Well, it’s just shy of two months since I last posted about my journey studying Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh. I now have only 26 of the 166 passages left to go. Yes, this round of study is taking me a long time, partially because there’s so many other delightful things to do in life, but also because, and I admit it forthright, the Gleanings crush my mind.
It’s a delightful kind of mind crushing. Maybe you’ve studied the Gleanings for yourself, and you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t encountered the Gleanings yet, perhaps you can imagine. Imagine that you lived in the time of the Buddha, and in his grace, he decided to write you a letter – an essay – that would assist you on your path toward enlightenment. Can you imagine what this letter might be like? It’s written by an enlightened being, and its purpose is to provide you a path along which you can expand your thoughts, uplift your mind, enlighten your vision. Your consideration of this document, this letter from the Buddha, will in itself advance your development.
A letter like this is unlikely to be an everyday sort of thing, isn’t it? In order to assist you to a higher vision, such an essay would have to be beyond what you are used to – although somehow still accessible. A letter from the Buddha is likely to be very challenging. How else could it enlighten you?
This is my understanding of why the Gleanings are so challenging: it’s a collection of 166 of these enlightening essays. Bahá’u’lláh, the author of the passages included in the Gleanings, was an enlightened being like the Buddha, like Jesus, like Mohammed, like Krishna and the other great teachers, all of them Manifestations of God, the holy souls in whose wake civilizations rise. Some of the passages in Gleanings are only a sentence long, while other passages are pages long, but all of them are challenging.
Our efforts toward enlightenment of heart and mind are lifelong journeys, requiring conscious effort every single day, every moment we can manage, until our last breath. Thus, I’m not surprised to arrive close to the finish of my Gleanings journey this time round, and to find myself unable to say, “I get it!” I don’t get it. I can’t hold the Gleanings in my mind any more than I can hold a mountain in my hand. Actually, I am pleased to arrive at this conclusion. Yes, I can conclude, these are letters from a Buddha.
But at the same time, I can see more than I did. It’s similar to having hiked up the side of a mountain, rested on the peak, and returned back down again. Once returned to the trailhead, the hiker is still the hiker, and the mountain is still the mountain, but after my trek I have memories of the stunning scenery, the vistas that made my heart soar, the vast expanses that made my soul spread its wings and take flight.
I can share with you a couple of my reminiscences so far. My favorite part – the impression that I would choose as the summary of my journey – is, “all honor to such a loving-kindness,” from passage #124. The full sentence from which this phrase comes is,
“All hail to this grace which no blessing, however great, can excel, and all honor to such a loving-kindness the like of which the eye of creation hath not seen!”
The journey was that beautiful. Gleanings as a complete work is like a love letter from God.
The next impression I would share with you is, “Methinks that I heard a Voice of divine and incomparable sweetness.” This phrase you find in passage #129. The full sentence surrounding it is,
“Methinks that I heard a Voice of divine and incomparable sweetness, proceeding from the right hand of the God of Mercy, and lo, the whole Paradise stirred and trembled before Me, in its longing to hear its accents, and gaze on the beauty of Him that uttered them.”
I can see the end of this particular journey ahead – only 26 passages left to go – but just like those last few yards returning on the trail, when you can see your car in the parking lot, and you know you have to get in it and drive away, I’m already singing, “Again! Again! Let’s go again!”
A lifetime’s project of walking toward enlightenment. Since that’s the timetable at hand, I probably can visit the Gleanings again. I probably need to. Certainly. “Fasten your eyes upon this most holy and effulgent Vision,” Bahá’u’lláh writes in passage #139.
Okay! I’ll try.
“… fasten your eyes upon this most holy and effulgent Vision. That which beseemeth you is the love of God, and the love of Him Who is the Manifestation of His Essence…”
Yep, I’ll certainly try.