prayer versus "writing"

All research or scholarship questions
Nowis

prayer versus "writing"

Postby Nowis » Sat Jun 11, 2005 2:15 am

Could anyone give me a definitive answer as to what makes a bahai "prayer" a bahai prayer and what makes a bahai "writing" a bahai writing.

I was told that if it comes from the book of bahai prayers then it must be a prayer, but surely some of those come from other volumes such as "prayers and meditations", so are the prayers or meditations, or writings.

Is is the grammatical "person" used that gives us the key, e.g. if the reader is addressing God then it must be a prayer ?????

And before I am told that is doesn't matter and not to get hung up on it, I have found that people do get very hung up on this issue, especially when it comes to the order of things at 19 day feats.

That's why I would like to find out the truth.

Hasan
Posts: 195
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2004 10:03 am
Location: Lima - Perú
Contact:

Re: prayer versus "writing"

Postby Hasan » Sat Jun 11, 2005 12:18 pm

I think Bahá'í Prayers are all prayers given by the Three Central Figures, and in less degree those of Shoghi Effendi.

I think Shoghi Effendi, divide the "writings" or "Bahá'í Scriptures" in three categories: Writings, Meditations and Prayers.

The Bahá'í Scripture is all the writings of the Three Central Figures, also called "Sacred Texts".

Jonah
Site Admin
Posts: 412
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2003 1:25 pm
Location: St Catharines, Ontario (near Niagara Falls)
Contact:

Postby Jonah » Sat Jun 11, 2005 2:59 pm

I haven't looked into this or thought about it carefully, but the first distinction that pops into my mind is -- isn't anything addressed to God a "prayer," and anything not addressed to God simply a "Writing"?

-Jonah

Hasan
Posts: 195
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2004 10:03 am
Location: Lima - Perú
Contact:

Postby Hasan » Sat Jun 11, 2005 9:45 pm

One thinking: Prayers require a special attitude (close eyes, concentration, respectful, detachment from material things, etc.).

When any reads the writings, is the same attitude needed? If yes, why yes? If not, why not?
Thanks
Has

brettz9
Posts: 1366
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 12:12 pm
Contact:

Postby brettz9 » Sun Jun 12, 2005 9:39 am

As far as the significance of distinguishing between the two (and with other Tablets), I think the following may shed some light:

The Feast is opened with devotional readings, that is to say prayers and meditations, from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, the Bab and the Master. Following this, passages may be read from other Tablets, from the Holy Scriptures of previous Dispensations, and from the writings of the Guardian. It is clear, however, that the beloved Guardian would not wish his own words to be read as part of an arranged devotional program in which they would be interspersed among the words of Holy Scriptures. In other words, at the Nineteen Day Feast, where the words of the Guardian are to be read they should follow any selections from the Scriptures and not be mixed with them.

(Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, dated August 25, 1965, in Developing Distinctive Bahá'í Communities, pp. 9.22-9.23)


The question regarding the devotional part of the Feast has been obscured because once he used the term "devotional" in its strict sense, which of course means prayer, and once loosely, in the sense in which the Bahá'ís usually understand it, and that is the meeting together and reading from the teachings which precedes the administrative — or consultative — aspect of the Nineteen Day Feast. The two statements in no way change the method of holding this part of the Feast which, in the East at any rate, is always opened with prayers and afterwards Tablets and excerpts from Bahá'u'lláh's, or the Master's or the Guardian's, writings may be read or, for that matter, the Bible or Qur'an quoted.

(In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 11 April 1949 to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, in Compilation on 19-Day Feast)


The quotations seem to me to say that there is no importance, at least for Feast, in distinguishing between prayers and meditations, though it is perhaps being recommended that other Tablets follow the latter (e.g., Tablets on social issues). On the other hand, the beloved Guardian's use of "in the East at any rate" might indicate that the sequence is not so important. I personally prefer starting with the prayers and ethereal and then leading into the more concrete, but maybe others differ.

As far as a definition of what makes an item of scripture a meditation or a prayer, I would tend to agree with those who have said that a prayer is often supplicating or asking for something, whereas a meditation may be the Manifestation of God speaking of God's attributes. I would agree that the inclusion of an item in the "Bahá'í Prayers" book is by no means a definitive distinction of what makes something a prayer (nor was it meant to be)! The National Spiritual Assembly itself speaks of the categorizations (within at least) as being only for the convenience of the reader. This should not become canonical.

Another overlapping (if not identical) question is the categorization of items of Bahá'u'lláh which seem to be addressed from His point of view (or God's) versus our point of view. Of course, Bahá'u'lláh might word some prayers such as to the effect of 'O God, Thou seest how this servant...', but mostly prayers would seem to be more universal, whereas a meditiation could reflect on His own unique circumstances.

Clearly, some selections contain a variety of forms--supplication to God, responses from God (e.g., the Fire Tablet), praise of God, and expression of spiritual realities. I do not think it is fruitful to debate over such things, though I do think it can help for achieving a rough categorization for the interest of readers who may wish to explore a particular type of writing in more depth.

Speaking of which, in attempting to compile a list of items written apparently from the point of view of Bahá'u'lláh and expressing in part His own unique condition and circumstances (rather than being strictly universal in scope), I have so far only categorized items up to no. 134 in "Prayers and Meditations of Bahá'u'lláh" (out of 184). If anyone would like to expand this, please reply with your own categorization. (Items followed by question marks are those that I felt were more questionable; e.g.,, a prayer stating "I have detached myself from all things" could only perhaps be strictly correct in reference to the Manifestation of God, but it could also indicate an idealized aspiration for believers)

8, 14?, 15, 18, 20?, 22?, 27?, 30, 32, 36, 39, 44, 51, 63, 65, 66, 68, 86, 90, 91, 102, 105?, 108, 110, 111, 114?, 116, 119, 120?, 122, 123?, 131?

thank you,
Brett

Dawud
Posts: 97
Joined: Mon Jun 14, 2004 11:59 pm

Postby Dawud » Sun Jun 12, 2005 7:22 pm

What is the Arabic or Persian word used for "meditation"? I am not sure what the Islamic equivalent would be, and wonder if this was a bit of creative translation. (A century ago, something called "meditation" in English became popular owing to the influence of Theosophists, who thought it reflected Hindu or Buddhist practice. At least one Christian group changed their "prayers" into "meditations".)

brettz9
Posts: 1366
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 12:12 pm
Contact:

Postby brettz9 » Mon Jun 13, 2005 10:01 pm

I don't know the original, but the word "meditation" is often appiled in the context of contemplating something, not necessarily sitting still, etc. (though we do have the recitation of 95 Allah'u'Abhas in the cross-legged position each day). In fact, Shoghi Effendi as I recall spoke to the effect of the uselessness of just meditating for nothing...

Brett

Hasan
Posts: 195
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2004 10:03 am
Location: Lima - Perú
Contact:

Postby Hasan » Mon Jun 27, 2005 10:15 pm

brettz9 wrote:...In fact, Shoghi Effendi as I recall spoke to the effect of the uselessness of just meditating for nothing...


Dear Brettz I am in another forum, we are talking about "meditation" right now, when the Guardian say that please?
Thanks,
Has

brettz9
Posts: 1366
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 12:12 pm
Contact:

Postby brettz9 » Tue Jun 28, 2005 1:30 pm

Dear Hasan,

This is it...However, as you will see, it is only a pilgrim's note...

"One day the Guardian said to a prominent pilgrim in Haifa, 'Do you pray?' 'Of course, beloved Guardian, I pray every morning.' 'Do you meditate?' The man paused a bit and said slowly, 'No, I guess I do not.' The Guardian replied that prayer is of no use without meditation and that meditation must be centered on the Writings. He continued very earnestly that meditation is of no use unless it is followed by action. He thus made clear another step to this most important process in the life of the soul.

"The Guardian then explained further that meditation is not just sitting down, closing your eyes, keeping silent in a silent atmosphere, and being blank. That is not meditation. We must concentrate on the teachings, concentrate on their implications and how they can be used. Prayer is of no consequence if it remains the murmur of syllables and sounds–of what use is that? God knows already. We are not saying the prayers for God, we are saying them for our own selves. If the words do not strengthen us, if we do not reflect upon the Writings we read, if we do not make the Writings part of our daily action, we are wasting our time."

(Ruth J. Moffett, Du'á: On Wings of Prayer, p. 29, cited in "The Path Toward Spirituality: Sacred Duties and Practices of the Bahá'í Life", by Shahin Vafai, p. 26)

brettz9
Posts: 1366
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 12:12 pm
Contact:

Postby brettz9 » Tue Jun 28, 2005 1:40 pm

I should add though, that the Guardian did allow for the friends to share different practices of meditation with one another, as long as they were not presented as part of the teachings...I'd really recommend taking a look at http://bahai-library.com/?file=uhj_meditation_prayers as well as the compilation cited and linked to below...


1774. Through meditation the doors of deeper knowledge and inspiration may be opened. Naturally, if one meditates as a Baha'i he is connected with the Source; if a man believing in God meditates he is tuning in to the power and mercy of God; but we cannot say that any inspiration which a person, not knowing Baha'u'llah, or not believing in God, receives is merely from his own ego. Meditation is very important, and the Guardian sees no reason why the friends should not be taught to meditate, but they should guard against superstitious or foolish ideas creeping into it.

(19 November 1945 to an individual believer, in "The Importance of Pryaer, Meditation, and the Devotional Attitude")


best wishes,
Brett

Hasan
Posts: 195
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2004 10:03 am
Location: Lima - Perú
Contact:

Postby Hasan » Tue Jun 28, 2005 1:41 pm

brettz9 wrote:This is it...However, as you will see, it is only a pilgrim's note...


Thanks Brett, it is not offical but is helpful anyway. I can't locate this pilgrim note in bahai-library, where is it from? Thanks

brettz9
Posts: 1366
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 12:12 pm
Contact:

Postby brettz9 » Tue Jun 28, 2005 1:42 pm

It's not online to my knowledge...I just typed it in now from the book cited...A useful one I think...

Brett

brettz9
Posts: 1366
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 12:12 pm
Contact:

Postby brettz9 » Tue Jun 28, 2005 2:01 pm

Actually, I think it'd be nice to get a copy of the originally cited document by Ruth Moffett online, as I have seen it cited fairly often...

Brett


Return to “Discussion”