Friday, 3 September 2010

On wealth

I was inspired to write on wealth again here because I've just read a fabulous paragraph, newly translated, in which Baha'u'llah is quoted by Nabil, making one of his usual hard-hitting one-liners. The paragraph appears on a new blog called Kashkul, which is put together by Will McCants. I can't recommend the blog highly enough. Will can translate the writings from the original languages and his entries are fresh translations of material not seen in English before. Here's the paragraph from Nabil's unpublished account:

One day in the outer part of the Blessed House (in Baghdad), one of the travelers from Tehran respectfully asked the Presence (Baha’u’llah), "How large of a stipend and expenditure does the Sadr A`zam (chancellor) allot you every month such that all the expenses which arise are completely taken care of?" (Baha’u’llah) said, "I should give the likes of the Sadr A`zam a salary, not them bestow it on me. My affairs are with God and not in the trust of others."

Nabil Zarandi’s unpublished history, excerpted in Mazandarani, Zuhur al-Haqq, 4: 227-8

Translated by Will McCants in "Fool's Gold"

What a scream. Baha'u'llah's comment captures the issue of wealth in a nutshell: no one gives Baha'u'llah a stipend; he gives everyone else one!

I have certainly been hit hard economically by events of the global financial crisis. For several years, I had a greatly reduced income. I would listen to the radio and think that getting work was very unlikely, given the economic situation. I focused on the depressing things going on around me and was resigned. In my prayers, I would beg Baha'u'llah to lead me to work or some source of income.

But during the year Steve and I were preparing to move north, I had no time to worry about it. I got used to being poor and started looking at the bright side. I adjusted my habits to accommodate my lack of income. I became inventive with my cooking, so that I eventually used all items in my cupboards, which had been there for years. When I had plenty of money, I never looked at them. When I had no money, I ate in a more healthy way because I had no money to be slack and buy everything from the supermarket.

As I began to let go the worry about money, I found myself becoming increasingly joyful. I felt free. Everyone worries about money. It's very difficult not to catch the disease. I shifted my focus from worry about lack of income to a joyful reliance on God. Might as well be happy, as anything, I thought.

When we got to our new home, I was in a position to work again. I began again asking Baha'u'llah if he would send me work. But this time, I took a new approach. I saw that I could suddenly revert into my worry state again, now that I had time to think more about the reality of my situation. The minute any kind of worry about money threatened, I saw how it impacted on my connection to Baha'u'llah. The joy would disappear and the darkness would threaten. I thought: 'no, I have survived this far, I am not about to start worrying again. I will ask Baha'u'llah respectfully for help, then leave it with him.' For I had learned that being happy and near Baha'u'llah was much more fun than worrying.

Two weeks later, a guy I worked for many years ago rang out of the blue and offered me lots of work.

The moral of the story is summed up in the following Word of Wisdom:

"The essence of wealth is love for Me; whoso loveth Me is the possessor of all things, and he that loveth Me not is indeed of the poor and needy." Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p156

If you need wealth, turn your heart to Baha'u'llah and focus on your love for him. Don't hassle him about money. He is the one that dishes out the stipends; that's easy for him. Higher on his agenda is for us to love him and be near him. And that means we love him for his own sake, not because he can do things for us.

It occurred to me that this conclusion is backed up by the Tablet of Ahmad. The whole tablet is about truly recognising God and how important that is. At the very end, Baha'u'llah says he'll sort out all our problems if we say the tablet sincerely. This suggests that getting our hearts in the right place is what matters. The rest is worthy of just a final comment.

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