Pearls of Bounty and Light of the World
Among the most precious of the gifts given to the Bahá’í community and the world in a centenary year so abundant in gifts, are two remarkable volumes of newly published Writings by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá entitled Pearls of Bounty and Light of the World. Both books have been published to mark the centenary of the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, with Pearls of Bounty available in a limited edition volume. Translated into English and prepared for publication at the Bahá’í World Centre, this selection of writings includes translations of prayers, tablets, and table talks that, for the most part, have not been available before in print.
The book opens with nineteen prayers, most of which are for children, with others for mothers, pilgrimage, consecration, steadfastness, and a just government. The second section offers a selection of twenty-eight tablets, which touches upon a wide range of themes, from how couples should behave toward each other subsequent to divorce to the age of the earth and the Conference of Badasht. The centerpiece of this section is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s tablets to the Hague, the longer of which was described by Shoghi Effendi as “a tablet of far-reaching importance.” In this tablet, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá offers a comprehensive presentation of the Bahá’í teachings to the Executive Committee of the “Central Organization for a Durable Peace,” which formed in the wake of World War I and was based in the Hague.
A third section of twelve table talks rounds out this volume, offering more intimate conversational explorations of a diverse array of subjects, from the meaning of speaking in tongues to the significance of prayers said at the shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, the transformation of matter across the kingdoms of existence, and the significance of the revelation of Bahá’u’lláh relative to that of Jesus.
The seventy-six newly translated selections that appear in Light of the World were originally published in Persian in volumes 3 and 4 of Muntakhabátí az Makátíb-i-Hadrat-i-‘Abdu’l-Bahá. These selections have a different and also very specific focus; as the title suggests, their subject is Bahá’u’lláh. Written over the entire course of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s long ministry, they tell the epic tale that was Bahá’u’lláh’s struggle to vanquish the enemies of the Bahá’í Faith and triumph over the darkness of ignorance so that the light of His revelation might brighten the earth.
Many of these tablets in Light of the World were written after the passing of Bahá’u’lláh, and all were written to individuals and communities who sought the loving guidance and wise instruction of the Master in the face of loss, suffering, or persecution. In these tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá invites the friends to meditate upon the anguish endured by His beloved Father, Who bore His afflictions in order to teach His followers how to live a life of boundless love and service. In shouldering their own difficulties with courage, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explained, the believers could share in the sufferings of Bahá’u’lláh.
The selections in Light of the World offer readers fresh insights into the tale of Bahá’u’lláh’s endurance as well as His transcendence of His suffering and, as the introduction to the volume puts it:
Who better to tell us about Bahá’u’lláh, and to impart to us His “lessons of the spirit in the school of insight”, than His most cherished Son, Who shared, as His closest associate, His life of exile, imprisonment, and persecution, and Who, titled by His Father the “Mystery of God”, stood in a unique relationship to the Author of the Revelation as “the image of His perfections”, “the Interpreter of His mind”, “the Focal Point of His unerring guidance”, “the stainless mirror reflecting His light”?
Whether read together or individually, these two volumes, published in commemoration of this centenary year, offer rich spiritual food for the reader. They issue an invitation to reflect, in this year devoted to reflection, on the profundity of the spiritual insights that emanated from the mind of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and are embodied in His many soul-stirring and spirit-strengthening words.