Ascension of Baha’u’llah: Baha’is turn toward Bahji in reflections on unity

Front doors of fancy building with entrance grand and gardens around

The Shrine of Baha’u’llah in Bahji, near Acre, Israel, is the most holy site in the world for Baha’is. The Shrine represents the Baha’i direction of prayer. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET THURSDAY, MAY 28: A prisoner of decades, a man who wrote almost 100 volumes and changed the interfaith world is commemorated today, on the Baha’i observance of the Ascension of Baha’u’llah. The founder of the Baha’i faith, Baha’u’llah lived in Persia but was buried in Bahji, in the shrine where his body still lies, in 1892 CE. For this solemn holy day, many Baha’is attend a service or study the writings of Baha’u’llah. (Learn more from the Baha’i Library.) It is recorded that Baha’u’llah contracted a fever and died a few days later, surrounded by family and friends in his home, at 3 a.m. on May 29.

Did you know? Baha’u’llah’s shrine is surrounded by elaborate and extensive gardens, which are designed to symbolize the order of the world in the future. Baha’u’llah wrote often of the unity necessary for peace in the future.

From the time he first heard about the Bab and the emerging Badi faith, Baha’u’llah became a follower. At age 27, Baha’u’llah was visited by a messenger of the Bab and accepted the Badi faith. The next several decades would be filled with exile, imprisonment and tumult, as Baha’u’llah expanded upon the claims of the Bab and began writing volumes of his own. (Baha’i.org has more.) The Bab taught that Baha’u’llah was the Promised One, and that he had been but the Gate for Baha’u’llah.

LETTERS, TABLETS AND PROPHESIES

Through his years of exile and imprisonment, Baha’u’llah wrote a great deal. In addition to larger volumes, he composed personal tablets and letters for kings and rulers of the time–urging them to resist greed and anger in favor of peace. Many of the leaders, from a Russian czar to Napoleon III of France, disregarded Baha’u’llah’s warnings. Baha’u’llah predicted that if these leaders did not resolve their differences and halt the insatiable desire for land, materials and power, they would fall—and, one by one, the leaders realized the fate that Baha’u’llah had warned against.

Today, approximately 6 million Baha’is in 192 countries and territories across the globe observe this holy day. For the Ascension of Baha’u’llah, the faithful reflect on the messages of unity—and Baha’u’llah’s suggestion that all of the world’s major religions derive from the same source, in unity, as part of the same family.

Ascension of Baha’u’llah: Baha’is recall peaceful end of an ardous life

White house with elaborate details surrounded by palm trees, gardens, a stone path and short stone pillars

The Shrine of Baha’u’llah, shown above, is the holiest site in the Baha’i faith. Photo released via Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET WEDNESDAY, MAY 28: A life of tumult, hardship and grueling journeys came to a quiet end today, as Baha’is mark the Ascension of Baha’u’llah. One of nine holy days on the Baha’i calendar, the Ascension took place at the location now regarded as most holy by the Faith: the Mansion of Bahji, outside Akko (Acre), Israel. At approximately 3 a.m. on May 29, 1892, Baha’u’llah’s earthly life ended, and he was buried in a small stone building adjacent to the mansion. Today, the mansion, house and surrounding gardens make up the Shrine of Baha’u’llah; the Shrine was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008.

At the start of his 75 years, Baha’u’llah had a life of luxury: He was born into a noble family in Persia, and given all of life’s material necessities. Soon, though, it became noticeable that a wealthy life wouldn’t satisfy Baha’u’llah, and he became renowned for his works of charity. When news of the Bab reached him, he immediately became a follower of the emerging Babi religion. (Learn more from Planet Baha’i and the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.) Baha’u’llah was imprisoned, tortured and nearly put to death before a revelation came to him—the revelation that he was the Promised One, foretold by the Bab.

Released from prison, Baha’u’llah’s belongings were taken and he was banished to Baghdad. Through the following years, Baha’u’llah would continue to preach messages of God, despite multiple exiles and constant threats. By the end of his life, Baha’u’llah had penned approximately 100 volumes and had shaped a new faith, before passing his duties onto a successor: his eldest son, Abdu’l-Baha. Following a short illness, Baha’u’llah died in Acre. (Read how one Baha’i keeps Baha’u’llah’s memory alive in reflections at Baha’i Blog.) It was recorded that, in the week after his death, “… a vast number of mourners, rich and poor alike, tarried to grieve with the bereaved family [of Baha’u’llah] … Notables … Shi’ahs, Sunnis, Christians, Jews and Druzes, as well as poets, ulamas and government officials …”

(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an on line magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)