Editor’s Note: The Santa Monica Daily Press has partnered with the Interfaith Council to provide monthly updates from the city’s spiritual community.
This period is full of spiritual significance for several of our Faith communities. It is a time full of stories retold that uplift and renew faith, hope, joy, and are filled with light; Hannukah for the Jewish Faith, reminds how the smallest light can overcome darkness. Bodhi Day for many Buddhists tells of the light of enlightenment after detachment and meditation. Our SGI community ended November with a profound day: November 28 – SGI Nichiren Buddhist day of Spiritual Independence. They move ahead into December in oneness with us all in the concern for Peace and security for our planet. Christmas and also Kwanzaa remind of the miracle in all our Faiths of birth and rebirth in our world, of light and joy and the possibility of ‘Peace on Earth’ through faith, steadfastness, and collaboration in a spirit of goodwill towards all humankind.
For the Baha’i Faith the symbols found in stories of each Faith resonate in many ways. One symbol that combines praise and light is a Title for Baha’u’llah and God’s Revelation, of the Most Great Bell. The Most Great Bell from Paradise, in the midmost heart of the heavens rings out in light and glory, the glad tidings of ‘Peace on Earth,’ reiterating the joy of fellowship and goodwill to all men, in a call for showing unity and oneness with all humankind of all Faiths.
For Baha’is, this call for light shed in darkness, joy of sacrifice for others, faith in the power of unity as a spreader of this light, comes with a command, a covenant common to each Faith, to arise with the power of the Spirit, however conceived, and take concrete steps of action.
Our prime example of concrete service based on spiritual truth is ‘Abdul’-Baha. Born in 1844 in Persia (Iran today) ‘Abdul’-Baha was the eldest son of Baha’u’llah, the Prophet Founder of the Baha’i Faith. He chose this title meaning the Servant of Baha or Glory.
On December 2, 1912 in New York City, the following befitting words for this season of cheer and joy for many religions, were among the concluding Words of ‘Abdul’-Baha as He prepared to bring to an end His eleven month journey to the West a few days later.
“You must manifest complete love and affection toward all mankind. Do not exalt yourselves above others, but consider all as your equals, recognizing them as the servants of one God. Know that God is compassionate toward all; therefore, love all from the depths of your hearts, prefer all religionists before yourselves, be filled with love for every race, and be kind toward the people of all nationalities… Act in such a way that your heart may be free from hatred. Let not your heart be offended with anyone. If someone commits an error and wrong toward you, you must instantly forgive him.”
Baha’u’llah had declared that “A new life is, in this age, stirring within all the peoples of the earth.” He taught that “The peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God”; that “Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship”, and that “this is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future.”
The basic Teachings of Baha’u’llah which ‘Abdul’-Baha promoted in His travel to the West are the subject of a community building process in Santa Monica and around the world. Baha’is and their friends are engaged in a community building process that cultivates love and translates it into action.
Classes for children allow a community’s youngest members to practice their God-given qualities, such as kindness, generosity, patience and compassion.
Groups for teens and pre-teens tap into young people’s acute sense of justice, growing awareness and increased interest in profound questions. Through storytelling, discussion, recreation, arts and service projects, participants form healthy and productive patterns of behavior. They build discernment and decision-making skills, and learn to address the needs of their communities.
Study circles are for adults and older teens. They connect study of Baha’i Sacred Texts to acts of service.
Prayer gatherings bring friends, families and neighbors together in a spirit of worship — feeding the soul through prayer, song and contemplation.
Environment, health, and the cause of racial justice are among initiatives that Baha’is are deeply involved in locally and around the world.
On December 2, 1912, ‘Abdul’-Baha concluded His talk with these Words: “In brief, let each one of you be as a lamp shining forth with the light of the virtues of the world of humanity… Be illumined, be spiritual, be divine, be glorious, be quickened of God…”
In the spirit of our loving appreciation for you, we, the Baha’is of the Santa Monica region, offer these same Words to everyone of you as a sign of our love for you while we celebrate this joyous season of collaboration in making our neighborhoods, our Nation, and the world a better place. We offer you, your families, and communities our deepest love and eagerly seek your friendship in our quest for bringing about a lasting change through collaboration, love, and true application of justice for all.