When a thought of war comes oppose it with a stronger thought of peace.
It is such a striking statement that it often comes to mind. It appears in a talk given by Abdu’l Baha in Paris in 1911.
I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content. Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness.
Often Abdu’l Baha’s words have a simplicity and clarity that bely their depth. It is a depth and insight gleaned from a lifetime of overcoming hatred; and a life lived in exile and imprisonment.
Occasionally we see a wonderful human beings arise in the world who live through such things and find the best in themselves. They point out the path we could follow if we could only find the strength in ourselves. Abdu’l Baha was not a prophet. He made sure we understood this. He is closer to us — and he invites us to follow — even though it is not an easy path.
Anger and thoughts of war come so easily to us. They must be conquered within before thoughts of love come.The transformation of the world is not built primarily out in the world. It is built in our own hearts – because in the end the only thing we can change is ourselves. The material world is after all only a shadow of that truer reality that dwells in our hearts.
The future we write is woven from our innumerable individual – seemingly unimportant – thoughts and actions. Each of us is part of humanity’s journey – and collectively we weave a tapestry on which the future is written. All we leave behind is a single thread. Will our threads be only dark shadow or will they gleam golden and brilliant – delighting the beholder?
It is worth following Abdu’l Baha’s line of thought a bit further. What are the implications of what he says?
THE reality of man is his thought, not his material body. … If a man’s thought is constantly aspiring towards heavenly subjects then does he become saintly; if on the other hand his thought does not soar, but is directed downwards to center itself upon the things of this world, he grows more and more material …
Some men and women glory in their exalted thoughts, but if these thoughts never reach the plane of action they remain useless: the power of thought is dependent on its manifestation in deeds.
Our reality is our thought.
It bears repeating.
Thoughts of war and hatred are readily translated into violence and destruction. Thoughts of peace and love similarly can also be translated into reality and action.
In yesterday’s article we saw what Abdu’l Baha did during World War 1. He focussed on peace and love. How could he feed the people of Haifa and Akka? How could he lay down the foundations of peace in the world, in the face of the worst storm of war the world had seen? This is where thoughts of peace and love lead, if we follow them to their logical conclusion.
May we all find stronger thoughts of peace. And may we find the strength to follow them into action.
(This article is the 110th 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.)