Gathering of faithful will honor founder

Paul Huber, caretaker and administrator of the Bahai Center at the Wilheim Estate in Teaneck, prepares for an upcoming event.

When one of the founding fathers of the Bahai religion spoke in 1912 to followers in North Jersey, he declared that the event would be commemorated for years to come.

He was right.

On Saturday, Bahais from across the country will hold their annual unity feast at the Roy Wilhelm estate in Teaneck, marking the 96th anniversary of the visit by Abdul Baha to what was then West Englewood.

"This instills in us why we are Bahai," said Paul Huber, who lives on the estate and helps maintain the grounds. "It's a gathering of people from all over. People are breaking bread together. You look and you see this sea of faces of all races and all nationalities."

Baha was the son and chosen successor of the prophet Baha'u'llah, who founded the Bahai religion in 19th-century Persia. Baha's North Jersey visit was one stop on what Bahais regard as an epochal journey through the West to spread the faith.

{josquote}We are not like the Catholics or any other faith that says 'this is it, you have to follow this or you are out of our church,' It's nothing like that at all.{/josquote}

Bahais, who number about 5 million worldwide, describe their faith as the youngest of the monotheistic religions. They believe that the major world religions build on one another to form a continuum through which God reveals himself to mankind. They regard Baha'u'llah as the most recent in a line of prophets that includes Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. And they believe that other prophets and writings will emerge to help mankind in the future.

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The Crime of Development

A crying shame:

In the Haifa area residents have filed dozens of complaints over the past few months: wild boars are sifting through trash, strolling into backyards and frightening children.

The boar population is apparently growing and because there aren’t any “natural boar predators” in the region, animal specialists and city officials fear the situation may get out of hand. The Society for Nature Preservation has decided to get a grip via controlled hunting expeditions during the coming weeks.

“On one hand they don’t have “natural enemies” in Haifa and on the other hand,” Haifa’s Chief Veterinarian Dr. Dror Dagan explained to Hebrew press, “their natural habitat has been threatened by building and city development. So the boars are forced to search for food and water in residential areas.”

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Art of Living can make for prettier picture

Members of the Art of Living group practice hatha yoga and pranayama exercises during their meeting Sunday afternoon at the Baha'i Center in Denver, while awaiting the arrival of Rishi Nityapragya, a noted yogi.

Snap. Snap. The bearded, long-haired guru - imagine a cross between a jazzy Beatles' Maharishi and a stylish, Renaissance-era Jesus - snaps out a beat with his fingers.

"Can you hear the small little sounds?" he whispers, his voice filling the schoolroom-like hush. Sitting on the floor around him in a leased room at Denver's Baha'i Center on Saturday are about 35 attentive Westerners. "If your mind is not present, you miss so many sounds!"

Welcome to the world of Rishi Nityapragya, an affable, mischievously boyish 43-year-old Indian spiritual teacher, one of a handful deployed to the U.S. to help stressed or depressed Westerners achieve peace through a nonprofit, The Art of Living Foundation.

He answers to Rishi-Ji, or honored seer, although he sports the breezy informality of a next-door neighbor.

Until 16 years ago, he worked as a chemical engineer in India ("Oh yes, coat and tie, all that," he says cheerfully) who felt empty and anxious like everybody else.

Then he met Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

{josquote}Today, I feel I still handle chemicals. Happiness' chemicals!{/josquote}

"Now I feel the purpose of my life is to explain the amazing potential, the reserves of joy and energy and love, that exist in all of us," he said during a break.

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New Baha'i renovation and beautification projects

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The Universal House of Justice has communicated the expansion and continuation of renovations and beautifications for existing and expanding Baha’i properties in Israel. Click to read the full letter here.

The BWC has been able to exchange some land north of Akka for a plot adjacent to the Mansion of Bahji. The current resident is the Israeli Military. There are continuing negotiations with the government for additional land exchanges adjacent to the Mansion of Mazra’ih and the Ridvan Garden.

There are renovation and beautification plans for the Ridvan Garden (in Israel) and well as Junayn Gardens, also frequented by Baha’u'llah (although much less frequently). I haven’t visited the Junayn Gardens but when I was in the Ridvan Garden I didn’t find anything that looked shaby or needed beautifying.

{josquote}As you may have surmised by now, all of this will require money.{/josquote}

It was, to my eyes, a beautiful and relaxing place with little or no evidence of the hyper-manicured lawns and flowers of Mt. Carmel. In fact, I preferred its more rustic and natural look. I’m certainly no expert but it would seem to me that it was more historically accurate and in keeping with the conditions that were present at the time of Baha’u'llah. But then again, I don’t want to make assumptions because the UHJ hasn’t detailed what exactly they will be doing to “beautify” the Ridvan Garden.

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Baha'i House of Worship - The Lotus Temple

I came to know about the Baha’i faith just by chance.

In the early seventies, immediately after my initial training at Grindlays Bank (Now Standard Chartered), I was asked to man the foreign exchange desk. Those days the foreign exchange business could only be transacted at banks and hence the desk was mostly busy. On that day, a young boy, probably in a hurry, was trying to jump the queue. He told me that he had to attend his class and had no money for bus travel. I told him to get the consent of the girl standing next to her, which she very graciously gave.

Lotus Temple

{josquote}On entering the temple, some of the visitors are perplexed on the absence of any idols, deities or altar in the temple.{/josquote}

On checking her passport, I observed that she was an Iranian national and her name sounded like some Indian Parsee girl. I asked her if she was one of the Zoroastrians from Iran!! She said she was a Baha’i. I scratched my head for a second and said “Like the Baha’i House at Curzon Road (Now K G Marg). She said “yes” and invited me to a congregation that evening at Baha’i House, their regional center.

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