Building a Community of Practice 1
‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ SPENT HIS last few days in New York in the neighborhood of Riverside Park on the Upper West Side. He took daily walks along the Hudson River, met the continuing stream of guests that arrived to see him almost every day, and had more intimate conversations with the Americans who were closest to him. These smaller gatherings served a special purpose for which he had also come to America.
It was one thing to speak in broad terms about principles, map out prescriptions for international peace, and carry on a rhetorical battle against the modern ideologies of race, gender, militarism, social darwinism, and religious and class prejudice. It was something else entirely to put into practice Bahá’u’lláh’s complete vision for constructing a new global civilization. That task would be long and hard, it would demand daily struggle, and it would require building a dedicated community of people who would commit themselves to that long-term goal. That’s why, in smaller groups, and usually toward the end of his stays in each city, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá focused special attention on the Americans around him who called themselves Bahá’ís. …
‘Abdu’l-Bahá also challenged them to spread their new religion beyond their own borders. “Teachers must continually travel to all parts of the continent, nay, rather, to all parts of the world,” he wrote to them in the middle of the war, on April 19, 1916, “but they must travel like ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who journeyed throughout the cities of America.” That is, they must bear the costs themselves — not accepting money from any source outside the voluntary contributions of their own membership — and they must distinguish themselves by their deeds.
Final Days in America: New York City 2
Mahmúd noted on December 3:
“Today a spirit of sadness came over the lovers of the Peerless Beauty as preparations were made for His leaving.
“Two well attended meetings were held—one in the afternoon at the home of Mrs. Krug, and the other at the home of Mrs. Kinney.”
Tuesday, December 03, 1912 3
Group after group of older and newer believers sadly and tearfully came to see the Master, encircling Him and weeping at His imminent departure. Their hearts were sad and overcome with anguish. They confessed to Him their negligence and shortcomings in serving the Cause and their failure to obey His instructions and begged His assistance and blessings, confirmations and favor.
Today the believers were so overcome by emotion that even a stone would be affected. The anguish of their hearts was so great that all were affected. Indeed, in His presence they bowed and knelt so deeply that one could not distinguish between their heads and their feet.
There were two large meetings this afternoon and evening. One was at the home of Mrs Krug, which was filled with many people who had come just to be in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s presence. The Master’s talk was this:
“He is God! Praise be to God that Mrs Krug has been the cause of your gathering in this meeting where you are engaged in mentioning God and in adducing proofs. I hope that day by day you will become more attracted, become more enlightened and make extraordinary spiritual progress. You should learn from one another so that you may know how to teach the Cause and guide the souls. Your hearts must be so attracted that when a question is heard you will be able to give a conclusive answer and the Holy Spirit may speak through your tongue. You must be assured and confident that the favors and confirmations of the Blessed Beauty will make a drop into an ocean, a seed into a fruitful tree, an atom into a luminous sun and a stone into a brilliant jewel. His favors are great, His treasuries inexhaustible and His bounties infinite. God, Who has bestowed favors upon others, shall surely bestow His favors upon you. I supplicate at the Court of the Almighty and beg that mighty confirmations may surround you, that from your tongues may flow irrefutable proofs and that your hearts become recipients for the splendors of the Sun of Reality. May your thoughts expand and your stations be exalted, so that you may be able to diffuse the fragrances of God and to make prodigious progress in the world of man. Unless a man acquires perfection for himself, he cannot teach others how to attain such perfection; and unless he gets life for himself, he cannot give life to others. We must therefore try first to acquire the bounties of the Kingdom for ourselves and attain life everlasting, and then endeavor to quicken the nations and give life to the world. Thus, we must constantly pray to His Holy Court and seek His eternal bounties. We must acquire pure hearts like unto mirrors, so that the lights of the Sun of Reality may shine. Every night and day we must supplicate to Him and beg for His assistance, saying: ‘O Lord, we are weak, make us strong; we are ignorant, make us wise. O Lord, we are poor, give us the wealth of the Kingdom. O God, we are dead, bestow upon us everlasting life; we are in utter lowliness, exalt us in Thy Kingdom. Should Thy heavenly confirmations surround us, each one of us can be a luminous star, otherwise we become lower than dust. O God, help us; make us victorious; assist us to overcome self and desire; and deliver us from the world of nature. O God! Quicken us through the breaths of the Holy Spirit so that we may arise to serve Thee, engage ourselves in worshipping Thee and broadcast the signs of Thy Kingdom with utmost truthfulness and sincerity. Thou art the Powerful, the Mighty, the Generous and the Compassionate.”
From this meeting the Master went to Mrs Kinney’s home. The rush of friends and seekers was greater than ever before and all hearts were aflame. The Master exhorted them to exert their utmost to propagate the divine principles and to diffuse the fragrances of God. He explained the new teachings and the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh. After the meeting, the believers gathered around Him. He bade farewell to each, bestowed His favor upon all and then went upstairs.
Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward B. Kinney, 780 West End Avenue, New York 4
I have attended more meetings in New York than in all the other cities combined. Day and night, individually and collectively you have listened to the teachings and exhortations of Bahá’u’lláh. I have proclaimed unto you the glad tidings of the Kingdom of God and explained the wishes of the Blessed Perfection. I have set forth that which is conducive to human progress and shown you the humility of servitude. The teachings of Bahá’u’lláh have been clearly interpreted. The time has now come when I must leave you; therefore, this will be our farewell meeting.
I am greatly pleased with you all and rejoice that you have shown me the utmost kindness and affection. It is my desire that Bahá’u’lláh shall be pleased with you, that you may follow His precepts and become worthy of His confirmations. The requirements are that your minds must be illumined, your souls must be rejoiced with the glad tidings of God, you must become imbued with spiritual moralities, your daily life must evidence faith and assurance, your hearts must be sanctified and pure, reflecting a high degree of love and attraction toward the Kingdom of Abhá. You must become the lamps of Bahá’u’lláh so that you may shine with eternal light and be the proofs and evidences of His truth. Then will such signs of purity and chastity be witnessed in your deeds and actions that men will behold the heavenly radiance of your lives and say, “Verily, ye are the proofs of Bahá’u’lláh. Verily, Bahá’u’lláh is the True One, for He has trained such souls as these, each one of which is a proof in himself.” They will say to others, “Come and witness the conduct of these souls; come and listen to their words, behold the illumination of their hearts, see the evidences of the love of God in them, consider their praiseworthy morals, and discover the foundations of the oneness of humanity firmly implanted within them. What greater proof can there be than these people that the message of Bahá’u’lláh is truth and reality?” It is my hope that each one of you shall be a herald of God, proclaiming the evidences of His appearance, in words, deeds and thoughts. Let your actions and utterances be a witness that you are of the Kingdom of Bahá’u’lláh. These are the duties enjoined upon you by Bahá’u’lláh.
Bahá’u’lláh endured the greatest hardships. He found neither rest by night nor peace by day. He was constantly under the stress of great calamity—now in prison, now in chains, now threatened by the sword—until finally He broke the cage of captivity, left this mortal world and ascended to the heaven of God. He endured all these tribulations for our sakes and suffered these deprivations that we might attain the bestowals of divine bounty. Therefore, we must be faithful to Him and turn away from our own selfish desires and fancies in order that we may accomplish that which is required of us by our Lord.
It is my wish that you shall arise to live according to these teachings and exhortations; that all of us may be divinely strengthened, enter the paradise of the spiritual Kingdom, diffuse the lights of the Sun of Truth, cause the waves of this Most Great Ocean to reach all human souls so that this world of earth may be transformed into the world of heaven and this devastated ground be changed into the paradise of Abhá.
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to Its Spiritual Destiny
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Sockett, Robert, and Jonathan Menon. “Building a Community of Practice.” 239 Days in America, 4 Dec. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/12/03/building-a-community-of-practice/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 192-193. ↩
- ’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=10#section255 ↩
- 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, 460-461. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/33#799684413 ↩