[During January, State of Formation entered into a collaboration with The Interfaith Observer to address the subject of meaning making. Eight contributors from various faith and ethical traditions were asked to describe what makes meaning within their practices and/or tradition.]
In Man’s Search for Meaning, Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote:
“There is nothing in the world…that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is meaning in one’s life.”
In the Baha’i Faith, the primary source of meaning in life are the words of Baha’u’llah (meaning The Glory of God in Arabic). Baha’u’llah (1817-1892) is the Founder of the Baha’i Faith and his writings are considered to be the revealed Word of God by Baha’is. These writings, totaling some one hundred volumes range from mysticism to laws, from theology to social commentary. You’ve heard the term “People of the Book”. Baha’is are People of the Books.
Some key works include the Kitab-i-Iqan (the Book of Certitude) which explains the oneness of religion, the Kitab-i-Aqdas (the Most Holy Book) which contains Baha’i laws, and the Hidden Words, a collection of aphorisms similar to the Psalms. Recitation, study and meditation on Baha’u’llah’s writings is a twice daily obligation of Baha’is. Baha’u’llah encouraged his followers to: “Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths.”
So important is the practice of reading the writings that he prescribed the promotion of literacy as a religious obligation of parents and the wider community. Literacy is extremely important in a religion that has no clergy and emphasizes the independent search for truth. Baha’u’llah explains that daily immersion in the Word of God has profound spiritual effects:
“Whoso reciteth, in the privacy of his chamber, the verses revealed by God, the scattering angels of the Almighty shall scatter abroad the fragrance of the words uttered by his mouth, and shall cause the heart of every righteous man to throb. Though he may, at first, remain unaware of its effect, yet the virtue of the grace vouchsafed unto him must needs sooner or later exercise its influence upon his soul.”
I once felt far from God and trapped in impenetrable darkness and agony. I became spiritually isolated and could not even pray. I literally groped for something in the writings of Baha’u’llah to save me. What I found was this: “Put your whole trust and confidence in God who hath created you and seek ye His help in all your affairs. Succor cometh from Him alone. He succoreth whomsoever He will with the hosts of the heavens and of the earth.” I would weep my way through reciting this verse. I would carry it with me where ever I went. I even posted it in large letters on the ceiling of my bedroom so it would be the first thing I would see when I woke each morning. I continued this for several weeks and slowly, painfully, a flicker of faith turned into flame. I had been baptized in the ocean of Baha’u’llah’s Words and born again. This experience confirmed my faith in the creative power of his writings.