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Hidden Words:
Training Course on

by Dianne Bradford

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Chapter 5

POVERTY AND WEALTH

Bahá'u'lláh has quite a lot to say on the subjects of poverty and wealth in the Hidden Words. The following three Hidden Words offer some comfort and hope for those upon whom poverty has descended.

"O SON OF SPIRIT! Vaunt not thyself over the poor, for I lead him on his way and behold thee in thy evil plight and confound thee for evermore." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. A25.]

"O SON OF BEING! If poverty overtake thee, be not sad; for in time the Lord of wealth shall visit thee. Fear not abasement, for glory shall one day rest on thee." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. A53.]

"O SON OF PASSION! Cleanse thyself from the defilement of riches and in perfect peace advance into the realm of poverty; that from the well-spring of detachment thou mayest quaff the wine of immortal life." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. P55.]

I found it indeed comforting, when poverty had overtaken me to read that "I lead him on his way" and that "in time the Lord of wealth shall visit thee" and that "from the well-sp[ring of detachment thou mayest quaff the wine of immortal life." Indeed, I found that poverty was a good instructor not only for "detachment" but also for trusting in God. Many tmes I, with great gratitude, truly felt Him leading me on my way.

Bahá'u'lláh also has a lot to say about wealth, and shows it to be fleeting and even dangerous at times. He says:

"O SON OF MAN! Should prosperity befall thee, rejoice not, and should abasement come upon thee, grieve not, for both shall pass away and be no more." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. A52.]

and

"O SON OF MAN! Thou dost wish for gold and I desire thy freedom from it. Thou thinkest thyself rich in its possession, and I recognize thy wealth in thy sanctity therefrom. By My life! This is My knowledge, and that is thy fancy; how can My way accord with thine?" [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. A56.]

Bahá'u'lláh also points out some of the advantages to poverty and some of the disadvantages and advantages of wealth in the following Hidden Words, taken from the Persian, # 51 and 53 respectively:

'O SON OF MY HANDMAID! Be not troubled in poverty nor confident in riches, for poverty is followed by riches, and riches are followed by poverty. Yet to be poor in all save God is a wondrous gift, belittle not the value thereof, for in the end it will make thee rich in God, and thus thou shalt know the meaning of the utterance, "In truth ye are the poor," and the holy words, "God is the all-possessing," shall even as the true morn break forth gloriously resplendent upon the horizon of the lover's heart, and abide secure on the throne of wealth.'

"O YE THAT PRIDE YOURSELVES ON MORTAL RICHES! Know ye in truth that wealth is a mighty barrier between the seeker and his desire, the lover and his beloved. The rich, but for a few, shall in no wise attain the court of His presence nor enter the city of content and resignation. Well is it then with him, who, being rich, is not hindered by his riches from the eternal kingdom, nor deprived by them of imperishable dominion. By the Most Great Name! The splendor of such a wealthy man shall illuminate the dwellers of heaven even as the sun enlightens the people of the earth!"

There are indeed advantages to poverty when we are assured that "in the end it will make thee rich in God". For what greater gift can we ask than to be "rich in God"? As for wealth, it too carries its own reward, but only if one escapes its pitfalls.

If wealth is not handled correctly it can easily destroy; but if one can overcome the dangerous effects that can come with wealth, then Bahá'u'lláh tells that "The splendor of such a wealthy man shall illuminate the dwellers of heaven even as the sun enlightens the people of the earth!"

However, Bahá'u'lláh also makes it clear how dangerous wealth can be in that same Hidden Word. The risks are indeed great when "The rich, but for a few, shall in no wise attain the court of His presence nor enter the city of content and resignation." Indeed, Bahá'u'lláh also makes it clear that "gold" is a "test" in the following Hidden Word, #55 from the Arabic:

"O SON OF BEING! Busy not thyself with this world, for with fire We test the gold, and with gold We test Our servants."

In the following Hidden Word Bahá'u'lláh again mentions wealth, making it clear where the true wealth lies, telling us to "sanctify thyself from riches, that thou mayest obtain a lasting share from My eternal wealth." In this Hidden Word Bahá'u'lláh also mentions sight, hearing, and learning, telling us what we need to do with each of these as well as with "riches."

Notice, however, that the others are later qualified, such as, for example, "empty thyself of all learning" is later qualified as "empty thyself of all learning save the knowledge of Me". However, His command to "sanctify thyself from riches" is the only one of the four to remain unqualified.

"O SON OF DUST! Blind thine eyes, that thou mayest behold My beauty; stop thine ears, that thou mayest hearken unto the sweet melody of My voice; empty thyself of all learning, that thou mayest partake of My knowledge; and sanctify thyself from riches, that thou mayest obtain a lasting share from the ocean of My eternal wealth. Blind thine eyes, that is, to all save My beauty; stop thine ears to all save My word; empty thyself of all learning save the knowledge of Me; that with a clear vision, a pure heart and an attentive ear thou mayest enter the court of My holiness." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. P11.]

Bahá'u'lláh also makes it clear how wealth that He bestows on us is to be spent as witnessed by the following three Hidden Words.

"O SON OF MAN! Bestow My wealth upon My poor, that in heaven thou mayest draw from stores of unfading splendor and treasures of imperishable glory. But by My life! To offer up thy soul is a more glorious thing couldst thou but see with Mine eye." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. A57.]

"O CHILDREN OF DUST! Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor, lest heedlessness lead them into the path of destruction, and deprive them of the Tree of Wealth. To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with My virtues." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. P49.]

"O YE RICH ONES ON EARTH! The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be not intent only on your own ease." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. P54.]

When Bahá'u'lláh addresses Persian Hidden Word #54 to "O YE RICH ONES ON EARTH!" He does not define"RICH." I guess we all need to decide for ourselves if this particular Hidden Word is addressed to us. We may feel poor because we can't purchase something we want or need, but someone living on the street may think of us as rich. Keep in mind that everything is relative. The following Hidden Word, #68 from the Arabic, tells us how we should think of each other.

"O CHILDREN OF MEN! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory."

If we all became truly "even as one soul" as Bahá'u'lláh tells us it is "incumbent" upon us to be, could we allow any unnecessary suffering to continue, no matter where in the world it may occur? If we could feel the hunger that someone else is feeling because he/she has no food, would we not do everything in our power to feed him? If we could feel the cold of someone who had not warm apparel, would we not do everything in our power to clothe him, to educate the ignorant, cure the ailing, comfort the distressed, and provide any other need that it is in our power to provide?

Bahá'u'lláh, however, also stresses the need for everyone who is able to work for his/her living to do so. Study the following three Hidden Words, from the Persian, #s 80, 81, and 82 respectively.

"O MY SERVANTS! Ye are the trees of My garden; ye must give forth goodly and wondrous fruits, that ye yourselves and others may profit therefrom. Thus it is incumbent on every one to engage in crafts and professions, for therein lies the secret of wealth, O men of understanding! For results depend upon means, and the grace of God shall be all-sufficient unto you. Trees that yield no fruit have been and will ever be for the fire." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. P80.]

"O MY SERVANT! The basest of men are they that yield no fruit on earth. Such men are verily counted as among the dead, nay better are the dead in the sight of God than those idle and worthless souls." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. P81.]

"O MY SERVANT! The best of men are they that earn a livelihood by their calling and spend upon themselves and upon their kindred for the love of God, the Lord of all worlds." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. P82.]

Suggested Topics for Discussion:

-- Discuss the spiritual advantages and disadvantages of poverty
-- Discuss the spiritual advantages and disadvantages of wealth
-- Discuss how detachment relates to this subject
-- In the above Hidden Word, No. A57, notice how Bahá'u'lláh says "Bestow My wealth upon My poor." He does not say for us to bestow our wealth, but His. & discuss how this phrase relates to His Name, the All-Possessing, and how He places the word "My" before both "wealth" and "poor."
-- Discuss the level of detachment that would be necessary for"The splendor of such a wealthy man shall illuminate the dwellers of heaven even as the sun enlightens the people of the earth!" as is stated above in Persian Hidden Word #53.

Suggested Prayer:
    He is the Gracious, the All-Bountiful!
    O God, my God! Thy call hath attracted me, and the voice of Thy Pen of Glory awakened me. The stream of Thy holy utterance hath enraptured me, and the wine of Thine inspiration entranced me. Thou seest me, O Lord, detached from all things but Thee, clinging to the cord of Thy bounty and craving the wonders of Thy grace. I ask Thee, by the eternal billows of Thy loving-kindness and the shining lights of Thy tender care and favor, to grant that which shall draw me nigh unto Thee and make me rich in Thy wealth. My tongue, my pen, my whole being, testify to Thy power, Thy might, Thy grace and Thy bounty, that Thou art God and there is none other God but Thee, the Powerful, the Mighty.
   I bear witness at this moment, O my God, to my helplessness and Thy sovereignty, my feebleness and Thy power. I know not that which profiteth me or harmeth me; Thou art, verily, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. Do Thou decree for me, O Lord, my God, and my Master, that which will make me feel content with Thine eternal decree and will prosper me in every world of Thine. Thou art in truth the Gracious, the Bountiful.
    Lord! Turn me not away from the ocean of Thy wealth and the heaven of Thy mercy, and ordain for me the good of this world and hereafter. Verily, Thou art the Lord of the mercy-seat, enthroned in the highest; there is none other God but Thee, the One, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. -Bahá'u'lláh [ Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá'í Prayers, 1991 ed., pp. 143-144.]

CONTENTMENT AND DETACHMENT

As Bahá'ís, we know--from being told by all of the authorities from our Faith many times and in many ways--how important it is for us to learn detachment from the things of this world and to turn wholly to God. The Hidden Words are certainly no exception. Bahá'u'lláh has quite a lot to say about this subject in the Hidden Words as is demonstrated in the following two Hidden Words.

"O SON OF SPIRIT! There is no peace for thee save by renouncing thyself and turning unto Me; for it behooveth thee to glory in My name, not in thine own; to put thy trust in Me and not in thyself, since I desire to be loved alone and above all that is." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. A8.]

"O MAN OF TWO VISIONS! Close one eye and open the other. Close one to the world and all that is therein, and open the other to the hallowed beauty of the Beloved." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. P12.]

In the following two Hidden Words, Bahá'u'lláh continues to talk about how we should not be too concerned with this world or what we may want from it. He says: "Busy not thyself with this world," and "deny thyself that which thou desirest if thou seekest My pleasure." After all, as spiritual beings, isn't it His pleasure that we really desire?

"O SON OF BEING! Walk in My statutes for love of Me and deny thyself that which thou desirest if thou seekest My pleasure." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. A38.]

"O SON OF BEING! Busy not thyself with this world, for with fire We test the gold, and with gold We test Our servants." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. A55.]

In the next two Hidden Words, Bahá'u'lláh is very clear about where we should NOT set our "affections".

"O FRIENDS! Abandon not the everlasting beauty for a beauty that must die, and set not your affections on this mortal world of dust." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. P14.]

"O BRETHREN! Be forbearing one with another and set not your affections on things below. Pride not yourselves in your glory, and be not ashamed of abasement. By My beauty! I have created all things from dust, and to dust will I return them again." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. P48.]

In the next Hidden Word, # 55 from the Persian, Bahá'u'lláh is very clear about the benefits of detachment, saying that "from the well-spring of detachment " we can "quaff the wine of immortal life."

"O SON OF PASSION! Cleanse thyself from the defilement of riches and in perfect peace advance into the realm of poverty; that from the well-spring of detachment thou mayest quaff the wine of immortal life."

Bahá'u'lláh again mentions detachment as He closes the Hidden Words with the Epilogue of the Persian Hidden Words, which follows. He has done His part as bidden by God. He now tells us: "Let it now be seen what your endeavors in the path of detachment will reveal." This again emphasizes the importance of "detachment".

"The mystic and wondrous Bride, hidden ere this beneath the veiling of utterance, hath now, by the grace of God and His divine favor, been made manifest even as the resplendent light shed by the beauty of the Beloved. I bear witness, O friends! that the favor is complete, the argument fulfilled, the proof manifest and the evidence established. Let it now be seen what your endeavors in the path of detachment will reveal. In this wise hath the divine favor been fully vouchsafed unto you and unto them that are in heaven and on earth. All praise to God, the Lord of all Worlds."

Going hand in hand with detachment from the world is contentment with God's Will, trusting in Him that He knows what is best for us and knowing that He loves us enough to give us exactly what we NEED, whether or not it's what we WANT. Bahá'u'lláh tells us clearly in the next two Hidden Words, from the Arabic,# 17 & 18 respectively, that this contentment is very important for us. He says:

"O SON OF MAN! Be thou content with Me and seek no other helper. For none but Me can ever suffice thee."

"O SON OF SPIRIT! Ask not of Me that which We desire not for thee, then be content with what We have ordained for thy sake, for this is that which profiteth thee, if therewith thou dost content thyself."

Bahá'u'lláh says "this is that which profiteth thee, if therewith thou dost content thyself." This is a pretty convincing argument for learning to be content with His Will. Again, in the next Hidden Word, # 70 from the Arabic, Bahá'u'lláh tells us the priceless gifts He has given to us, and urges us to be not only "content" but "thankful". It seems to me that we have quite a lot for which to be thankful.

"O SON OF HIM THAT STOOD BY HIS OWN ENTITY IN THE KINGDOM OF HIS SELF! Know thou, that I have wafted unto thee all the fragrances of holiness, have fully revealed to thee My word, have perfected through thee My bounty and have desired for thee that which I have desired for My Self. Be then content with My pleasure and thankful unto Me."

Bahá'u'lláh also warns us against being contented with less than we should, by contenting ourselves with the ephemeral things of this world and turning away from the immortal gifts He has to offer us, as is demonstrated in the next four Hidden Words. After all, why should we content ourselves with that which is "less good" or even "vile". Why should we content ourselves with nothing but "transient dust" or with "a mere cupful," when we are offered the whole ocean and so much more.

"O SON OF MAN! A dewdrop out of the fathomless ocean of My mercy I have shed upon the peoples of the world, yet found none turn thereunto, inasmuch as every one hath turned away from the celestial wine of unity unto the foul dregs of impurity, and, content with mortal cup, hath put away the chalice of immortal beauty. Vile is that wherewith he is contented." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. P61.]

"O OFFSPRING OF DUST! Be not content with the ease of a passing day, and deprive not thyself of everlasting rest. Barter not the garden of eternal delight for the dust-heap of a mortal world. Up from thy prison ascend unto the glorious meads above, and from thy mortal cage wing thy flight unto the paradise of the Placeless." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. P39.]

"O SON OF SPIRIT! The bird seeketh its nest; the nightingale the charm of the rose; whilst those birds, the hearts of men, content with transient dust, have strayed far from their eternal nest, and with eyes turned towards the slough of heedlessness are bereft of the glory of the divine presence. Alas! How strange and pitiful; for a mere cupful, they have turned away from the billowing seas of the Most High, and remained far from the most effulgent horizon." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. P2.]

"O SON OF MAN! Upon the tree of effulgent glory I have hung for thee the choicest fruits, wherefore hast thou turned away and contented thyself with that which is less good? Return then unto that which is better for thee in the realm on high." [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, No. A21.]

But to be content with that which is given us and ordained for us is a worthy goal with its reward of being "loved and praised", as demonstrated in the following Hidden Word, # 50 from the Persian. It will benefit us to pay close attention to the lesson it teaches.

"O QUINTESSENCE OF PASSION! Put away all covetousness and seek contentment; for the covetous hath ever been deprived, and the contented hath ever been loved and praised."

Suggested Topics for Discussion:

-- Discuss the nature of the relationship between detachment from the world and contentment with God's Will for us
-- Discuss the pitfalls of being content with the things of this world rather than the things that are of God
-- Discuss how our detachment can benefit others (i.e. being more generous to others & being a good example)

Suggested Prayer:
    O Lord! Unto Thee I repair for refuge, and toward all Thy signs I set my heart.
   O Lord! Whether traveling or at home, and in my occupation or in my work, I place my whole trust in Thee.
   Grant me then Thy sufficing help so as to make me independent of all things, O Thou Who art unsurpassed in Thy mercy!
   Bestow upon me my portion, O Lord, as Thou pleasest, and cause me to be satisfied with whatsoever thou hast ordained for me.
   Thine is the absolute authority to command. --The Báb [The Báb, Bahá'í Prayers, 1991 ed., pp. 56-57.]

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