Lesson 3

Contemplation:

One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race. If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task.

                                                                                                        Abdu’l-Baha

The Childhood of the Bab

As a young as five years of age, the keen mind of the Bab was apparent to all. On His first day at school, the Bab courteously took a seat between two boys who were much older than He; but the Bab was not the least bit concerned about their age. In fact, many times He was able to answer questions that the older students were unable to answer. Soon the teacher of the Bab came to recognize His wisdom and intelligence. In fact, the Bab’s teacher, Shaykh ‘Abid, had another class for advanced students. These older boys had already learned a great deal about religion, but the young Bab impressed the most learned of them with the depth of His understanding. But it was not only His astounding (amazing) knowledge and learning that impressed the schoolmaster and the other students. The Bab was very refined (cultured) in His manners, and everyone was enchanted by the character of this handsome Youth. The teacher observed how the Bab was always dignified and serene.

Unlike other boys His age, the Bab cared little for games and other ordinary childhood pastimes. Instead, He wanted to concentrate on learning, especially on prayer and meditation. Then a strange thing began to occur. On some mornings the Bab would come late to school. Naturally, the teacher wondered why this excellent Student would be tardy, and he decided to ask the young Bab what was wrong. The Bab politely declined to answer. His lateness continued until one morning, when the Bab was again late, Shaykh ‘Abid decided to send some of the Bab’s fellow-students to the Bab’s home to ask Him to come to school. Naturally, the teacher was very curious about why his best student would be late (The Central Figures: The Bab, Vol. one).

Questions:

  1. How did the Bab’s teacher, come to recognize the Bab’s wisdom and intelligence?
  2. What was the name of the Bab’s teacher?
  3. Why did the Bab’s teacher send the Bab’s fellow-students to His home?

Spiritual Teachings of Baha’u’llah

The Oneness of Religion

All the Messengers of God are rays of the same Sun. The teachings They bring all come from the same God. Therefore, the religions that these Messengers bring are really the same religion. God has made religion to be one. Each religion gives us a different way to understand the same truths. It is man who has made divisions between them. We must look beyond the surface of each religion and see the light of God shining in each. Each religion gives us a different way to understand the same truths (The Garden of Baha’u’llah, pp. 66-7).

Questions for discussion:

  1. How are the religions the same?
  2. How are the religions different?

A Cake and a Dinner – A Story about ‘Abdu’l-Baha  

Juliet Thompson, an early follower, wrote this story in her diary, when ‘Abdu’l-Baha’ was visiting New York in 1912.

SOME OF US DECIDED to give Him a birthday party, and one of us baked a cake. That day, we took several taxis to the Bronx. Abdu’l-Baha rode in the first car. As soon as His taxi arrived, He got out and walked into the park ahead of us. A group of young boys playing there, gathered around Him. Finding it funny to see a man dressed in Persian robes, they began to laugh. Two or three of them threw stones at Him. Many of our worried friends hurried toward Abdu’l-Baha, but He told them to stay away. The boys came closer, jeered at Him, and pulled at His clothes. He did not become cross. He merely smiled at them radiantly, but the boys continued to behave as before. Then Abdu’l-Baha turned toward us. “Bring me the cake” He said. No one had told Him that we had brought a cake. Someone replied, “But ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the cake is for your birthday.” He repeated “Bring me the cake.” A friend uncovered the large white sponge cake, with white icing, and gave it to Abdu’l-Baha. When the boys saw the cake, they began to calm down, and stared hungrily.

Abdu’l-Baha took the cake in His hands and looked at it with pleasure. The boys were now standing quietly around Him. “Bring me a knife.” He said. A knife was brought. The Master counted the number of boys who were standing around Him, and then cut the cake into the same number of pieces. Each boy eagerly took a piece, ate it with relish, and then ran away happily. Later that year on Christmas Eve, Juliet Thompson recorded Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to a Salvation Army Shelter in New York. There, a thousand homeless men were eating a special Christmas dinner. He spoke to them while they ate, reminding them that Jesus had been poor, and that it was easier for the poor than the rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven. The homeless men sat enthralled. Some were so impressed that despite being hungry and despite the delicious dinner, they forgot to eat.

At leaving time, Abdu’l-Baha gave the warden of the Shelter money with which to buy a similar dinner on New Year’s night. As He left, the men rose to cheer Him, waving their knives and forks in the air. They did not know that His life had been filled with hardships and suffering, perhaps far greater than any of them had known. Years before He visited New York, Abdu’l-Baha had been wrongly placed in a prison called Akka in Palestine. There, He showed such love and kindness to those who hated and mistreated Him, that gradually they all became His loving admirers. While a prisoner, He cared for the sick. He helped the poorest people whom everyone ignored, and was kind even if they scratched His hands when taking money. Many times He gave His own supper to the hungry and His clothes to the needy. Abdu’l-Baha always put others before Himself, and often said that the highest expression of our human spirit is to serve others.

Questions:

 Who was Juliet Thompson?

  1. Why did the children in the story laugh at ‘Abdu’l-Baha?
  2. What did ‘Abdu’l-Baha do that made the children happy?
  3. What did ‘Abdu’l-Baha say to the poor in the Salvation Army Shelter in New York on Christmas Eve? What was their reaction to His words?
  4. What did ‘Abdu’l-Baha give the warden of the Salvation Army?
  5. What is the “highest expression of our human spirit” according to ‘Abdu’l-Baha?

Virtue of the week:

Courtesy

Courtesy is the prince of virtues.     –Baha’u’llah

Courtesy is, in truth, a raiment which fitteth all men, whether young or old.       –Baha’u’llah

Defile not your tongues with the cursing and reviling [criticize in an abusive or angrily insulting manner] of any soul, and guard your eyes against that which is not seemly.       –Baha’u’llah

Questions:

  1. What is courtesy?
  2. How can we practice courtesy in our daily lives?
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