The small house and the path to true happiness

September 9, 1911: home of Alice Buckton in London

A provisional translation from Khetabat-e Hazrat-e `Abdu’l-Baha dar safr-e-Europa(Talks of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in his European travels), page 16.

There was a considerable crowd, and the house was not very large. Mrs. [Thornburgh-]Cropper said “It’s a small house, not sufficient to contain the Friends.” Abdu’l-Baha replied:

This is not a small house – it is the hearts that must be enlarged. When we first arrived in Akka, thirteen of us lived in a single room. What I ask of God, is that He may open the hearts, that He may grant the friends the bounty of enlargement. Hearts can be opened only by the grace of God. If they are opened by some other means, this will in the end prove to be temporary: this enlargement will soon be turned into narrowness. But if enlargement and happiness derives from the love of God, it will be eternal. Every worldly pleasure and happiness looks well when seen from afar, but as one approaches, it proves to be a vapour, an appearance without reality.

If you read The Wisdom of Solomon you will see that Solomon says, “When I was a child, I thought that happiness lay in pre-eminence and much coming and going. When I was in my youth, and I saw that happiness did not lie in amusements, or in pre-eminence, or in the bustle of affairs, I told myself that happiness lay in sovereignty and power and administering a kingdom, but when I ascended the throne I saw that it offered no happiness. And it was the same for every possible station that I expected to have some charm: when I attained it I saw that it offered no pleasure. Then I understood that happiness could be found in God’s loving-kindness.” [see note]

If a man rejoices in companionship, that companionship is transitory, so it is certain that man’s happiness does not lie there. If a man rejoices in wealth, wealth too is transitory. If a man rejoices in high office, there will come a time when it slips from his grasp. Where a cause is transitory, its effects must also be transitory. But if the cause of one’s happiness lies in God’s bounty, that happiness can never end, since the divine bounties are forever. Since God’s loving-kindness is never-ending, if a man commits his heart to God’s grace, and God’s living-kindness enters his heart, his happiness has no end. If one fixes one’s heart on any perishable thing, disappointment is inevitable, but God’s loving-kindness embraces humanity. Give thanks that God has opened the doors of the Kingdom before you, and has called you to love God and promote the unity of the human race. It is as if you had found, in Baha’u’llah, a father whose bounty surrounds you. So you should thank God day and night, that you have been enabled to enjoy such a bounty.

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7 thoughts on “The small house and the path to true happiness

  1. Note: the reference is unlikely to be to the apocryphal book of the Bible known as “The Book of Wisdom,” in the first case because these words are not found there (and Abdu’l-Baha had a truly prodigious memory), and in the second place because the words are in Persian, and when Abdu’l-Baha quotes from the Bible he usually switches to Arabic, sometimes following it with his own Persian paraphrase. It seems most likely that he is referring to a more recent source with the same title, in which these words are put in Solomon’s mouth. The end of the quotation is not marked in the Persian text: I have put the closing speech marks at a logical point.

    • Yes, Herb, it is a summary of the life and learning of Solomon, but presented as a quote in a book called “The Wisdom of Solomon” which Abdu’l-Baha thought his listeners could read. In the past couple of decades there have been several books of wisdom, novels, and other works published with this title. Perhaps Abdu’l-Baha is referring to something like this that was accessible in 1911.

  2. Ah yes, enlarging the heart. And how great the world when we are detached from ego and all it’s paraphernalia! The quote “I have made death a messenger of joy unto thee…wherefore dost thou grieve?” surely applies to this reality as well as to physical death…both mark a transition from a material to spiritual existence.

  3. Dear Sen: A lovely presentation, but may I kindly ask that you reconsider presenting any long text in italics? It’s seems that only Baha’is like to do this, to set apart selections from the Writings or Talks, but italic is just a font, and usually used to designate a title, and it is really hard to read a whole paragraph of it.

    I wonder when Baha’is started to do that, set of verses in italics. Shoghi Effendi doesn’t do that, does he?

    • Yes, Shoghi Effendi does use italics for quotations from the Writings. However in the case of my blog, the template has a setting that makes everything in block quotes appear in italics. I can fix it, by putting the whole thing in italics, which should cancel out the template setting. I think. Or I can try another template, which will change the appearance of the whole blog. Thanks for the input ~Sen

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