Every year, around the vernal equinox, the world seems to come alive. Depending on where you live in the Northern Hemisphere, trees and bushes that were once icy and barren begin to bear buds, leaves, flowers, or fruit. The grass becomes greener, hibernating animals come out to explore, and insects that were burrowed under the ground hatch from their eggs and emerge to the surface.
“In the spring there are the clouds which send down the precious rain, the musk-scented breezes and life-giving zephyrs; the air is perfectly temperate, the rain falls, the sun shines, the fecundating wind wafts the clouds, the world is renewed, and the breath of life appears in plants, in animals and in men,” said Abdu’l-Baha, one of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith. “Earthly beings pass from one condition to another.”
If all of this rebirth and renewal is happening during spring to every plant and animal in the world, what kind of spiritual transformation is happening to people?
Just like many other living beings, I spent the winter hibernating and staying cooped up indoors — because I have no interest in being out in the cold unless I have to, and I also happen to be a germaphobe during COVID-19. So, when the clouds disappeared, and the temperature finally hit 70 degrees, I couldn’t help but step outside and take a few long deep breaths. I inhaled and exhaled — the air was so sweet, I felt like I could taste it. As I walked and soaked in the warm heat of the sun, my body felt soothed, and my mind felt at ease. I knew that my spirit was being revived just like the rest of the world.
Abdu’l-Baha said it’s as if the Earth is dead and lifeless during the winter. But when spring comes, “it finds a new spirit, and produces endless beauty, grace and freshness. Thus the spring is the cause of new life and infuses a new spirit.”
I could feel that I was becoming alive with this new spirit. Of course, this spiritual regeneration and renewal didn’t happen like clockwork once the sun came out. I spiritually recuperated for 19 days from the beginning of March until the first day of spring – the Baha’i new year.
During these 19 days, Baha’is fast — we do not eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset. But this abstention from food is merely symbolic and is, as Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, explained, “ a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.”
He also wrote that the fasting period is “essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character.”
Every year during March, I make sure to prioritize my spiritual health and tune into my spirit. I engage in self-reflection, clarify what goals I’d like to accomplish in the coming year, and work on breaking old unwanted habits. I thank God for my blessings, ask forgiveness for my wrongdoings, and strive to cleanse and purify my heart and soul. That way, when I emerge from my hibernation, I feel both physically and spiritually refreshed and transformed.
“Jesus Christ said ‘Ye must be born again’ so that divine Life may spring anew within you,” said Abdu’l-Baha at a talk in Bristol, England in 1911.
Be kind to all around and serve one another; love to be just and true in all your dealings; pray always and so live your life that sorrow cannot touch you. Look upon the people of your own race and those of other races as members of one organism; sons of the same Father; let it be known by your behaviour that you are indeed the people of God. Then wars and disputes shall cease and over the world will spread the Most Great Peace.
Baha’is believe that world peace is not just a naïve hope or wishful thinking, but it is actually inevitable. We understand that the world is going through very turbulent and trying times, but as Shoghi Effendi wrote:
We stand on the threshold of an age whose convulsions proclaim alike the death-pangs of the old order and the birth-pangs of the new.
“The whole earth,” wrote Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, “is now in a state of pregnancy. The day is approaching when it will have yielded its noblest fruits, when from it will have sprung forth the loftiest trees, the most enchanting blossoms, the most heavenly blessings.”
Just like the Earth goes through different seasons and cycles, Baha’is believe that humanity goes through various stages of development. And in every stage, God sends Messengers (i.e., Zoroaster, the Buddha, Krishna, Moses, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, the Bab, and Baha’u’llah) to reveal more of His unfolding revelation to society.
Right now, humanity is in its turbulent adolescence age. But Baha’is believe that “when the impetuosity of youth and its vehemence reach their climax,” we will reach maturity and enter the stage of adulthood. We believe that the revolutionary teachings of Baha’u’llah — such as the equality of men and women, the harmony of science and religion, the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty, the abolition of all forms of prejudice, and the oneness of humanity — will help usher humanity towards maturity.
As Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
This period of time is the Promised Age, the assembling of the human race to the “Resurrection Day” and now is the great “Day of Judgment.” Soon the whole world, as in springtime, will change its garb. The turning and falling of the autumn leaves is past; the bleakness of the winter time is over. The new year hath appeared and the spiritual springtime is at hand.
The black earth is becoming a verdant garden; the deserts and mountains are teeming with red flowers; from the borders of the wilderness the tall grasses are standing like advance guards before the cypress and jessamine trees; while the birds are singing among the rose branches like the angels in the highest heavens, announcing the glad-tidings of the approach of that spiritual spring, and the sweet music of their voices is causing the real essence of all things to move and quiver.
This “spiritual spring” is so meaningful and significant because, as Abdu’l-Baha said, it’s the “age of spiritual awakening” where “the world has entered upon the path of progress into the arena of development, where the power of the spirit surpasses that of the body. Soon the spirit will have dominion over the world of humanity.”