‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Practical Spirituality” 1
ON SEPTEMBER 12, 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had set out from Buffalo on the longest overland trip of his life — a distance farther than the perilous trek he had taken with his family when he was eight years old, in the dead of winter, without proper clothing, over the freezing mountains of Iran to Baghdad; farther than the voyage of his father’s second exile from Baghdad to Constantinople in 1863. On that trip he had served the exiles at night and galloped ahead of the caravans to steal moments of sleep by day: dismounting, laying down, and resting his head on the neck of his horse.
Here in America his horse was made of iron and he had slept upright in a passenger car while his train skirted the southernmost Great Lakes, whisked across the wheatfields of Iowa and Nebraska, traversed the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the salt flats of Utah, and the desert plains of Nevada, and finally arrived, in the middle of the night on October 3, on the shore of the opposite sea.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá hadn’t even planned to travel to the Golden State: it was too far and he had pressing business back in Palestine. But a campaign of letters from his friends in San Francisco and Los Angeles had changed his mind. Now, on the evening of Thursday, October 24, 1912, as he said goodbye to friends at his rented house at 1815 California Street in Pacific Heights, he could look back to three of the most eventful weeks of his entire trip through America.
Immersing them in words and deeds that were the expressions of His love, He talked to them of spiritual growth, of teaching the Cause, of sowing the seeds.
Thursday, October 24, 1912 3
A group of believers from Oakland and the vicinity arrived. Some brought their children, supplicating the Master to give them His blessings and protection and requesting Persian names for them. All were honored and delighted to have seen the One around whom all names revolve and their eyes overflowed with tears of joy. He encouraged them to make every effort to bring about universal peace and the unity of mankind. He also spoke about His address at the Jewish temple.
On the way back to San Francisco He spoke to a group of young Bahá’ís who were teaching the Cause of God and were dedicated to diffusing the divine fragrances:
“Thank God that the divine bounty has reached you, that the Sun of Truth is shining upon you and that the water of everlasting life has been provided for you. If a man drinks from a sweet spring, he ought to guide others to the same sweet water.
“You have asked me to speak about how to teach the Cause of God. I have spoken at length on this but I repeat that the teacher himself must be detached and devoted so that his breath may affect others. Whoever has taken a step in this field has succeeded. The doors of knowledge are opened before him, his eyes become seeing and he is assisted with the breaths of the Holy Spirit. He is guided himself and becomes the cause of guidance of others. Of course, a person sings a joyous song only when he himself is delighted and rapturous. Thus when one begins to guide others and adduces proofs, then his taste becomes sweeter and his heart more joyful.
“Moreover, everything is limited except the bounty of God and this bounty descends upon man through teaching the Cause of God; then divine inspiration will assist him. It is for this reason that Christ said that whenever you wish to talk do not think about it, the Holy Spirit will inspire you. If you desire eternal honor, everlasting life and heavenly exaltation, then teach the Cause. Divine confirmations shall attend you; this has been experienced. But it calls for firmness and steadfastness. Consider the disciples of Christ and observe with what firmness they arose until the Cause of God advanced. They even sacrificed their lives for this.
In response to a question about purchasing land for a Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, He said: ‘It is very good but for the present it is better to help with the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in Chicago.’
The Master went to visit some schools and interesting places. Among them was a technical school, whose students stood respectfully in His presence. He was pleased with them and bestowed kindness upon them. He then went to see a purpose-built auditorium constructed in a circular shape with stairs and seating on three sides. Overlooking the stage one could see the entire audience. At the other end was a large podium with a platform designed in such a way that when a lecturer spoke, his voice could reach the audience without an echo. The building was very large and had been built for special occasions and public events; it had no roof. It was much admired by the Master.
In the afternoon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke at a gathering of the believers on the importance of teaching the Cause:
“Every day confirmations surround some specific pursuit and every hour has a purpose decreed for it. Today, teaching the Cause of God and spreading the divine teachings are what attract heavenly assistance. It is the season of seed-sowing and of propagating the Word of God.”
In the evening He spoke about the imprisonment and persecution of the Blessed Beauty and of the power and influence of the Greatest Name. As He bade farewell to the friends, His words were powerful and impressive. The hearts of the believers were in turmoil and their eyes brimming over with tears. They were saddened because it was the end of the Master’s stay among them and His lovers were feeling the pain of separation from Him.
12 October 1912, Talk at Temple Emmanu-El, 450 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California 4
The age has dawned when human fellowship will become a reality.
The century has come when all religions shall be unified.
The dispensation is at hand when all nations shall enjoy the blessings of international peace.
The cycle has arrived when racial prejudice will be abandoned by tribes and peoples of the world.
The epoch has begun wherein all native lands will be conjoined in one great human family.
For all mankind shall dwell in peace and security beneath the shelter of the great tabernacle of the one living God.
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
Some believers requested Persian names for their children
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Menon, Jonathan. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Practical Spirituality.” 239 Days in America, 24 Oct. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/10/24/abdul-bahas-practical-days-in-san-francisco/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 170. ↩
- ’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=8#section215 ↩
- 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, 370. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/27#101927339 ↩