Hollow Reed

This reed is a Perfect Man Who is likened to a reed, and the manner of its likeness is this: when the interior of a reed is empty and free from all matter, it will produce beautiful melodies; and as the sound and melodies do not come from the reed, but from the flute player who blows upon it, so the sanctified heart of that blessed Being is free and emptied from all save God, pure and exempt from the attachments of all human conditions, and is the companion of the Divine Spirit. Whatever He utters is not from Himself, but from the real flute player, and it is a divine inspiration. That is why He is likened to a reed; and that reed is like a rod -- that is to say, it is the helper of every impotent one, and the support of human beings. It is the rod of the Divine Shepherd by which He guards His flock and leads them about the pastures of the Kingdom.'

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 45

When Bahá’u’lláh departed from Baghdad, and traveled to Rumelia, the friends remained behind. The inhabitants of Baghdadthen rose up against those helpless believers, sending them away as captives to Mosul. Ustad [Ustad Isma'il] was old and feeble, but he left on foot, with no provisions for his journey, crossed over mountains and deserts, valleys and hills, and in the end arrived at the Most Great Prison. At one time, Bahá’u’lláh had written down an ode of Rumi's for him, and had told him to turn his face toward the Báb and sing the words, set to a melody. And so as he wandered through the long dark nights, Ustad would sing these lines:

"I am lost, O Love, possessed and dazed,

Love's fool am I, in all the earth.

They call me first among the crazed,

Though I once came first for wit and worth.

O Love, who sellest me this wine,

O Love, for whom I burn and bleed,

Love, for whom I cry and pine  --

Thou the Piper, I the reed.

If Thou wishest me to live,

Through me blow Thy holy breath.

The touch of Jesus Thou wilt give

To me, who've lain an age in death.

Thou, both End and Origin,

Thou without and Thou within  --

From every eye Thou hidest well,

And yet in every eye dost dwell."

'He was like a bird with broken wings but he had the song and it kept him going onward to his one true Love.'

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 30-32

Consecration, dedication and enthusiastic service is the Keynote to successful teaching. One must become like a reed through which the Holy Spirit descends to reach the student of the Faith. We give the Message, and explain the Teachings, but it is the Holy Spirit that quickens and confirms.

Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 319

He hopes you will be guided and confirmed in your work, so many souls may find eternal life, through your selfless services. It is important that you make contact with pure hearted individuals, gain their confidence, they gain confidence in you, and then gradually teach them. It is better to concentrate on a few, rather than attempt to teach too many at a time. Consecration, devotion, dedication, humility are essential, that the Holy Spirit may use you as a reed for the diffusion of Its creative rays.

Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 322

Never must they let a day pass without teaching some soul, trusting to Bahá’u’lláh that the seed will grow. The friends should seek pure souls, gain their confidence, and then teach that person carefully until he becomes a Bahá’í, and then nurture him until he becomes a firm and active supporter of the Faith. Everyone must remember that it is the "Holy Spirit that quickens" and therefore the teacher must become like a reed through which the Holy Spirit may reach the seeking soul.

Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 321

One should remember it is not the individual who confirms another, but the Holy Spirit which confirms. Thus the individual must become as a reed, through which the spirit may descend, and quicken souls. Thus the best way to develop capacity in teaching the Faith, is to teach. As one teaches, he gains more knowledge himself, he relies more on the guidance of the spirit, and expands his own character. This is why Bahá’u’lláh made it incumbent on all to teach the Faith.

Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 599

What is needed to achieve success in the teaching field is a complete dedication on the part of the individual, consecration to the glorious task of spreading the Faith, and the living of the Bahá’í life, because that creates the magnet for the Holy Spirit, and it is the Holy Spirit which quickens the new soul. Thus the individual should be as a reed, through which the Holy Spirit may flow, to give new life to the seeking soul. "One should search out those who are receptive to the Faith, and then concentrate on these persons in their teaching." (From a letter dated 18 December 1953 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer) AND

From a letter dated 19 December 1953 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to two individual believers

O God, make me a hollow reed, through which the pith of self hath been blown, so that I may become a clear channel through which Thy love may flow to others.

I have left behind me impatience and discontent. I commit myself wholly into Thy hands, for Thou art my Guide in the desert, the Teacher of my ignorance, the Physician of my sickness. I am a soldier in my King’s army. I have given up my will to Him and my life to dispose of as He may please. I know not what fate Thou designest for me, nor will I enquire or seek to know. The task of the day suffices for me, and all the future is Thine. Little by little, Thou changest weakness into strength, doubt to faith, perplexity to understanding. When I am fit to bear the burden, Thou will lay it on my shoulder. When I am prepared to take the field, Thou will assign me a place in the army of light. Now I have no other duty than to equip myself for Thy service. With eagerness and patience, with hope and gratitude I bend to the task of the hour lest when Thy call comes I be found unready.

This prayer, often attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is an excerpt from a longer prayer actually written by George Townshend. [Universal House of Justice, Sept. 27, 1992.] It can be found in the Mission of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 124.

The first portion of the text, "O God! Make me a hollow reed from which the pith of self hath been blown, that I may become a clear channel through which Thy love may flow to others", has often been attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; however, the Research Department has not yet located any original text and is therefore unable to verify its authenticity. As a result, the prayer may be recited or sung by the believers, but it should not be attributed to the Master nor appear under His name in books and other publications. (Universal House of Justice to an individual, December 12, 1999)

You cite a reference which states that this prayer was in fact written by the Hand of the Cause of God George Townshend. Because this prayer has often been incorrectly quoted as the opening sentence from the following passage on page 124 of Mr. Townshend's book The Mission of Bahá’u’lláh (London: George Ronald, 1965), it would give the impression that he has written the words. However, the prayer in question does not appear in his book and cannot be attributed to him.

Universal House of Justice to an individual, December 12, 1999