Bahá'í Devotional Program on Humanity's Relationship with Nature
April 10, 2013
In a letter dated 2 March 2013, to the Bahá'ís of Iran, the Universal House of Justice wrote:
"… the principle of the oneness of humankind, as proclaimed by Bahá'u'lláh, asks not merely for cooperation among people and nations. It calls for a complete reconceptualization of the relationships that sustain society. The deepening environmental crisis, driven by a system that condones the pillage of natural resources to satisfy an insatiable thirst for more, suggests how entirely inadequate is the present conception of humanity's relationship with nature…"
This of course begs the question, what should humanity's relationship with nature be? We explored this to some extent in the devotions for the Feast of Dominion in February. Now we ask you to continue that exploration here, with the Feast of Glory, by considering how the Glory of God is revealed through, and yet extends far beyond, Nature, which is also called Creation and Existence, and how our relationship to this Creation must be one of humility and moderation.
In light of the House of Justice's statement above, and the passages below, what are the implications of biological destruction and impoverishment of the environment? On the one hand, we talk about the impact on human physical well-being - but on another level, can we not also see that our spiritual well-being is affected by the "deepening environmental crisis?" That each creature that goes extinct, that each ecosystem that disappears through human action, is a lost opportunity to praise and glorify God? Furthermore, the root cause of this crisis is suggested to be an immoderate materialism, implying that we must each and all avoid this "insatiable thirst for more." Finally, we see that all of creation is inter-connected, and we should recognize and act out of respect for this inter-connection, which is an expression of God's will.
Glory be to Thee, Thou in Whose hand are the heaven of omnipotence and the kingdom of creation. Thou doest, by Thy sovereignty, what Thou willest, and ordainest, through the power of Thy might, what Thou pleasest. From eternity Thou hast been exalted above the praise of all created things, and wilt to eternity remain far above the glorification of any one of Thy creatures. Existence itself testifieth to its non-existence when face to face with the manifold revelations of Thy transcendent oneness, and every created thing confesseth, by its very nature, its nothingness when compared with the sacred splendors of the light of Thy unity. Thou hast, in Thyself, been independent of any one besides Thee and rich enough, in Thine own essence, to dispense with any one except Thy Self. Every description by which they who adore Thy unity describe Thee, and every praise wherewith they who are devoted unto Thee praise Thee, are but the traces of the pen which the fingers of Thy strength and power have set in motion – fingers whose movement is controlled by the arm of Thy decree – the arm itself animated by the potency of Thy might. …
I beseech Thee, O Thou Who art the Lord of the worlds, and the Beloved of such as have recognized Thee, and the Desire of all that are in heaven and on earth, by Thy Name through which the cry of every suppliant hath ascended into the heaven of Thy transcendent holiness, through which every seeker hath soared to the sublimities of Thy unity and grandeur, through which the imperfect have been perfected, and the abased exalted, and the tongue of every stammerer unloosed, and the sick made whole, and whatever was unworthy of Thy highness and beseemed not Thy greatness and Thy sovereignty made acceptable unto Thee,--I beseech Thee to aid us by Thine invisible hosts and by a company of the angels of Thy Cause. Do Thou, then, accept the works we have performed for love of Thee, and for the sake of Thy pleasure. Cast us not away, O my God, from the door of Thy mercy, and break not our hopes in the wonders of Thy grace and favors.
Our limbs, our members, O my Lord, bear witness to Thy unity and oneness. Send down upon us Thy strength and power, that we may become steadfast in Thy Faith and may aid Thee among Thy servants. Illumine our eyes, O my Lord, with the effulgence of Thy beauty, and enlighten our hearts with the splendors of Thy knowledge and wisdom. Write us up, then, with those who have fulfilled their pledge to Thy Covenant in Thy days, and who, through their love for Thee, have detached themselves from the world and all that is therein.
Powerful art Thou to do what Thou pleasest. No God is there beside Thee, the All-Powerful, the Omniscient, the Supreme Ruler, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.
Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations, p172-4
Readings from Bahá’u’lláh
How great is Thy power! How exalted Thy sovereignty! How lofty Thy might! How excellent Thy majesty! How supreme is Thy grandeur--a grandeur which He Who is Thy Manifestation hath made known and wherewith Thou hast invested Him as a sign of Thy generosity and bountiful favor. I bear witness, O my God, that through Him Thy most resplendent signs have been uncovered, and Thy mercy hath encompassed the entire creation. But for Him, how could the Celestial Dove have uttered its songs or the Heavenly Nightingale, according to the decree of God, have warbled its melody?
I testify that no sooner had the First Word proceeded, through the potency of Thy will and purpose, out of His mouth, and the First Call gone forth from His lips than the whole creation was revolutionized, and all that are in the heavens and all that are on earth were stirred to the depths. Through that Word the realities of all created things were shaken, were divided, separated, scattered, combined and reunited, disclosing, in both the contingent world and the heavenly kingdom, entities of a new creation, and revealing, in the unseen realms, the signs and tokens of Thy unity and oneness. Through that Call Thou didst announce unto all Thy servants the advent of Thy most great Revelation and the appearance of Thy most perfect Cause.
Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations, p295-6
Know thou that every created thing is a sign of the revelation of God. Each, according to its capacity, is, and will ever remain, a token of the Almighty. Inasmuch as He, the sovereign Lord of all, hath willed to reveal His sovereignty in the kingdom of names and attributes, each and every created thing hath, through the act of the Divine Will, been made a sign of His glory. So pervasive and general is this revelation that nothing whatsoever in the whole universe can be discovered that doth not reflect His splendor. Under such conditions every consideration of proximity and remoteness is obliterated.... Were the Hand of Divine power to divest of this high endowment all created things, the entire universe would become desolate and void.
Behold, how immeasurably exalted is the Lord your God above all created things! Witness the majesty of His sovereignty, His ascendancy, and supreme power. If the things which have been created by Him--magnified be His glory--and ordained to be the manifestations of His names and attributes, stand, by virtue of the grace with which they have been endowed, exalted beyond all proximity and remoteness, how much loftier must be that Divine Essence that hath called them into being?…
Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p184-5
What is it of which ye can rightly boast? Is it on your food and your drink that ye pride yourselves, on the riches ye lay up in your treasuries, on the diversity and the cost of the ornaments with which ye deck yourselves? If true glory were to consist in the possession of such perishable things, then the earth on which ye walk must needs vaunt itself over you, because it supplieth you, and bestoweth upon you, these very things, by the decree of the Almighty. In its bowels are contained, according to what God hath ordained, all that ye possess. From it, as a sign of His mercy, ye derive your riches. Behold then your state, the thing in which ye glory! Would that ye could perceive it!
Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p252
Readings from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Then it is clear that the honour and exaltation of man must be something more than material riches. Material comforts are only a branch, but the root of the exaltation of man is the good attributes and virtues which are the adornments of his reality. These are the divine appearances, the heavenly bounties, the sublime emotions, the love and knowledge of God; universal wisdom, intellectual perception, scientific discoveries, justice, equity, truthfulness, benevolence, natural courage and innate fortitude; the respect for rights and the keeping of agreements and covenants; rectitude in all circumstances; serving the truth under all conditions; the sacrifice of one’s life for the good of all people; kindness and esteem for all nations; obedience to the teachings of God; service in the Divine Kingdom; the guidance of the people, and the education of the nations and races. This is the prosperity of the human world! This is the exaltation of man in the world! This is eternal life and heavenly honour!
‘Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p79-80
Were one to observe with an eye that discovereth the realities of all things, it would become clear that the greatest relationship that bindeth the world of being together lieth in the range of created things themselves, and that cooperation, mutual aid and reciprocity are essential characteristics in the unified body of the world of being, inasmuch as all created things are closely related together and each is influenced by the other or deriveth benefit therefrom, either directly or indirectly…. Hence it was stated that co-operation and reciprocity are essential properties which are inherent in the unified system of the world of existence, and without which the entire creation would be reduced to nothingness.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Compilation: Huqúqu’lláh — The Right of God, p. 7
Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place, and the city, and the heart, and the mountain, and the refuge, and the cave, and the valley, and the land, and the sea, and the island, and the meadow where mention of God hath been made, and His praise glorified.
Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, iii