Hand of the Cause of God Dr. Raḥmatu’lláh Muhájir

This story is about a memorable teaching trip that I undertook to India with the encouragement of Hand of the Cause of God Dr. Raḥmatu’lláh Muhájir. It was a 56-day teaching trip from 2 September to 25 October 1967. I was 26 years old and was a pioneer from Iran to Laos in November 1962. This trip was carried out to coincide with the Intercontinental Conference that was to be held from 5 to 10 October 1967, simultaneously with five other Intercontinental Conferences: in Wilmette, Illinois, USA; Panama City, Panama; Sydney, Australia; Kampala, Uganda; and Frankfurt, Germany. These Intercontinental Conferences induced wide-spread proclamation, teaching, and consolidation of the Faith in the five continents of the world.

From left: Malaya’s first believer Yankee Leong, Dr. Muhájir, Firaydun Mithaq and Mrs. Chosiri Fardian, in the town of Thakhek- Cammuan, 1966.

Hand of the Cause Dr. Muhájir used to visit Laos quite often. He came to Laos in May 1967 ahead of the New Delhi Intercontinental Conference. When he arrived in Vientiane on a short notice, I was on a consolidation trip to another province. The Auxiliary Board member and fellow pioneer Mr. Bijan Bayzaee sent me a cable that read: “DR. MUHÁJIR IN VIENTIANE COME IMMEDIATELY.”

Bijan Bayzayee at left with Firaydun at right. A 1965 photo taken in Laos.

I got the first available plane, flew into Vientiane, and went straight to the Bahá’í Centre where a group of friends were already in a meeting with Dr. Muhájir. He was talking about the importance and the impact that the Intercontinental Conference in New Delhi was expected to create in the areas of teaching, consolidation, and the wide proclamation of the Faith in Asia, particularly in India and the Southeast Asian countries. Dr. Muhájir encouraged all the pioneers and the Lao believers to make special efforts to participate in the New Delhi Intercontinental Conference. After the meeting, he asked me to walk with him to his hotel. While walking we talked about the importance of the New Delhi Intercontinental Conference. He then looked at me and said, “Please come about one to two months ahead of the conference because there will be a lot of work.” I kept quiet, as I was worried that my small savings could not match up with the high cost of air travel. He must have sensed my bewilderment and remarked, “Pray and think about it, everything will be okay.”  Then he invited me to his room for prayer. After prayers, he opened his bag, took out two cassette tapes, and gave them to me. He said they contain a number of Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  about teaching the Faith in India. Dr. Muhájir advised me to listen to them. The next day I accompanied him from Vientiane to the Lao-Thai border, where he would take the train to Bangkok. After we arrived at the border, we stopped to eat at one of the food stalls on the bank of the Mekong River crossing. After the meal he did not let me pay the bill. He reached into his bag, took out his mini tape player, and gave it to me, saying, “It is for you, take it. You need the player to listen to all the Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” He must have sensed that I did not have a tape player. I did not utter another word but took the precious gift with immense gratitude. Finally, I saw him off at the border’s passport control office.

The night after Dr. Muhájir had left, I could not sleep thinking about teaching in India without familiarity with Indian culture. India is a country mentioned in the Qayyúmu’l-Asma’, on the Day of the Declaration of the Báb. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had sent a steady stream of teachers from the East and West arrived to establish the Faith in that country. As far back as 1933, Shoghi Effendi, the beloved Guardian guided India in every accomplishment, and under his unerring guidance the community grew into spiritual maturity. I was worried what would my contribution be in this country with a vast population. All I knew was that I would be a drop in that vast ocean. I knew that strenuous efforts have to be undertaken to reach the masses in the country. I kept praying for divine assistance for teaching in India. I listened to the cassette tapes Dr. Muhájir had given me. While listening, I felt immersed in a sea of joy, especially now that I had found the best possible guidance for my trip to the northern regions of India to share the Healing Message of Bahá’u’lláh. Some of the Tablets were recited by Dr. Muhájir, and some were chanted in his own voice. I listened over and over to these Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Each time I listened, I felt more confident and assured. After three days of traveling from Vientiane in Laos, I finally arrived in New Delhi on the morning of 2 September, more than a month ahead of the conference. I went straight to the National Bahá’í Centre at 8 Canning Road and was surprised to be greeted by Dr. Muhájir and some thirty other friends. These friends were mostly from abroad, and I was meeting them for the first time.

Dr. Muhájir introduced me as a pioneer from Laos. There was a large map of India on the tables that showed the major cities and provinces. There was another map of the city of New Delhi. There was a consultation about pre-conference activities that were taking place nearly every day and also post-conference activities to take place after the conference. The friends were teamed up and assigned to specific activities. I was trying to find my sphere of service. The following morning the gathering was divided into several teams for teaching, consolidation, proclamation, meeting the media to cultivate public relations. However, I was not selected to join any team. Dr. H. M. Munje, a great Bahá’í scholar and a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of India was sitting next to Dr. Muhájir. Pointing at me, he asked Dr. Muhájir, “How about him?” “He will go to the northern region of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh,” was Dr. Muhájir’s reply. “Who will go with him?” asked Dr. Munje. The answer was, “He will go alone.” Dr. Munje was surprised and asked, “How can we send a young man alone to an unknown area? It is unsafe and may become problematic.” The question of safety in unfamiliar places worried Dr. Munje but that did not change Dr. Muhájir’s plan. He assured Dr. Munje that my going to the northern regions would not be a problem. He further said, “He will find his friends along the way.”

I had contracted a slight cold during the cold night train ride and needed to see a doctor. Dr. Muhájir arranged for someone to take me to a clinic and said, “We will talk about your teaching activities after you get well.” I felt fine after taking a few aspirins and two days of resting. I went to Dr. Muhájir’s room and told him, “I am well enough to start my teaching activities.” With a sweet smile, he asked me if I had listened to the Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on the cassette tapes he had given me. My response was positive. Then he said, “You are going to the states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.” Although I had no idea about or familiarity with the northern regions, I accepted the plan with pleasure. He gave me a piece of paper with notes about the places that I could possibly visit. Dr. Muhájir seemed to be very familiar with the places in India. Then he said, “Go to the office of the National Spiritual Assembly and see Mr. Ramnik Shah, the Secretary of the national institution. He will give you more detailed information and guidance.” When the Secretary of the national institution saw the note, he exclaimed, “O My God!” He asked me to follow him to see Dr. Muhájir. He asked Dr. Muhájir, “How can Firaydun travel alone without any experience or familiarity with India? It could be unsafe and problematic.” Dr. Muhájir assured him that I had been teaching in similar situations in the South East Asian countries. He added, “Let him go. Bahá’u’lláh will protect him with the divine assistance.  I can assure you that he will be fine, armed with  total and unshakable reliance on God.” That statement from Dr. Muhájir came in as a challenge. I had to live up to his confidence in me.  I was well prepared to carry out teaching activities. I traveled light and did not make elaborate preparations. On the afternoon of the same day, a believer took me to the bus station. And soon I was on the bus bound for Chandigarh city  in the state of Punjab. That was  the first city of my teaching journey.

Chandigarh was my first teaching destination in India. There was a Bahá’í Centre where Edward Sanchez, an American pioneer served as a caretaker. He held occasional firesides, Nineteen Day Feasts and other Bahá’í activities at the Centre. I consulted with four members of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Chandigarh concerning how best to use my three or four days in the city. Since I was from Iran and grew up in an Islamic environment, they thought it would be beneficial to hold firesides for some Muslim friends who had always raised several questions. The Local Spiritual Assembly decided that I was to hold firesides every evening to give the Bahá’í view point on the Islamic and Christian subjects. I agreed with the plan. The Muslim and Christian individuals came every evening to the firesides and discussed several questions. Their questions were basically on Prophet Muhammad being the last prophet according to their understanding, the meaning of resurrection, the Day of Judgement and Jihad (holy war). Explanations to these questions were given based on what Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had explained, and the enquirers seemed to be satisfied. On the fourth night the discussion was devoted to the question of the oneness of religion. How can the oneness of religion be possible when there are so many independent religions with different customs that often are in disagreement with one another? The question provided the opportunity to talk about the concept of progressive revelation, that is, that all the Manifestations of God come from one God for the sole purpose of guiding and protecting the well-being of mankind. During the five days that I was in Chandigarh, Edward and I spent every day together. We went out to meet people in the daytime and in the evening we had the firesides. I had finished my five days in Chandigarh, and it was time to move on to my next destination, Shimla. A few friends saw me off at the bus station, hoping to meet again.

The city of Shimla was the summer headquarters of pre-independence and is surrounded by thick, hilly forests in Himachal Pradesh. Before coming to Shimla, I had called the only believer whose phone number I had. His name was Satta Krishnan. The arrangement was that I would call him again after arriving at the Shimla bus station, and that was what I did. Satta Krishnan took me to the YMCA hostel, and we booked a room that would also serve as a meeting place for teaching activities. We consulted and decided to visit schools, meet the teachers and students in the daytime, and have fireside meetings in the evenings. After a quick lunch, we went to the high school where he was teaching.

Satta Krishnan introduced me to some of his colleagues and some senior students. He added that I had come to India to attend the Bahá’í Intercontinental Conference in New Delhi. He said that he too, was planning to attend that conference. His mention of the Bahá’í Intercontinental Conference aroused their curiosity, and some wanted to know more about it. We welcomed that request and asked if they would like to invite their friends to join us. They decided to take us to the school headmistress to seek her approval. The headmistress was a kind and refined woman in her fifties. She asked what the conference and the Bahá’í Faith was all about. We gave a brief explanation and offered a pamphlet that we had with us. On the back page was a quotation about justice that read, “The most beloved of all things in My sight is justice, turn not away therefrom…”. This quote touched her heart, and she praised the sense of justice in our Faith. We conversed for a few minutes. Then she took up her phone and asked someone to call the available teachers who would like to meet and listen to a brief talk by a foreign guest. They were asked to gather immediately at the assembly hall. When we arrived there in the company of the headmistress, about thirty teachers had gathered. The headmistress introduced me briefly and invited me to introduce the Faith and talk about the upcoming conference for about 30 minutes. We spent another thirty minutes answering questions. Since the time was limited, we invited those who would like to know more to come to my hostel in the evening, where we held the firesides. Six teachers and two students showed up at the fireside that evening and stayed for nearly two hours for questions, answers, and discussions. This kind of arrangement continued for three nights. We visited other schools during the daytime and held firesides in the evenings. On some evenings, the gathering was much bigger for my room to accommodate, but we managed somehow. Those interested in getting more teaching materials wrote their names and addresses in the notebook I had prepared for that purpose. I passed the requests to the Bahá’í National Office for dispatching books and deepening materials. My three nights in Shimla had come to an end, and I had to move to my next destination, Bilaspur.

Bilaspur was a small city in the landlocked state in South East India. Most of its population believed in Sikhism. Not knowing anyone in Bilaspur, I asked a young man, Rivat for directions to the youth hostel. He was very polite and happy to take me there so I could check-in. He came to my room, and we had a good conversation. At first, he thought I was a tourist but noticed that I did not look like one. When I told him that I was not a tourist and mentioned the purpose of my visit, he smiled. He said he had heard from a school classmate in Shimla about the Bahá’í Faith, but he did not know anything about it and wanted an explanation. Was it a coincidence that the first person I spoke with in Bilaspur was now the first person I was sharing the Baha’i Message with? It was a sign of confirmation. After my explanation he liked the Bahá’í teachings and said he had always thought about a world of unity and peace. His was a visual artist who painted pictures. He told me I need not stay in the hostel and invited me to stay at his house. I thanked him for his kind offer, but I had to decline because people would come to meet me and talk; therefore, it was better to have the room at the hostel. He agreed and invited me to go to his house for dinner. I also had to decline this invitation because I was planning to hold firesides in the evenings. However, I promised to visit his home and have a simple lunch with his family. He agreed to arrange that. I was delighted with his generous offer and agreed with pleasure for him to accompany me. It was like the concourse on high had sent an angel to my aid. I could see that divine assistance was at work preparing the path for me in Bilaspur.

It was around 2 pm, and I thought it was not too late to visit a school. I liked to go to schools first because it was easier to communicate in English. I also was happy to visit other public organizations and clubs where I could share the Bahá’í Message. Rivat was glad to take me to the school he had previously attended before studying in the college in Shimla. At that time, he was on his midterm holiday and had come to visit his family, and he was happy to spend time with me. During the four days and four nights that I was in Bilaspur, Rivat and I were together the whole time. During the day, he took me to various groups, associations, and human rights activists to meet and talk about Bahá’u’lláh and the Bahá’í Intercontinental Conference in New Delhi. In the evenings, he brought his contacts and friends to the firesides. My time in Bilaspur turned out to be a good proclamation of the Faith. Quite a few people were attracted to the Faith and gave their names and mail addresses so they could receive additional books and teaching materials.

When Rivat took me to his home for lunch and to meet his family, this was really special. His father was a very courteous man and spoke English well. His mother was a quiet person and only greeted us. She spent most of her time in the kitchen cooking while Rivat’s younger sister served food and tea. She was a high school student and spoke English reasonably well. Rivat explained to his father and sister my purpose and activities in Bilaspur and other places in the northern region. He told them about Bahá’u’lláh and the purpose of the Bahá’í Intercontinental Conference. His father nodded with a smile of approval for Rivat’s explanation and asked a few salient questions, showing his appreciation of the Bahá’í teachings. Then he took out the bracelet he was wearing, put it on my wrist, and said: “I want you to have it.” It was a steel bracelet that had emotional value. It was a sign of respect for Sikhism that the locals wore.

After five days and four memorable nights in Bilaspur, during which time we had met and conveyed the Message of Bahá’u’lláh to over a hundred people and had had five declarations, it was time to depart and go to Mandy, my next destination. Fortunately, I had gotten the contact information of a teacher in Mandy. That had been arranged through one of Rivat’s previous teachers. Rivat saw me off at the bus station, saying goodbye, and we parted, hoping to keep in touch and meet again.

Mandi, a city in Himachal Pradesh had relatively mild temperature in day and cold nights. It was located in a mountainous region with a cross-cultural population and numerous schools and colleges. The first thing I had to do there was to check into the youth hostel and call the number of the teacher named Mathaya that I had obtained from a teacher in Bilaspur. My few attempts at calling were not successful. Therefore, I decided to go directly to his school, but I had only the school’s name. After asking for directions several times, I finally got there. However, I was surprised to learn that the teacher I was looking for was teaching in another branch of this school, some distance away. Fortunately, the principal of the first school called the branch school, and we were connected, but I was told that the teacher I hoped to see was not there; he might come later that day or the next day. Therefore, I decided to wait, hoping he would come that afternoon, knowing he had been informed of my coming. Meanwhile, the school principal at the first school inquired about my purpose for meeting that specific teacher. This question allowed me to talk about the Faith and the Bahá’í Intercontinental Conference. After half an hour of conversation, he called several teachers to come to hear what I was saying. Therefore, I spent another forty minutes explaining and answering questions. One of the teachers said he had read in the national newspaper about the Bahá’í Intercontinental Conference that would be held in New Delhi. The principal invited me to return to their school to give a more detailed talk on the Bahá’í Faith to a group of teachers after I had finished my visit to the branch school. Before long, Mathaya, the teacher I expected to see, finally arrived from the branch school. After a brief conversation with the principal, Mathaya led me to a tea room to have a glass of Indian milk-tea, and we talked. I had to tell him why I had come to Mandi to see him and about my plan to visit different schools and clubs and have firesides. After an hour or so of having tea and conversation, he said he would come to my hostel to see me the following morning and take me to his school. Then, he offered to take me to the youth hostel on the back of his bicycle. What an adventurous day it was! At last, I was happy. I spent five days in Mandi, where I had large audiences at schools and evening firesides at the hostel. These were the largest audiences I had had during this teaching trip to India. I met about thirty-two teachers and over two hundred students with two declarations and forty-one people requesting Bahá’í literature. Although the inner-city travel was a bit rough, its outcome was great. One of the teachers said he was planning to go to New Delhi around the time of the Bahá’í Conference, and he would try to meet me there and introduce me to his friends. Unfortunately, we could not meet again. I had to say goodbye to Mathaya and move on to my next destination, Babapur. However, the bus schedule was unfavorable, so I decided to take the bus to Kullu Valley that was departing in a few minutes, thinking I might visit Babapur later.

Kullu Valley is a broad open valley in Himachal Pradesh, with a population of about 18,000 people from numerous tribes who spoke different local languages. It was a tourist spot famous for its temples, beautiful sceneries, majestic hills covered with pine, deodar forests, and apple orchards. I stayed in Kullu Valley for three nights and met many people there. Kullu had a few schools and a polytechnic college that I planned to visit. Meeting and attracting people to gatherings and firesides in Kullu Valley was difficult. Therefore, not much was achieved, perhaps because it was a tourist spot. I enjoyed the scenery and admired the handicraft items that were for sale. One day, while I was eating at a local restaurant, a couple wearing different costumes and long hair attracted my attention. I was curious and asked the shop owner if he knew which tribe they were from. He said they were Tibetans. “Where do they live?” was my second question. “Oh, they mostly live and work in the outskirts of Manali, a small town not far from Kullu,” he replied. I decided that I should go to Manali and meet these people. Reflecting on my spontaneous decision to take the bus trip to Kullu Valley and now, after being attracted to the Tibetans, to go to Manali, I noticed that there seemed to be a mysterious force changing my original plan and leading me in a different direction. Who knows, I thought, perhaps the Tibetans will be interested to hear about the Faith and Bahá’u’lláh. Fortunately, I had met a young man in Kullu who had a friend in Manali at a primary school. He called him and arranged for us to meet in Manali at his school. Therefore, I left Kullu Valley and went to Manali in search of this teacher named Rahul.

Manali was a small with only a few shops and restaurants. Rahul was a Hindu, taught at school in Manali but lived in Pondu, a village near Manali. It was not difficult to find his school, but he wasn’t there. A student agreed to take me to Rahul’s house, which was close to his. When I met Rahul, he invited me to stay at his house where he lived with his old mother. Rahul’s mother was very kind and hospitable. She prepared breakfast for us every day. She had what seemed to me to be a strange traditional custom of painting the floors with a layer of fresh cow dung every morning after breakfast and letting it dry. I inquired about the purpose of that custom, and Rahul explained that most of the houses in Manali had clay floors. This practice prevented dust from rising from the floor when people walked. It kept the floors clean and prevented the clay from cracking. Thinking about it, I could see the wisdom of such a custom. After our first meeting, I shared the Bahá’í teachings with Rahul and he accepted the Faith. Then he took me to his school to meet his colleagues to tell them about the Bahá’í Faith and the Bahá’í Intercontinental Conference. We did that, and the result was almost as good as in previous places and schools in the other cities I had visited.

I told Rahul I wanted to meet the Tibetans to tell them about Bahá’u’lláh and the Bahá’í Message. He said a group of Tibetan refugees lived on the surrounding hills around Pondu working as laborers digging into a mountain to make a canal that would divert a river to construct a dam. Rahul took me to a hill where the Tibetans lived. We went to the tent of the head of their community. We explained the purpose of our visit and asked his permission to talk to their people about the Bahá’í Faith. After about an hour of explanation and discussion that was translated by a Tibetan man named Manhu who knew Hindi, permission was granted to talk to an assemblage of their community the following evening. We thanked him and confirmed we would come to their place the following evening. On the way back, Rahul said that since his English was not good enough to translate my explanations, he suggested getting help from a friend who knew English well. Therefore, we went to see his friend Gupta, a construction engineer from New Delhi who worked on the dam construction project. He accepted to come to the hill and translate. The process was that Gupta would translate from English to Hindi, and Manhu would translate from Hindi to Tibetan. The next day before dark, the three of us, Gupta, Rahul, and I, climbed the hill to the Tibetan community. We were taken to a large tent that was used for their community gatherings. Several people were sitting on the floor, waiting for the meeting to start. Soon, the tent was full of about thirty to forty people.More people were standing outside because the tent’s space wasn’t enough.

After a short introduction, the head of the community invited us to speak. I said that we were very happy to be there among many pure-hearted and humble Tibetan friends. It was our first time to meet and to be with them. I said, “You have lost your homes and lived as refugees in difficult conditions, working hard and struggling to survive. This is the time for you to hear the great tidings and attain to true happiness. In the Buddhist scriptures that you are familiar with, Lord Buddha has prophesied this period and time when hardship reaches its maximum and people suffer from wars, lack a peaceful life, and become homeless refugees. It is the time when Maitreya Buddha, who is also known as the Amit-Abha and the Fifth Buddha, will appear and give the tidings of the dawning of a new age of peace and well-being. Amit-Abha means “The Glory of the Omnipotent.” The Fifth Buddha, with the name of Bahá’u’lláh, also means the “Glory of the Omnipotent,” has now appeared with the promise of world peace and the oneness of mankind. It is your chance now to investigate the truth of this reality”. One of the elders in the crowd confirmed the truth of what had been said. He said that he had learned about this prophecy during many years of study when he was a monk and lived in the temple. He wondered when it would come to pass. The head of the community, who had also formerly been a monk and had studied these prophecies, confirmed their authenticity. At this point, the people in the audience started simultaneously talking among themselves with excitement. After about five minutes, the head, looking at the audience, said, “Let’s stop our individual conversations and let him finish his talk. Then, you can take turns to ask any question that you would like.” He turned to me and asked me to continue. I thought I had spoken enough and that it was better to let them ask their questions. Many questions were asked, and responses were given. There were still many questions, but it was getting late. They decided to continue this conversation the following evening.  For four nights, the people gathered and asked many questions. Many people were satisfied and declared their faith in Bahá’u’lláh. They were the first Tibetans to accept Bahá’u’lláh and His teachings. On the fifth evening, there was a celebration party with a potluck dinner. After five days of teaching, we saw declaration of forty-one Tibetan people. We bid them goodbye. Our next destination, Dharamshala, the center of Tibetan refugees in Himachal Pradesh, where the Dalai Lama lived.

Before leaving Manali, I drafted a short teaching report and posted it to the Bahá’í National Office in New Delhi. Since it would take about a week or so to reach, I sent a cable as well, asking for the dispatch of any available books and teaching materials in Hindi, Tibetan, and English. In the cable, I also requested prayers for the Tibetans that had declared in Pandu outside Manali. I mentioned that I would be returning to New Delhi in a few days. Later on, I learned that a cable had been sent to me in Manali that I did not see. Later on Ms. Arden Lee conveyed the cable to me that read: NSA INVITES FEW NEWLY DECLARED TIBETANS COME CONFERENCE.

Dharamshala is a small Buddhist town surrounded by mountains with many temples, Tibetan handicrafts, and beautiful natural scenery. I checked into a youth hostel and asked for directions to the Tibetan school. The Tibetan school had about three hundred students, ten teachers, and a headmaster. The school looked very modest, and the teachers were polite and friendly. We greeted the headmaster, asked about the purpose of my visit.

One of the teachers that taught English translated our conversation. I asked if it would be possible to gather the teachers to share the Bahá’í Message with them, and permission was granted. After a brief introduction of the Faith, the teachers asked a few questions but did not show interest in getting more information about the Bahá’í Faith and Bahá’u’lláh. They pointed out that Tibetans were Buddhists and very religious. They wanted to know the Bahá’í perspective regarding His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I was reluctant to get into that kind of conversation, but ten teachers and the headmaster kept looking at me and waiting for an answer. Quietly, I said to myself, “Yá Alláhu’l-Mustaqáth,” which has been translated as “O Thou God Who art invoked,” and said what came to my mind, which was: “In every religious era, there have been great personages who have led the people to the straight path of compassion, peace, spiritual life, and order. Some have advocated some social systems to maintain peace and order and were highly appreciated. I think His Holiness Dalai Lama is one of them in Buddhist history. Sometimes, when I see and read about the peaceful advice of the Dalai Lama, I feel inspired, and I have a great respect for him.” This explanation seemed agreeable, as shown by cheerful smiles. It was almost 5 pm. Students were going home, and we, too, said goodbye and left. I went to the town for a walk and tried to talk to the local people and shopkeepers there about the Faith and Bahá’u’lláh, but they were more interested in selling their handicrafts and other products. The next day I went to the Dalai Lama temple and prayed that God may lead these people to recognize Bahá’u’lláh. A monk who spoke English well appeared from the adjacent office room and welcomed me. After I explained the intention of my visit, he conducted me to a hall to sit and wait for the “first secretary” of the Dalai Lama to come. The first secretary said His Highness was away and would return in two or three days. But I could not stay on. Before leaving, I presented him with a copy of The New Garden in Hindi. We said goodbye, and I took the bus bound for Shimla, where I could transfer to another bus for New Delhi.

Reaching Shimla I developed stomach problem and so went to Satta’s house to take a short rest. Satta was not at home, but his wife handed me a folded piece of paper with a message on it. The message was from Ms. Arden Lee, saying: “NSA desires some Tibetan Bahá’í to attend the New Delhi conference. Come to Rex Hotel in Shimla to arrange their attendance. It is urgent, Arden Lee.” Ms. Arden Lee, an American believer, had been asked to come to Shimla to help bringing some of the Tibetan believers to the conference. To bring them along we had to go back to Mandi, then to Kullu Valley, and finally to Manali and Pondu village where the Tibetan believers lived. After some hard journey passing through these places we went straight to the Community’s Head tent and mentioned about getting some Tibetan believers to come to the conference in New Delhi. Four Tibetan friends agreed to represent their community at the Conference.

Quick preparations had to be made to make the trip possible. The first was to acquire travel passes to New Delhi from the security office in Manali since the refugees were restricted from traveling out of the specific boundary. The second was to get permission of leave from work, which was easily achieved. Then, someone had to go ahead to Kullu Valley to book the seats and buy the tickets for that night’s bus to Shimla. This was also done, and we happily took the bus to Shimla. From there we arrived at the New Delhi bus station and waited as advised earlier in a phone call. Before long, three people, including Mrs. Shirin Boman, a member of the national institution of India, and two other persons came to the station and welcomed the Tibetan friends and in two cars took us to the National Bahá’í Centre, where the conference was being held in the Bahá’í Centre’s gardens under a large tent accommodating over a thousand believers. A special welcoming activity was arranged to receive the Tibetan friends since they were the first Tibetans to have accepted Bahá’u’lláh and declared. It is to be noted that entering of Tibetans under the banner of Bahá’u’lláh had been for some years the goal of the National Community of India that had remained unachieved till eighteen days before the opening of the Conference when fifty-three Tibetans in the Himalayas region declared. It was at that time when I came to know that they were the first Tibetan believers that had declared.

Present at the Intercontinental conference were the Hands of the Cause of God Mr. Abu’l-Qásim Faizi, Dr. Alí-Muhammad Varqá, Mr. Shu‘á‘u’lláh ‘Alá’í and Dr.  Muhájir. Mr. Faizi  represented the Universal House of Justice at the Conference. A cable was sent to Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum of the acceptance of the Faith by the Tibetans. A response was received from her in which  she welcomed the great news and  assured them of her prayers that each one of them would become the teacher of the Faith and open the hearts of their fellow people. On the third day, the Tibetan friends were invited to the stage to say a few words. Because they did not speak any language other than Tibetan, they chanted the four times “Allah-u-Abhá” that they had learned followed by a Tibetan song. The audience applauded. On the afternoon of the same day, they requested a meeting with Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Abu’l-Qásim Faizi.

It was at the Intercontinental conference that I too met Mr. Faizi for the first time. In the morning of the second day of the Conference Mr. R. N. Shah, Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of India sent me a message that Mr. Faizi wanted to see me and the four new Tibetan believers at 2 in the afternoon at the Secretary’s office. The Tibetan believers and I met Mr. Faizi privately. The Tibetan believers decorated Mr. Faizi with some mesh scarves they had brought from Manali as a sign of their respect and appreciation. A group picture was taken.

Mr. Faizi with the Tibetan believers at the Intercontinental Conference in New Delhi, October 1967. Firaydun is at the extreme left.

The most touching moment was when the portrait of Bahá’u’lláh was placed on a beautiful table for the participants to view. Mr. Faizi stood there watching the participants that had cued up and each quietly approached the portrait. Some kissed the edge of the table close to the portrait, some bowed in respect, and some quietly prayed. I was standing behind the Tibetan friends. When our turn came to see the portrait, they each fell to the ground kissing the legs of the table and remained in that posture for a minute to pay their homage to Bahá’u’lláh. Tears could be seen dropping on the cheeks of other believers watching this.

Courtesy call upon Mr. Morarji Desai, Deputy Prime Minister of India, centre. To the right of Mr. Desai are  Mrs. Shirin Fozdar from Thailand and Hand  of the Cause Mr. Faizi. Seventh from right is Hand of the Cause Mr. Shu‘á‘u’lláh ‘Alá’í.  Firaydun is standing fourth from right, with Counselor Payman from Indonesia at his right and Counselor Vicente Samaniego from the Philippines at his back. Hidden at the back of Mr. Faizi is Hand of the Cause Dr. Alí-Muhammad Varqá.

Hand of the Cause Dr. Muhájir wanted me to stay longer in India for post conference activities and to continue the teaching and consolidation of the new believers in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh and as well do some teaching in the central provinces of India. I accepted with pleasure. There was a short consultation between Dr. Muhájir and the national secretary, Mr. Shah, about planning my activities in India for the next two months. I happily accepted the plan, which included continuing the teaching and consolidation work in the northern region and central India.

I began my consolidation activities in and around New Delhi and then in Agra and its surrounding towns by joining a group of pioneers that included Mr. Vasudevan from Malaysia, a pioneer couple from Arabia, Miss Parichehr Ghardashem from Iran and my fellow pioneer from Laos Mr. Bijan Bayzaee. The plan was for us to meet with many civic organizations. First we met with the National Productivity Council in New Delhi and with a few other organizations. Next we traveled to Agra for a few days, met a group of Mahatma Gandhi’s followers and visited another organization. We saw the Taj Mahal in the moonlight and prayed. It was a memorable teaching trip.

My second round of activities was in the company of Mr. Edward Sanches, from Chandigarh. We were a good team doing consolidation activities in the states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. We visited the friends in every town and city I had previously visited, including the Tibetan friends in Manali. That took seventeen days and was very fruitful.

Back in New Delhi, I began preparing for traveling activities in central India. I visited Jaipur and joined the local friends in some of their activities. I was invited to give a public talk in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, organized by several Bahá’í communities in the province where the Mayor of Jaipur resided. I was given 20 minutes to discuss on “The impact of the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh and their applications on the development of communities at large.” I described some instances of the impact of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings in some places in the world. I invited the audience to investigate the Bahá’í Faith and its implications for the betterment of society with practical examples.

Public Talk in Jaipur. L-R:  Mayor of Jaipur, Firaydun and the Chairman of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Jaipur.

After returning to New Delhi to prepare for the next sequence of activities, the secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly, Mr. Shah, showed me a cable from Dr. Muhájir advising me to return to Laos. This concluded my 56 days of teaching activities in India in 1967.

Relating the stories of all my visits to the central states of India needs several pages. In conclusion, my teaching trip to India was a rewarding experience. During this trip I kept thinking about what I had learned in this trip and how to share it. The trip is forever etched in my memory.

With the passing of the Guardian, the appointment of Hands of the Cause has ceased altogether. And with the passing of ʻAlí-Muhammad Varqá in September 2007,  the Baháʼí world  is today deprived  of any Hand of the Cause. We glean from the Writings that the Hands of the Cause are those edified souls who are to  diffuse Divine Fragrances, edify the souls of men, promote  learning, and improve the character of all men. Looking back, I am thankful to Bahá’u’lláh to have created me to live during the days of many Hands of the Cause of God, some of whom I had been closely associated with.  Among these Hands, I had the privilege of being closest to Raḥmatu’lláh Muhájir, who had a strong influence on my transformation. I am happy to have carried out this teaching trip at the behest of Dr. Muhájir.

Dr. Firaydun Mithaq
Chieng Mai

30 April, 2024

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