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Worship as Paradise, in Gate of the Heart

Posted by Sen on July 20, 2010

Continuing a series of postings to give readers a taste of Nader Saiedi’s Gate of the Heart , I’ve chosen a section on pages 248-251 entitled “Worship as Paradise.” Naturally, in the book, Saiedi cites his sources, but if you want those, you will have to buy the book.

~~~~

The ultimate meaning and the supreme end of phenomenal reality is worship of God. In typical approaches to the idea of worship, fear of punishment and desire for reward are the main motivations, but in the Bab’s writings these are inferior reasons as they are focused on something other than God. Worship of God must be an end in itself. It still entails reward, but in a new way. True worship, as the Bab explains, is the most exalted station human beings can attain: it is a mode of consciousness and feeling in which one is aware of being related to the entire universe by virtue of concentrating on the Supreme Origin of all reality. This kind of worship is the realization of the inner truth and reality of one’s own being, as well as union with the Divine Beloved. As such, it constitutes the realization of the potentialities of one’s own essential reality and the attainment of the state of paradise for human beings.

Worship, therefore, is an absolutely mystical state of being, a spiritual orientation in which one perceives in every thing nothing but the divine names and attributes. Worship, in other words, is a relation of true love, in which the lover, the Beloved, and the love become one and the same. All the concepts of heavenly reward revolve around this supreme state of servitude, a servitude whose inner reality is divinity:

Verily, the most sublime station of reward, and the most exalted position of divine summons, is naught but the state of the servant’s turning toward his Lord with utter devotion. For verily God will ever shed upon thee and through thee the splendours of His revelation ….
By thy Lord! Shouldst thou taste the joy of that ecstatic station, thou wouldst never part with it, even shouldst thou be torn asunder. For should one truly testify, “There is none other God but God,” he would taste the sweet delight of the revelation of everlasting glory, would be illumined by the dawning light of the Sun of Divine Unity, and would be exalted above all the contingent beings through the radiant Countenance of the Sovereign Source of Revelation.

God cannot be worshipped for any reason other than His own intrinsic Beauty, for at that station, nothing else even exists. The Bab extends this principle to the recognition of Him Whom God shall make manifest, stating that one must recognize the Promised One out of the intrinsic worth of His reality and not due to any social and material reasons external to Him. Again, this recognition constitutes the true paradise of human beings:

For were I to find Him alone, in His transcendent unity, I would unhesitatingly bow down before Him, solely on account of His intrinsic supreme worth, inasmuch as that kneeling is naught but adoration for Thee in Thy oneness, for there is none other God but Thee.

In like manner, should I find that all on earth prostrate themselves before Him, this would in no wise increase the awe of His majesty in my heart … For recognizing Him by Him, and through the testimony of His own Self, is paradise, the like of which hath not been created in Thy Knowledge. And were I to be swayed by anything, then I would have not believed in Thy Unity as it beseemeth Thee, nor acknowledged Him as it befitteth Him.”

In this elevated state of worship, the worshipper is completely oblivious to the consequences of the rapturous expression of love. Thus the Bab frequently says that true worship is performed by the servant even if the consequence of the deed is punishment rather than reward. In the Persian Bayan, He writes:

Worship thou God in such wise that if thy worship lead thee to the fire, no alteration in thine adoration would be produced, and so like-wise if thy recompense should be paradise. Thus and thus alone should »be the worship which befitteth the one True God. Shouldst thou worship Him because of fear, this would be unseemly in the sanctified Court of His presence, and could not be regarded as an act by thee dedicated to the Oneness of His Being. Or if thy gaze should be on paradise, and thou shouldst worship Him while cherishing such a hope, thou wouldst make God’s creation a partner with Him, notwithstanding the fact that paradise is desired by men.

Fire and paradise both bow down and prostrate themselves before God. That which is worthy of His Essence is to worship Him for His sake, without fear of fire, or hope of paradise. Although when true worship is offered, the worshipper is delivered from the fire, and entereth the paradise of God’s good-pleasure, yet such should not be the motive of his act.

Thus, the Bab says, the mark that distinguishes true testifying to the unity of worship is the continuous awareness of the possibility of alteration – the recognition that it is only by virtue of divine grace and mercy that the act of worship is recompensed by the reward of heaven, and that at any moment divine justice may alter this decision and replace it by the punishment of hell. Yet, for the servant in such a state of devotion, this knowledge would not have the slightest effect on the worship. Just as testifying to the unity of divine Action was exemplified in the consciousness of Destiny, testifying to the unity of worship is crystallized in the ever-present consciousness of the possibility of alteration. The prayers of the Bab are imbued with this same consciousness; for example, He writes: “By Thy Glory! I testify in Thy presence that, verily, Wert Thou to torment me for my mention of Thy Self, throughout the eternity of Thy glory, by all that is in Thy power of seizure and vengeance, violence and wrath, Thou must assuredly be praised in Thine action and obeyed in Thy judgment, for I would truly deserve it.”

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3 Responses to “Worship as Paradise, in Gate of the Heart”

  1. Larry Roofener said

    Sen:

    Thank you for your postings. After reading your fist posting (July 17th), I purchased and began reading Mr. Saiedi’s book, “Gate of the Heart”. His Preface to the book is one of the most moving I have ever read. I have just completed reading Chapter 1, “The Mode of Interpretation”.

    Reading this chapter (more specifically pp. 63-65) makes me realize, more that ever before, what a great loss it is to the Baha’i Community to be deprived, so early in this Revelation, of the succession of Guardians (Interpreters of the Book) that were anticipated by both ‘Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. I recall the words of Shoghi Effendi: “Without such an institution the integrity of the Faith would be imperiled, and the stability of the entire fabric would be gravely endangered. Its prestige would suffer, the means required to enable it to take a long uninterrupted view over a series of generations would be completely lacking, and the necessary guidance to define the sphere of legislative action of its elected representatives would be totally withdrawn. … ‘He is the Interpreter of the Word of God’, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, referring to the functions of the Guardian of the Faith, asserts …” (World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 148) Shoghi Effendi’s many other authoritative writings and his conversations with others (as recorded in numerous pilgrim’s notes) leave no doubt that he anticipated a succession of Interpreters of the Book. Others have expressed the thought that perhaps it is the Will of God that there is no succession of Guardians. In response to that thought, I have argued that the “infallible’ Interpreters of the Book have expressed what the Will of God is, and this includes the succession of Interpreters of the Book. I am certainly not suggesting that there was anyone that Shoghi Effendi could have appointed to succeed him as Guardian; there was not. Related to this, and as I understand the Writings, the souls of the family of Baha’u’llah who became covenant breakers, and sabotaged the possibility of the succession, will need to answer to the Divine Will for their actions. It is hard for me to accept the reasoning (or unreasoning) that their rebellious actions were indeed the Will of God as expressed by Baha’u’llah and the other Central Figures.

    While participating in the study of Ruhi Book 2, I did personally struggle with the Ruhi author’s comment (p. 61) that “… with him (Shoghi Effendi) the task of (authoritative) interpretation was complete …” My suggestion to the class tutor was that authoritative interpretation was not complete; it ended unexpectedly. It seems that “completeness” would have included a succession of Guardians as anticipated by those “infallible” Central Figures and Interpreters of the Book.

    God willing, the Universal House of Justice, which is created, guided by, and “under the care and protection of the Abha Beauty, (and) under the shelter and unerring guidance of the Exalted One (the Bab) …” (World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 149) will, while operating within its own sphere of responsibility successfully “fill in those gaps” and lead the Baha’i Community into and through the years ahead.

    I have veered a bit from the direct focus of Mr. Saiedi’s book, but in my mind and thought processes it is, in principle, all related. Also, in sharing my thoughts (which are constantly evolving – I pray), I do not mean any disrespect to the perceptions of others. I am eager to continue reading “Gate of the Heart”.

    LR

  2. Sen said

    I think you will find the first part of Gate of the Heart quite “literary” – it tells us how to read the Babs language. As the book proceeds it becomes, in my view, more and more exciting, more and more relevant to the meaning of religion in life today.

    I agree that the loss of the Guardianship so early was unexpected, and a great loss, although I do think there are reasons to think that Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha anticipated that the Aghsan and the Guardianship, respectively, could eventually die out (apart from hints in the Bahai scriptures, it’s common sense and could be predicted by looking at the ending of the line of the Imams). There’s nothing to be done about it, however (see “no counterfeits” on this blog). I’ve discussed the section you mention on this blog in the ‘mutilation’ passage. I join you in blaming not “the Will of God” but the choices made the potential appointees for the ending of the Guardianship. What a pain it must have been to Shoghi Effendi, to watch them throwing away an institution that would have meant so much to humanity, for considerations that in comparison were petty.

    I think Ruhi book 2 has it quite wrong: there could never be a completion to authoritative interpretation, since the meanings of the scriptures are inexhaustible. It would be silly to say even that everything worth saying about Shakespeare has been said — how much more the ocean of the Bab’s and Baha’u’llah’s and Abdu’l-Baha’s writings and life! The authoritative interpretations was ended, incomplete.

  3. Larry Roofener said

    Sen:

    Thank you for your response and comments. I do recognize, but failed to include specific comment, that the possibility of the Aghsan succession line seems to be anticipated at some point in the Faith’s future (implied in Kitab-i-Aqdas, para. 42, as one example). It does not seem that Shoghi Effendi anticipated it ending prematurely or so abruptly. My thoughts and comments were a result of reading Chapter one of Mr. Saiedi’s book, specifically pages 63-65. The contents of these pages and the words of the Bab reminded me of the special station and significant purpose of the Guardianship as the representative of the Manifestation of God on earth. Mr. Saiedi quotes the Bab as saying:

    “…thou shouldst never compare the words of the Imams with the words of the people, for verily utterance is a manifestation of the reality of the one who uttereth, and a mirror that reflecteth that which is in the heart. Thus, just as their own being is a sure testimony for all the worlds and an indisputable sign from God, glorified be He, so are their words…which do not resemble the words of any other creatures. Their utterance, which is at once all-encompassing and all perfect, is the proof of God unto the people….All existence is the outcome of one letter of their utterance….Thus the word of the Imam, peace be upon him, embraceth all things and streameth forth in all the worlds according to the conditions of their inhabitants.”

    Mr. Saiedi continues to explain that according to the Bab “Only the meanings intended by the Manifestations, and those of His authorized representatives, are purely true. … (and) the Bab asserts that true meaning of His own words is only accessible to Him Whom God shall make manifest and His representatives …” Considering this, and the importance of the office of the Guardianship as the authoritative representatives of the Manifestation, I was moved to make my previous comments about the tragic loss of the succession of Faith’s authoritative interpreters of the Book. I do understand your comment and realize that there is nothing that can be done about it.

    Thank you again for your many perceptions and insights and for the opportunity to make comment on your Blog. Your perceptions on the many topics you present motivate me to contemplate more deeply the Cause. I appreciate the Universal House of Justice’s commitment to the principle that “… individual interpretation is considered the fruit of man’s rational power and conducive to a better understanding of the teachings, provided that no disputes or arguments arise among the friends and the individual himself understands and makes it clear that his views are merely his own. Individual interpretations continually change as one grows in comprehension of the teachings.” (Messages from the UHJ, 1963-1986); And I am attempting to better understand and appreciate Mr. Saiedi’s quotation of the Bab saying:

    “… thou must refrain from interpreting, to the best of thine ability, the words of the Immaculate Souls, in regard to any imperfections, but, rather, [interpret them] through exaltation and honour” (p. 63)

    and his statement that “According to the Bab, true understanding of the revealed Word, thus, is a matter of spiritual receptivity, attained by purifying the heart and turning to the source of the Word, rather than by exerting the intellect alone or applying learning acquired from others. …” (p. 65)

    I look forward to further sharing your excitement about Mr. Saiedi’s book. Take care.

    LR

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