Thursday, November 10, 2011

Faces and Places of Baha'u'llah

I saw the pictures of Baha'u'llah and the Bab today. [SPOILER ALERT: if you are planning on going on pilgrimage yourself and don't want to know about my impressions of the archives, skip the next four paragraphs.] I also learned that Baha'u'llah was almost the same height as me. I'd heard before that he wasn't very tall, but it's different when you can picture him and see his clothes.

He looks a lot like 'Abdu'l-Baha. In fact, the picture was taken in the exact same place and position as one of the latter as a young man. However, there are some major differences as well.

Baha'u'llah had long black hair and long black beard, not bushy, but also not spindly, like Jafar (yes, I mean the one in Disney's Aladdin). Apparently, he used henna in his hair, not for the colour, but because it's healthy for your hair. His face is gentle and full of love for humanity; it's amazing that a photograph can capture that. I always imagined him as a bit stern and awe-inspiring, but he really didn't give off that vibe as much as one of extreme kindness. His eyes are full of soul, like there's a lot going on inside. His manner and his face are handsome in a very elegant way.

The Bab looked much more serious and determined, like nothing could stop him from fulfilling his purpose.

Other things we saw were the clothing and other belongings of the key figures of the faith, tablets written by them, including one Baha'u'llah wrote for Abdu'l-Baha, where the handwriting looked much more hurried, or perhaps weaker. Maybe he wrote it after he was poisoned. That hadn't occurred to me until now. They had Mulla Husayn's sword and a cannonball from Fort Tabarsi. They also had Shoghi Effendi's typewriter (that's Abdu'l-Baha's grandson, Baha'u'llah's great-grandson) and the pencil crayons he used to mark the legends on his maps. And Mirza Mihdi's bloodied clothing from the day he fell through the skylight. For some reason, that story is really sticking with me after seeing the actual place where it happened. Maybe because he was my age at the time.


After the archives, we took a group shot. Our larger group was divided into three smaller groups to see the archives at different times, and my mini-group was the first. The others haven't seen it yet, so I'm trying not to blab about it, even though it's so interesting to me. I want to let them have their own experience of it, without being unduly influenced by mine. I did tell them to dress warmly though, because it's cold in there.

It's also a gorgeous building with a single large room.

We went to the Mansion of Mazra'ih and the Mansion of Bahji after that. These are two houses where Baha'u'llah stayed. I was exhausted after the archives, because I haven't been getting enough sleep since I got here, and I actually have very vague memories of the first place, even though it was today. I think I was still caught up with the archives, too.

The garden was gorgeous though. Much less geometric and regimented than the others I've seen so far. Don't get me wrong; those ones are nice too, but you sort of feel like if you breathe on things, you'll destroy them. At Mazra'ih the garden is not full of paths. Instead, you can go wherever you want, and pick the oranges and other fruit from the trees. The oranges are admittedly tart, because apparently it takes several years for orange trees to produce tasty fruit.

At Bahji (remember Bahji?), we went into the mansion this time. It's spacious and superbly decorated with photos, maps, and furniture, again by Shoghi Effendi. Only the lamp, taj, and shoes in Baha'u'llah's room are original, but Shoghi Effendi's writing table and bed are also in there, as well as beds where some of the Hands of the Cause stayed after the Guardian died. (Ask me if you want to know who they are. It's a little complicated to explain right now.)

They've covered over the courtyard on the second floor, but you can imagine how it was when Baha'u'llah lived there. We also saw the original Pilgrim House that 'Abdu'l-Baha had built back in the day. Up until about ten years ago, it's where pilgrims were housed and fed, but then the groups got too big so they built the Pilgrim Reception Centre and asked the Baha'is to stay in hotels or with other Baha'is.

I was the first one into Baha'u'llah's room, and I let the smell of rosewater (or whatever it was) waft over me. It smelled amazing, just like the Shrine of 'Abdu'l-Baha. I have a pretty strong sense of smell, so I notice these things. People filed or shuffled in; some people waited and took a look at the various other rooms in the house.

There are no prescribed ways of praying in the Baha'i Faith, so people took up various positions. Everyone was silent, so as not to disturb each other, and I imagined we were pilgrims from the early days of the Baha'i Faith who were sitting in Baha'u'llah's presence after travelling to see him. It was much easier to imagine after seeing the picture today.

I slipped out to check out the rest of the house. Only the top floor is open, but there are a lot of rooms up there, and a lot of things to see. The custodian answered any questions we had, like who wrote the name Roy Wilhelm in pen on the wall (turned out to be Ruhiyyih Khanum [originally Mary Sutherland Maxwell], the wife of Shoghi Effendi. Fun fact: her father was the architect who designed the Saint-Louis and Riverview wings of the Ch√Ęteau Frontenac in Quebec City, among other things).

I went out to pee (painfully detailed, isn't it) and when I came back in, I thought I'd visit Baha'u'llah's room again, since the atmosphere is so relaxing in there. There were only two other people in the room, and they soon left, so I got to be there by myself. I walked around a little and enjoyed my time there. When I left, another guy from our group, from the UK, went in by himself as well.

Out on the balcony, I got to see some of the sunset. The pollution and dust in the air makes for great sunsets here. On the other side of the house, you could see the full moon.

I napped on the bus and felt much better when I got home. I made supper at the hostel. Joel (not Joe... oops) and Dino are gone today, but Joel added me on Facebook so if I ever go to New Zealand - or when I go to New Zealand - I'll definitely look him up.

Yesterday when I took a psychic type test for fun, I came up as a mental intuitive, not psychic, which means I'm telepathic, essentially. And brilliantly inventive. And my brain will drive me crazy if I'm not balanced out by an emotional intuitive, such as Julie. It was her book. Just wanted to fix my terminology from yesterday.

Tonight another Baha'i came into our dorm. She's not on pilgrimage though; she's visiting her Jewish relatives in another city. She was put in the coed dorm by mistake, so last night she was in there, but today she asked to get transfered to ours. Her name is Merijn and she's from the Netherlands.

She has a Maori identity tattoo on her thigh. It's a seahorse in the sea, and it was done by one of the top tattoo artists in the world. You can tell too; it's excellent quality, very crisp. It represents a person who is balanced and complete, according to the cosmology, and it took six hours to get it done. In one go. And the guy sang a prayer while he did it.

What a cool story.

Tomorrow is a day of free time, except for the presentation in the evening. I think it's a Universal House of Justice member giving a talk this time, but I could be wrong (not that that ever happens). I'm going to sleep in as much as possible, which probably won't be that late. I don't really want to miss breakfast, since I paid for it, but I'd rather get enough sleep. I've been so sleep deprived since I got here.

And then I got a professional shiatsu massage from Julie. Like five seconds ago. And I saw that it was good. (She also plays the piano and organ in a Baptist church. That's her day job. Or maybe it's the other way around.) I need to get more massages.

1 comment:

  1. What an fantastic and incredibly detailed blog, with lots of twists. I had to read it all. By the way we are in much need of fish paparazzi in N.Z, so get your butt down there. :)