Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Monster Slayer

Long ago, in a bedroom far far away, a child lived in mortal terror of things that go bump in the night. One day of wise man (who also happened to be his dad) provided him with powerful magic to fight the multitude of monsters that would attack him whenever the lights went out. This wise man took a toy hammer made by the wizards at Fisher Price and murmured various incantations over it. He told the child that with this hammer at his side, no monsters could harm him. The wise man retired to his room and lay with his wise woman (mother of the child). In the child's room he could hear the "wack" "wack" of the magic hammer as the child battled the monsters and gained the victory of a good nights sleep. The end.

If you haven't already guessed, the child in this story is me and the wise ones are my mom and dad. This magic hammer technique that my father used was a great success. I might try the same thing if our son has similar monster at bedtime issues! Now that I'm an adult I'm still battling monsters, only now the monster is much scarier and more difficult to defeat because it's inside me:

"Regarding the questions you asked: Self has really two meanings, or is used in two senses, in the Bahá'í writings; one is self, the identity of the individual created by God. This is the self mentioned in such passages as 'he hath known God who hath known himself etc.'. The other self is the ego, the dark, animalistic heritage each one of us has, the lower nature that can develop into a monster of selfishness, brutality, lust and so on. It is this self we must struggle against, or this side of our natures, in order to strengthen and free the spirit within us and help it to attain perfection."

"Self-sacrifice means to subordinate this lower nature and its desires to the more godly and noble side of ourselves. Ultimately, in its highest sense, self-sacrifice means to give our will and our all to God to do with as He pleases. Then He purifies and glorifies our true self until it becomes a shining and wonderful reality."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 10, 1947)

Recent days have been a time of severe testing for my soul. I've been in a pitched battle with my "lower self" for the freedom of the spirit within me. I'm not sure who's winning sometimes but I fight on. My magic hammer is long lost to me, but I find that prayer is an even more powerful weapon:

"THOU knowest full well, O my God, that tribulations have showered upon me from all directions and that no one can dispel or transmute them except Thee. I know of a certainty, by virtue of my love for Thee, that Thou wilt never cause tribulations to befall any soul unless Thou desirest to exalt his station in Thy celestial Paradise and to buttress his heart in this earthly life with the bulwark of Thine all-compelling power, that it may not become inclined toward the vanities of this world. Indeed Thou art well aware that under all conditions I would cherish the remembrance of Thee far more than the ownership of all that is in the heavens and on the earth.

Strengthen my heart, O my God, in Thine obedience and in Thy love and grant that I may be clear of the entire company of Thine adversaries. Verily I swear by Thy glory that I yearn for naught besides Thyself, nor do I desire anything except Thy mercy, nor am I apprehensive of aught save Thy justice. I beg Thee to forgive me as well as those whom Thou lovest, howsoever Thou pleasest. Verily Thou art the Almighty, the Bountiful.

Immensely exalted art Thou, O Lord of the heavens and earth, above the praise of all men, and may peace be upon Thy faithful servants and glory be unto God, the Lord of all the worlds."
(The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 214)

This deeply personal struggle ultimately has implications that transcend my own life. In order to fulfill my mission in the world as a Baha'i I have to struggle to conquer my ego (self):

"Arise, O people, and, by the power of God's might, resolve to gain the victory over your own selves, that haply the whole earth may be freed and sanctified from its servitude to the gods of its idle fancies -- gods that have inflicted such loss upon, and are responsible for the misery of, their wretched worshipers. These idols form the obstacle that impedeth man in his efforts to advance in the path of perfection. We cherish the hope that the Hand of Divine power may lend its assistance to mankind, and deliver it from its state of grievous abasement.

In one of the Tablets these words have been revealed: O people of God! Do not busy yourselves in your own concerns; let your thoughts be fixed upon that which will rehabilitate the fortunes of mankind and sanctify the hearts and souls of men. This can best be achieved through pure and holy deeds, through a virtuous life and a goodly behavior. Valiant acts will ensure the triumph of this Cause, and a saintly character will reinforce its power."
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 93)