A Trip to Baha’i Temple

An introduction: many call me Bam(s), and I am one participant of Arryman Program here, at Northwestern University. This is only my first three weeks in the US. Yes, I haven’t been in the states. But, I am not going to talk about my first impression or experience or culture shock in this post. Maybe in another one. So follow this blog! *wink wink

In this post, I would like to share with you about my recent trip to the Baha’i Temple.

About three weeks ago, my friends talked about the Baha’i faith as we passed a sign written Baha’i temple. I just discreetly listened to them as I knew nothing about the faith. Nonetheless, I still had no idea what it is. And today, I was invited to a little trip to Baha’i Temple.

Baha’i faith appears to be a new stream of “religion”. Its history can be traced back as early as the 1800s, when Mirza Husayn-Ali, known as Baha’u’llah found it in Persia. He was believed to be the latest Messenger of God.

Practising and disseminating the Baha’i faith was not easy. Many believed that Mirza’s teachings were devious. The Persian and Turkish governments, then, exiled him. He was banished to the prison-city of Acre in Palestine in 1868. He passed in 1892.

A year after Mirza passed, the Baha’i was introduced at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, USA. To date, the Baha’i faith has more than 150,000 followers living across the US.

Unlike other popular religions, Baha’i has no clergy. Instead, the faith has elected councils at local, national and international levels who administer the religious affairs. In the US, the Baha’i National Centre is located in Evanston. Yes, a city that becomes my new home.


The Baha’i Temple in Evanston, IL


It was quite easy to get to Baha’i Temple. We just took a purple line heading to Linden and got out at the final stop. Afterwards, we walked around seven to ten minutes following the indication provided.

The temple is so very beautiful. It is surrounded by green and well-maintained gardens (I don’t know how much they spend on the gardens only, let alone the building). The good weather today helped a lot with enhancing the view. Maybe I am a little bit bias here as I love the green scenery. But, the temple seems lush with many green areas covering the majority of its land.


One garden at the Baha’i Temple


One may question what the temple is. The temple is basically open for public. It is used for anyone to contemplate and pray according to their own belief. And because it is designed and dedicated for so doing, one must keep his/her noise level at zero level. Well, you can whisper still tho. There is no sermon or whatsoever related. Instead, they usually do some reading about deity.



Inside the Baha’i Temple


The interior of the Baha’i Temple is mostly filled with red chairs as shown in the picture above. The arrangement is quite simple actually. It is like a classroom if I may say. But, there are a bunch of red chairs situated behind a podium. Perhaps, it is where the elected councils sit during a praying. It is just my guess. I didn’t get a chance to ask that question today.

Part of the architecture remains of a mosque. The temple has high ceiling and tonnes of natural light and doors. In the middle of the ceiling, an Arabic caligraphy imprinted (see picture below).


The high ceiling with the Arabic caligraphy


During my visit, I had a chance to talk with, perhaps, one worshipper, real quick. It has come to my understanding that Baha’i faith seems to acknowledge different religious practices and doesn’t impose its believers to follow certain religious practices. It seems so versatile and open as a “religion”. Afterall, the Baha’i is a unique religious teaching which, still, little do I know.

In case you are interested in learning more about the Baha’i faith, just follow this link.

Please write your thought about the Baha’i faith in the comment section below. That’d be nice to learn together, wouldn’t it? 😉


New Beginning

Who would have thought that I would land my feet on U.S. soil? Two days ago, I finally did that. Prayers for “protection from mechanical failure and violent storms” (Chan, 2007) were delivered from Soekarno-Hatta Airport and I landed safely with colleagues, Yoes and Wara, at O’Hare Airport.

Chicago has entered the summer but it has not shown the kind of weather I expected. My colleagues and I arrived on a cloudy day and the wind seemed to be very enthusiastic about our arrival. The legend is true. Chicago is a windy city.

The three of us were very fortunate to have Beth, our Program Manager, pick us up at the airport. The queue to pass through immigration was as long as the queue of cars from Sudirman to Thamrin on Friday nights, so Beth must have had a huge amount of patience to wait for us to finally emerge one hour after our arrival time.

During our ride from O’Hare to Evanston, there was no traffic congestion and I enjoyed seeing the houses along the road. Most seemed to be built of dark red bricks and had no fence or gate—a rather different view from the typical middle to upper class homes in Jakarta. But I noticed also a small similarity with Jakarta, that is, most houses I saw had one to two cars parked in front. In between one housing area and another, we passed a car company and were surprised to see the amazingly low prices of used and new cars out for sale. If city administrators of Jakarta were to come here for their annual policy study exchange, I hope they would not be inspired to reduce the prices of cars back at home. Can you imagine how the traffic in Jakarta would be?

Evanston, in my opinion, is a small town that is quiet in the right amount. It is also easy to get around because the people are very friendly and helpful. The next great thing is Northwestern University’s (NU) campus. Although NU is known to be academically demanding, it also offers wonderful refreshing settings such as their jaw-dropping blue lake near Norris University Center. Overall, the environment of NU campus is very conducive to studying and learning.

Going back to the time way before this experience, my main motivation in applying for the Arryman Fellowship was to fulfill my dream to live in and work for an academic environment. Hence, I am grateful that I have now reached the beginning phase of living that dream.

(Sabina Satriyani Puspita/SSP)