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TAGS: Jose Rizal; Lawh-i-Hikmat (Tablet of Wisdom); Malolos; Philippines; Philosophy; Revolution; Women
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Abstract:
Comparison of letter by Philippine national hero José Rizal to the women of Malolos with Bahá'u'lláh's "Tablet of Wisdom" to Nabil.
Notes:
Essay written in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rizal.

Mirrored with permission of author (former member of the NSA of the Philippines) from bahai.ph.

See more about Rizal at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/José_Rizal.


Rizal, Revelation and Revolution:
Rizal's Letter to the Women of Malolos and Baha'u'llah's letter to Nabil Akbar Lawh-i-Hikmat (Tablet of Wisdom)

by Stephen Ramo

2011

Introduction

A story intrigued me many years ago about a group of monkeys cocooned in an Asian jungle that ate root crops by plucking them from the ground and would climb the nearest tree to eat them. Some of them fell sick though because of disease from eating the unwashed food. Then one day a monkey-member of the tribe snatched her share of crop from the ground and run to the nearest tree to climb and eat the crop from up high. But then as she was dashing fast to climb the tree, some of the crops fell onto the small pond below. The monkey came down to pick them up. She noticed that the crop was brighter and more colorful (and cleaner) as the stain and dirt were naturally washed by the clear pond. Thus she placed all of her loot into the pond and began to process some kind of "clearing" (or cleaning) of the crops. And very soon every monkey on the horizon followed and there were fewer diseases noticed from eating the crop. One would wonder who taught them to pull out the crop from the ground and eat them, and insensibly, it seems, the small accident of the crop falling onto the pond increased their learning on hygiene, a process of social evolution bound in time.

Every step in our ascent of history triggers some learning that makes us different from the cycle of life that preceded it. Thus we make every effort to better ones self through conscious striving or just being humble enough for the Lord of History to make things right. Of course the process of realizing God's wisdom in the historical often entails deep reflections, constant and sustained interactions through credible and authentic consultations amongst the often in conflict sectors of any given society. The fall of man from heaven, a story told differently in every season of grace and tragedy, traces the distortion of reality by evident disobedience and pride, or just following blindly the contours of culture and tradition that not so often has been the cause of the perdition of its peoples. Ours is just a blink of history of a hundred or so years and the 6000 years of known history saw us in myriad conflicts. But there have always been certain interventions in history that radically changed the course of civilizations for the better and all the experiences of the precedent age became good learnings to propel humanity to move forward.

I have heard the saying that the Philippines has a tragic-comic history in the sense that we were 400 years inside the convent (Spanish regime) and 40 years thereafter drunk with stupor in a brothel (the American regime). And the results are the vagaries of both. Removed from well nigh 150 years or at least 6 generations, Jose Rizal is the quintessential Filipino and is a central canon in the evolutionary study of the pendulum of crises and victory of a people in search of wealth and prosperity as well as identity and culture.

Purpose of the Study

This paper shall make a preliminary attempt to give an interpretation of Rizal's letter to the Women of Malolos and Bahá'u'lláh's letter to Nabil entitled Lawh-i-Hikmat (Tablet of Wisdom). As a backdrop I shall outline, however concisely, the spin and growth of a new religion in the womb world of the middle east, the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, vis-à-vis some of the moral and theological views of Rizal as lens to read the political landscape and as a pathfinder in our ascent to history as well as largely a product of the process at the dawn of world history where a silver lining can be discerned in a not so distant future, chartering a sea change in world culture and revolutions.

The celebrated Charles Dickens wrote in the opening of his novel "The Tale of Two Cities":

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us..."(1)

Of course Dickens was giving us a large canvass of a continent emerging from a new synergy of soul and its ascent in history from the long enslavement of the mass of humanity. The lessons thereof hardly escaped anyone, let alone a mind like Rizal. Currently the Middle East is undergoing a process of examining the use of power. The leadership from all six sides of the middle-eastern divide is challenged to re-examine the nature of governance where the people want to be the subject of progress in all its myriad forms and not as objects for the perversion of human nature and the distortion of the very function of leadership and the perpetuation of its cracked form. Quite suddenly, there burst into the theatre, an awe-inspiring energy, long brewing underneath the hearts of the people and sends a huge wave of electrical shock through the sinews and arteries of the globe, coalesced into a movement that can only be defined as another sample of the irreversible process of that part of the world's spiritual and social evolution from childhood, adolescence and into manhood. The historical forces are often cataclysmic and no ken of men and angels can fathom its mystery. Historians and leaders of government and their discerning subjects have the comfort of hindsight and the benefits of time and space removed from those events. Naturally their insights are shaped first by the events that have shaken and informed certain definitions of culture and civilizations. Revolutions as we now know are more than equality, fraternity and freedom. The very process of education and nurturing of these big words is often moving not on a linear path. Revolutions, like earthquakes, are often unpredictable. In certain cases they are like a movement of a pendulum from the crucible of crises towards the gains of ineffable victory which would lead on to a new crisis transcending the phase or growth from which it sprung. What is often left out in the analysis of the forward march of history and the change of culture of its peoples dancing in the tune of the spiritual revolution underpinning such changes, is the role of the Manifestation of God and His Revelation. Bahá'u'lláh said in the Tablet of Wisdom:

"Know thou, moreover, that the Word of God—exalted be His glory—is higher and far superior to that which the senses can perceive, for it is sanctified from any property or substance. It transcendeth the limitations of known elements and is exalted above all the essential and recognized substances. It became manifest without any syllable or sound and is none but the Command of God which pervadeth all created things. It hath never been withheld from the world of being. It is God's all-pervasive grace, from which all grace doth emanate." (2)

The Word of God is brought forth as a matter of course by the Manifestation of God Whose appearance on the surface of the earth is the much awaited final song in the history of religion but when finally sang it is little understood and much too often dismissed as too simple or common.

Dr Rizal was a man of genius and had a universal mind, a mind, in the words of T.S. Eliot called the "general intelligence"; an intelligence that illuminates and made whole whatever it is focused on. Rizal had, again to quote Eliot "remarkable degree (of) sensitiveness, erudition, sense of fact and sense of history, and generalizing power." (3) In other words, when Rizal's mind enters into a new vista or vision, it had a capability to enkindle that thing and even recast it as though you are looking at that thing for the first time. And one of the geniuses of Rizal, is his rhythm and synergy of reason and faith, science and religion, or the ability to focus on the abstract world of the spirit in terms and definitions commonly used only under a process of scientific observation, a rationalized faith or the maturation of his spirit into a rational soul, mature to focus on anything abstract in the lens of his razor sharp reasoning ability. His balance of faith and reason scandalized the foundations of religion as it was understood within the matrix of his tradition in Philippine experience under the tutelage of friars he caricatured so finely and yet so devastatingly in his Noli and Fili. In His trip to Paris, sometime during the end of the first decade of the 1900s, `Abdu'l-Bahá, the eldest son of Bahá'u'lláh, spoke to a western audience, and said:

"There is no contradiction between true religion and science. When a religion is opposed to science it becomes mere superstition: that which is contrary to knowledge is ignorance. How can a man believe to be a fact that which science has proved to be impossible? If he believes in spite of his reason, it is rather ignorant superstition than faith. The true principles of all religions are in conformity with the teachings of science. The Unity of God is logical, and this idea is not antagonistic to the conclusions arrived at by scientific study." (4)

It is striking to see the similarity in tone and manner in which Dr Rizal made use of reason to reinforce faith and not undermine it, but lending it fresh in recasting old concepts made stale by anemic spiritual reflections. It seems that Rizal lent intellectual force subjugated only by his spiritual impulse that faith through reason can indeed be examined. Consider this letter of Rizal to the Women of Malolos and notice the seething righteous indignation:

"True piety is obedience to what is right, happen what may. "Deeds and not words are what I ask of you", said Christ...Piety does not consist in a worn-out nose nor in Christ's successor known for giving his hand to be kissed. He did not fatten the rich and proud scribes. He did not mention scapulars, he did not require the wearing of rosaries, he did not ask money for Masses, and he did not charge for saying prayers." (5)

Compare this to the exhortations of Bahá'u'lláh again from the Tablet of Wisdom:

We exhort mankind in these days when the countenance of Justice is soiled with dust, when the flames of unbelief are burning high and the robe of wisdom rent asunder, when tranquility and faithfulness have ebbed away and trials and tribulations have waxed severe, when covenants are broken and ties are severed, when no man knoweth how to discern light and darkness or to distinguish guidance from error.... Forsake all evil, hold fast that which is good. Strive to be shining examples unto all mankind, and true reminders of the virtues of God amidst men....Man's merit lieth in service and virtue and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches." (6)

And in the Hidden Words, Bahá'u'lláh intoned that the "best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice..." (7) and that we should not turn away from it if we indeed, desire only Him.

Lets go back to Rizal's letter, where he explicated to the women (and men!), it seems, of all age and clime: "Awaken and prepare the mind of the child for every good and desirable idea — love for honor, sincere and firm character, clear mind, clean conduct, noble action, love for one's fellow men, respect for God — teach this to your children." (8) And compare again what Bahá'u'lláh counseled in the Tablet of Wisdom: "Let your eye be chaste, your hand faithful, your tongue truthful and your heart enlightened."(9)

The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh started in 1844 when a certain young Siyyid, 25 years of age, named Ali-Muhammad, proclaimed to the world the birth of a new and mighty Revelation and the nearness of the kingdom of God. It was in the evening of May 23, 1844, when the scholar Mulla Husayn, who attended some lectures of the great Siyyid Kazim Rashti when the Bab happened to be in the same room with him, arrived in Shiraz, Iran, not certain why he is in that city, as they were looking for the Promised Qa'im of Islam. Mulla Husayn was the first to believe in Him and the Faith of the Bab spread like wildfire and soon Bahá'u'lláh himself became a believer in the Bab and of His Message. Bahá'u'lláh was 27 years old when He embraced the Faith of the Bab and He was born in November 12 1817 in Tihran in Iran, and in the same day the Bab met Mulla Husayn, on May 23 1844, His eldest son, `Abdu'l-Bahá, was born. `Abdu'l-Bahá, at the age of 8, accompanied His father, in a life-long, career destroying, and saying goodbye forever to the land of His birth, in back breaking journey of banishment and went abroad as a prisoner and an exile. When Dr Rizal was born on June 19 1861, `Abdu'l-Bahá was a young man of 17, and was in Baghdad, Iraq, during their first leg in exile. As we all know of our reading history, Rizal suffered with his family, the loss and deprivation because of Dr Rizal's battle with injustice and deprivation of the long suffering Filipino people. Rizal was charting a life whose best beloved is Justice, and when the light of justice is deemed, chaos and oppression ensue. Bahá'u'lláh passed away as a prisoner and exile in Akka, a city north of Israel, on May 29 1892. Rizal was shot facing a cadre of firing squad in the early morn of December 30 1896. He was 35 years old. Bahá'u'lláh's predecessor, Ali-Muhammad, the Bab, was also shot in a firing squad in a midday execution on the 9th of July 1850, witnessed by thousands in the market square of Tabriz, Iran. He was not more than 31 years old. There is something of this wedding of crises and victory, earlier pointed out, that gives birth to the brightest emanation of mind enmeshed in long suffering.

Moreover, and again insensibly, Rizal was drawn out of the depth of steep darkness of oppression and injustice, into the dawn of a new day, a period in history ushered in by the Manifestation of God that catapults humanity to proceed into another plane of existence. Bahá'u'lláh said: "This is the Day in which God's most excellent favors have been poured out upon men, the Day in which His most mighty grace hath been infused into all created things. It is incumbent upon all the peoples of the world to reconcile their differences, and, with perfect unity and peace, abide beneath the shadow of the Tree of His care and loving-kindness. It behoveth them to cleave to whatsoever will, in this Day, be conducive to the exaltation of their stations, and to the promotion of their best interests." (10) After the martyrdom of Rizal, the long wait to freedom was on the horizon; the drops of his blood sprinkled on the grounds of the Bagumbayan fed the revolution that would extinguish the hundreds of years of Spanish yoke in less than two years. Words, contained in two novels, proved mightier than the sword.

Removed from the oppression of colonization and its attendant brutal and unjust dispensation it was never easy for Rizal and all the heroes and heroines of that not so distant past. As we know Rizal was soul stirred by the death of Gomburza in 1872 and made a deep imprint in his soul. Since then his life changed to that of a peacemaker looking for his instruments of transformation amidst sterility. Rizal's political and historical analyses made him realized that education is the best instrument that will change his people and usher them to freedom and peace and prosperity. He didn't live to see the dawning of the light but it is certain that he will continue to give inspiration to all of us.

The Friar Reign of Absolute Dictatorship

Fray Pedro de Valderrama was with Ferdinand Magellan when Magellan's fleet landed in Limasawa in March 1521. Valderrama thus earned the distinction of celebrating the first mass on Philippine soil. A thunderous symbol also momentously occurred when a wooden cross was erected on it signifying possession and ownership of the islands to Christ and to Spain; a signal act portentous of events to come. A series of visitations thereby ensued to inaugurate Spanish settlement on the islands, first in Cebu, expressive of these visits were to advance the missionary stages of this colonization: the first demand was for more missionaries, and arms the second priority. It was made clear that if the natives resisted in this mass conversion, they have to be dealt with forcibly through arms and coercion. The Augustinians, the Dominicans, the Jesuits and the Dominicans followed one after the other: the clergy was not only omnipotent, they were fast becoming omnipresent. This priestly domination was not only in the symbolic sense; it was palpable and unabashedly conspicuous. The church and convent, his official domicile, were usually the most impressive structures in the entire village or town. Free native labor was expected by him, and often demanded, to follow his engineering activities; also at his disposal was the use and manipulation of native services as church assistants, sacristans, maids, and others. He thought it as a matter of right that he be given food from the parish. Defying expressed order against it by the monarch, the friar engaged in the galleon and other commercial trades. The friar was also by far one of the biggest landlord in town, in certain instances he owns and possess a third of the land under tillage. The sovereignty of the friar extended to local governance and the gamut of socio-economic structure. He punished and he punished severely by using his leverage to excommunicate, to flog him in public, or banish him without a tinge of due process. And because of his over arching presence he was often the only Spanish in their midst and the titular and real leader in both the church and the civil sovereignty, and with such power the friar became the living embodiment of Spanish rule. Thus it would not be difficult to see that Rizal saw the friar as the alpha and omega of his country's problems and made him the central focus of his reform movement. (12)

Rizal's letter to the Women of Malolos and why he wrote it

The women of Malolos were 20 women from prominent Chinese-Filipino families in Malolos, Bulacan — women whose average age could not be more than 19 years old. Coupled with their tender age, they displayed such moral vision and focus and that earned admiration to their will to uplift the state of women and education at that time. In such dramatic circumstances they presented a letter to Governor-General Valeriano Weyler on December 12, 1888 requesting permission to open a night school where they could be taught Spanish. Tiongson in his book (13), noticed that it was a signal act of courage and a manifest defiance to the Spanish authority that it invited praise from revolutionaries of the day, namely Graciano Lopez Jaena, and Marcelo H. del Pilar, and, of course, Dr Rizal. Why would opening a night school to teach a foreign language be such a threat to the friars exemplifies the paranoia borne of hypocrisy the friars was suffering from and these sustained the deprivation and injustice in the society they purportedly serves as spiritual leaders. Where today being able to communicate in Spanish could land you a good paying job in a call center for example, the leading friars at that time feared that the natives might be able to communicate directly to Spain and thereby exposing their sustained abominable sovereignty. The friars used these instruments of deprivation in order to bar direct communication between the people and the Spanish government in general. The transformation the women were seeking for themselves also changed the attitude Rizal was harboring in his heart about women in general in his country. He wrote the letter when he was in London, in the midst of the resultant buoyancy after the effects of the publication of the Noli:

Though I searched my memory diligently, though I recalled one by one all the young women I have known since childhood, only a few conformed to the ideal I longed for. It is true that many were endowed with sweet disposition, beautiful habits, gentle manners, modesty but withal were mingled complete deference and obedience to every work and request of the so-called fathers of the soul — as if the soul had any other father but God — due to excessive goodness, humility, or perhaps ignorance. They are like withered plants, sowed and grown in darkness. Though they may bloom, their flowers are without fragrance; though they may bear fruit, their fruit has no juice.(14)

Rizal found comfort and encouragement from the display of valor made by these youthful ladies; it must have been very lonely and disheartening at times being a revolutionary and living from afar and now the news brought confidence and able collaboration and indeed very surprising to him. Rizal was revolted by the depth of ignorance his country was chained to, and to free themselves from the shackles of this particular deprivation, Rizal saw only brilliance from them. Thus the vehemence he had against false religiosity and crass ignorance one is submitted to:

Now that you have responded to our vehement clamor for public welfare; now that you have shown a good example to you fellow young women who, like you...our hope is roused, now we are confident of victory. The Filipino woman no longer bows her head and bends her knees; her hope in the future is revived; gone is the mother who helps to keep her daughter in the dark, who educates her in self-contempt and moral annihilation. It is no longer the highest wisdom to bow the head to every unjust order, the highest goodness to smile at an insult, to seek solace in humble tear. You have found out that God's command is different from that of the priest, that piety does not consist in prolonged kneeling, long prayers, large rosaries, soiled scapulars, but in good conduct, clean conscience and right thinking. You have discovered that it is not goodness to be too obedient to every desire and request of those who pose as little gods, but to obey what is reasonable and just, because blind obedience is the origin of crooked orders and in this case both parties sin. The head of the priest cannot say that he alone will be responsible for the wrong order because God gave each one his own mind and his own conscience so that he can distinguish between right and wrong. All are born without chains, free and no one can subject the will and spirit of another. Why would you submit to another your noble and free thought? It is cowardice and an error to believe that blind obedience is piety and arrogance to think and reflect. Ignorance is ignorance and not goodness and honor. God, fountain of wisdom, does not expect man, created in his image, to allow himself to be fooled and blinded. The gift of reason with which we are endowed must be brightened and utilized. An example is the father who gave each of his son a lamp to light his way in the darkness. Let them intensify its flame, take care of it, not extinguish it to depend on the light of others, but to help one another, seek each other's counsel in the search of the way. He is exceedingly stupid and he can be blamed if he stumbles in following somebody else's light, and the father could say to him: "What for did I give you a lamp of your own?" But one who stumbles by following his own light cannot be greatly blamed because perhaps his light is dim or else the road is very bad.(15)

Freedom from friar influence pervades the letter and Rizal proffered a stinging rebuke against them: "God's command is different from that of the priest".(16) Rectitude of conduct for Rizal, is no longer about "prolonged kneeling", large rosaries, soiled scapular". That living the Christian life is far richer and immensely beneficial if we have faith in God within reason and what is just, because unquestioning obedience would sustain the bondage that has imprisoned even the conscience of man, who is "born without chains".(17) The mind, according to Rizal, is a gift from God that must be kindled if we are to sustain our faith and illumine whatever activity man does, even with regards to faith. Faith and reason does not only doesn't cancel each other, they are like the two wings of one bird or the chambers of one heart; neither can stand without the other and one is designed to reinforce the other. For Rizal this is the only way to understand the function of reason in the strengthening of faith.

Rizal also castigates the ritual of what `Abdu'l-Bahá called the "murmuring of syllables and sounds". Part of the prayer of `Abdu'l-Bahá reads thus: "Reveal then Thyself, O Lord, by Thy merciful utterance and the mystery of Thy divine being, that the holy ecstasy of prayer may fill our souls — a prayer that shall rise above words and letters and transcend the murmur of syllables and sounds — that all things may be merged into nothingness before the revelation of Thy splendor. ... (18) Rizal said in his letter: "What could the offspring be of a woman whose virtue is to murmur prayers, whose only knowledge is derived from awit, novena, prayer-books, miraculous tales intended to fool men, with no other recreation but panguingue or frequent confessions of the same sins."(19) True prayer for Rizal is the redemption of the soul acting as an agent of social action and transformation. He is severe on the women because "Maturity is the fruit of childhood and childhood is in the lap of the mother." (20)

Then Rizal offered an alternative spirituality that true obedience can only be measured when it is rightful, because for Rizal, almost echoing Bahá'u'lláh in the Words of Wisdom, that deeds and not words are our true adorning, that "The essence of faith is fewness of words and abundance of deeds; he whose words exceed his deeds, know verily his death is better than his life."(21)

What is more revealing is, for Rizal, the woman is the first teacher of mankind and the mother of civilization. Let him explain: "Let us be reasonable and open our eyes, especially you women, because you are the ones who open the minds of men. Consider that a good mother is different from the one created by the friars. Raise your children close to the image of the true God — the God who cannot be bribed, the God who is not avaricious, the God who is the father of all, who is not partial, the God who does not fatten on the blood of the poor, who does not rejoice at the plaint of the afflicted, and does not obfuscate the intelligent mind. Awaken and prepare the mind of the child for every good and desirable idea — love for honor, sincere and firm character, clear mind, clean conduct, noble action, love for one's fellow men, respect for God — teach this to your children."(22) `Abdu'l-Bahá enunciated that "And among the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh is the equality of women and men. The world of humanity has two wings—one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible. Not until the world of women becomes equal to the world of men in the acquisition of virtues and perfections, can success and prosperity be attained as they ought to be."(23)

In closing the letter, Rizal gave some 7 principles to the women of Malolos, and I would say, for all the women and men in the world: "What I ask is for all to think, to reflect and meditate, investigate and shift in the name of reason the following that I am going to state." (24) The 1st and the 4th principles is to take courage in engaging ones self in social action to assist others. I combined the two because they seem to indicate one and the same thing. The 2nd principle is to consult and to consult with frankness and audacity and inculcate self respect in each and all. The 3rd principle is to wing our way from the bondage of ignorance and that we should examine the truth in our own way, here again echoing what Bahá'u'lláh said in the Hidden Words: "By its aid (Justice) thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor." (25) The 5th principle reiterates the ideal that the instruction of children be given to the mothers first obligation. The 6th and 7th principles want us to examine justice and equality as twin pillars of civilization and that each one must work for its full realization and that we must examine carefully the religious teachings being given us.

Lawh-i-Hikmat (Tablet of Wisdom) by Bahá'u'lláh

Historical Background of the Tablet of Wisdom

According to Cole the Tablet of Wisdom "was revealed by Bahá'u'lláh for the Bahá'í philosopher Aqa Muhammad "Nabil-i Akbar" Qa'ini when the latter came to visit him in `Akka sometime in 1873 or 1874 (1290 A.H.). Nabil was a renowned scholar of Islam and he already met Bahá'u'lláh sometime in 1859 and Bahá'u'lláh actually reminded him in the Tablet of this first meeting where (said Cole) "Bahá'u'lláh recalls in the course of this Tablet their earlier meeting, around 1859, at the house of `Abdu'l-Majid Shirazi in Kazimayn, Iraq, at which time Bahá'u'lláh had expounded Greco-Islamic philosophy. It was upon listening to such discourses that Nabil-i Akbar (who had the best seminary training the Shi`ite world could offer at that time) had given his allegiance to Bahá'u'lláh."(26) According to Taherzadeh in his book "Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh vol I, that in this first meeting Nabil was to have some questions that he wanted to ask Bahá'u'lláh but in the course of the meeting he had forgotten the questions he wanted to ask and was shocked to note that in the course of his conversation with Bahá'u'lláh he was already answering all of them and reminded Nabil that these were the questions he wanted to ask. Nabil was caught dumbfounded that he became a believer. In the words of `Abdu'l-Bahá in describing Nabil: "

"There was, in the city of Najaf, among the disciples of the widely known mujtahid, Shaykh Murtadá, a man without likeness or peer. His name was Áqá Muhammad-i-Qá'iní, and later on he would receive the title of Nabíl-i-Akbar. This eminent soul became the leading member of the mujtahid's company of disciples. Singled out from among them all, he alone was given the rank of mujtahid—for the late Shaykh Murtadá was never wont to confer this degree. He excelled not only in theology but in other branches of knowledge, such as the humanities, the philosophy of the Illuminati, the teachings of the mystics and of the Shaykhí School. He was a universal man, in himself alone a convincing proof. When his eyes were opened... he became a flame of God. Then his heart leapt within him, and in an ecstasy of joy and love, he roared out like leviathan in the deep." (27)

The teachings in the Tablet of Wisdom

The Tablet of Wisdom has an extraordinary measure of sparkling pronouncements by Bahá'u'lláh and its range of ethical teachings are breathtaking. Bahá'u'lláh exhorts all the peoples of the World to "Forsake all evil, hold fast that which is good", and that we ought to be "shining examples unto all mankind", and we should be "reminders of the virtues of God amidst men". He admonishes us to bend every effort to banish ignorance from the face of the earth and to better our mornings than our yesterdays. Unity is his catchword, in counsel and in thought and that service is the high watermark to measure ones rank and not in wealth and the exposition of it. He wants us to "Commit not that which defileth the limpid stream of love or destroyeth the sweet fragrance of friendship", and that we should "Take pride not in love for yourselves but in love for your fellow-creatures. Glory not in love for your country, but in love for all mankind." He wants nothing less than purity and we should "Let your eye be chaste, your hand faithful, your tongue truthful and your heart enlightened".(28)

In this Tablet, moreover, Bahá'u'lláh delved into the origins of creation and the exalted rank of the Word of God and its Manifestations of God. He admonishes mankind to teach the Cause of God. In this Tablet He also mentioned by name certain ancient philosophers who didn't only believe in the existence of God but professed that it was God and His Manifestations who authored most of their philosophies. He mentioned Empedocles and Hippocrates, and He lauded Socrates in these terms: "Socrates who was indeed wise, accomplished and righteous. He practised self-denial, repressed his appetites for selfish desires and turned away from material pleasures. He withdrew to the mountains where he dwelt in a cave. He dissuaded men from worshipping idols and taught them the way of God, the Lord of Mercy, until the ignorant rose up against him. They arrested him and put him to death in prison. Thus relateth to thee this swift-moving Pen. What a penetrating vision into philosophy this eminent man had! He is the most distinguished of all philosophers and was highly versed in wisdom. We testify that he is one of the heroes in this field and an outstanding champion dedicated unto it. He had a profound knowledge of such sciences as were current amongst men as well as of those which were veiled from their minds. Methinks he drank one draught when the Most Great Ocean overflowed with gleaming and life-giving waters. He it is who perceived a unique, a tempered, and a pervasive nature in things, bearing the closest likeness to the human spirit, and he discovered this nature to be distinct from the substance of things in their refined form. He hath a special pronouncement on this weighty theme. Wert thou to ask from the worldly wise of this generation about this exposition, thou wouldst witness their incapacity to grasp it. Verily, thy Lord speaketh the truth but most people comprehend not." (29). Thus Bahá'u'lláh confirms the preeminent rank and station of Socrates in the annals of the history of western philosophy. He also mentioned Plato and called him "divine" and Aristotle and confessed to his erudition. "A true philosopher would never deny God nor His evidences, rather would he acknowledge His glory and overpowering majesty which overshadow all created things."(30)

Conclusion

Interpretation creates meaning, says Dr Christopher Buck. The letter of Rizal to the women of Malolos was an initiative of him to praise the courage and audacity of these young women and to outline and explore with them a vision of reality to that he wants them to internalize. He didn't know them personally but he sensed the spiritual energy was akin to him being a leading light in the Propaganda Movement in Europe. He sensed that these women were champions in their own right and has the moral leadership and vision to proceed according to the principles he wanted shaped in Philippine society. It will long be remembered that this letter sets Rizal far apart from the friar-dictated code of religious ethics from his exposition of faith based on reason, reflection and meditations.

The Tablet of Wisdom is an answer of Bahá'u'lláh to a query from a learned divine, Nabil, who has become one of His most faithful followers. The Tablet contains many celebrated teachings of Bahá'u'lláh often quoted in many reflection books and spiritual training materials. The Tablet of Wisdom is a veritable "mine rich in gems of inestimable value". Deeper study of it will open a wider horizon for any fair minded person. Because of the import of the letters it must have given a lasting and deep imprint on their recipient. The world is made richer because of these interactions with illumined spirit ready to receive their share of confirmed benedictions.

Sources:
  1. Bahá'u'lláh, LAWH-I-HIKMAT (Tablet of Wisdom)
  2. Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh
  3. `Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks
  4. `Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'í Prayers, a Compilation
  5. Eliot, T.S., The Perfect Critic
  6. Dickens, Charles, The Tale of Two Cities
  7. Cushner, Nicholas, Landed Estates in the Colonial Philippines, New Haven; Yale U, 1976
  8. ______, Spain in the Philippines, from Conquest to Revolutions, Ateneo de Manila U, 1971
  9. Tiongson, The Women of Malolos
  10. Rizal, Letter to the Women of Malolos
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