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Re-Engaging Youth During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This week I had an email from a reader in Pakistan, asking me to reflect on these four subjects:

1)  What have we learned from the COVID-19 ??

2)  Our youths are sleeping until noon/afternoon and are active on social media (cell phone) during the whole night. Any specific topic or mini-compilation will be a great help as our Baha’i activities are suffering much due to this bad pattern of sleeping.

3)  Any article or mini compilations on meaningful ways of using social media.

4)  A compilation on media is a need of the hour.

Our children and few other Baha’i youths are doing active online courses (such as Transformative Leadership for Youth, The Baha’i Faith and the Arts, etc) with the Wilmette Institute in the USA.

I replied:

You ask some very important questions, and my heart goes out to you and to the youth of Pakistan.

Unfortunately I haven’t had any experience working with youth so I’m not the best person to ask.  Also, after reading their reality, each community needs to have a tailor-made program which will work for their population.  There are vast differences around the world, and within a country, from cluster to cluster.  So anything I could contribute would be from my perspective as someone living in an inactive cluster in rural Canada and not necessarily relevant to your corner of Pakistan.

Some thoughts did come to my mind after praying about how to help.

  1. I strongly believe that this is an issue of vital importance to the NSA, Baha’i Council, Auxiliary Board and Institute Board. Have you consulted with these institutions?
  1. These are topics which could be discussed with the animators, who could then introduce them into the junior youth empowerment program.
  1. If your Bahá’í youth are sleeping until noon/afternoon and are active on social media the whole night, their peers are probably doing the same. The problem may not be their sleeping pattern, but capitalizing on it to reach out to engage their cohorts in:
    • Meaningful conversations
    • Animator Training
    • Youth Conferences
    • Service to their Communities
    • Teaching Children’s Classes
    • Holding Devotional Gatherings
    • Completing the Sequence of Ruhi Classes
  1. Many ideas and suggestions can be found in the current guidance of the House of Justice, particularly the following letters.

Since then, there have been messages to Canada and the USA on the topic of healing racism.  There may have also been similar letters to your part of the world.

Perhaps a youth gathering could be organized on a platform such as Zoom, where youth and/or youth animators can gather together to study these messages and make plans.

  1. Perhaps youth could be encouraged to attend Bahá’í Summer Schools. If none have been organized in Pakistan, this is a good year to participate anywhere in the world they may want to go.   Perhaps a team of youth could research the dates, topics and registration details for summer schools around the world and encourage the youth to participate.
  1. Here are some articles discussing what Bahá’ís around the world are learning from the pandemic:

· Pilgrimage Travel Advisory Coronavirus (COVID-19):  https://pilgrimage.bwc.org/traveladvisory/

· Baha’i Education Efforts Move Online in a Hurry:  https://www.bahai.us/bahai-education-efforts-move-online-in-a-hurry/

· Spiritual Conversation: Spiritual Resilience in the Time of COVID-19:  https://www.bahaiblog.net/2020/06/spiritual-conversation-resilience-in-the-time-of-covid-19-video/

· From Baha’i to Zoroastrians, Jews to Jains: Keeping the Faith Amid COVID-19:  https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/covid19-singapore-religious-faith-ramadan-12764482

·  Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson – COVID-19 Special with Dr. Robert Kim-Farley:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBqHbFTb0Vo

· Hope and Support in Italy During a Global Health Crisis:  https://news.bahai.org/story/1401/

· Reflections on the Coronavirus and the Oneness of Humanity:  https://bahaiteachings.org/reflections-on-coronavirus-and-oneness-humanity/

· Rising to the Occasion in a Global Crisis:  https://news.bahai.org/story/1404/

·  Covid-19 and the Digital Era – Esther Kaufman:  http://blog.umd.edu/bahaichair/2020/06/15/covid-19-and-the-digital-era-esther-kaufman/

· Why are Blacks Dying at Higher Rates from COVID-19?  https://blog.umd.edu/bahaichair/2020/07/20/why-are-blacks-dying-at-higher-rates-from-covid-19-professor-rashawn-ray/

· Keeping Baha’i Prisoners, Iran Threatens the Entire Country’s Health:  https://religionnews.com/2020/04/16/keeping-bahai-prisoners-iran-threatens-the-entire-countrys-health/

· Heroes of the COVID-19 Era:  https://blogs.adobe.com/adobelife/2020/06/23/heroes-of-the-covid-19-era/

  1. Perhaps the following articles would spark some ideas of activities the youth could do. (I apologize for the Western focus but it was what I could find in my Google search.   You might do better from your part of the world.  The search terms I used were “Bahá’í Youth Covid”):
    • Elevate(a platform of resources that support a growing movement to develop spiritual consciousness and the capacity to serve society):  https://www.elevateworld.org/
  1. Perhaps youth animators could use some of these articles to find ideas to stimulate discussions in their junior youth programs:

· 10 Ways Young People are Leading the Way Against COVID-19:  https://womendeliver.org/2020/10-ways-young-people-are-leading-the-way-against-covid-19/

· Is COVID-19 Social Media’s Levelling Up Moment?  https://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanholmes/2020/04/24/is-covid-19-social-medias-levelling-up-moment/#29d55ba6c606

· Is the Media Creating Division on COVID-19 Health Practices?  https://news.gallup.com/poll/312749/media-creating-division-covid-health-practices.aspx

· Using More Social Media During COVID-19? You’re Not Alone. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/using-more-social-media-during-covid-19-youre-alone-ryan-holmes/

My most fervent hope for humanity during this pandemic, is that all mankind recognize the oneness of humanity; that this pandemic shows us our oneness and that we finally treat one another at home and around the world, as one.  This picture, taken during the early days, gave me great hope:

What jumped out for you as you read today’s article?

If you liked this article, you might also like my books, now available on Amazon.

What other ideas would you suggest to this reader?  Post your comments below.

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Service May Look Different if You’re an Introvert

A unity in diversity of actions is called for, a condition in which different individuals will concentrate on different activities, appreciating the salutary effect of the aggregate on the growth and development of the Faith, because each person cannot do everything and all persons cannot do the same thing.  (The Universal House of Justice, A Wider Horizon, Selected Letters 1983-1992, p. 80)

Recently I’ve come to accept myself as I am, not as I thought I wanted to be.  For example, for most of my Bahá’í life, I’ve immersed myself in the Writings and in the letters of the House of Justice and tried valiantly to align myself with what I understood the guidance to mean.  I drove myself to the point of exhaustion and burn out, trying to put every injunction into effect, truly believing that if I didn’t do everything being asked of all of us, I would personally be responsible to God for delaying the advent of the Most Great Peace.  Truly.  I believed this!

Then someone reminded me that humanity (including me) has been invited to the banquet table of the Lord.  All the Writings put together can be seen as a giant potluck meal and all I have to do is take what I can eat.  If I put more than that on my plate, it will be wasted and do me no good.  As an extreme introvert, I’m more comfortable writing than speaking; I prefer the solitude of a small circle of people, preferably one-on-one because social engagements leave me feeling exhausted and drained.  Much though I want to participate in the core activities, I feel best when doing activities that can be performed alone, and that’s OK.  There’s room in this Faith for all of us, doing the best we can, serving in ways that are aligned with the will of God and not done to please others.

Knowing that God loves me and appreciates every effort I make in service, I can stop judging myself so harshly, and I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

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True Service 

Let each one of you become the servant of the other; let each sacrifice himself for the sake of the other. (From a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—translated from the Persian, from Give me Thy Grace to Serve Thy Loved Ones, Compilation for the 2018 Counsellors’ Conference, [15])

I’m absolutely amazed at how creative people around the world have been since the start of the pandemic.  People self-isolating are finding ways to use technology to stay in touch, have children’s classes, and junior youth programs, study circles and devotional gatherings.  Because they are online, they can embrace larger numbers of people.  Parents at home are more receptive to encouraging their children and youth to participate or even to get involved with the community building process themselves.  People are reaching out to friends, neighbors and acquaintances more often, especially those in places where the numbers of people infected with the COVID-19 virus are high.

This week, my landlord (who owns many apartment buildings across a large geographic area, called to see if I was OK and to determine if there was anything I needed.  One of my neighbors dropped off some home-made muffins and this morning, my 80-year old neighbor called to say she was going grocery shopping and asked if I needed anything.  People all over the world are becoming servants to one another, and sacrificing themselves for their neighbors.  Never before in the history of mankind, has everyone in the whole world agreed to take a certain course of action, for the betterment of the world.  This will have long term implications and bring us a lot closer to the longed-for Most Great Peace.

Knowing the world has taken a giant step forward, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Be Happy

 

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A New Way of Looking at Service

Every aspect of a person’s life is an element of his or her service to Bahá’u’lláh:  the love and respect one has for one’s parents, the pursuit of one’s education, the nurturing of good health, the acquiring of a trade or profession, one’s behaviour towards others and the upholding of a high moral standard, one’s marriage and the bringing up of one’s children; one’s activities in teaching the Faith and the building up the strength of the Baha’i community . . . and, not least, to take time each day to read the Writings and say the Obligatory Prayer, which are the source of growing spiritual strength, understanding, and attachment to God.  (Universal House of Justice, to the European Baha’i youth Council, 7 December 1992)

Where has this quote been all my Baha’i life?  I realized when reading it, how narrow was my understanding of service.  I used to think that service was just participating in the core activities and raising up the community building process within our clusters.  I can see how I would get that impression because study of the Ruhi curriculum teaches us that this is what means to walk a path of service, and when the Statistics Officer contacts me to see what I’ve been doing, these are the only things they want to track.  Living in an inactive cluster and being an introvert, happier teaching and serving in an online environment, I have beaten myself up mercilessly for not being a good Baha’i, because I’m not currently serving in my cluster the way I think I “should”.  So I was very grateful to find this quote today!

I relate better to bullet points, which I can use as a checklist, so let’s take these one at a time:

  1. the love and respect one has for one’s parents
  2. the pursuit of one’s education
  3. the nurturing of good health
  4. the acquiring of a trade or profession
  5. one’s behaviour towards others
  6. the upholding of a high moral standard
  7. one’s marriage
  8. the bringing up of one’s children
  9. one’s activities in teaching the Faith
  10. building up the strength of the Baha’i community
  11. reading the Writings
  12. saying the Obligatory Prayer

Were any of these a surprise to you?  I was certainly surprised that they are all aspects of service.  I was happy to see that nurturing good health is also part of service, because of course, we can’t serve when we aren’t healthy.  I love belonging to such a compassionate religion and am grateful for the House of Justice elaborating on this issue!

Knowing that service is much broader than just “walking a path”, I can relax and I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Be Happy

 

 

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A New (to me) Definition of Service

At the same time we must be sensitive to the fact that Bahá’í artists may sometimes feel outside the mainstream of community life because they are unsure as to what form their service might take. They may feel their contributions are not valued if service to the Faith tends to be equated only with serving on committees or Assemblies.   (letter from the International Teaching Centre addressed to the Continental Counsellors, date unknown)

Most of my service to the Faith is done online, through this blog and my books, and through interactions with my readers and not at the level of my (inactive, pre-milestone one cluster).  It’s easy for me to beat myself up for not serving in the “right” way, especially when the statistics officer calls and wants to know which core activities are happening.  This quote really brought comfort to my heart, hearing this from an Institution of the Faith, even if it’s not “authoritative”, I can’t find the date and I can’t find it online.

Then I came across this “new” definition of service, which I’d never seen before, and which takes all the pressure off my concerns about not serving at the cluster level.  Here’s the quote:

…every aspect of a person’s life is an element of his or her service to Baha’u’llah: the love and respect one has for one’s parents; the pursuit of one’s education; the nurturing of good health; the acquiring of a trade or profession; one’s behavior towards others and the upholding of a high moral standard; one’s marriage and the bringing up of one’s children; one’s activities in teaching the Faith and the building up the strength of the Baha’i community, whether this be in such simple matters as attending the Nineteen Day Feast or the observance of Baha’i Holy Days, or in more demanding tasks required by service in the administration of the Faith; and, not least, to take time each day to read the Writings and say the Obligatory Prayer, which are the source of growing spiritual strength, understanding, and attachment to God.  (The Universal House of Justice, December 7, 1992, European Baha’i Youth Council)

Here are the 12 elements of service embedded in this quote:

Service to Bahá’u’lláh includes:

  1. the love and respect one has for one’s parents
  2. the pursuit of one’s education
  3. the nurturing of good health
  4. the acquiring of a trade or profession
  5. one’s behavior towards others
  6. the upholding of a high moral standard
  7. one’s marriage
  8. the bringing up of one’s children
  9. one’s activities in teaching the Faith
  10. building up the strength of the Baha’i community (attending the Nineteen Day Feasts or Holy Days, or in more demanding tasks required by service in the administration of the Faith)
  11. to take time each day to read the Writings
  12. to take time each day to say the Obligatory Prayer

Knowing I can relax and stop feeling guilty for not more actively participating in the community building process, particularly at the cluster level, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

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Understanding Being vs Doing

A few years ago we started to see the House of Justice refer to “being and doing”, both words I thought I understood.  Indeed the dictionary defines them as:

Being:  to exist or live

Doing:  to perform (an act, duty, role, etc.); to accomplish; finish; complete; to put forth; exert

It seems to me that one is passive and the other is active.

 

In a materialistic culture obsessed with “doing”, it is believed that as we “do” the correct things, success will follow.  In fact who we are while “doing” is more important than “being”.

I wondered:  Is there a dangerous side of goal-setting, to-do lists, and being efficient?  How much time do we need to spend in “doing” at the expense of just “being”?

As a recovering workaholic and perfectionist, the concepts of being and doing are synonymous in my mind!  Working is my form of play!

It’s been pointed out by many people over the years that I need to slow down and take time for rest and recreation.  They tell me that work and play are different and it’s hard for me to get my head around this concept. In fact Shoghi Effendi tells us:

You should . . . force yourself to take time, and not only for prayer and meditation, but for real rest and relaxation.  (Shoghi Effendi, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 53)

As always, whenever I’m puzzled about something, I take my question to the Baha’i  Writings.

In contrast to the dictionary definition, “being and doing” seem to have different meanings in the Faith.

Here’s how the House of Justice describes the two:

The importance of “doing”, of arising to serve and to accompany fellow souls, must be harmonized with the notion of “being”, of increasing one’s understanding of the divine teachings and mirroring forth spiritual qualities in one’s life.  (Universal House of Justice, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 29 December 2015)

So here we see:

Being is increasing our understanding of the divine teachings and mirroring forth spiritual qualities in our lives

Doing is arising to serve and to accompany fellow souls

Unlike the dictionary definition, both of these definitions seem to be active.

The House of Justice tells us that “being” has to do with the acquisition of knowledge (studying the Writings) and “doing” is applying what we’ve learned.

They warn us against false dichotomies:

Every effort is being exerted to ensure that the process reflects the complementarity of “being” and “doing” the institute courses make explicit; the centrality they accord to knowledge and its application; the emphasis they place on avoiding false dichotomies . . .  (Universal House of Justice, Letter to the Continental Board of Counsellors, 28 December 2010)

Closely related to the habit of reducing an entire theme into one or two appealing phrases is the tendency to perceive dichotomies, where, in fact, there are none. It is essential that ideas forming part of a cohesive whole not be held in opposition to one another. In a letter written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi warned:

We must take the teachings as a great, balanced whole, not seek out and oppose to each other two strong statements that have different meanings; somewhere in between, there are links uniting the two.   (Universal House of Justice, Letter to the Continental Board of Counsellors, 28 December 2010)

So they want us to find the link between the two.

Ruhi Book 5 was the first place I found that really addressed this issue head on, and I had a total meltdown going through that section!

In the section “Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth, pages 18-20 of the Pre-Publication Edition — Version VI.B” It says:

If we are not careful and adopt such a fragmented approach to our lives, we can create all kinds of dichotomies that are largely imaginary. Work, leisure, family life, spiritual life, physical health, intellectual pursuits, individual development, collective progress, and so on become pieces that together make up our existence. When we accept such divisions as real, we feel pulled in many directions, trying to respond to what we consider to be the demands of these different facets of life.

In my training as a life coach, I learned that it’s important to have a balance between the materialistic view of “being and doing” in life.  In fact, I often help people set goals in each of these areas, to help people live a life in moderation.  And now you’re telling me these divisions aren’t real?  That got my attention.  Of course, it’s the opinion of Ruhi and not from the Sacred Writings of our Faith, so that brought me some comfort.

The quote in book 5 continues:

We are bewildered by apparently conflicting aims: Should I sacrifice my family life to serve the Cause? Will not serving the Faith interfere with my efforts to raise my children? These are two examples of the myriad of questions that can arise.

These questions certainly arose in my life and I’ve spent many decades trying to resolve them.  As a single mother with clinical depression, serving as an assistant to the auxiliary board member in 2 clusters, I frequently sacrificed my family life to serve the Cause.  I would get up in the morning, get my son fed and made sure we said prayers together.  Once he was on the school bus, I would go back to bed, pull the covers over my head and stay there until it was time to meet the school bus again.  Many nights I would take him to Baha’i meetings.  He could see I wasn’t well, and at times he just wanted to hang out with me, but the Faith always came first.  I would make a herculean effort to rouse myself from my depression to make sure his needs were met and put a smile on my face as I went to the Baha’i meetings.  I frequently wonder if this is why he didn’t become a Baha’i.

Maybe there are ways to serve the Faith while raising children as a single parent, but I do wonder, especially in light of the fact that the World Centre will not accept single parents, and when there is a couple with children, only one parent will serve.

If I had my life to do over again, I would spend more time with my child, and focus the bulk of my service after he’d left home.   That would be how I would balance being (time with my son) and doing (time for service, later on).  Service to my son would also be “doing” as I was fulfilling the most important work there is – raising the new generation.

The quote in book 5 continues:

To resolve the dichotomies we have created, we sometimes try to divide our time equally among the various demands placed on us. On other occasions, we attempt to prioritize responsibilities and focus our energies on those we believe to be the most important at any particular moment. A careful allotment of time and energy is of course necessary. But it is only fruitful when we remain conscious of the interconnectedness of the many aspects of our lives. If we fail to see the whole, the tension created among all the parts can give rise to anxiety and even confusion.

I certainly feel anxiety and confusion whenever I struggle to understand this concept.  Shoghi Effendi, the best example of a goal-setter and planner on a grand scale, has told us we need to:

. . . leave the important for the most important.  (Universal House of Justice, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 109-110)

So he focused his energy on what he believed to be the most important at any particular moment.

What follows is a series of questions to consider in our example from Ruhi Book 5.  Here are the instructions we were given:

Below are various aspects of life placed in pairs that should reinforce each other, but which are sometimes thought to be in conflict. For each one of the sentences that follow the pair, decide whether it represents the kind of thinking that is conducive to an integrated way of life or whether it is indicative of a tendency towards fragmentation.

Family and Work

  • My family life will suffer if I work hard at my job.

This may be a fragmented way of thinking but I believe it to be true.  How can we possibly fulfil the roles set out for parents while working hard at a job?  You just have to look at the rate of divorce in the Baha’i community to see that family life is suffering; and educating our children is so important that ‘Abdu’l-Baha warns us:

Should they neglect this matter, they shall be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of the stern Lord.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 126)

For more on the role of parents, you might find these articles helpful:

The Role of Parents in Training us to be Obedient   http://susangammage.com/the-role-of-parents-in-training-us-to-be-obedient

The Responsibilities of Parenthood:  http://susangammage.com/the-responsibilities-of-parenthood

The Role of Fathers in a Bahá’í Family:  http://susangammage.com/the-role-of-fathers-in-a-bahai-family

  • I often discuss with my family my accomplishments at work and the challenges I face there.

Yes, this is an integrated way of thinking.

  • Of course women can excel in their careers, but the children always pay the price.

This may be a fragmented way of thinking, but again, I believe it to be true, based on the information in this article:

Should Bahá’í Mothers Stay at Home?  http://susangammage.com/should-bahai-mothers-stay-at-home

  • If I want to raise my children well, I will have to forget about my profession.

Yes, this is a fragmented way of thinking.  I think we can do both well, at different times in our lives.  If children are being encouraged to marry young (sometimes as early as 15) and understand that the purpose of marriage is to have children, it’s easy to see that the parenting role could be fulfilled with plenty of time to build a career later.

  • I can advance in my profession and fully attend to my family responsibilities.

Yes, this is a fragmented way of thinking and I believe it’s not possible.

‘Abdu’l-Baha tells us we can combine service with marriage:

As to the terminology I used in my letter, bidding thee to consecrate thyself to service in the Cause of God, the meaning of it is this: limit thy thoughts to teaching the Faith. Act by day and night according to the teachings and counsels and admonitions of Bahá’u’lláh. This doth not preclude marriage. Thou canst take unto thyself a husband and at the same time serve the Cause of God; the one doth not preclude the other. Know thou the value of these days; let not this chance escape thee.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 100)

I think this means rethinking how we can make our family life a priority by thinking of it as the most important service we can render to humankind.

Education and Service to the Cause

  • I have to choose between pioneering and education, since it is not possible to do both.

Of course it’s possible to gain an education in a pioneer post, so this can easily be integrated.

  • Academic achievement is a prerequisite for entering the field of service.

Absolutely not!  Junior youth are being encouraged to enter the field of service long before they’ve completed their academic education.

  • The knowledge I gain through my studies is an asset in the field of service, and the experience I gain in the arena of service enhances my abilities.

Yes, this is an integrated way of thinking.

  • I have to abandon my studies if I really want to devote myself to the Cause.

Not true!  You can easily find ways to be of service while continuing your studies.  For example, studying with others; sharing meals; trading chores; being a friend; living the life; teaching the Cause, etc.  Service to humanity comes in many forms, not just participation in the core activities.  It’s all part of community building.

Here’s a quote to consider, to make this more integrated:

All humanity must obtain a livelihood by sweat of the brow and bodily exertion, at the same time seeking to lift the burden of others, striving to be the source of comfort to souls and facilitating the means of living. This in itself is devotion to God. Bahá’u’lláh has thereby encouraged action and stimulated service. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 186)

  • One of my greatest aspirations is to learn to apply the teachings of the Faith in endeavors that promote the betterment of the world.

Of course, this is an integrated approach.

  • The period of service that I dedicate to promoting the Faith or participating in a Bahá’í-inspired social and economic development project will assist me in choosing a suitable field of study.

Of course!  Here is a quote to balance these ideas:

It is a compromise between the two verses of the “Aqdas”, one making it incumbent upon every Bahá’í to serve the promotion of the Faith and the other that every soul should be occupied in some form of occupation that will benefit society. In one of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh says that the highest form of detachment in this day is to be occupied with some profession and be self-supporting. A good Bahá’í, therefore, is the one who so arranges his life as to devote time both to his material needs and also to the service of the Cause.  (Universal House of Justice, The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Faith)

Intellectual Development and Development of Spiritual Qualities

  • The independent investigation of truth requires the cultivation of the intellect, as well as the acquisition of spiritual qualities.
  • In teaching the Faith to others, we should just show them love; what we say is not important.
  • Intellectual development requires justice, honesty, and lack of prejudice.
  • To develop spirituality, one has to let go of one’s intellect.
  • Our minds and hearts are not separate from each other; they represent complementary and mutually interactive aspects of one reality—our soul.
  • Spiritual qualities are developed through conscious knowledge and the exercise of good deeds.

These all make sense to me and it’s easy to distinguish integrated from fragmented.

Material Life and Spiritual Life

  • I must deny myself material pleasure in order to develop spiritually.
  • Spiritual matters should be put aside until we are old; during our youth we should take advantage of every opportunity to advance materially.
  • The material needs of people have to be satisfied before they are ready to pay attention to spiritual matters.
  • The purpose of my life on this material plane is to develop my spiritual qualities and powers.
  • We should enjoy all the bounties that the world has to offer but should not allow earthly desires to take hold of our hearts and prevent us drawing nearer and nearer to God.

Here is something to consider:

In Paris Talks (p. 98), ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us that some people’s lives are occupied only with the things of this world, and their minds are so constrained by exterior manners and traditional interests that they are blind to any other realm of existence or to the spiritual significance of all things.  He gives us examples I’m sure we can all relate to:

  • they think and dream of earthly fame, of material progress
  • sensuous delights and comfortable surroundings bound their horizon
  • their highest ambitions centre in successes of worldly conditions and circumstances
  • they don’t curb their lower propensities
  • they eat, drink, and sleep! like the animal, they have no thought beyond their own physical well-being

Although we need to take care of the necessities of life (eat, drink, sleep), the cares of the lower things of life should not monopolize all our thoughts and aspirations. Our heart’s ambitions should ascend to a more glorious goal, our mental activity should rise to higher levels and we should hold in our souls the vision of celestial perfection so we can prepare a dwelling-place for us in the next world.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 98)

Conclusion

This issue of being and doing as presented in Ruhi Book 5 certainly arises anxiety and confusion in my life, particularly in the area of family life, and now as I face my life as a workaholic in burnout, I’m even more confused!

I took book 5 with a group of youth who weren’t parents, so they couldn’t help me with my dilemma, and since then, I’ve tutored to groups who couldn’t help me resolve these questions, so I’m sincerely interested to hearing what you, my readers have to contribute on these issues.  Please, post your comments below.