongue. With you it is the heart that speaks. With you it is silence that speaks and radiates.”
(Marzieh Gail, Dawn Over Mount Hira, p. 207)
The Master made it quite clear that people of very different capacities were qualified to teach this great Faith, each in his own way. John David Bosch, who had come to America from Switzerland, felt that he could not be a speaker—instead he circulated pamphlets and books. The Master encouraged him: ‘You are doing very well; you are doing better than talking. With you it is not words or the movement of the lips; with you it is the heart that speaks. In your presence silence speaks and radiates.’
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 59)
In 1911 in a little Boston suburb called Medford, a woman from London came to speak about the martyrs in the early days of the Bahá’í Faith. William Randall was one of the guests invited to the home of Marian Williams Conant. Mr Randall had never as much as heard of the Bahá’í Faith, yet he went with moderate interest. When the evening was over and he was shaking hands with the speaker, who had shown pictures of early martyrs, she looked at him and said, ‘Mr Randall, you are the only person in this room who has caught the spirit of this evening. I am going to send someone to you to tell you of the Bahá’í Faith.’ Mr Randall was startled but thanked her and departed. A few weeks passed. One morning he looked up from his desk and saw Harlan Ober standing before him. He was immediately impressed with Harlan’s eyes and with his sincerity. Having seated himself, Harlan began to tell him about the Bahá’í Faith. Mr Randall had long had a lively interest in religion. Born a Catholic, he had become an Episcopalian, but he had gone into Theosophy, Christian Science and New Thought movements; he had studied ancient religions. He felt he knew all there was to know about religion. He had no real interest in studying a new faith now, but Mr Ober was persistent. As the months passed, Harlan Ober repeatedly dropped in on William Randall, urging him to study, telling him more about this new Faith.
When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá came to Boston in 1912, Harlan said to his reluctant student, ‘You must go and see Him …’ Mr Randall was disinclined, but finally consented to hear the Master lecture in Boston. Listening to Him, he thought that this Man was certainly a very great Man, truly a Saint. At the close of the lecture, as Mr Randall was leaving the hall, he heard one of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s secretaries ask, ‘Is there anyone here who would be gracious enough to buy ‘Abdu’l-Bahá some grape juice? He is very fond of it and would like some after His lecture.’ Instinctively, Mr Randall replied, ‘I would be very glad to get it.’ At the corner drug store he bought six bottles of grape juice and took them to the hotel where the Master was staying. He could give them to someone who could take them to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, as he did not want to become involved. When he got off the elevator, he was drawn swiftly into conversation with friends who were standing near. Hardly realizing what he was doing, he handed his bottles to one of the Master’s secretaries. The next thing he knew the secretary returned with a glass of grape juice on a tray and said to Mr Randall, ‘Since you have been so kind to bring this to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, won’t you take it in yourself, Mr Randall?’ Not liking the idea – yet not wishing to be ungracious – he consented, but planned to put it on the nearest table and make a speedy exit. He put aside the little curtain before the Master’s door, saw just the right table and deposited his tray. Just as he was backing out, pleased that he had not disturbed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who was all alone at the far side of the room, seemingly asleep, the Master opened His eyes and looking at him, said, ‘Be seated‘. Feeling that he could not well refuse, Mr Randall seated himself on a couch in the centre of the room. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá settled again into His chair and closed His eyes. William Randall sat still for a few moments and then began to get angry, thinking the Master did not know in whose presence He was sitting. He became more and more angry. He wondered, ‘What does it mean that I have to sit in the presence of this old Man while He falls asleep?’ He thought about getting up and leaving the room, but decided against this approach to his predicament. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had told him to sit there and he must not be rude. Then his legs began to go to sleep and grow numb. His whole body began to get numb. Even his collar, starched and stiff – he prided himself that it was never wilted in public – drooped down. At the peak of his rage, a voice inside him said, ‘You have studied all the great religions of the world and what good have they done you, for you cannot sit in the presence of an old man for twenty minutes with peace and composure?’ As the challenge of his thought struck Mr Randall, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá opened His eyes and said, ‘The intellect is good but until it has become the servant of the heart, it is of little avail.’ Then the Master smiled at Mr Randall and dismissed him. He had not been asleep. Mr Randall never forgot the Master’s words – they were a turning point in his life.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 135)
One day, Dr. Khan reminded Abu’l-Fadl that, day after day, he had offered service to the best of his ability and, in view of this, would Abu’l-Fadl answer just one question: What really happened to the soul after death? Abu’l-Fadl looked at Khan very thoughtfully – and changed the subject. A few days later, as they were nearing Washington, Dr. Khan repeated his question - “Please tell me - what does happen to the soul after death?” Abu’l-Fadl glanced at Khan and changed the subject. Finally they reached Washington and the day before Abu’l-Fadl was to return to Acca. Dr. Khan asked the question for the third time. Abu’l-Fadl smiled. and went away. Two or three years went by and one day Khan was sitting on a beach, looking at the sea. On the horizon was a ship, and as first the hull and then the sails slipped out of sight - suddenly, gloriously, Khan knew what happened to the soul after death. For, to those on board that ship nothing had happened - they were still on their familiar ship sailing the same sea. So, some time later when Ali Kuli Khan met Abu’l-Fadl in Acca he told him of this experience and added - “"Why was it you refused, when I first asked you, to answer my question? Abu’l-Fadl said, lovingly,
"If, my dear friend, you would have been able to understand my answer, you would never have asked the question.”
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 8)
On 5 August, a devoted woman told ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that a friend had warned her Not to go to His talk that day, lest she fall in a trap. The Master responded that “it has always been the practice of the heedless to hold back the sincere ones from the Cause of God. As for a trap, praise be to God that we have been trapped happily for 60 years and we have no desire to escape.”
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 162)
In the very early days Loulie Mathews came into the Faith while ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was yet imprisoned in Acca. She came in very quickly immediately, really, upon hearing of it, and she came in aflame with enthusiasm. She had been told that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had expressed the wish that the Faith might be growing more rapidly in Paris, so, to Paris Loulie went. She made speedy and elaborate preparations for this expedition and when she had installed herself in a luxurious suite, she made further preparations, buying herself elaborate tea gowns that floated elegantly and had long fringe that swung as she moved. She also furnished herself with a silver tea service and many delicate cups and saucers. Then, she considered that she was prepared to teach the Faith she loved so well - and she sent out many invitations to tea. Several weeks went by. Loulie continued to give her teas, but her success was not marked. Guests came, chattered, listened a moment, nibbled her delicious cakes, drank the delicate tea, and left. Then, one afternoon a man came, robed in soft gray with a turban on his head and he introduced himself by saying that he had come from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. So Loulie welcomed him warmly and gave him tea. But, as he reached out to accept the cup, his sleeve fell back and exposed deeply bitten scars on his wrists. Loulie gasped, “Oh! You have been hurt.” The man smiled radiantly, “But these are the scars from the chains put upon me when I was in prison with my Lord,” “Oh", said Loulie glancing at her own delicate wrists, “How you must have suffered!” The man looked at her, astonishment and a kind of radiant amusement in his eyes. “Suffer? When I was in prison with my Lord? Oh, but every moment was a blissful joy.” After the man had gone, Loulie meditated long and gravely upon these things he had said and she concluded - looking at her chiffon tea gowns and the silver service - that, apparently, there were things about this Faith of which she knew little. So she wrote to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá telling him this and adding that she was going to return to New York and study and learn. if she could, some of the things she evidently needed to learn. This letter to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was put, with other out-going mail, on a small table to be picked up. And while it was still lying there, waiting to go out, a Tablet came from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in which He said, He was most happy to know of her decision to go home and study, but she must not be discouraged, for the time would come when she would be a ‘lion roaring through the Cause of God.’ ...and of course that time did come and she was that lion.
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 9)
Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum in one of her memories says that she was once in a fireside with a group of Persian and British pioneers. One of the seekers was a black man who was sitting there and was listening carefully. Suddenly the door opened and the daughter of one of the English pioneers came in with her milk bottle in hand and looked at the audience and went directly to the black man and made it to his laps and managed to sit there, she smiled at him, and kissed him, and started to drink her milk from the bottle. One of the Persian ladies tried to reach the baby to grab her from the man’s laps, but Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum, told her in Persian, “let her be, she is teaching the Faith in her own way.” After the meeting, the man approached the Khánum and told her that he would like to be like her and go wherever she went to teach the Faith. Khánum looked at him and asked if he was a Bahá’í? And he said yes, he was. Rúhíyyih Khánum was astonished and asked, “Since when? How and why?” He said that, “Since an hour ago when that little girl went to me, kissed me, and sat on my laps and slept there with great calm. Since that moment I thought to myself that she had a different and brilliant education where there was no hint of racism. Her parents must have had no prejudice in educating her like that, and then I said this is the Faith I must grasp.” “That is why I am a Bahá’í now.”
Howard Ives wrote, ‘In all of my many opportunities of meeting, of listening to and talking with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá I was impressed, and constantly more impressed, with His method of teaching souls…. He never argued, of course. Nor did He press a point. He left one free. There was never an assumption of authority; rather He was ever the personification of humility. He taught “as if offering a gift to a king.” He never told me what I should do, beyond suggesting that what I was doing was right. Nor did He ever tell me what I should believe. He made Truth and Love so beautiful and royal that the heart perforce did reverence. He showed me by His voice , manner, bearing, smile, how I should be, knowing that out of the pure soil of being the good fruit of deeds and words would surely spring.’
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)
One summer day a luncheon was held in Dublin, New Hampshire, in the home of Mrs Parsons who had ‘asked some twenty people, all outstanding in various walks of life, to meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Culture, science, art, wealth, politics, achievement – all were represented.’ ‘Most of those present at this luncheon party knew a little of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s life history, and, presumably, were expecting a dissertation from Him on the Bahá’í Cause. The hostess had suggested to the Master that He speak to them on the subject of Immortality. However, as the meal progressed, and no more than the usual commonplaces of common society were mentioned, the hostess made an opening, as she thought, for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to speak on spiritual things. ‘His response to this was to ask if He might tell them a story, and He related one of the Oriental tales, of which He had a great store and at its conclusion all laughed heartily.
‘The ice was broken. Others added stories of which the Master’s anecdote had reminded them. Then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, His face beaming with happiness, told another story, and another. His laughter rang through the room. He said that… It is good to laugh. Laughter is a spiritual relaxation. When they were in prison, He said, and under the utmost deprivation and difficulties, each of them at the close of the day would relate the most ludicrous event which had happened. Sometimes it was a little difficult to find one but always they would laugh until the tears would run down their cheeks. Happiness, He said, is never dependent upon material surroundings, otherwise how sad those years would have been. As it was they were always in the utmost state of joy and happiness.’ That was the nearest He came to talking about the Bahá’í message but the effect on those present was undoubtedly greater than any ‘learned dissertation would have caused in them‘. ‘After the guests had gone, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was leaving for His hotel, He came close to His hostess and asked her, with a little wistful smile, almost, she was used to say, like a child seeking approbation, if she were pleased with Him.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 170)
It was the last four months of the nine-year plan and I [Jenabe Caldwell] had just come out of India. As usual when I was anywhere near Israel, I would stop for a three day visit, go to the Shrines and thank Bahá’u’lláh for His blessings and beseech Him for my future protection.
When I entered the Pilgrim House, Hand of the Cause Dr Rahmatu’llah Muhajir was talking to Hand of the Cause Ali Akbar Furutan in the middle of the room. When Dr Muhajir saw me he motioned me to come to him.
He said, “Jenabe, you are now going to Germany."
"No, Dr Muhajir, I am not going to Germany.” I replied, “I am going home to Alaksa. I have been out now for over six months and I am going home."
Hand of the Cause Dr Rahmatu’llah Muhajir went right on, “We are now down to the last 4 months of the nine year plan and Germany has not won any of its numerical goals of the plan. The only way they can possibly reach their goals is by mass teaching. You are a mass teacher so you are going to Germany."
Dr Muhajir then took out a note pad and wrote a telegram to the National Assembly of Germany, which he showed me. “Last opportunity to win goals nine year plan. Mass teaching, mass teacher Jenabe Caldwell arriving. Give every support. Dr Muhajir."
I remonstrated with him, “Dr Muhajir, I will need at least the three months to get my teachers and train them to do the teaching"
Undaunted he replied, “Bring your Alaskans. They are already trained."
"Dr Muhajir,” I cried. “It will take a fortune to bring over the Alaskan Bahá’ís to Germany."
"Go to Hamburg,” he calmly explained. “They will give you the money."
Still unconvinced, I responded, “Dr Muhajir if I go to Hamburg they won’t even give me the time of day let alone their money."
"You go to Hamburg and they will give you the money,” he insisted.
I went to Germany and I met with the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Germany. First they wanted to know what was the first step to be taken by them. I explained that the first step would be putting together a teaching team and we would need some German Bahá’ís willing to give three or four months to the teaching work.
I suggested the National Spiritual Assembly sit down together and draft a real love letter to every enrolled Bahá’í in Germany, requesting that they come for three or four months. I asked that divine institution to write the letter together, not to just give it to the secretary to write. I strongly felt that such a letter would require the inspiration promised by Bahá’u’lláh to that body in full consultation.
Their unanimous decision was that they would be wasting their stamps as they explained that they had great difficulty in getting the friends to come to a Saturday night pot luck.
I responded that I might not want to come to a pot luck, but might come for the spiritual conquest of Germany. They agreed to try it and I assured them that if no one came, I would go on by myself.
They then wanted to know how I planned to do the mass teaching in Germany. I told them that the only way I knew how to do it was to go out and meet the people and talk to them. They assured me that this approach in Germany would not work as people did not talk to strangers in Germany. I explained that I did not know of any other way to teach the Faith without talking to the people.
They then agreed (only because Hand of the Cause Dr Rahmatu’llah Muhajir had instructed them to support this effort) to let me try street teaching in Germany.
"All-praise and glory be to God Who, through the power of His might, hath delivered His creation from the nakedness of non-existence and clothed it with the mantle of life.” Bahá’u’lláh
I would like to pause here in this narrative to make an important point. We the Bahá’ís limit the power of Bahá’u’lláh by our own negative feelings. The power that put the sun in orbit has given mankind all it needs to build the kingdom of God on earth, but He has made it a - Do it yourself kit -, and assured us of HIs unfailing aid if we will just “follow the instructions”.
"Whoso openeth his lips in this Day and maketh mention of the name of his Lord, the hosts of Divine inspiration shall descend upon him from the heaven of My name, the All-Knowing, the All Wise. On him shall also descend the concourse on high, each bearing aloft a chalice of pure light.” Bahá’u’lláh
I then went to Hamburg and there was a large community of very wealthy Persians in Hamburg. I guess Hand of the Cause Dr Rahamatu’llah Muhajir had asked them to come. That evening they all came and donated over $30,000US.
Then I went on to Alaska and got 15 God-intoxicated lovers and well-trained soldiers in Bahá’u’lláh’s army of light. These were all battle scarred veterans from Alaska’s Massive Encounter. Their way and expenses were paid so none of the Hamburg money was needed and this was returned to the National Spiritual Assembly of Germany.
We started our program with a teacher training course. I waited to see if any of the German friends would come. First a young man walked in.
I greeted him and enquired, “How is it that you came for such a long time?"
He explained, “You know I got this beautiful love letter from my National Spiritual Assembly. When I read it I felt like it was a love letter from God, and He was asking me to come for 3 or 4 months. Now tell me how could I refuse?
"What did you have to do to come?” I asked.
"Well,” he said, “I had to drop out of my University and I had only 3 months left to go to get my degree. This means next fall I must go back, pay again the tuition, and do the whole thing over again."
When this beautiful spiritual lad explained what he had done, I knew in my heart that we had won the goals of the nine-year plan. One thing I know for sure and that is this Cause of God is built on sacrifice. If there is no sacrifice, believe me there will be no victory.
"The moth is a sacrifice to the candle. The spring is a sacrifice to the thirsty one. The sincere lover is a sacrifice to the loved one and the longing one is a sacrifice to the beloved.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Another lady walked in and I asked, “What happened to bring you here?"
She answered, “I got this beautiful love letter asking me to come and I went right over to the phone and called my neighbour and asked her to feed my cats, and here I am."
Another man came in and I asked the same question.
"I got this letter and I went to my boss and asked for time off and he told me that it was a good time as business was slow. So here I am."
The next one explained, “I asked for time off and the boss said no way, so I quit and here I am."
The next, “I got this very beautiful love letter and I called my mother-in-law and told her to feed her son and take care of the grandchildren. I was going on a nine-year plan and wold be gone for three months."
So they came from every corner of Germany. Self-sacrificing, spiritual souls for a total of 45 front line German soldiers and the 15 Alaskans. I still was at a loss as to what these Alaskans could do in Germany as not one of them spoke German. We had a team of 60 God intoxicated angels of Bahá’u’lláh.
During the teacher training institute, they wanted to know how we were going to go about it and when I explained that we were going out on the streets in Germany and tell these people about Bahá’u’lláh the Germans were aghast, one and all they told me that this could not be done in a country like Germany.
As I had told their National Spiritual Assembly, I told them that in all my life I have never been able to teach anyone without talking to them. These Germans something very special. They did not like the idea, and they were sure it would not work, but they were willing to have a go at it anyhow.
We must also bear in mind that this Cause of God started on May 22nd 1844 with a street teacher. The Bab went out of his house walked out to the edge of town and met a stranger and invited him to His house. Then He asked questions, listened and had a fireside. This resulted in the first declaration on May 23rd, 1844.
It was a cold day in February and the snow was on the ground. We arrived at the Frankfurt House of Worship at about 4.30am. All 60 of us circumambulated this Mother Temple of Europe, each one saying quietly to themselves the Tablet of Ahmad. Then silently we filed into the building and one by one went to the podium and said a Tablet of Ahmad. Truly it was a lifetime soul enriching experience. We then left the House of Worship just as the sun was coming up.
We had busses and so we went to a dorf. This is like a village in Germany. That evening the whole team returned with long faces and unhappy reports. One member of the team told me that it was truly awful. He said he had tried to talk to a man and this man grumbled and walked off.
The Alaskans explained to me that they felt the trouble was that the love was coming from their heads and not their hearts. So I took them into our hall and we had consultation on love. I read all the tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá I had on love.
"The essence of Bahá’u’lláh’s Teaching is all-embracing love, for love includeth every excellence of humankind.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
We had a 24-hour prayer watch, I instructed the team members to pray, to beg, to beseech Bahá’u’lláh for loving hearts when they went to their prayers that night.
The next evening when the team came in, it was transformed. One man told me, “I didn’t try to stop everone on the street as I did yesterday. I just stood on the corner several blocks away and I thought to myself, ‘I do love that man. He is my brother. I left my job and came here because I love him so much that I want to share with him the most precious thing I have in my life which is the Cause of God.’ I no sooner had this inner conviction than I felt such love flowing through me. This love was like a river and it flowed from me and down the street and when it reached this man, he began to smile.
I walked towards him. He walked towards me. When we came together, I said, ‘Have you ever heard of Bahá’u’lláh?‘
"No,” he said. “Please tell me."
So I invited him into a coffee shop and everything I said he responded with, “Isn’t that wonderful.” You could feel this intense divine and spiritual love all around us. After about 2 hours this person asked if he could please be a Bahá’í."
All the team members were glowing and they all had stories similar to this one. In three months all the goals of the nine-year plan were won.
"Make my heart overflow with love for Thy creatures ...” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
I think every Bahá’í, deep down inside, knows that love is the answer and the secret of successful teaching. If we don’t feel this love or are unable to show it, then let’s do as the Germans did and supplicate the Blessed Beauty to give us that loving heart.
(From the book, “Follow the Instructions” by Jenabe E Caldwell, 1995)
Oh ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, I said, I am a foreigner, born in Switzerland, and have not the command of the English language. I would love to be a speaker. All I am doing is to give away pamphlets and as many books are printed. He looked serious. He said, you are doing well. I am satisfied with you. With you it is not the movement of the lips, nor the tongue. With you it is the heart that speaks. With you it is silence that speaks and radiance.
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 81-82)
A delightful story is told of a Mademoiselle Letitia, who had come from a poor family in Haifa to live in the Master’s home in ‘Akka to teach French to the children. She was happy there, though she was a Catholic and the nuns in the convent watched over her. One day, when a French pilgrim came for a visit, her services as translator were needed, as no one else knew French. Mademoiselle became embarrassed and later confessed to the nuns. For a number of days thereafter she looked very stern. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, noticing this, called her to Him and reassured her: ‘Letitia, tell the good nuns that they need to have no fear. I asked you to interpret for me because there was no one else to speak French, not because I desired to teach you. We have so many Bahá’ís, who come here, begging with all their hearts and all their love for instruction, that only to them do we give our precious teaching.
‘You would have to beg and beg and beg before I would give it to you, and even then I might not do so; for it is not so cheap as to be bestowed where it is not wanted. ‘Stay in the home if you like, or go if you are not happy here. We are glad to have you if you care to stay, but free your heart of all fear that we will try to make a Bahá’í of you.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 57)
The Master told a pilgrim the following story. He was concluding an interview by telling of a time when He was traveling with a party which included a merchant. When the caravan halted in a certain village, quite a few people gathered around to meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The travelers later continued their journey and when they stopped in another town the same thing happened, and then it happened again. The merchant noticed this very obvious love and respect, which were showered on the Master. He then took Him aside and told Him he wished to become a Bahá’í. When the Master asked him why he desired this, he replied, without apparent shame, ‘You are a Bahá’í, and wherever you go, great crowds of people flock out to meet you, while no one comes to meet me; so I wish to become a Bahá’í.’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá probed deeper. He asked him if that was the real reason. Whereupon the merchant replied with candour, ‘I also think it will help my business, as I will have all these people come to meet me.’ It was then that he was told very frankly, ‘Do not become a Bahá’í. It is better for you to remain as you are.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)