A few weeks ago a dear friend who’s a Baha’i lent me a book, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, complied and edited by Annamarie Honnold. I’ve been steadily working my way through it. Rather one could say, it and the subject of the book have been working their way through me. Here’s a description found on the publisher’s website.
Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdul-Bahá is a unique collection of stories, sayings and comments, providing a special insight into the life, character and station of Bahá’u’lláh’s eldest son. He was universally known to Bahá’ís as the Master but wished only to be known as the Servant. Not only those qualities for which He was chosen as the Centre of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, but also the human virtues which made Him the Perfect Exemplar for all Bahá’ís, are amply illustrated in over two hundred and fifty vignettes of His life, drawn from a very wide range of published, out-of-print and unpublished sources. The book is divided into three main sections, His Pure Heart, His Kindly Heart, and His Radiant Heart; and for those not already acquainted with the main events of His life, there is a brief factual introduction. The book is enhanced by a mixed selection of rare and well-loved photographs, and is itself dedicated to ‘Abdu’1-Bahá.
I have read many books by and about Masters from around the world and throughout history. Our home and my room is adorned with photos of many, Jesus included. A photo of ‘Abdul-Bahá is now included, sitting in a place of honour in my meditation area. Yesterday a friend brought roses for Lucia’s yoga class and these fragrant beauties are in a vase beside the photo. ‘Abdul-Bahá loved roses. So do I.
I have been profoundly touched by this man’s words and by the absolute sanctity of his actions. He was a man of the highest character with unbounded generosity and humility. Someone told me once that it was ‘Abdul-Bahá who inspired Kahlil Gibran to write The Prophet. After dipping deeply in this book, I can believe that.
Another Baha’I friend said recently that whenever he is caught in a challenging situation at work or at home he asks himself, ‘What would ‘Abdul-Bahá have done in similar circumstances?’ I can understand that now.
Just a few excerpts:
‘For ‘Abdul-Bahá truthfulness was as natural as breathing. He spoke not to gain popularity, nor to tell people what they wanted to hear. His words served to educate and help the hearer.’ Page 100
‘You must speak and write in such a way as not to offend anyone. The Lord addressed Moses and Aaron saying, “When you go to the Pharaoh, speak in a moderate, sweet language.”’ Page 99
“Let your heart burn with loving-kindness for all who may cross your path.”
‘Abdul-Bahá was a family man of utmost compassion for the poor, to whom he would and did give the clothes off his back. Visitors to his extended household were stunned by the peace, harmony and laughter found there. He was truly an exemplar of what it is like to be fully human.
John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.