Deeds, Not Words 1
THROUGHOUT HIS TIME IN America, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke on peace, social justice, generosity, and even thankfulness. In each case he stressed the need for practical solutions over mere words. “Those who do most good use fewest words,” he once commented.
On May 14, 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá delivered a talk to the leaders of the peace movement at the Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration in the Shawangunk Mountains outside of New York. He laid out a number of principles necessary to peace, including the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty, and the need for harmony between the systems of science and religion. The next day, to a group of youth, he noted: “It is very easy to come here, camp near this beautiful lake, on these charming hills, far away from everybody and deliver speeches on Universal Peace. These ideals should be spread and put in action over there [Europe], not here in the world’s most peaceful corner.”
Even as a prisoner under house arrest in ‘Akká, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took action to provide solutions to the needs of the community.
He set up a school to educate children, helped feed the poor and find them jobs, and encouraged his fellow exiles to attend to the sick, crippled, and aged, regardless of their religion. In America, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá continued this pattern, making a point of visiting the Bowery Mission in New York.
On May 30, 1912, at the Theosophical Lodge in New York, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá pointed out that knowledge is not enough to solve the world’s problems. “To admit that health is good does not constitute health,” he said. Knowledge must be applied, he said, “the remedy carried out.”
Sunday, July 21, 2022 2
The esteemed Bahá’í Monsieur Dreyfus of Paris came to visit the Master. One of the Master’s talks at the meeting of the friends was about services beneficial to the world of humanity. ‘Universality is of God,’ He said, ‘while every limitation is human.’ Continuing, He said, ‘The Sun of Truth has risen always in the East and yet it has shone with greater luster in the West.’ Mr Kaufman remarked that he had read in the newspapers about the Master’s journey to the West and understood that the purpose of His journey was for the upliftment and education of the West as well as of the East. Mr Kaufman then asked, ‘Will the East regain its former glory?’ The Master replied, ‘It will be greater than before.’ The Master then spoke about eternal life and everlasting honor and said:
How many great men have come into the world! What wealth they have owned! What kings have sat on the thrones of glory and riches! What beautiful and comely people have adorned the world of man! But what has been the outcome? Honor, life, luxury and pleasure have all perished. But the fame of the beauty of Joseph is still universal and the honor of the disciples of Christ still endures; their sufferings are the cause of life everlasting.
At dinner a number of the Eastern and Western friends were at the Master’s table. Mrs True and some other friends asked His permission to serve the guests, which He gave.
Talk at All Souls Unitarian Church, Fourth Avenue and Twentieth Street, New York, 14 July 1912 3
Lack of equality between man and woman is, likewise, a cause of human dissension. Bahá’u’lláh has named this as an important factor of discord and separation, for so long as humankind remains unequally divided in right and importance between male and female, no unity can be established. In a perfect human body it is not possible for one organ to be complete and another defective. In the great body of human society it is impossible to establish unity and coordination if one part is considered perfect and the other imperfect. When the perfect functions of both parts are in operation, harmony will prevail. God has created man and woman equal as to faculties. He has made no distinction between them. Woman has not reached the level of man in human accomplishment because of the lack of opportunity and education. If educational opportunities were made equal and similar, the two parts, man and woman, would equalize in attainment. God has intended no difference between them that should be productive of discord. He has endowed all with human faculties, and all are manifestations of His mercy. If we say man and woman differ in creational endowment, it is contrary to divine justice and intention. Both are human. If God has created one perfect and the other defective, He is unjust. But God is just; all are perfect in His intention and creative endowment. To assume imperfection in the creature is to presuppose imperfection in the almighty Creator. The soul that excels in attainment of His attributes and graces is most acceptable before God.
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
“The Sun of Truth has risen always in the East and yet it has shone with greater luster in the West.”
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “Deeds, Not Words.” 239 Days in America, 21 July 2012, https://239days.com/2012/07/21/deeds-not-words/. ↩
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=5#section119 ↩
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 233. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/16#957314788 ↩