31 December 2013

Buddhism, Meditation, and the Baha'i Faith: Part 2


-Part 1 Here-
And if we turn inward and prove our True Nature, that True Self is no-self, our own self is no-self, we go beyond ego and past clever words. Then the gate to the oneness of cause-and-effect is thrown open. Not two and not three, straight ahead runs the Way. Our form now being no-form, in going and returning we never leave home. Our thought now being no-thought, our dancing and songs are the Voice of the Dharma. How vast is the heaven of boundless Samadhi! How bright and transparent the moonlight of wisdom! What is there outside us? What is there we lack? 
-From the Song of Zazen

The Baha'i Faith is a mystical religion. Baha'u'llah describes the spiritual seeker in the Valley of Knowledge - "the last plane of limitation" - as one who has "passed over the worlds of names, and fled beyond the worlds of attributes as swift as lightning" and has "made their dwelling-place in the shadow of the Essence." 


It is also a practical religion. Baha'u'llah emphasizes the need to be "anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements."


Putting these two things together requires being “in the world, but not of the world” so to speak. This requires a delicate balance and careful integration of the two modes; yet they are each distinct. They are mutually reinforcing but they also develop along different axis.


Somewhat along these lines, in Buddhism there are three types of training which reinforce and integrate with each other, yet are distinct: moralityconcentration, and insight


29 December 2013

Buddhism, Meditation, and the Baha’i Faith: Part 1


So the true goal of meditation is achieved through a dialectical process that alternates between dissolving into flowing nothingness and detecting subtler and subtler instances of solidified somethingness. - Shinzen Young
In my opinion, the Baha’i community is exceptionally well developed in two important ways. 

The first way has to do with thinking about and acting in the world.  It has a comprehensive system of morality - with laws and principles that guide personal conduct and attitude; it has a brilliant evolving mechanism for interacting in the world and trying to make it better - the institute process; it has a universal and unique system of governance; and it is philosophically and theologically rich and modern.

The second is along a mode of spiritual practice: prayer and contemplation. There are countless prayers revealed by Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l Baha, and clear instructions for ideal practice, for example in the long obligatory prayer. The writings are poetic and intriguing and, by both the content and the very structure of the language, evoke positive spiritual feelings, mystical inclinations, and realizations of oneness.  


01 December 2013

Summer of Consecration

I was raised attending Baha’i activities and associated as a Baha’i, but it wasn’t until just before my 17th birthday that I decided to take it more seriously. I had just come back from a Baha’i youth camp in southern Oregon and realized how unhappy I was. A bit odd that a Baha’i gathering would leave me depressed. Being exposed to an atmosphere of intense kindness for a week, I realized that my regular life was leaving me spiritually handicapped, and I realized that spirituality is all that matters.

After returning I knew that my happiness would soon fade away and I would return to the slog of negativity that makes up normal life. So I stayed up late one night and prayed fervently for something to change in my life. I wanted either my school friends to transform into better people, or I wanted to get rid of them and spend time with Baha’is.

Years later I realized that my prayers were answered almost immediately. Four things changed right away in my life.


30 November 2013

Another Blog Update - Losing My Faith

After seeing Bryan's post I felt compelled to update as well, after about two years of inactivity. This is essentially a coming out post. I have only told a handful of people where I am at - out of worry that I would disappoint friends. Now it has been a while, and since I helped start this blog I feel like I should use this forum to explain myself. To put it simply: I lost my faith. Since then I have regained interest in spiritual practice - but not belief in a Baha'i sense. Let me explain.


29 November 2013

Blog Update

I haven't posted anything in seven months, and the other bloggers haven't posted in well over two years, so I thought a status update would be nice.

In 2010 I started writing a book, which is sitting unpublished until the new translation of Some Answered Questions becomes available (any day now, I hear). The same year I was elected to the Local Spiritual Assembly in Portland. In 2011 I had my first child and was also elected secretary of the Assembly. Needless to say, my blogging slowed down. Since then I have squeezed out a few posts, but nothing like the 29 Nations of the Earth that I used to do. 

Did I mention my wife is in residency and working 70 hours a week? Well she is, and she is in the home stretch. In July 2014 she will be released from the prison of medical residency and enter a job where she works 24 hours a week. She is also pregnant with baby #2, so she will keep low hours for another few years until all the kids are in preschool. I hope to also lighten my load at work by then so I can take on some other projects (like blogging!).

So by the end of 2014 my life will be completely different, and you loyal blog followers will actually have something to follow again. 

I think the other contributors to this blog are long gone. There was a long run of good posts in 2009-2010. The only contributor I knew personally was Jason, who is currently finishing up a masters at Michigan State University. Baha'i Coherence was first assembled by Jason as a multi-contributor "collaborative space to share and reflect upon reality." If anyone wants to contribute posts, just email bahaicoherence@gmail.com and I will work on getting you signed up.

25 May 2013

Priority of Baha'i Funds

I found an intriguing insight while perusing the Baha'i Writings on Funds. I have known for awhile that only Baha'is may contribute to Baha'i Funds, that the act of giving is entirely voluntary, and that each Baha'i should contribute directly to the various funds (local, national, and international). I always thought that when it comes to priority, the local fund should be the most important, with the international fund receiving the smallest share from individuals. As it turns out, it's the other way around.

"At the level of the individual believer, attention to the needs of the funds of the Faith parallels the principles which govern multiple loyalties. The first loyalty of a Baha'i to the whole of mankind, for the benefit of the part is best achieved through the welfare of the whole. But this widest loyalty does not eliminate the lesser loyalties of love for one's country, for the area in which one lives, or for one's family. They all constitute a network of interdependent and mutually beneficial loyalties. So it is with the individual believer's relationship to the International, Continental, National and Local Funds."
(On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, 31 October 1993)

There is a great lesson hidden here, and it's not just about fund contributions. Our loyalty to the whole of mankind should be our highest loyalty, and a corollary is that our sacrificial giving to funds should put international concerns over local concerns. This is counter-intuitive, but absolutely correct. If everyone held their highest loyalty to their tribe, city, or state, international peace would be impossible. Everyone seeks to improve their immediate surroundings, but we also have to look beyond the things in front of our faces and seek to improve the lot of the world, and by doing so we will improve our individual lives. 

So when it comes to prioritizing Baha'i Fund contributions, the most should go to the international fund, then continental, national, regional, and least to the local fund. In this way too, the world will reduce extremes of wealth and poverty. If people gave the most to local needs, then the rich cities, counties, and states would stay wealthy, and the poor would stay poor. This was reinforced when a friend recently told me that 80% of the National Baha'i Fund of Nicaragua (a very poor nation) is paid directly by the International Baha'i Fund.

For those in the United States, there is now an online contribution system (https://ocs.bahai.us) that allows electronic contributions directly into regional, national, continental, and international funds, AND it allows automatic payments at the interval of your choosing (including once per Baha'i month). I highly recommend it.




03 March 2013

The Gift of Education

A close friend of mine, who happens to be a Baha'i, picked up and moved with her family to the Dominican Republic two years ago. They wanted to help relieve poverty on the poorest island in the western hemisphere. Avoiding the pitfalls of so many well-intentioned aid organizations, they spent those years getting to know the population and looking holistically at what is actually needed and what can raise up local resources. 

Their conclusion: a library.

They are currently fundraising for the project and they're almost halfway to their goal of $19,000 to get it funded sustainably. 

Please consider giving. Here is their indiegogo campaign:

The video below documents their thought process and goals. 






In case you want to "follow the money", they provided this pie chart of their budget.