“A Traveler Should Stay in a Hotel” 1
ON HIS THIRD DAY in Montreal, Sunday, September 1, 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá decided that it was time to move to a hotel. His original plans for a two- or three-day trip were extended given the positive reception he received. On the morning of September 2, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and his party of two moved from the Maxwell home to the Windsor Hotel.
Sutherland and May Maxwell had done everything in their power to make sure that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had all that he needed. They reserved the top three floors of their four bedroom house in Westmount, Montreal. They had succeeded in generating a great deal of positive newspaper coverage. “While here, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá will stay at 716 Pine Avenue West,” reported the Montreal Star. “All who wish to visit him will be made welcome, if arrangements are made beforehand by telephoning Uptown 3015.”
When they arrived on August 30, May Maxwell informed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that “So many people have telephoned and sent letters about your arrival and I have replied to all.” She was no doubt running on little sleep. According to his secretary, Mahmúd-i-Zarqání, visitors came “day and night,” the talks were attended by “a great multitude,” and the large number of “longing souls” would “not let the Master rest.” For the three nights that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and his party stayed at the Maxwell house, it was more like a reception hall than a private home.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá recognized May Maxwell’s exhaustion, and, rather than denying this fact, she replied, “I consider this fatigue the greatest comfort of my life.” But after two nights, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told Mahmúd, “Tomorrow we should move to a hotel. A traveler should stay in a hotel.”
At the breakfast on September 1 to which He invited a number of guests ’Abdu’l-Bahá said:
“Come, we are in Montreal, Canada, in this home eating Persian pilau, which has been cooked by Mírzá Ahmad and which has a taste and tale of its own. To be grateful for the blessings of God in time of want and trouble is important. In the abundance of blessings every one can be grateful. It is said that Sultán Mahmúd cut a watermelon and gave a portion of it to Iyás. Iyás ate it cheerfully and expressed gratitude. When the Sultán ate a little of the same watermelon, he found it bitter. He asked Iyás, “How did you eat such a bitter watermelon and show no sign of dislike?” He answered, “I had eaten many sweet and palatable things from the hands of the Sultán and I thought it very unworthy of me to express dislike on eating a little bitter thing today.””
“Man, who is immersed in the blessings of God, should not be grieved if he sees a little trouble. He should not forget the manifold divine bounties that are always pouring on him.”
Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. William Sutherland Maxwell, 716 Pine Avenue West, Montreal, Canada 3
God has sent forth the Prophets for the purpose of quickening the soul of man into higher and divine recognitions. He has revealed the heavenly Books for this great purpose. For this the breaths of the Holy Spirit have been wafted through the gardens of human hearts, the doors of the divine Kingdom opened to mankind and the invisible inspirations sent forth from on high. This divine and ideal power has been bestowed upon man in order that he may purify himself from the imperfections of nature and uplift his soul to the realm of might and power. God has purposed that the darkness of the world of nature shall be dispelled and the imperfect attributes of the natal self be effaced in the effulgent reflection of the Sun of Truth. The mission of the Prophets of God has been to train the souls of humanity and free them from the thralldom of natural instincts and physical tendencies. They are like unto Gardeners, and the world of humanity is the field of Their cultivation, the wilderness and untrained jungle growth wherein They proceed to labor. They cause the crooked branches to become straightened, the fruitless trees to become fruitful, and gradually transform this great wild, uncultivated field into a beautiful orchard producing wonderful abundance and outcome.
Monday, September 2, 1912 4
After the morning obligatory prayer Mrs Maxwell came to’Abdu’l-Bahá and said that the people were changing and becoming interested. Her neighbor, who had previously reproached her, was so enchanted after visiting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that she telephoned to request that He visit her home. She also suggested that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá use her carriage every day.
After the Master visited and encouraged this neighbor, He went to the hotel [the Hotel Windsor] and rented three rooms. On the way back to the Maxwell home, the Master bought some valuable rings to give as gifts. A large number of people were waiting for Him and attained new spiritual heights and powers through His discourses.
One of His talks concerned the abandonment of blind imitation and the elimination of those customs and dogmas that are contrary to the fundamental truth of the religion of God. He said:
“When educated people see the priests taking bread and wine in their hands, blowing a few breaths over them and saying that the bread and wine are now changed into the flesh and blood of Christ, or hear them saying that by making a confession before a priest their sins are pardoned, they will begin to despair of their religion and become totally irreligious.”
At lunch time the Master invited a number of people to the table, saying: ‘Come! We are in Montreal, Canada, in this home, eating Persian rice which has been cooked by Mírzá Ahmad. This has a relish all its own; what a tale it makes! Continuing, He said:
“To be grateful for the blessings of God in time of want and trouble is necessary. In the abundance of blessings everyone can be grateful. It is said that Sultán Mahmúd cut a melon and gave a portion of it to Ayáz who ate it cheerfully and expressed gratitude. When the Sultán ate a little of the same melon, he found it bitter. He asked, ‘>How did you eat such a bitter melon and show no sign of disliking it?’ Ayáz answered, ‘I had eaten many sweet and palatable things from the hands of the Sultán and I thought it very unworthy of me to express dislike on eating a slightly bitter thing today.’ Thus man, who is immersed in the blessings of God, should not be grieved if he experiences a little trouble. He should not forget the manifold divine bounties.”
In the afternoon, professors, clergy and press representatives came one after another to visit ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The samovar was steaming and fruits and sweets were served to all. That His Persian servants in their Eastern attire served the guests was considered a social novelty and was reported in the press.
One of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá talks was this:
“Because of material civilization, industry has progressed and sciences and arts have burgeoned but at the same time weapons of war and bloodshed designed for the destruction of the edifice of humanity have multiplied and political problems have vastly increased. Hence, this material civilization cannot become the means of comfort and ease for all until it acquires spiritual power and the attributes of a divine civilization. Rather, the difficulties will increase and the troubles will multiply.”
Continuing, He said:
“The government of the United States of America has recently provided fifteen million dollars toward the cost of building new battleships. Before international peace is established, a great war will in all certainty take place.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá made many such important addresses and all who heard Him were eloquent in their praise and adoration of Him.
Today ‘Abdu’l-Bahá moved into the Hotel Windsor. As He was leaving for a meeting at Mr and Mrs Maxwell’s home, he took the tram. We asked whether we could call for a carriage. He said: ‘Oh, it matters little. This saves expense. There is a difference of one dollar in the fare.’ He was very careful over this type of personal expense but when He reached the home of Mr and Mrs Maxwell, He gave one pound to each of their servants.
Although two adjoining rooms had been set with chairs in rows, there was still not enough space. We all felt the absence of the Eastern friends. Everyone wished they were present so they too could witness the excitement and joy that was engendered by the talk of the Master, who spoke on the inherent imperfection of the world of nature and its ultimate perfection through divine education. After the Master’s talk each guest came to shake His hand and received His blessing yet when He went upstairs, the majority followed Him, especially the new seekers.
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Michel, Tony. “‘A Traveler Should Stay in a Hotel.’” 239 Days in America, 2 Sept. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/09/02/a-traveler-should-stay-at-a-hotel/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 133. ↩
- 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, 310. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/22#437467020 ↩
- ’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=7#section162 ↩