Tablet of the Howdah is a largely unknown work of Baha’u’llah. The translation by Stephen Lambden appears in volume 3 of Eric Michot’s four-volume pdf series of provisional translations of Baha’u’llah. Baha’u’llah wrote the tablet during his journey from Baghdad to Istanbul, which took him across Turkey and up to the northern coast, where he saw the Black Sea for the first time at the port of Samsun. Apparently, Mirza Aqa Jan asked Baha’u’llah to reveal a tablet for the occasion. Referring to the revelation that descended on him, Baha’u’llah commented that this tablet was linked to the Tablet of the Holy Mariner.
“Before them did the Sun of the Divine Beauty radiate forth in an holy, ethereal Temple and addressed the Ark with the like of that which had streamed forth from the Pen of God aforetime, in a Tablet in which We addressed the Holy Mariner with a secret, sorrowful Call.” (p12)
Here, I will discuss a paragraph found on page 14 of the volume. I was moved to do this because I think it sums up a crucial aspect of Baha’u’llah’s message. It relates to the ideas in my previous post The Kingdom of God is within.
Baha’u’llah begins with God instructing him to purify his sight from the world of men so that he is not distracted from seeing the luminous world. Baha’u’llah is, then, to let the breezes of God float over his readers so that, by chance, they might purify themselves of idle fancies and turn to God. Perhaps their hearts will be cleansed of vain imaginings, so that they can arrive at the sacred Homeland. Perhaps they can burn up the veils of imitation, so that the beauty of God can radiate in their hearts.
“But thou, Purify! thy vision from the limitations of mortal men and suffer not thy sight to be distracted from this luminous Panorama. Waft then upon them of the breezes of the Divine Bounty perchance they might be purified of their idle fancies and be oriented towards God, the Mighty, the Wise; their hearts cleansed of their vain imagining and they be enabled to attain unto the sacred, wondrous Homeland. And perchance thereby the veils of imitation be burned up and the Beauty of the Divine Oneness radiate forth in the ethereal lamp[s] of the hearts.”
The passage spells out how God wants people to respond to Baha’u’llah’s words. They are to purify themselves and turn to God, by eradicating vain imaginings and imitation. What is the goal in doing this? To arrive at the Homeland and radiate the beauty of God in one’s heart.
The next sentence is very important. It spells out what the goal is NOT. Baha’u’llah says that it is not for the servants to weigh the Balance, for they are the ones who are weighed in the Balance at every moment. What does that mean? I think it is a concise statement of the Adam and Eve story about not eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Put simply, do not judge people. Do not judge people using the divine scales; that is, do not determine for God whether or not a person is condemned. The rank of the servant is to be weighed in the Balance, not to weigh others in the Balance.
“It is not fitting that the servants [of God] weigh the Balance of God for they shall at every moment be weighed and so be counted among such as are weighed.”
People are inevitably going to act badly, or at least do things we judge to be wrong. How should we react to that? Here is what Baha’u’llah says:
“So turn aside from them! And disregard their outrages, for Thou, verily, art One Generous, Possessed of Grace, All-Knowing.”
Back to the all-important goal. Baha’u’llah now spells out what he has in store for those who do not allow themselves to get caught up in the judgement game, but turn aside from it. God instructs Baha’u’llah to focus on spreading the fragrances:
“Then, when Thou hast shut Thine eyes to the rebellion and opened them to that which is most-excellent, waft upon the denizens of existence fragrances holy and beneficent.”
What is the purpose of doing that? This is interesting: it is so that the people can recognise that God has favoured them, made them so that they can meet God, and enjoy the fruits of being united with God. The thing to note is that this favour is discovered “within themselves”. All the spiritual joys destined for a person are found within them.
“This perchance they might become cognizant within themselves that God hath preferred them above all creatures, made them to be the associates of His Own Logos-Self, ennobled them through the Meeting with Him, caused to descend upon them the fruits of Union from an Holy, Manifest Tree. [He furthermore] made them to be robed in the garment of distinction, preferred them above such creatures as have been and now exist, and made their names to be inscribed upon mighty, preserved Tablets.”
Moreover, God has dressed human beings in the garment of distinction. They are preferred above other creatures and their names are engraved in celestial tablets.
But, a person will enjoy these benefits only if they do not alter the bounty within them. In other words, a person enjoys these benefits only if they do not get distracted by the affairs of the world, thereby effectively nullifying within themselves the presence of God.
“All this shall assuredly be conferred upon them; as long, that is, as they alter not the bounty of God unto themselves, comprehend that which God hath graciously bestowed upon them, and at every moment render thanks unto Him.”
One way to catch on to what Baha’u’llah is saying is to think about the material world. We know from physics that the material world is an image of materiality created by the activity of tiny entities we can’t see with our eyes. We should look at human spirituality in the same way. A person’s spirituality is a living luminous world that exists within them, which makes them who they are. In the above passage, Baha’u’llah is asking the reader to free themselves from the material world – vain imaginings, imitation, the judgement game and so on – so that they can focus entirely on this luminous world. That way, a person discovers the bounty that God has placed within them, and they achieve their spiritual goal, which is to arrive at the Homeland and radiate the beauty of God in their heart.
“Spirit child, I created you rich; how have you become poor? I made you distinguished; why do you think so little of yourself? From the essence of knowledge I brought you into being; why do you seek knowledge from others? From the clay of love I kneaded you; how come you are occupied with someone else? Bring your focus back to yourself, so that you might find me standing within you, capable, potent and everlasting.”Arabic Hidden Word no 13, trans Alison Marshall