In Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings, the oneness of humanity is nurtured through an interconnected network of concepts that address human unity at many levels. Among those concepts is the simple action of gathering together. The concept is found in the call of followers of different relations to associate together in friendship. It is also found in the Baha’i Feast.
it is enjoined upon you to offer a feast, once in every month, though only water be served; for God hath purposed to bind hearts together, albeit through both earthly and heavenly means.
This concept has been elaborated over time to form the Baha’i institution known as the 19 Day Feast – held every 19 days in accordance with the 19 month Baha’i calendar.
In 1958, Eleanor Roosevelt (a person to whom all of us have cause to be deeply grateful), made an insightful observation about human rights. While she spoke on that occasion about human rights, I here freely adapt her words to the theme of the oneness of humanity (or the “brotherhood” of human beings in the language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
Where will the oneness of humanity be found?
In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world.
Yet they are the world of the individual person: The neighborhood they live in; the school or college they attend; the factory, farm, or office where they work.
… Unless the oneness of humanity has meaning there, it will have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted individual action to uphold the oneness of humanity close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.
It is pointless to speak of a beautiful but abstract principle of the oneness of humanity if we fail to practice it with those immediately around us. Like many beautiful ideas it is easy to talk about – easy to believe in – but not so easy to live by.
Abdu’l Baha expands on the concept of the Feast: its nature, intent and practice and its contribution to “oneness”.
You must continue to keep the Nineteen Day Feast. It is very important; it is very good. But when you present yourselves in the meetings, before entering them, free yourselves from all that you have in your heart, free your thoughts and your minds from all else save God, and speak to your heart. That all may make this a gathering of love, make it the cause of illumination, make it a gathering of attraction of the hearts, surround this gathering with the Lights of the Supreme Concourse, so that you may be gathered together with the utmost love.
O God! Dispel all those elements which are the cause of discord, and prepare for us all those things which are the cause of unity and accord! O God! Descend upon us Heavenly Fragrance and change this gathering into a gathering of Heaven! Grant to us every benefit and every food. Prepare for us the Food of Love! Give to us the Food of Knowledge! Bestow upon us the Food of Heavenly Illumination!
In your hearts remember these things, and then enter the Unity Feast.
… Should you act and live according to these behests, know verily, of a certainty, that that Feast is the Heavenly Food. That Supper is the “Lord’s Supper”! …
These are thoughts that conduce to human wholeness and oneness. There is nothing preventing their practice in many other contexts than the Baha’i Feast.
(This article is the 40th in a series of what I hope will be 200 articles in 200 days for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh. The anniversary is being celebrated around the world on 21 and 22 October 2017, The articles are simply my personal reflections on Bahá’u’lláh’s life and work. Any errors or inadequacies in these articles are solely my responsibility.)