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Why I Don’t Want to Fall Prey to the Kingdom of Names

I noticed that in many of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh exhorts His followers not to become the bond-slaves of the “Kingdom of Names”. I found this phrase puzzling and didn’t know what it meant or how it might apply to me.  In the following quote, Baha’u’llah seems to use this term to refer to those who have busied themselves in the things of this world and forgotten to turn to God in all their affairs:

The Pen of the Most High is unceasingly calling; and yet, how few are those that have inclined their ear to its voice! The dwellers of the kingdom of names have busied themselves with the gay livery of the world, forgetful that every man that hath eyes to perceive and ears to hear cannot but readily recognize how evanescent are its colors.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 195)

In my quest to understand the roots of my workaholism, and find ways to overcome it, this made sense.  When I seek fame and popularity; when I make my “to do” lists and systematically attempt to cross each item off as more keep popping up, I exert my focus and willpower to get it all done, forgetting to ask God to guide me in all my affairs.  I forget to ask Him what His priorities are for my day, and in doing so, I fail to achieve my purpose in life, which is to know and worship Him.

So what exactly is the “kingdom of names” and how do I sever myself from it?  Adib Taherzadeh seems to have the best insights.  Although his writings are not authoritative, they are based on a greater understanding of the Writings than I have, so I pass them along, in case you find them helpful too.

He uses a very clear example here:

In this world every one of God’s attributes is clad with a name, and every such name reveals the characteristics of that attribute. For instance, generosity is an attribute of God, and it manifests itself in human beings. However, a person who has this attribute often becomes proud of it and loves to be referred to as generous. When his generosity is acknowledged by other people, he becomes happy, and when it is ignored, he is unhappy. This is one form of attachment to the Kingdom of Names. Although this example concerns the name ‘generosity’, the same is true of all the names and attributes of God manifested within the individual. Usually man ascribes these attributes to his own person rather than to God and employs them to boost his own ego. For instance, a learned man uses the attribute of knowledge to become famous and feels gratified and uplifted when his name is publicized far and wide. Or there is the individual whose heart leaps with feelings of pride and satisfaction when he hears his name mentioned and finds himself admired. These are examples of attachment to the Kingdom of Names.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 25)

So all of the things I’m praised for (being organized, respectful, courteous, diligent, hard-working etc) I claim for myself:

  • I am organized.
  • I am respectful.
  • I am hard-working. Etc

And every time I do that, I’ve fallen into the trap of attaching myself to the “kingdom of names”, and at risk of building up my ego.  In order to sever myself and become humble, I need to see these things as the signs of God in me, rather than something I’ve achieved for myself.

I need to change these thoughts into something like “God has given me the ability to organize; to be hard working, to be respectful, etc.”

To the extent I’m able to do this, I’ll be able to bestow divine perfections on the world and fulfill my part in the Covenant:

Such a man will bestow divine perfections upon the world of humanity. This is the loftiest station that God has destined for man. To the extent that a believer succeeds in severing himself from these three forms of attachment, will he be fulfilling his part in the Covenant of God.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 28)

That makes sense, because I will be continually praising God and giving Him the credit for all the work and service I do, which will stand out as “different” from those around me, and will be a way to teach the Faith and help others draw closer to God.

The key to severing myself seems to be to realize that my virtues aren’t my own, but are manifestations of the attributes of God:

If a man can only realize that his virtues are not intrinsically his own, but rather are manifestations of the attributes of God, then he is freed from the Kingdom of Names and becomes truly humble. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 28)

Apparently it’s not as easy to do as we might think, however.  Adib tells us this might be our most difficult task and to do so might last a lifetime:

To sever oneself from the Kingdom of Names may prove to be the most difficult task for a Bahá’í, and the struggle may indeed last a lifetime. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 28)

When I am driven to achieve more, to please more people, to make a name for myself in the world, Baha’u’llah reminds me that this won’t profit me in the slightest.

Would it profit you in the least if, as ye fondly imagine, your names were to endure? Nay, by the Lord of all worlds! … Should your names fade from every mortal mind, and yet God be well pleased with you, ye will indeed be numbered among the treasures of His name, the Most Hidden.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 47)

Adib reminds us:

There are many people who have rendered notable services to the Faith and their names are recorded in its annals, yet when the winds of tests blew they were unable to subdue their self and ego. These individuals not only lost their faith, but also their goodness and virtues. They fell from the heights of glory into the abyss of degradation and ignominy.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 264)

I’ve been striving towards the wrong things, and I certainly don’t want to be counted among those who’ve fallen into the abyss of degradation and ignominy.  Please God, protect me from that test!

Instead, I need to make sure that God is pleased with me.  We’ve all grown up being taught first to please our parents, then our teachers, then our bosses.  But how many of us have been taught how to please God before all else?  This may be why it will take a lifetime to undo this conditioning.

Fortunately we don’t have to do it all ourselves.  We have the transformative effect of the Revelation of Baha’ullah to help reverse this process:

The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh aims to reverse this process. The soul of man needs to be adorned with the virtues of humility and self-effacement so that it may become detached from the Kingdom of Names.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 22)

How has this helped your understanding?  Post your comments below.

What We Know About Our Lower Nature

What is Our Lower Nature? 

Anything that is contrary to the will of God comes from our lower nature, or ego.

This would be contrary to the will of God and according to the will of Satan, by which we mean the natural inclinations of the lower nature. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 286-287)

Whatever is interpreted as evil refers to the lower nature in man.

The evil spirit, Satan or whatever is interpreted as evil, refers to the lower nature in man. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 76-79)

Our baser nature is symbolized in various ways:

This baser nature is symbolized in various ways.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 76-79)

Often, it’s symbolized as Satan, described as the evil ego within us rather than an evil personality outside.

This lower nature in man is symbolized as Satan—the evil ego within us, not an evil personality outside.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 286-287)

God never created an evil spirit – these ideas have always been symbols of our earthly nature:

God has never created an evil spirit; all such ideas and nomenclature are symbols expressing the mere human or earthly nature of man.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 76-79)

The greatest of degradations is to leave the Shadow of God and enter under the shadow of Satan (or our ego or lower nature).  ’Abdu’l-Bahá is reported to have said:

The greatest of degradation is to leave the Shadow of God and enter under the shadow of Satan.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 13, No. 1, March 21, pp. 19-25)

Characteristics of the Lower Nature

All the imperfections found in animals are also found in man.  Innate in man is rancour; the struggle for existence; the propensity for warfare; love of self; jealousy; hypocrisy, slyness, greed, ignorance, injustice, tyranny and so on.  Our reality, therefore, is clad in the garment of the animal or the world of nature.  It’s a world of darkness; imperfection, and infinite baseness.  ’Abdu’l-Bahá is reported to have said:

For instance, consider in man there is rancor, in man there is struggle for existence; in the nature of man there is propensity for warfare; innate in man there is love of self; in him there is jealousy, and so on with all the other imperfections and thus, in a word, all the imperfections found in the animal are to be found in man. For instance, in the animal there is ferocity; there is also ferocity in man. In the animal there is what is called hypocrisy or slyness, like unto that in the fox; and in the animal there is greed — and there is ignorance. So there are all these in man. In the animal there are injustice and tyranny; so likewise are they in man. The reality of man, therefore, is clad, you might say, in its outer form in the garment of the animal, in the garment of the world of nature, of the world of darkness; that is the world of imperfection, that is the world of infinite baseness.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, vol. VII, no. 8, August 1, 1916)

Whenever you see jealousy, greed, the struggle for survival, deception, hypocrisy, tyranny, oppression, disputes, strife, bloodshed, looting and pillaging, which all emanate from the world of nature, you realize that we are all immersed in the world of nature to one degree or another.

Today all people are immersed in the world of nature. That is why thou dost see jealousy, greed, the struggle for survival, deception, hypocrisy, tyranny, oppression, disputes, strife, bloodshed, looting and pillaging, which all emanate from the world of nature. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 206)

Sins such as injustice, tyranny, hatred, hostility and strife are characteristics of the lower nature:

Sin is the state of man in the world of the baser nature, for in nature exist defects such as injustice, tyranny, hatred, hostility, strife: these are characteristics of the lower plane of nature. These are the sins of the world, the fruits of the tree from which Adam did eat.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 177)

The lower nature appeals to everyone differently, according to each person’s own way.  ’Abdu’l-Bahá is reported to have said:

Satan appears in different robes and appeals to everyone according to each person’s own way.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 13, No. 1, March 21, pp. 19-25)

The lower nature can be manipulated by others:

A strong-willed man, by appealing to the lower nature of man, or exciting the people’s sentiments, may succeed in bringing about an uprising or a revolution in which he himself becomes the focal point.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 2, p. 123)

How?

Other people will try to mislead you through temptations which arouse the desires of self and cause you to follow your own lower nature, taking you away from God.  ’Abdu’l-Bahá is reported to have said:

It is clear to your honor that before long Satan, in the garb of man, will reach that land and will try to mislead the friends of the Divine Beauty through temptations which arouse the desires of self, and will cause them to follow the footsteps of Satan away from the right and glorious path, and prevent them from attaining the Blessed Shore of the King of Oneness. This is a hidden information of which we have informed the chosen ones lest they may be deprived of their praiseworthy station by associating with the embodiments of hatred.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 13, No. 1, March 21, pp. 19-25)

We need to do everything we can to protect ourselves, because if our lower nature has its way, we will be stuck in it, with no promptings from our higher nature to help us get free.  ’Abdu’l-Bahá is reported to have said::

Endeavor to your utmost to protect yourselves, because Satan appears in different robes and appeals to everyone according to each person’s own way, until he becomes like unto him—then he will leave him alone.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 13, No. 1, March 21, pp. 19-25)

Why do we have a lower nature?

We seem to need opposites in life.  In this case, we see that even the world of nature is defective:

The world of nature is defective. Look at it clearly, casting aside all superstition and imagination . . . It is an essential condition of the soil of earth that thorns, weeds and fruitless trees may grow from it. Relatively speaking, this is evil; it is simply the lower state and baser product of nature.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 77)

The struggle between our lower nature and the Divine teachings draw us towards our true station.

The struggle between the forces of darkness—man’s lower nature—and the rising sun of the Divine teachings which draw him on to his true station, intensifies day by day.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 113)

Effects of Living in our Lower Nature

When we are captives of our self and desire, engulfed in the passions of our lower nature, we find wealth and fame and enjoy the comforts of life, but in the end, the outcome is always utter evanescence and oblivion.  No trace of us remains; no fruit; no result; no benefit to carry forward to eternity.

Consider the human world. See how nations have come and gone. They have been of all minds and purposes. Some were mere captives of self and desire, engulfed in the passions of the lower nature. They attained to wealth, to the comforts of life, to fame. And what was the final outcome? Utter evanescence and oblivion. Reflect upon this. Look upon it with the eye of admonition. No trace of them remains, no fruit, no result, no benefit; they have gone utterly—complete effacement.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 186)

When we follow the promptings of the self, it takes us insistently to wickedness and lust.

Follow not the promptings of the self, for it summoneth insistently to wickedness and lust.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 41)

The desires of our lower nature have altered the face of creation.

Fear God, and follow not your desires which have altered the face of creation.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 75)

If the spiritual qualities of the soul are never used, they become atrophied, enfeebled, and at last incapable.  Unhappy and misguided, we become more savage; more unjust; more vile; more cruel and more malevolent than the lower animals themselves.   When all our aspirations and desires are being strengthened by the lower side of our soul’s nature, we become more and more brutal, until our whole being is worse than the beasts that perish.

But on the other hand, when man does not open his mind and heart to the blessing of the spirit, but turns his soul towards the material side, towards the bodily part of his nature, then is he fallen from his high place and he becomes inferior to the inhabitants of the lower animal kingdom. In this case the man is in a sorry plight! For if the spiritual qualities of the soul, open to the breath of the Divine Spirit, are never used, they become atrophied, enfeebled, and at last incapable; whilst the soul’s material qualities alone being exercised, they become terribly powerful—and the unhappy, misguided man, becomes more savage, more unjust, more vile, more cruel, more malevolent than the lower animals themselves. All his aspirations and desires being strengthened by the lower side of the soul’s nature, he becomes more and more brutal, until his whole being is in no way superior to that of the beasts that perish.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 97)

Our lower nature and those of the people around us are dangerous because, by standing as “observation posts”, they prevent us from taking the path to God, by every means of deception and ruse possible.  ’Abdu’l-Bahá is reported to have said::

. . . the manifestations of Satan are occupying today the observation posts of the glorious path of God, and preventing the people by every means of deception and ruse. Before long you will witness the turning away of the people of Bayan from the Manifestation of the Merciful.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 13, No. 1, March 21, pp. 19-25)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá compares those who chose to stay in their lower natures to the earthworm, whose highest aim is to struggle to dig down to the depths of the earth despite the fact that they are bound by a thousand cares and sorrows; never safe from danger, or secure from sudden death. After a brief span, they are utterly effaced, and no sign remains to tell of them, and no word of them is ever heard again.

But the pitiable earthworms love only to tunnel into the ground, and what a mighty struggle they make to get themselves down into its depths! Even so are the sons of earth. Their highest aim is to augment their means of continuing on, in this vanishing world, this death in life; and this despite the fact that they are bound hand and foot by a thousand cares and sorrows, and never safe from danger, not even for the twinkling of an eye; never at any time secure, even from sudden death. Wherefore, after a brief span, are they utterly effaced, and no sign remaineth to tell of them, and no word of them is ever heard again.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 175-176)

Is this really the life we want to live?

How do we stay trapped in our lower nature?

Since we were created noble; in the image of God; a mine rich in gems of inestimable value, what causes us to change?

We stop paying attention to the Kingdom of God, and step off His path.  We remain attached to worldly attractions.  We’ve become defiled with qualities which are not praiseworthy in the sight of God.  We have become so completely steeped in material issues and tendencies that we fail to partake of the virtues of humanity.

We have forsaken the path of God; we have given up attention to the divine Kingdom; we have not severed the heart from worldly attractions; we have become defiled with qualities which are not praiseworthy in the sight of God; we are so completely steeped in material issues and tendencies that we are not partakers of the virtues of humanity.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 186)

Breaking Free

‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us that man can become conscious; discover the mysteries and realities of life; be in touch with the realm of God; use his mighty will to rule over his lower nature; modify the influence of his instincts; voluntarily discontinue vices; acquire divine virtues and make progress:

It is evident, therefore, that man is ruler over nature’s sphere and province. Nature is inert; man is progressive. Nature has no consciousness; man is endowed with it. Nature is without volition and acts perforce, whereas man possesses a mighty will. Nature is incapable of discovering mysteries or realities, whereas man is especially fitted to do so. Nature is not in touch with the realm of God; man is attuned to its evidences. Nature is uninformed of God; man is conscious of Him. Man acquires divine virtues; nature is denied them. Man can voluntarily discontinue vices; nature has no power to modify the influence of its instincts.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 177-178)

He can’t do it by himself, though.  The soul needs training and guidance to get beyond the lower nature:

Briefly; the journey of the soul is necessary. The pathway of life is the road which leads to divine knowledge and attainment. Without training and guidance the soul could never progress beyond the conditions of its lower nature which is ignorant and defective.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 76-79)

Man’s outlook on life is too crude and materialistic to enable us to elevate ourselves into the higher realms of the spirit, so religion’s role is to improve and transform us.

Man’s outlook on life is too crude and materialistic to enable him to elevate himself into the higher realms of the spirit. It is this condition, so sadly morbid, into which society has fallen, that religion seeks to improve and transform.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 134)

The Manifestations of God come into the world to dispel the darkness of our animal nature and purify us from our imperfections so that our spiritual nature can become quickened, our divine qualities awakened, our perfections made visible, our potential powers revealed and all the virtues of the world of humanity latent within us to  come to life.

They are the educators, trainers and teachers able to liberate us from the darkness of our lower nature, deliver us from despair, error, ignorance, imperfections and all evil qualities.

They clothe us in the garment of perfections and virtues; make us wise and lead us into kingdoms of light and love. They cause us to become just; sever us from self and desire; make us meek, humble and friendly.  They make us heavenly; transform us and develop us into maturity. They endow us with wealth and uplift us into dignity, nobility and loftiness.

The holy Manifestations of God come into the world to dispel the darkness of the animal or physical nature of man, to purify him from his imperfections in order that his heavenly and spiritual nature may become quickened, his divine qualities awakened, his perfections visible, his potential powers revealed and all the virtues of the world of humanity latent within him may come to life. These holy Manifestations of God are the educators and trainers of the world of existence, the teachers of the world of humanity. They liberate man from the darkness of the world of nature, deliver him from despair, error, ignorance, imperfections and all evil qualities. They clothe him in the garment of perfections and exalted virtues. Men are ignorant; the Manifestations of God make them wise. They are animalistic; the Manifestations make them human. They are savage and cruel; the Manifestations lead them into kingdoms of light and love. They are  unjust; the Manifestations cause them to become just. Man is selfish; they sever him from self and desire. Man is haughty; they make him meek, humble and friendly. He is earthly; they make him heavenly. Men are material; the Manifestations transform them into semblance divine. They are immature children; the Manifestations develop them into maturity. Man is poor; they endow him with wealth. Man is base, treacherous and mean; the Manifestations of God uplift him into dignity, nobility and loftiness.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 110-111)

Religion teaches that moderation and daily vigilance are necessary, if we want to be in control of our carnal desires and corrupt inclinations.

Such a chaste and holy life, with its implications of modesty, purity, temperance, decency and clean-mindedness, involves no less than the exercise of moderation in all that pertains to dress, language, amusements, and all artistic and literary avocations. It demands daily vigilance in the control of one’s carnal desires and corrupt inclinations. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 364)

Religion teaches us to protect ourselves and shun anyone who tells you to do anything against the commandments of God, even though they may be quoting from all the right books.  ’Abdu’l-Bahá is reported to have said:

Therefore, it is incumbent upon all the friends of God to shun any person in whom they perceive the emanation of hatred for the Glorious Beauty of Bahá, though he may quote all the Heavenly Utterances and cling to all the Books.” He continues— “Glorious be His Name!—“Protect yourselves with utmost vigilance, lest you be entrapped in the snare of deception and fraud.” This is the advice of the Pen of Destiny.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 13, No. 1, March 21, pp. 19-25)

Religion teaches us it’s important to turn away from satanic promptings, because divine bestowals bring forth unity and agreement, whereas satanic leadings induce hatred and war.

Therefore, mankind must continue in the state of fellowship and love, emulating the institutions of God and turning away from satanic promptings, for the divine bestowals bring forth unity and agreement, whereas satanic leadings induce hatred and war.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 124)

Religion teaches us we need to use our free will; exert ourselves and make an effort:

Not only has he to exert himself to acquire spiritual qualities . . .  but the development of spiritual qualities is not controlled by nature. Although the soul aspires to spiritual things, the acquiring of spiritual qualities depends upon effort. It is in this domain that man has been given free will. This is very similar to a bird which in flight must use its wings to counteract the force of gravity. If it fails to do this, it will be pulled down instantly by this force.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 3, p. 78)

Religion teaches we must be prepared to go through pain; suffering; tests; deprivation and sacrifice in order to subdue the self.  This is because there is always a reaction when a force is suppressed.

In subduing his self with all its manifold aspects, he must be prepared to go through pain and suffering and tests. This is only natural, for there is always a reaction when a force is suppressed. Man’s material inclinations, when curbed by the dictates of his spiritual being, will undergo some form of deprivation and sacrifice. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 3, p. 78-79)

To be freed from every bond and become attached to the Kingdom of God, we need to strive to become characterized with His attributes.

Strive thine utmost to become godlike, characterized with His attributes, illumined and merciful, that thou mayest be freed from every bond and become attached at heart to the Kingdom of the incomparable Lord. This is Bahá’í bounty, and this is heavenly light.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 206)

Very few of us have been freed from this darkness and ascended from the world of nature.  Those who have been freed, have followed the divine Teachings and served the world of humanity, and, as a result, are resplendent, merciful, illumined and like unto a rose garden:

Few are those who have been freed from this darkness, who have ascended from the world of nature to the world of man, who have followed the divine Teachings, have served the world of humanity, are resplendent, merciful, illumined and like unto a rose garden.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 206)

Benefits to Breaking Free

When we make a sacrifice something of material value in the path of God and wholly for His sake, we are rewarded spiritually.  We become detached from the material world and are able to draw closer to God, and thereby fulfil the purpose of our lives.

In subduing his self with all its manifold aspects, he must be prepared to go through pain and suffering and tests. This is only natural, for there is always a reaction when a force is suppressed. Man’s material inclinations, when curbed by the dictates of his spiritual being, will undergo some form of deprivation and sacrifice. For instance, one may sacrifice his comfort and material means in order to help the poor and the needy. In so doing, one is rewarded spiritually, but has to give up something of material value instead. This sacrifice, if carried out in the path of God and for His sake, is most meritorious. It enables the soul to become detached from the material world, and thus brings it closer to God. This is one of the fruits of sacrifice.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 3, p. 78-79)

If we can dominate our lower nature, we can become detached from this world:

To the extent that man can dominate his lower nature will he become detached from this world. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 3, p. 78-79)

How was this helpful?  Post your comments below!

Is Criticism Allowed In The Baha’i Faith?

 

I was playing a game at summer school last year, in which we were asked this question and of course, I answered “no”.  Bahá’ís have to be positive, loving, forgiving, creating unity, building communities, don’t we?

How can we do that if we allow criticism to come in?

I was shocked that the answer I gave was wrong!  I set out to prove the speaker wrong (thereby criticizing them in my own mind!  O God, forgive me, please!).  I was surprised by what I found.  Have a look with me.

The answer is both yes (with conditions) and no, as we’ll see below.

We all have a right to set forth our views:

Let us also remember that at the very root of the Cause lies the principle of the undoubted right of the individual to self-expression, his freedom to declare his conscience and set forth his views. (Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, p. 63)

The root cause of criticism is lack of faith in the system of Baha’u’llah:

Vicious criticism is indeed a calamity. But its root is lack of faith in the system of Bahá’u’lláh, i.e., the Administrative Order — and lack of obedience to Him — for He has forbidden it! If the Bahá’ís would follow the Bahá’í laws in voting, in electing, in serving and in abiding by Assembly decisions, all this waste of strength through criticizing others could be diverted into cooperation and achieving the Plan. (Shoghi Effendi, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

We have been protected against the misuse of criticism through the Covenant and by an administration which draws out the constructive ideas of individuals and uses them for the benefit of the entire system:

If Bahá’í individuals deliberately ignore the principles imbedded in the Order which Bahá’u’lláh Himself has established to remedy divisiveness in the human family, the Cause for which so much has been sacrificed will surely be set back in its mission to rescue world society from complete disintegration. May not the existence of the Covenant be invoked again and again, so that such repetition may preserve the needed perspective? For, in this age, the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh has been protected against the baneful effects of the misuse of the process of criticism; this has been done by the institution of the Covenant and by the provision of a universal administrative system which incorporates within itself the mechanisms for drawing out the constructive ideas of individuals and using them for the benefit of the entire system. Admonishing the people to uphold the unifying purpose of the Cause, Bahá’u’lláh, in the Book of His Covenant, addresses these poignant words to them: “Let not the means of order be made the cause of confusion and the instrument of union an occasion for discord.” Such assertions emphasize a crucial point; it is this: In terms of the Covenant, dissidence is a moral and intellectual contradiction of the main objective animating the Bahá’í community, namely, the establishment of the unity of mankind. (Universal House of Justice, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 15-16)

Yes, with conditions

We are fully entitled to address criticisms but then we must whole-heartedly accept the advice or decision of the assembly:

The Bahá’ís are fully entitled to address criticisms to their assemblies; they can freely air their views about policies or individual members of elected bodies to the assembly, local or national, but then they must whole-heartedly accept the advice or decision of the assembly, according to the principles already laid down for such matters in Bahá’í administration. (Shoghi Effendi, Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, p. 55)

It is our vital responsibility to offer fully and frankly, but with due respect and consideration to the authority of the Assembly, any suggestion, recommendation or criticism he conscientiously feels he should in order to improve and remedy certain existing conditions or trends in his local community:

You had asked whether the believers have the right to openly express their criticism of any Assembly action or policy; it is not only the right, but the vital responsibility of every loyal and intelligent member of the Community to offer fully and frankly, but with due respect and consideration to the authority of the Assembly, any suggestion, recommendation or criticism he conscientiously feels he should in order to improve and remedy certain existing conditions or trends in his local community, and it is the duty of the Assembly also to give careful consideration to any such views submitted to them by any one of the believers.  (Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Meetings/The Nineteen Day Feasts, pp. 27-28)

Criticism should be addressed to the institutions of the Faith and not aired in the community where it might foment division and misunderstandings:

It is clear then that criticism is allowed, but it should be addressed to the institutions of the Faith and not aired in the community where it might foment division and misunderstandings.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

The best time to do it is at the Feast:

The best occasion chosen for this purpose is the Nineteen Day Feast which, besides its social and spiritual aspects, fulfills various administrative needs and requirements of the Community, chief among them being the need for open and constructive criticism and deliberation regarding the state of affairs within the local Bahá’í Community.  (Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Meetings/The Nineteen Day Feasts, pp. 27-28)

No

Criticism and discussions of a negative character which undermines the authority of the assembly should be strictly avoided:

It should be stressed that all criticism and discussions of a negative character which may result in undermining the authority of the assembly as a body should be strictly avoided. For otherwise the order of the Cause itself will be endangered, and confusion and discord will reign in the community. (Shoghi Effendi, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Criticism is often the harbinger of conflict and contention:

The responsibility resting on the individual to conduct himself in such a way as to ensure the stability of society takes on elemental importance in this context. For vital as it is to the progress of society, criticism is a two-edged sword: It is all too often the harbinger of conflict and contention. The balanced processes of the Administrative Order are meant to prevent this essential activity from degenerating to any form of dissent that breeds opposition and its dreadful schismatic consequences. How incalculable have been the negative results of ill-directed criticism: in the catastrophic divergences it has created in religion, in the equally contentious factions it has spawned in political systems, which have dignified conflict by institutionalizing such concepts as the “loyal opposition” which attach to one or another of the various categories of political opinion — conservative, liberal, progressive, reactionary, and so on.  (Universal House of Justice, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 15-16)

If we continually criticize their acts and challenge or belittle their decisions, we prevent any real progress and repel outsiders:

The Guardian believes that a great deal of the difficulties from which the believers . . . feel themselves to be suffering are caused by their neither correctly understanding or putting into practice the administration. They seem — many of them — to be prone to continually challenging and criticizing the decisions of their assemblies. If the Bahá’ís undermine the very leaders which are, however immaturely, seeking to coordinate Bahá’í activities and administer Bahá’í affairs, if they continually criticize their acts and challenge or belittle their decisions, they not only prevent any real rapid progress in the Faith’s development from taking place, but they repel outsiders who quite rightly may ask how we ever expect to unite the whole world when we are so disunited among ourselves!  (Shoghi Effendi, The National Spiritual Assembly compilation, p. 35-36)

It is again not permitted that any one of the honoured members object to or censure, whether in or out of the meeting, any decision arrived at previously, though that decision be not right, for such criticism would prevent any decision from being enforced. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 88)

In this Cause, consultation is of vital importance; but spiritual conference and not the mere voicing of personal views is intended. In France I was present at a session of the senate but the experience was not impressive. Parliamentary procedure should have for its object the attainment of the light of truth upon questions presented and not furnish a battleground for opposition and self-opinion. Antagonism and contradiction are unfortunate and always destructive to truth. In the parliamentary meeting mentioned, altercation and useless quibbling were frequent; the result mostly confusion and turmoil; even in one instance a physical encounter took place between two members. It was not consultation but comedy.   . . Therefore true consultation is spiritual conference in the attitude and atmosphere of love. Members must love each other in the spirit of fellowship in order that good results may be forthcoming. Love and fellowship are the foundation.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)

Contradiction and altercation will make it necessary for a judicial body to render decision upon the question:

Opposition and division are deplorable. It is better then to have the opinion of a wise, sagacious man; otherwise, contradiction and altercation, in which varied and divergent views are presented, will make it necessary for a judicial body to render decision upon the question.   (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)

Conclusion:

So from this we learn that criticism is a two-edged sword.  On the one hand:

  • We have a right to set forth our views
  • We are fully entitled to address criticisms to our assemblies
  • We can freely air our views about policies or individual members of elected bodies to the assembly
  • We must whole-heartedly accept the advice or decision of the assembly
  • It is our responsibility to offer suggestions, recommendations or criticism in order to improve and remedy conditions or trends in our local community
  • We do so fully and frankly, with due respect and consideration to the authority of the Assembly
  • It is the duty of the Assembly to give careful consideration to any such views
  • Criticism is allowed, but it should be addressed to the institutions of the Faith and not aired in the community
  • The best occasion chosen for this purpose is the Nineteen Day Feast which encourages open and constructive criticism and deliberation regarding the state of affairs within the local Bahá’í Community
  • We are protected against the effects of the misuse of the process of criticism through the institution of the Covenant
  • Our administrative system has the mechanisms for drawing out the constructive ideas of individuals and using them for the benefit of the entire system

And on the other hand:

  • Criticism which undermines the authority of the assembly should be strictly avoided
  • Criticism’s root is lack of faith in the system of Bahá’u’lláh
  • Criticism is a waste of strength that could be diverted into cooperation and achieving the Plan
  • Criticism is often the harbinger of conflict and contention
  • Criticism allows confusion and discord to reign
  • Criticism breeds opposition
  • Criticism leads to division and misunderstandings
  • Criticism has dreadful schismatic consequences
  • Criticism leads to negative results
  • Criticism has created catastrophic divergences in religion, in the equally
  • Criticism has spawned contentious factions in political systems
  • Criticism prevents any real rapid progress in the Faith’s development from taking place
  • Criticism furnishes a battleground for opposition and self-opinion
  • Criticism is destructive to truth
  • Criticism results in confusion and turmoil
  • Criticism can lead to physical violence
  • Criticism that creates dissidence prevents the establishment of the unity of mankind
  • Criticism repels outsiders who quite rightly may ask how we ever expect to unite the whole world when we are so disunited among ourselves

How has this helped you understand this issue better?  Post your comments below!

Overcoming Our Ego

What is Our Ego?

We all have two natures – the higher and the lower.

In man there are two natures; his spiritual or higher nature and his material or lower nature.  In one he approaches God, in the other he lives for the world alone.  Signs of both these natures are to be found in men.  In his material aspect he expresses untruth, cruelty and injustice; all these are the outcome of his lower nature.  The attributes of his Divine nature are shown forth in love, mercy, kindness, truth and justice, one and all being expressions of his higher nature.  Every good habit, every noble quality belongs to man’s spiritual nature, whereas all his imperfections and sinful actions are born of his material nature.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 60)

The ego is the animal side of us, which is full of selfish desires:

The ego is the animal in us, the heritage of the flesh which is full of selfish desires.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

Other names for ego include lower nature, and Satan:

This lower nature in man is symbolized as Satan — the evil ego within us, not an evil personality outside.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 287)

According to the Bahá’í teachings, there is no such being as Satan. Satan is a human being who is led by his ego to live a life of wickedness and ungodliness. Shoghi Effendi’s secretary states on his behalf that ‘devil or Satan is symbolic of evil and dark forces yielding to temptation’ (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 513)

How is the Ego Developed?

From early childhood, human society trains us to exalt ourselves above others with the ultimate aim of achieving self-importance, success and power:

Human society at present exerts a pernicious influence upon the soul of man. Instead of allowing him to live a life of service and sacrifice, it is highly competitive and teaches him to pride himself on his accomplishments. From early childhood he is trained to develop his ego and to seek to exalt himself above others, in the ultimate aim of achieving self-importance, success and power. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 22)

How Does the Ego Manifest?

Instead of allowing us to live a life of service and sacrifice, our ego is highly competitive and teaches us to pride ourselves on our accomplishments. From early childhood we are trained to exalt ourselves above others, with the ultimate aim of achieving self-importance, success and power.

Instead of allowing him to live a life of service and sacrifice, it is highly competitive and teaches him to pride himself on his accomplishments. From early childhood he is trained to develop his ego and to seek to exalt himself above others, in the ultimate aim of achieving self-importance, success and power.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 22)

It manifests when we are thinking only of ourselves:

If man were to care for himself only he would be nothing but an animal for only the animals are thus egoistic. If you bring a thousand sheep to a well to kill nine hundred and ninety-nine the one remaining sheep would go on grazing, not thinking of the others and worrying not at all about the lost, never bothering that its own kind had passed away, or had perished or been killed. To look after one’s self only is therefore an animal propensity. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 41)

It manifests when we are willing to be well off while others are in misery and distress:

It is the animal propensity to live solitary and alone. It is the animal proclivity to look after one’s own comfort. But man was created to be a man—to be fair, to be just, to be merciful, to be kind to all his species, never to be willing that he himself be well off while others are in misery and distress—this is an attribute of the animal and not of man. Nay, rather, man should be willing to accept hardships for himself in order that others may enjoy wealth; he should enjoy trouble for himself that others may enjoy happiness and well-being. This is the attribute of man. This is becoming of man. Otherwise man is not man—he is less than the animal.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 41)

It manifests as personal desires and achievement of leadership:

Now some of the mischief-makers, with many stratagems, are seeking leadership, and in order to reach this position they instil doubts among the friends that they may cause differences, and that these differences may result in their drawing a party to themselves. But the friends of God must be awake and must know that the scattering of these doubts hath as its motive personal desires and the achievement of leadership.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 214)

It manifests when we ascribe certain attributs as belonging to us and not to God; and when we employ them to boost our own ego:

In many of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh exhorts His followers not to become the bond-slaves of the Kingdom of Names. The well-known Islamic saying, ‘The Names come down from heaven’, has many meanings. In this world every one of God’s attributes is clad with a name, and every such name reveals the characteristics of that attribute. For instance, generosity is an attribute of God, and it manifests itself in human beings. However, a person who has this attribute often becomes proud of it and loves to be referred to as generous. When his generosity is acknowledged by other people, he becomes happy, and when it is ignored, he is unhappy. This is one form of attachment to the Kingdom of Names. Although this example concerns the name ‘generosity‘, the same is true of all the names and attributes of God manifested within the individual. Usually man ascribes these attributes to his own person rather than to God and employs them to boost his own ego. For instance, a learned man uses the attribute of knowledge to become famous and feels gratified and uplifted when his name is publicized far and wide. Or there is the individual whose heart leaps with feelings of pride and satisfaction when he hears his name mentioned and finds himself admired. These are examples of attachment to the Kingdom of Names.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 25)

It manifests when we take responsibility of the Faith into our own hands and try to force it into ways that we wish it to go:

The Universal House of Justice has emphasized the importance of our avoiding any tendency to take responsibility for the Cause into our own hands: ‘Service to the Cause of God requires absolute fidelity and integrity and unwavering faith in Him. No good but only evil can come from taking the responsibility for the future of God’s Cause into our own hands and trying to force it into ways that we wish it to go regardless of the clear texts and our own limitations. It is His Cause. He has promised that its light will not fail. Our part is to cling tenaciously to the revealed word and to the institutions that He has created to preserve His Covenant.’  (Universal House of Justice, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 119)

It manifests during Bahá’í consultation, particularly on the Assembly:

The application of these spiritual standards makes Bahá’í consultation a testing ground for every member of the Assembly. All the virtues of the individual—his faith, his courage and his steadfastness in the Covenant—undergo a rigorous test as the members sit around the table to consult. Here the spiritual battle within the soul of the individual begins and will continue as long as the ego is the dictator. Indeed, in many cases this battle lasts a lifetime. In this battlefield the forces of light and darkness are arrayed against each other. On the one side stands the spiritual entity, the soul of the believer; on the other, a great enemy, the self or ego. Whenever the soul hearkens to the lofty standards set by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and applies them during consultation, the ego, defeated, recedes into the background. The soul emerges victorious in this battle and becomes radiant with the light of faith and detachment. The application of these spiritual principles, however, must be genuine and not merely superficial. The feelings of love, unity, detachment and harmony must come from the heart. Humility and servitude, radiance, devotion, courtesy and patience, along with all the other virtues, are qualities of the spirit. These cannot be manifested by paying lip service to them. If this is the case, then the ego is the victor.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 36-37)

It manifests as Covenant Breaking:

Many people are puzzled by the fact that almost the entire family of Bahá’u’lláh defected. Why is it that those who were nearest to Him, who were members of His household, His sons and daughters, should be foremost among the violators of His Covenant? In normal circumstances, when a person attains a prominent position in the community, it is often the family members who rally around him and lend their whole-hearted support. But in the case of Bahá’u’lláh it was the reverse and a similar situation was created within the family of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá after His passing. To appreciate the reasons for this, we observe once again that the proper attitude of a believer towards the Manifestation of God should be a true demonstration of servitude, self-effacement and complete obedience. Whenever these qualities are absent, a barrier will be created between man and God. In such a case the believer may be associating with the Manifestation of God in person, yet because of this barrier he will not be able to appreciate His glory or become enchanted with His Revelation.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 25)

What Happens When We Give In To Our Ego’s Demands?

We are prevented from ascending to the realms of holiness:

Anger, passion, ignorance, prejudice, greed, envy, covetousness, jealousy and suspicion prevent man from ascending to the realms of holiness, imprisoning him in the claws of self and the cage of egotism.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 241)

Sin and error continue:

As long as the ego is subject to carnal desires, sin and error continue. (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 184)

Our spiritual life is imperilled:

Shoghi Effendi writes: “After recognition of the Manifestation, the believer will be tested by God in many ways. Each time he passes a test, he will acquire greater spiritual insight and will grow stronger in faith. The closer he gets to the person of the Manifestation the more difficult become his tests. It is then that any trace of ambition or ego may imperil his spiritual life.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 129)

We are changed into an animal, unable to judge good from evil, or to distinguish light from darkness:

As long as man is a captive of habit, pursuing the dictates of self and desire, he is vanquished and defeated. This passionate personal ego takes the reins from his hands, crowds out the qualities of the divine ego and changes him into an animal, a creature unable to judge good from evil, or to distinguish light from darkness. He becomes blind to divine attributes, for this acquired individuality, the result of an evil routine of thought becomes the dominant note of his life.  May all of you be freed from these dangers and delivered from the world of desires that you may enter into the realm of light and become divine, radiant, merciful, Godlike.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 133)

We lose our faith, our goodness and virtues; and fall into the abyss of degradation and ignominy:

There are many people who have rendered notable services to the Faith and their names are recorded in its annals, yet when the winds of tests blew they were unable to subdue their self and ego. These individuals not only lost their faith, but also their goodness and virtues. They fell from the heights of glory into the abyss of degradation and ignominy.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 264)

We are summoned to wickedness and lust:

O people of the world!  Follow not the promptings of the self, for it summoneth insistently to wickedness and lust; follow, rather, Him Who is the Possessor of all created things, Who biddeth you to show forth piety, and manifest the fear of God. He, verily, is independent of all His creatures.  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 41)

We will wander in the desert of heedlessness and regret:

Whosoever is occupied with himself is wandering in the desert of heedlessness and regret. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 114)

We will remain deprived of the outpourings of God:

But if … any one betray the least of trusts or neglect and be remiss in the performance of duties which are intrusted to him, or by oppression takes one penny of extortion from the subjects, or seeks after his own personal, selfish aims and ends in the attainment of his own interests, he shall undoubtedly remain deprived of the outpourings of His Highness the Almighty! Beware! Beware! lest ye fall short in that which ye are commanded in this Tablet!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 403)

We will be entirely severed from God:

They do not know the subtlety of the ego of man. It is the Tempter (the subtle serpent of the mind), and the poor soul not entirely emancipated from its suggestions is deceived until entirely severed from all save God.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 487)

How Do We Subdue Our Ego?

Man can never completely eliminate the ego, but it can and should be ever-increasingly subordinated to the enlightened soul of man:

The complete and entire elimination of the ego would imply perfection—which man can never completely attain—but the ego can and should be ever-increasingly subordinated to the enlightened soul of man. This is what spiritual progress implies.  (Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, p. 11)

We can seek to become more perfect:

The only people who are truly free of the “dross of self” are the Prophets, for to be free of one’s ego is a hall-mark of perfection. We humans are never going to become perfect, for perfection belongs to a realm we are not destined to enter. However, we must constantly mount higher, seek to be more perfect.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

We can recognize that the Manifestation of God abides in a realm far above that of man

If we recognize that the Manifestation of God abides in a realm far above that of man, it becomes evident to us that the human intellect, when freed from self and ego, will admit its inability to appreciate fully the inner realities of the Word of God and His Covenant. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 129)

We can understand that when we give free rein to our egos, we’re acting against God:

The mere consciousness of the fact that one is acting against God in condemning and attacking his fellow man, is sufficient to deter him in the pursuit of such reprehensible behaviour. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 189)

We can obey the laws of God, seek to live the life, pray and struggle:

By obeying the laws of God, seeking to live the life laid down in our teachings, and prayer and struggle, we can subdue our egos. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 453)

We can adorn ourselves with the virtues of humility and self-effacement:

The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh aims to reverse this process. The soul of man needs to be adorned with the virtues of humility and self-effacement so that it may become detached from the Kingdom of Names.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 22)

We can detach from all earthly things and banish all traces of passion and desire, of ego and  self-glorification:

But the requirements of faith and the path to Baha’u’llah……..remain unchanged. It is necessary for the believer of today, ………, to detach himself from all earthly things and to banish from his soul the traces of passion and desire, of ego and  self-glorification in order that he may truly appreciate the awe-inspiring station of Baha’u’llah …….. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 215)

We can renounce and forget our “self”:

The ‘Master Key’ to self-mastery is self- forgetting. The road to the palace of life is through the path of renunciation.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 114)

We can eliminate the use of the word “I”:

Bahá’u’lláh calls on the individual to kindle a fire within his soul and burn away every trace of self so that the concept and the very word ‘I’ may totally disappear from his being. Indeed this is one of the most profound teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. When a person tries to exalt himself, to celebrate his own name and aspires to become famous he is, in fact, going right against the plan of creation. Such an individual hinders the flow of the bounties of God to himself. Although outwardly he may be considered a great success, in reality he has failed to fulfill the purpose for which he was created. When a man attains to real greatness, he then recognizes his helplessness, unworthiness and impotence. And when he becomes truly learned he genuinely discovers that he is ignorant. It is then that he can manifest the attributes of God within himself and impart them to others.   (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 43)

We can sever ourselves from the Kingdom of Names:

To sever oneself from the Kingdom of Names may prove to be the most difficult task for a Bahá’í, and the struggle may indeed last a lifetime. If a man can only realize that his virtues are not intrinsically his own, but rather are manifestations of the attributes of God, then he is freed from the Kingdom of Names and becomes truly humble. Such a man will bestow divine perfections upon the world of humanity. This is the loftiest station that God has destined for man. To the extent that a believer succeeds in severing himself from these three forms of attachment, will he be fulfilling his part in the Covenant of God.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 28)

We can leave authority in the hands of the institutions :

One of the distinguishing features of Bahá’u’lláh’s embryonic world order is that it does not harbour egotistical personalities. Bahá’u’lláh has conferred authority on its institutions, whether local, national or international, but the individuals who are privileged to serve on them are devoid of any authority. Unlike men who wield power in the world today and seek to acquire fame and popularity, members of Bahá’í institutions cannot but manifest humility and self-effacement if they are to remain faithful to Bahá’u’lláh. Those who do not succeed, through immaturity or lack of faith, in living up to these standards are indeed attached to the Kingdom of Names and become deprived of the bounties of God in this age.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 25-26)

We can protect ourselves from becoming complacent or indifferent:

Life is a constant struggle, not only against forces around us, but above all against our own ‘ego’. We can never afford to rest on our oars, for if we do, we soon see ourselves carried down stream again. Many of those who drift away from the Cause do so for the reason that they had ceased to go on developing. They became complacent, or indifferent, and consequently ceased to draw the spiritual strength and vitality from the Cause which they should have.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

We can repent and return:

We have repeatedly revealed similar utterances, but they have not profited the heedless ones, for they are found to be captives to egotism and lust. Ask thou God to enable all of them to repent and return . . . It is hoped that the hand of the Divine mercy, and the blessings of the compassionate One may assist them all, and adorn them with the garment of forgiveness and favor; and that He may also guard them from that which impairs His Cause among His servants. Verily, He is the powerful, the mighty, and He is the forgiving, the merciful! (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 184)

We can never afford to rest on our oars, for if we do, we soon see ourselves carried downstream again:

Life is a constant struggle, not only against forces around us, but above all against our own ‘ego‘. We can never afford to rest on our oars, for if we do, we soon see ourselves carried downstream again.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

We can burn away every veil that comes between us and God:

There are passages in the Mathnavi in which Bahá’u’lláh exhorts man to burn away every veil that comes between him and God. Then and only then can he behold the beauty and grandeur of his Lord. One of these veils is the ego.   (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 43)

The best way to do this is through prayer – as this line from the Long Obligatory Prayer tells us:

I beseech Thee by them Who are the Daysprings of Thine invisible Essence, the Most Exalted, the All-Glorious, to make of my prayer a fire that will burn away the veils which have shut me out from Thy beauty, and a light that will lead me unto the ocean of Thy Presence.  (Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, p. 6)

What Happens When We Overcome Our Ego?

We will be called saints:

We call people “saints” who have achieved the highest degree of mastery over their ego.  (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 453)

We will not be discouraged by  criticism or pleased with praise and glorification:

When a person reaches this stage of maturity and discernment, he will neither be discouraged by undue criticism, nor pleased with praise and glorification. It is always the ego which feels offended in the former case and gratified in the latter. The above-mentioned teaching of Bahá’u’lláh helps the individual to subdue his ego.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 189)

We will recieve the confirmations of the Kingdom:

Today the confirmations of the Kingdom of Abha are with those who renounce themselves, forget their own opinions, cast aside personalities and are thinking of the welfare of others.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 114)

We will make spiritual progress:

Regarding the points you refer to in your letter: the complete and entire elimination of the ego would imply perfection — which man can never completely attain — but the ego can and should be ever-increasingly subordinated to the enlightened soul of man. This is what spiritual progress implies. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 11)

We will strengthen and free the spirit within us and help it to attain perfection:

The other self is the ego, the dark, animalistic heritage each one of us has, the lower nature that can develop into a monster of selfishness, brutality, lust and so on. It is this self we must struggle against, or this side of our natures, in order to strengthen and free the spirit within us and help it to attain perfection.   (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

Adib Taherzadeh has a story of those early believers who were able to subdue their egos:

“There were many among His disciples who were enabled to subdue their ego. By their words and deeds they demonstrated their utter nothingness when they came face to face with their Lord. These became the spiritual giants of this Dispensation, and through their faith they shed an imperishable lustre upon the Cause of God. It is concerning such men, during the days of Baghdad, that Nabil writes:

Many a night, no less than ten persons subsisted on no more than a pennyworth of dates. No one knew to whom actually belonged the shoes, the cloaks, or the robes that were to be found in their houses. Whoever went to the bazaar could claim that the shoes upon his feet were his own, and each one who entered the presence of Bahá’u’lláh could affirm that the cloak and robe he then wore belonged to him. Their own names they had forgotten, their hearts were emptied of aught else except adoration for their Beloved… O, for the joy of those days, and the gladness and wonder of those hours!”  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 2, p. 214 -216)

How has this helped you understand the ego better?  Post your comments below!

Understanding Our Tests at the Hands of Other Baha’is

 

‘Abdu’l-Baha warned us that the worst enemies of the Cause are in the Cause:

The worst enemies of the Cause are in the Cause and mention the name of God. We need not fear the enemies on the outside for such can be easily dealt with. But the enemies who call themselves friends and who persistently violate every fundamental law of love and unity, are difficult to be dealt with in this day, for the mercy of God is still great. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of The West, Vol.6, No.6, p.45)

And that the enemies who call themselves friends, yet persistently violate every fundamental law of love and unity, are difficult to deal with in this day:

We need not fear the enemies on the outside for such can be easily dealt with. But the enemies who call themselves friends and who persistently violate every fundamental law of love and unity, are difficult to be dealt with in this day, for the mercy of God is still great. But ere long this merciful door will be closed and such enemies will be attacked with a madness. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of The West, Vol.6, No.6, p.45)

Shoghi Effendi warned us that one of the greatest problems in the Cause is the relation of the believers to each other:

One of the greatest problems in the Cause is the relation of the believers to each other; for their immaturity (shared with the rest of humanity) and imperfections retard the work, create complications, and discourage each other. (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 449)

He also said that often our severest tests come from each other:

. . . often our severest tests come from each other. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

But what do we do when the Baha’is turn against us? Let’s take a look at what the Baha’i Writings have to tell us!

The Problem with Others

A person may believe in and love the Cause – even being ready to die for it — and yet not have a good personal character or he may even possess traits at variance with the teaching:

There is a difference between character and faith; it is often hard to accept this fact and put up with it, but the fact that a person may believe in and love the Cause – even being ready to die for it — and yet not have a good personal character or posses traits at variance with the teachings. We try to change, to let the Power of God help recreate us make us true Bahá’ís in deed as well as in belief. But the process is slow, sometimes it never happened the individual does not try hard enough. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 75)

This causes us suffering and is a test for us especially if we love him and have been their teacher:

But these cause us suffering and are a test to us in our fellow-believers, most especially if we love him and have been their teacher! (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 75)

Nine-tenths of the friends’ troubles are because they don’t do the Bahá’í thing:

Generally speaking nine-tenths of the friends’ troubles are because they don’t do the Bahá’í thing, in relation to each other, to the administrative bodies or in their personal lives. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 114)

People have become veils unto themselves, and we entreat God to assist them to return to Him:

The Cause is manifest, it shineth resplendent as the sun, but the people have become veils unto themselves. We entreat God that He may graciously assist them to return unto Him. He is, in truth, the Forgiving, the Merciful. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 79)

How God Sees Them

Those who have perpetrated against us are even as the dead:

Truly they are even as dead, and not living. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 15)

Their immaturity and imperfections retard the work, create complications, and discourage others:

. . . their immaturity (shared with the rest of humanity) and imperfections retard the work, create complications, and discourage each other. (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 449)

What’s Expected of Us

We must not let the things others have perpetrated grieve us:

Let not the things they have perpetrated grieve thee. Truly they are even as dead, and not living. Leave them unto the dead, then turn thy face towards Him Who is the Life-Giver of the world. Beware lest the sayings of the heedless sadden thee. Be thou steadfast in the Cause, and teach the people with consummate wisdom. Thus enjoineth thee the Ruler of earth and heaven. He is in truth the Almighty, the Most Generous. Ere long will God exalt thy remembrance and will inscribe with the Pen of Glory that which thou didst utter for the sake of His love. He is in truth the Protector of the doers of good. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 15)

We must leave them with the dead, and turn our faces towards God:

Leave them unto the dead, then turn thy face towards Him Who is the Life-Giver of the world. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 15)

We must not let the sayings of the heedless ones sadden us.

Beware lest the sayings of the heedless sadden thee. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 15)

We must be steadfast in the Cause, and teach people with consummate wisdom:

Beware lest the sayings of the heedless sadden thee. Be thou steadfast in the Cause, and teach the people with consummate wisdom. Thus enjoineth thee the Ruler of earth and heaven. He is in truth the Almighty, the Most Generous. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 15)

We must demonstrate the Bahá’í pattern of life and love and encourage them to do the same:

When others fall short of the standards of a Bahá’í way of life, we can demonstrate the Bahá’í pattern of life and love and encourage them to do the same, while taking refuge in the knowledge that this process takes time. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 120)

We must try to avert such things, and if they happen, remedy them through love:

Certainly the believers should try to avert such things, and if they happen, remedy them through love.   (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

We must put up with these things and try to combat them through love, patience and forgiveness individually, and proper administrative action collectively:

And yet we must put up with these things and try and combat them through love, patience and forgiveness individually, and proper administrative action collectively. (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 449)

We must use the violent forces released by sincere but misguided friends, as a positive stream of power by turning them into productive channels instead of destructive ones:

We Bahá’ís can always, with the aid of Bahá’u’lláh, Who, is ever ready to strengthen and assist us, turn our stumbling blocks into stepping stones, and utilize the often violent forces released by sincere but perhaps misguided friends, as a positive stream of power by turning them into productive channels instead of destructive ones. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 602-603)

 Promises

God is the Protector of the doers of good, and before long He will exalt our remembrance:

Ere long will God exalt thy remembrance and will inscribe with the Pen of Glory that which thou didst utter for the sake of His love. He is in truth the Protector of the doers of good. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 15)

Though these shortcomings may slow the progress of the Faith they will not ultimately defeat it:

Though these shortcomings may slow the progress of the Faith they will not ultimately defeat it.   (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 120)

The energy we expend in enduring the intolerance of some individuals of our community is not lost. It is transformed into fortitude, steadfastness and magnanimity:

The energy we expend in enduring the intolerance of some individuals of our community is not lost. It is transformed into fortitude, steadfastness and magnanimity. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 603)

Punishment

God has pledged not to forgive any man’s injustice:

O OPPRESSORS ON EARTH!

Withdraw your hands from tyranny, for I have pledged Myself not to forgive any man’s injustice. This is My covenant which I have irrevocably decreed in the preserved tablet and sealed with My seal. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 64)

Before long such enemies will be attacked with madness:

But ere long this merciful door will be closed and such enemies will be attacked with a madness. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of The West, Vol.6, No.6, p.45)

Tests Involving Institutions

The Cause is still in its infancy and its institutions are not yet functioning perfectly:

The friends must be patient with each other and must realize that the Cause is still in its infancy and its institutions are not yet functioning perfectly. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 9)

In some cases, the friends and the Assemblies are struggling with issues on the fron­tier of their spiritual growth:

As you know, there can be many reasons for Assemblies not to respond to the believers. Undoubtedly, in some cases, it is because the friends and the Assemblies are struggling with issues on the fron­tier of their spiritual growth. (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 25 October, 1994)

Such a process can lead to tremendous development on both the individual and the collective levels:

Such a process can lead to tremendous development on both the individual and the collective levels. (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 25 October, 1994)

Tak­ing part in this process should be a source of joy since we are helping to build the kingdom of God on Earth:

Tak­ing part in this process should be a source of joy to us since we are, in effect, helping to build the kingdom of God on Earth. (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 25 October, 1994)

 What’s Expected of Us

We must be patient with each other

The friends must be patient with each other and must realize that the Cause is still in its infancy and its institutions are not yet functioning perfectly. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 9)

We must be patient, loving, understanding and forbearing:

The greater the patience, the loving understanding and the forbearance the believers show towards each other and their shortcomings, the greater will be the progress of the whole Bahá’í community at large.         (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 9)

We must realize our own imperfections and don’t permit ourselves to get too upset:

We must realize our imperfection and not permit ourselves to get too upset over the unfortunate things which occur, sometimes in  Conventions, sometimes in Assemblies or on Committees, etc. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 9)

We must understand that such things are essentially superficial and in time will be outgrown:

Such things are essentially superficial and in time will be outgrown. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 9)

We must realize that whatever the nature of the obstacles, they will be eventually overcome:

You have complained of the unsatisfactory conditions prevailing in the … Bahá’í Community; the Guardian is well aware of the situation of the Cause there, but is confident that whatever the nature of the obstacles that confront the Faith they will be eventually overcome. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 9)

We must not feel discouraged or waver in our faith or loyalty to the Cause:

You should, under no circumstances, feel discouraged, and allow such difficulties, even though they may have resulted from the misconduct, or the lack of capacity and vision of certain members of the Community, to make you waver in your faith and basic loyalty to the Cause. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 9)

We must not look at others, no matter how qualified they may be, or however high their intellectual and spiritual merits, as a standard whereby to evaluate and measure the divine authority and mission of the Faith:

Surely, the believers, no matter how qualified they may be, whether as teachers or administrators, and however high their intellectual and spiritual merits, should never be looked upon as a standard whereby to evaluate and measure the divine authority and mission of the Faith. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 9)

We must keep looking to the Teachings themselves, and to the lives of the Founders of the Cause for our guidance and inspiration:

It is to the Teachings themselves, and to the lives of the Founders of the Cause that the believers should look for their guidance and inspiration, and only by keeping strictly to such [a] true attitude can they hope to establish their loyalty to Bahá’u’lláh upon an enduring and unassailable basis. You should take heart, therefore, and with unrelaxing vigilance and unremitting effort endeavour to play your full share in the gradual unfoldment of this Divine World Order. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 9)

We must maintain our confidence that the divinely ordained administrative system given to us by Bahá’u’lláh, and the inspiration of the Creative Word, will enable us to rise to these challenges:

We must maintain our confidence that the divinely ordained administrative system given to us by Bahá’u’lláh, and the inspiration of the Creative Word, will enable us to rise to these challenges. (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 25 October, 1994)

Sometimes we can facilitate this process of spiritual growth by viewing these situations as opportunities for development:

Sometimes we can facilitate this process of spiritual growth for individuals, and of maturation for Local and National Assemblies, by viewing these situations not as a problem but as opportunities for development. (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 25 October, 1994)

Patience is needed, particularly when it involves a subject that is close to our hearts; when it seems that progress is lagging or has ceased entirely:

Nevertheless, patience is needed, particularly when it involves a subject that is close to our hearts, and when it seems that progress on the matter is lagging or has ceased entirely. (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 25 October, 1994)

How has this helped you understand your tests with other Baha’is? Post your comments below!

9 Invisible Enemies that Trap Us in the Prison of Self

‘Abdu’l-Baha talks about nine material ideas and worldly thoughts which attract man to the centre of self. These nine “invisible enemies” prevents us from ascending to the realms of holi­ness and imprison us in the claws of self and the cage of egotism. These nine are:

  • Anger
  • Passion
  • Ignorance
  • Prejudice
  • Greed
  • Envy
  • Covetousness
  • Jeal­ousy
  • Suspicion

 Just as the earth attracts everything to the centre of gravity, and every object thrown upward into space will come down, so also material ideas and worldly thoughts attract man to the centre of self. Anger, passion, ignorance, prejudice, greed, envy, covetousness, jeal­ousy and suspicion prevent man from ascending to the realms of holi­ness, imprisoning him in the claws of self and the cage of egotism. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 241)

What does surrendering to these enemies result in?

  • We’re prevented from ascending to the realms of holi­ness
  • We’re trapped in the claws of self and the cage of egotism.
  • Whenever we try to escape from one of these, we will unconsciously fall into hands of another

Let’s look at each one separately to see why ‘Abdu’l-Baha refers to them as enemies.

Anger

Anger Anger doth burn the liver: avoid [it] as you would a lion. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 460)
Antagonism (means rivalry, resentment, ill will) Antagonism and contradiction are unfortunate and always destructive to truth. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)
Strife (means conflict, friction, rivalry) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . strife . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)Gird up the loins of your endeavor, O people of Bahá, that haply the tumult of religious dissension and strife that agitateth the peoples of the earth may be stilled, that every trace of it may be completely obliterated. (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 13)
Argue The more the friends argue back and forth and maintain, each side, that their point of view is the right one, the worse the whole situation becomes. (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, pp. 17-18)
Contention (means argument, debate, controversy) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . contention . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)The worldwide undertakings on which the Cause of God is embarked are far too significant, the need of the peoples of the world for the Message of Bahá’u’lláh far too urgent, the perils facing mankind far too grave, the progress of events far too swift, to permit His followers to squander their time and efforts in fruitless contention. Now, if ever, is the time for love among the friends, for unity of understanding and endeavor, for self-sacrifice and service by Bahá’ís in every part of the world. (The Universal House of Justice, 1992 Dec 10, Issues Related to Study Compilation)
Cruelty The domestic animals do not manifest hatred and cruelty toward each other; that is the attribute of the wild and ferocious beasts. In a flock of one thousand sheep you will witness no bloodshed. Numberless species of birds are peaceful in flocks. Wolves, lions, tigers are ferocious because it is their natural and necessary means for obtaining food. Man has no need of such ferocity; his food is provided in other ways. Therefore it is evident that warfare, cruelty and bloodshed in the kingdom of man are caused by human greed, hatred and selfishness. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 24)
Dispute Dispute not with any one concerning the things of this world and its affairs, for God hath abandoned them to such as have set their affection upon them. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 279)
Dissension (means opposition, rebellion, conflict) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than dissension . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)Would it add to the progress and advancement of a family if dissensions should arise among its members, fighting, pillaging each other, jealous and revengeful of injury, seeking selfish advantage? Nay, this would be the cause of the effacement of progress and advancement. So it is in the great family of nations, for nations are but an aggregate of families. Therefore as strife and dissension destroy a family and prevent its progress, so nations are destroyed and advancement hindered. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 100)
Hatred I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 29)
Holding grudges . . . that if a person falls into errors for a hundred-thousand times he may yet turn his face to you, hopeful that you will forgive his sins; for he must not become hopeless, neither grieved nor despondent. This is the conduct and the manner of the people of Bahá’. This is the foundation of the most high pathway! (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 436)
Malice For malice is a grievous malady which depriveth man from recognizing the Great Being, and debarreth him from the splendors of the sun of certitude. We pray and hope that through the grace and mercy of God He may remove this mighty obstacle. He, verily, is the Potent, the All-Subduing, the Almighty. (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 96)
Strife (means conflict, friction, rivalry) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . strife . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)Gird up the loins of your endeavor, O people of Bahá, that haply the tumult of religious dissension and strife that agitateth the peoples of the earth may be stilled, that every trace of it may be completely obliterated. (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 13)
Tyranny O ignorant one that hath been shut out as by a veil from God. Thou hast clung to tyranny, and cast away justice; whereupon all created things have lamented, and still thou art among the wayward . . . By God! The things thou possessest shall profit thee not, nor what thou hast laid up through thy cruelty. Unto this beareth witness thy Lord, the All-Knowing. (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 102)

 

Have you read the story of the fence? It nicely illustrates what happens when we get angry. Unfortunately the author is unknown, so I can’t give credit:

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily, gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said “you have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.” You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. Make sure you control your temper the next time you are tempted to say something you will regret later.

Passion

Passion (means obsession, rage) We must reach a spiritual plane where God comes first and great human passions are unable to turn us away from Him. All the time we see people who either through the force of hate or the passionate attachment they have to another person, sacrifice principle or bar themselves from the path of God. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 512)

Ignorance

Ignorance Man must free himself from the weeds of ignorance, thorns of superstitions and thistles of imitations, that he may discover reality in the harvests of true knowledge. Otherwise the discovery of reality is impossible, contention and divergence of religious belief will always remain and mankind, like ferocious wolves will rage and attack each other in hatred and antagonism. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 76)

Prejudice

Prejudice If we allow prejudice of any kind to manifest itself in us, we shall be guilty before God of causing a setback to the progress and real growth of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. It is incumbent upon every believer to endeavour with a fierce determination to eliminate this defect from his thoughts and acts. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 529)

Greed

Greed Why, then, exhibit such greed in amassing the treasures of the earth, when your days are numbered and your chance is well-nigh lost? Will ye not, then, O heedless ones, shake off your slumber?   (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 127)
Avarice (Greed) He should be content with little and free from avarice (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 50)
Gluttony In all circumstances they should conduct themselves with moderation; if the meal be only one course this is more pleasing in the sight of God; however, according to their means, they should seek to have this single dish be of good quality. (Bahá’u’lláh, Lights of Guidance, p. 294)

Envy

Envy Know, verily, the heart wherein the least remnant of envy yet lingers, shall never attain My everlasting dominion, nor inhale the sweet savors of holiness breathing from My kingdom of sanctity.(Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 6)

Covetousness

Covetousness Put away all covetousness and seek contentment; for the covetous hath ever been deprived, and the contented hath ever been loved and praised. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 50)
Love of luxury and comfort All physical perfections come to an end; but the divine virtues are infinite. How many kings have flourished in luxury and in a brief moment all has disappeared! Their glory and their honor are forgotten. Where are all these sovereigns now? But those who have been servants of the divine beauty are never forgotten. The result of their works is everywhere visible. What king is there of two thousand years ago whose kingdom has lived in the hearts? But those disciples who were devoted to God – poor people who had neither fortune nor position – are to-day trees bearing fruit. Their banner is raised higher every day. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 137)
Materialism You see all round you proofs of the inadequacy of material things — how joy, comfort, peace and consolation are not to be found in the transitory things of the world. Is it not then foolishness to refuse to seek these treasures where they may be found? The doors of the spiritual Kingdom are open to all, and without is absolute darkness. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 111)

Jeal­ousy

Jealousy Jealousy consumeth the body . . . avoid [it] as you would a lion. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 460)

Suspicion

Suspicion Take heed that your words be purged from idle fancies and worldly desires and your deeds be cleansed from craftiness and suspicion. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138)

Trying to break free from any of these is a bit like herding kittens! No sooner do we try to escape from one we unconsciously fall into the hands of another. Whenever we attempt to soar upward, the density of the love of self, like gravity, draws us back to the centre of the earth:

The physical man, unassisted by the divine power, trying to escape from one of these invisible enemies, will unconsciously fall into hands of another. No sooner does he attempt to soar upward than the density of the love of self, like the power of gravity, draws him to the centre of the earth. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 241)

So how do we break free?

The only power capable of delivering us from this captivity is the power of the Holy Spirit.

The only power that is capable of delivering man from this captivity is the power of the Holy Spirit. The attraction of the power of the Holy Spirit is so effective that it keeps man ever on the path of upward ascension. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 241)

How do we access this power?

In the following quote ‘Abdu’l-Baha gives us some clues.

  • Ask God to expose you to its fragrance, move you by its breeze, enkindle you by its coals of fire and illuminate you by its brightness.
  • Turn wholly to it so you will be enabled to ascertain its influence and power, the strength of its life and the greatness of its confirmation.
  • Prepare yourself by making your heart empty and your eyes ready to look only toward the Kingdom of God.

He promises if we do these things, the radiance of that widespread effulgence will descend upon you in succession, and the motion rendered by the Holy Spirit will make you dispense with any other strong evidence that leads to the appearance of this Light.

I ask God to expose thee to its fragrance, move thee by its breeze, enkindle thee by its coals of fire and illuminate thee by its brightness. Turn thyself wholly to it — thus thou shalt be enabled to ascertain its influence and power, the strength of its life and the greatness of its confirmation. Verily, I say unto thee, that if for the appearance of that Divine Essence thou desirest to have a definite proof, an indisputable testimony and a strong, convincing evidence, thou must prepare thyself to make thy heart empty and thine eye ready to look only toward the Kingdom of God. Then, at that time, the radiance of that widespread effulgence will descend upon thee successively, and that motion rendered thee by the Holy Spirit will make thee dispense with any other strong evidence that leadeth to the appearance of this Light, because the greatest and strongest proof for showing the abundance of the Spirit to the bodies is the very appearance of its power and influence in those bodies. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 368-370)

What’s been your experience with any of these?  What’s helped you break free?  Post your comments below!