The Baha'i Faith, Rumi, and Catholic/Orthodox Mysticism?

I’m aware that the Baha’i are fond of the (Sufi?) mystic Rumi.

Are some of our Baha’i friends familiar with Catholic congemplative and mystical traditions, and/or similar traditions of the Eastern Orthodox?

In Roman Catholicism, the most popular versions of contemplative prayer are the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Benediction of the Sacrament, and perhaps some of the practices of St. Ignatius. There are numerous others, these would be a sampling.

In recent years–since Thomas Merton–there have been some experiments with cross-fertilization between Catholic and Eastern (Buddhist or Hindu) forms of meditation. Some of these have been accepted as part of normative Christian mysticism, some have been viewed as heterodox or as potentially so.

Orthodoxy has the tradition of the Jesus Prayer and meditative practices which involve the use of icons–Orthodox might need to elaborate on each, as I am not intimately familiar with EO traditions of mysticism. I hear allusions to the idea that Orthodox traditions have long borrowed elements of Buddhist or Hindu mysticism, but an Orthodox believer would have to elaborate on or refute such suggestions.

How do Baha’i pursue myspractices?ght/union with the Divine, and how does this compare/contrast with Christian or Islamic practices?

To what degree do Baha’i incorporate or borrow from Buddhist or Hindu meditative traditions?

I am just learning about Christian Mystics and practices. I actually never had any idea that Christians gave credence to these experiences as I was raised in a Protestant church. I began researching it for personal reasons. So, I would appreciate it learning all you guys have to offer.

Flame wrote:

I’m aware that the Baha’i are fond of the (Sufi?) mystic Rumi…

How do Baha’i pursue myspractices?ght/union with the Divine, and how does this compare/contrast with Christian or Islamic practices?

To what degree do Baha’i incorporate or borrow from Buddhist or Hindu meditative traditions?

My comment:

Of the books revealed by Baha’u’llah that relate more to mysticism that are translated into English I would suggest that the Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys are probably the more "mystical’. These were composed while Baha’u’llah was exiled in Baghdad in 1860 in response to questions of a Sufi Sheik…Shaykh Muhyi’d-Din.

They can be accessed online at

reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/SVFV/

or

bahai-library.com/writings/bahaullah/sv/

While it may seem arcane to introduce this at this time I think it is important to note that
while Baha’u’llah has cited several works by Attar, Rumi, Saadi and other well known stories it should be noted that as Baha’is we nonetheless do not share the view of some Sufis

An example regarding pantheism:

To recapitulate: the Sufis admit God and the creature, and say that God resolves Himself into the infinite forms of the creatures, and manifests like the sea, which appears in the infinite forms of the waves. These phenomenal and imperfect waves are the same thing as the Preexistent Sea, which is the sum of all the divine perfections. The Prophets, on the contrary, believe that there is the world of God, the world of the Kingdom, and the world of Creation: three things. The first emanation from God is the bounty of the Kingdom, which emanates and is reflected in the reality of the creatures, like the light which emanates from the sun and is resplendent in creatures; and this bounty, which is the light, is reflected in infinite forms in the reality of all things, and specifies and individualizes itself according to the capacity, the worthiness and the intrinsic value of things. But the affirmation of the Sufis requires that the Independent Wealth should descend to the degree of poverty, that the Preexistent should confine itself to phenomenal forms, and that Pure Power should be restricted to the state of weakness, according to the limitations of contingent beings.

~ Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 294

Another issue has to do with **obedience of law:
**
In all these journeys the traveler must stray not the breadth of a hair from the “Law,” for this is indeed the secret of the “Path” and the fruit of the Tree of “Truth”; and in all these stages he must cling to the robe of obedience to the commandments, and hold fast to the cord of shunning all forbidden things, that he may be nourished from the cup of the Law and informed of the mysteries of Truth. [1]

[1 This refers to the three stages of Sufi life: 1. Shari’at, or Religious Laws; 2. Tariqat, or the Path on which the mystic wayfarer journeys in search of the True One; this stage also includes anchoretism. 3. Haqiqat, or the Truth which, to the Sufi, is the goal of the journey through all three stages. Here Bahá’u’lláh teaches that, contrary to the belief of certain Sufis who in their search for the Truth consider themselves above all law, obedience to the Laws of Religion is essential.

(Baha'u'llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 39)

As to Baha’i views about Catholic mystics there is a paper that was submitted to the Irfan colloquium by David McLean:

As far as official views on Christian mystics I’m unaware of any…but then I’m quite limited.

There have been some works by Baha’is on Buddhist and Hindu subjects…

bahai-library.com/momen_hinduism_bahai

and

bahai-library.com/momen_encyclopedia_buddhism

The orthodox monastic practice as far as I know is concerned with constant prayer, namely the Jesus prayer, to incorporate it into ones life so that prayer is not something you do occassionally once in a while but becomes very natural, innate to the point where you cannot be without prayer. It is a categorical rejection of attachments to the world, when you live a monk you reject the world and dedicate yourself fully to the cause of prayer and God.

As far as techniques and practices associated with it, I am not sure, there are of course different stages in this practice, usually directed by a spiritual father with the help of the Philokalia and scripture. I couldn’t say for sure the connection between Hindu and Budhist monks and eastern orthodox monks, though I imagine the purpose of such monasticism for all three is totally different, in the case of the Budhist to escape the karmic cycle and achieve enlightenment.

It is very important here to distinguish between contemplative prayer and mystical prayer.

Contemplative prayer is certainly aided by things such as the rosary or other methods of Christian meditation such as Stations of the Cross, various chaplets and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. They help to keep us focused.

Mystical prayer, however, consists of experiences, or states of the soul, which cannot be produced by human effort. One cannot “choose” to enter into mystical prayer. It is a divine union of one’s soul with God which is initiated by God alone and which is beyond the human intellect. And it is a gift that is only given to certain people. Most of us will never experience mystical prayer. All of us can experience contemplative prayer.

Baha’u’llah is quite specific that attainment unto the Divine Presence is accomplished only through attainment unto the Presence of the Manifestation of God, and that He cannot be bypassed. One cannot go directly to God, as Sufis believe.

It is in this context that the words of Jesus are understood:

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.”

Baha’is believe this to be that the position of the Universal Manifestation of God, in whatever age He appears, is that Way, Truth, and Life.

. Turning towards Him is turning towards God.
. Turning away from Him is turning away from God.

Hence, at the time of Abraham (before Jesus), to turn towards Him was the Way.

At the time of Moses (again, before Jesus), turning towards Him and obedience to the Laws which flowed from God through Him, was the Way, Truth, and the Life.

At the time of Jesus, it was Him to whom all must turn, believe, and follow…

I’ve never heard of links between Hesychistic prayer and Buddism/Hinduism. I would be a bit surprised since as a form of prayer it was developed in areas that were a bit more isolated from the wider world, at a time when most of the world wasn’t very well connected itself.

My understanding is that Buddhist/Hindu meditation is about emptying your mind. Orthodox meditation is about focusing on God. The process of filtering everything else out is similar, I suppose, but that is such a small part of it.

I just wanted to state here that there is no one form of meditation that is used by Baha’is… or preferred over another.

"…There are no set forms of meditation prescribed in the teachings, no plan, as such, for inner development. The friends are urged – nay enjoined – to pray, and they also should meditate, but the manner of doing the latter is left entirely to the individual…

“The inspiration received through meditation is of a nature that one cannot measure or determine. God can inspire into our minds things that we had no previous knowledge of, if He desires to do so.”

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 25, 1943: Spiritual Foundations:Prayer, Meditation, and the Devotional Attitude, op. cit.)

(Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 455)

Further guidelines:

Recite ye the verses of God every morning and evening. Whoso reciteth them not hath truly failed to fulfil his pledge to the Covenant of God and His Testament, and whoso in this day turneth away therefrom hath indeed turned away from God since time immemorial. Fear ye God, O concourse of My servants!

Take heed lest excessive reading and too many acts of piety in the daytime and in the night season make you vainglorious.

*Should a person recite but a single verse from the Holy Writings in a spirit of joy and radiance, this would be better for him than reciting wearily all the Scriptures of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. *

Recite ye the verses of God in such measure that ye be not overtaken with fatigue or boredom.

Burden not your souls so as to cause exhaustion and weigh them down, but rather endeavour to lighten them, that they may soar on the wings of revealed Verses unto the dawning-place of His signs. This is conducive to nearer access unto God, were ye to comprehend.

(“Kitáb-i-Aqdas” provisional translation from the Arabic) 226

(Compilations, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 225)

Baha’is recite daily certain obligatory prayers and also recite the Greatest Name.

I read something somewhere where Shoghi Effendi stated that he encouraged the Baha’i’s to not be divided among themselves in between those who follow an esoteric/mystic path, and those who follow the exoteric.

This seems to be in alignment with mainstream Islam which encouraged marriage, and family life and discouraged or even ruled against monasticism. My own experience of being among the Baha’i’s has been more like being a part of an organization rather than actually developing a more mystic and spiritual connection to God. This might not be everyone’s experience, but it was certainly my own which is why I had to go elsewhere…

Granted the prayers are lovely, and I suppose it’s important to base one’s spiritual life around such a spiritual praxis rather than any meetings which might be had among the Believers…

When I found the Orthodox Church, it was like a whole new world… and I knew that what I had found could not be found anywhere else, and I was right. The Liturgy, the iconography and everything had more meaning to me. Maybe one day I’ll return to the Church…

Can any Baha’i comment on my Shoghi Effendi reference?

Hindus can also focus on their understanding of God, especially those who follow ISKCON. There are many mantras to Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, etc. or whoever it is that the devote Hindu has dedicated his/her heart and mind to.

Buddhist meditation would seem to be more focused, and about emptying the mind. Mind you Hindus have also claimed to see “visions” of spiritual beings/entities or lights through their “kundalini experience”. Anyone authoritative within Orthodoxy that I’ve read, i.e. Fr. Seraphim Rose, etc. has suggested that it is demonic in origin. I’ve never known what to think about such explanations…

Of course among Baha’is generally unity is stressed… I do not recall off hand a statement by Shoghi Effendi to the effect you mention…the following though to me signifies that we do not encourage people to be so withdrawn from the world they offer little or no services because of their preoccupation:

  1. **Prayer and meditation are very important factors in deepening the spiritual life of the individual, but with them must go also action and example, as these are the tangible results of the former. Both are essential.
    **
    (15 May 1944 to an individual believer)
(Compilations, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 240)

Ave,
. Unity is the essential feature of the Baha’i Revelation: “Be as the fingers of one hand.” Any self-assertion is anathema to the teachings of Baha’u’llah. Service to others, going beyond self interest, and essentially sacrificing one’s self for the good of others, is a Baha’i virtue. The opposite, you might say, of so much that is current in the world.

. As to the “organization” aspect of the Faith, it would seem that you may have been around some people who really emphasized the Administrative functions of the Faith over much of the spirituality, which is often left to the individuals themselves. Baha’u’llah dismisses the idea of asceticism in favor of social interactions and service, stating that this is true spirituality, which is contrary to the over-emphasis some traditional gurus, etc may teach about withdrawing from society. One can do that for a time, but not as a lifestyle. Begging is forbidden, and giving to professional beggars is discouraged.

. On the levels of unity I think you are referring to from Shoghi Effendi, humanity may be likened to a single organism. The cells of the heart must be unified, the cells of the liver, lungs, and so forth, but the entire human entity must itself become unified in order to be healthy. Disunity is the disease and the symptoms we view in the world are the result.

. The various “units” of preceding religions of the world are like the many organs of the body of mankind which have developed during its long gestation period. We are now at the stage where all of these units must integrate and enter the One Fold and the One Shepherd, the Sacred Hoop of All Nations…

. “Nothing short of the unity of the entire human race will suffice to heal the ills which afflict mankind.” Baha’u’llah

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