The Fast Is Past—But Kevin Locke’s Talk on “An Indigenous Perspective on Fasting” Beckons

Kevin Locke, a Lakota artist and a Bahá’í, gave the inaugural Deepen! Web Video on Saturday, March 4, four days into the Bahá’í Fast. The presentation was broadcast live on the Wilmette Institute’s YouTube channel (with 100 viewers) and on its Facebook page (with some 43 viewers and more than 300 logging in after the talk). The Deepen! Videos are less formal than the Institute’s monthly Web Talks, and, like the Web Talks, they are free. But one must sign up for the live Deepen! Web Videos on the YouTube channel. So watch for publicity advertising them.

The Fast is past. So why is the Wilmette Institute still talking about it? First, it is always interesting to be among the first to experience something that is a first. Kevin’s talk on “An Indigenous Perspective on Fasting” qualifies. Second, learning more about the importance of fasting and prayer always reminds us about our purpose in life. So, what can you expect in the Web Video?

Kevin lives in South Dakota in a district in the Standing Rock Reservation, which he says is one of the poorest counties in the United States. He talked a little about the Standing Rock protests that have put the reservation on the map worldwide (and several times he mentioned the March 1, 2017, letter from the Universal House of Justice, which arrived on the first day of the Bahá’í fast, providing a “banquet for thought and mediation” and “foundational guidance” on global economic well-being and its implications for solving poverty). But that was not the heart of his talk. Fasting, which he called “a universal spiritual mandate,” was. Kevin opened by singing a Lakota prayer for fasting and then by reading a Bahá’í prayer revealed by Bahá’u’lláh for the fast.

Kevin then discussed the indigenous law of fasting and the pipe, which is a symbol/emblem/token of the Covenant, or Law, of God (he showed a photograph of Sitting Bull holding such a pipe). He then recounted the indigenous fasts he undertook for a number of years after his mother gave him the family pipe when he was seventeen or eighteen, his lack of success in finding a purpose for his life, his uncle’s guiding him to learning Lakota prayers, in one of which the Heavenly Grandfather Above promised a light and a red road that would end the Lakotas’ suffering. Returning from one of his Fasts, he was visited by Bahá’í pioneers in the area, who gave him a prayer book. Kevin opened the book to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s prayer for the Central States, which begins with “Praise and thanksgiving be unto Thee for Thou hast guided me to the highway of kingdom.” At last, Kevin had found his road and his purpose in life.

In the second half of his presentation, Kevin compared and contrasted the rigors of indigenous fasting, which can require a year’s worth of preparation and necessitates one’s being in excellent physical shape, and of Bahá’í fasting, which is lenient and has exemptions for several categories of people. He also turned to Bahá’í passages found in The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting, focusing on the essentials of fasting:

  • “Fasting and obligatory prayer are as two wings to man’s life”
  • “the religion of God is like unto heaven; fasting is its sun, and obligatory prayer is its moon. In truth, they are the pillars of religion whereby the righteous are distinguished from those who transgress His commandments”
  • “fasting is the supreme remedy and the most great healing for the disease of self and passion.”

Kevin said that he had spent much time learning Lakota prayers for fasting but that Bahá’í prayers give “us so much more about fasting.” He spent a good deal of time discussing the following paragraph from the prayer for fasting found in the U.S. prayer book, page 270–75, concentrating on the phrases in italics.

These are, O my God, the days whereon Thou didst enjoin Thy servants to observe the fast. With it Thou didst adorn the preamble of the Book of Thy Laws revealed unto Thy creatures, and didst deck forth the Repositories of Thy commandments in the sight of all who are in Thy heaven and all who are on Thy earth. Thou hast endowed every hour of these days with a special virtue, inscrutable to all except Thee, Whose knowledge embraceth all created things. Thou hast, also, assigned unto every soul a portion of this virtue in accordance with the Tablet of Thy decree and the Scriptures of Thine irrevocable judgment. Every leaf of these Books and Scriptures Thou hast, moreover, allotted to each one of the peoples and kindreds of the earth.

Kevin ended his presentation by saying that “fasting jump starts the spiritual side of man.” He then entertained a number of questions, providing additional insights into fasting.

Kevin’s talk is now available for viewing on the Wilmette Institute’s YouTube channel. Additional Deepen! Web Videos are in the planning stage and will be advertised in Wilmette Institute eflyers as they become available.

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