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Abdu’l-Baha (on the Tao of Jesus)

Sigh. I could blame the exams, the final projects, the nutbars that I live with or another knock to my already addled head, but I’m late, as usual.

Of course, we don’t actually know the precise date of the birth of Jesus, so I could also plead historical vagueness as a virtue, but that’s not why I missed, either. Let’s just say it’s the season. Let’s just say that it has taken me some time before I could really think much about The Reason for the Season, as Christian friends back home like to remind themselves and their fellow crazed consumizens. (In China these days, it is even more bluntly obvious than it is among comfort-craving North Americans: avid consumption is the best-understood expression of citizenship. “Consumizens.” Not bad.) In fact, it was the thoughtful questions about Christianity from a young Chinese friend that got me thinking more deeply about why this time of year still stirs my blood and brain.

Anyway, I ran across this statement in a letter of Abdu’l-Baha. WARNING: it does use the “G” word, so prepare yourself with anti-allergic word medication — “Creator”, “Higher Power”, “Mystery”, “First Cause”, “Great Spirit”, “The Universe”, or “Good heavens!” (as my mother used to exclaim). Here — cutting through many misunderstandings, intellectual antagonisms and desperately held superstitions — is what the Baha’i master said. Makes sense to me:

“All the prophets have striven to make love manifest in the hearts of men. His Holiness Jesus Christ sought to create this love in the hearts. He suffered all difficulties and ordeals that perchance the human heart might become the fountain-source of love. Therefore we must strive with all our heart and soul that this love may take possession of us so that all humanity, whether it be in the east or in the west, may be connected through the bond of this divine affection; for we are all the waves of one sea; we have come into being through the same bestowal and are recipients from the same center. The lights of earth are all acceptable, but the center of effulgence is the sun and we must direct our gaze to the sun. God is the supreme center. The more we turn toward this center of light, the greater will be our capacity.”

Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921) was the son of Baha’u’llah, founder of the Baha’i Faith, and was its pre-eminent interpreter and exemplar. Merry Christmas.

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