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The Two Meanings of Self

. . . self has really two meanings, or is used in two senses, in the Bahá’í Writings; one is self, the identity of the individual created by God. This is the self mentioned in such passages as “he hath known God who hath known himself”, etc. 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 . . . in order to strengthen and free the spirit within us and help it to attain perfection.  (Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, p. 18)

This was the quote that helped me to understand the Baha’i concept of a personified “devil”.  The devil isn’t a being outside me.  He’s built into my very nature as the ego or the shadow side of me that can develop into a monster of selfishness, brutality, lust and so on.  There’s nothing wrong with me because of it.  It’s how God designed us.  We’re all sinners.  We all have lower natures.  We all need to become awakened to our dual natures so we know how to move from one to the other.

If our purpose in life is to know God and acquire the virtues we need for the next world, how can we acquire them if there is nothing to “struggle against” so we can “strengthen and free the spirit within us”?  It’s all part of our very identity and part of God’s great design and plan for our lives, nothing to fear.

Knowing my dark side was given to me for a purpose, I am grateful!

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

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

 

 

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I am Seen

O Friends! Verily I say, whatsoever ye have concealed within your hearts is to Us open and manifest as the day; but that it is hidden is of Our grace and favour, and not of your deserving.      (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian  60)

When I was a child, I was taught this song.  The first verse goes like this:  “God sees the little sparrow fall, it meets his tender view; if God so loves the little birds, I know he loves me too.”

The implication was that He is All-Knowing and All-Seeing.  I didn’t feel seen by God, though.  For years, I’d prayed for the abuse in my family to stop and it only got worse, so I really believed that just like other families were different than ours, God’s relationship with me was different too.

When I read the above quote, it gave me great comfort, because it suggested that even know no one had ever called my parents to account for the terrible things they did, God saw them all.  This let me rest in His justice and His timing.

When I looked at it through the eyes of my own sins, it also gave me comfort:  He knows what I’m thinking and doing, good and bad, and it’s hidden from others as a protection from my ego, and until such time as I can ask for His forgiveness.

God sees me and protects me and loves me and is continually showering His favor on me and I am grateful!

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

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Violence and Abuse:  Reasons and Remedies 

 

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God Knows Me

Ye are better known to the inmates of the Kingdom on high than ye are known to your own selves. Think ye these words to be vain and empty? Would that ye had the power to perceive the things your Lord, the All-Merciful, doth see.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp.  316-317)

Whenever I called myself to account at night, I used to see only the defects and never the assets or virtues.  That changed the day someone reminded me that the root word “account” was found in the word “accountant”, and that accountants always looked at both assets and liabilities when putting together any balance sheet.  You couldn’t have one without the other.

That still didn’t help me much, because, before learning the language of the virtues, I didn’t have a framework to think more positively about myself, and when I took the facilitator training for the Virtues Project, I assumed that the virtues applied to everyone else, but not to me too.

Now I’m learning to “be fair in my judgement”, to trust in God’s infinite love for me; to believe that He created me noble AND He created me to be a sinner and that both things are true.  I’m human.  I make mistakes, just like everyone else.

My prayers these days are:  “Help me to see my worth through your eyes”.

God sees me with all my sins and imperfections and He loves me just the way I am and I am grateful.

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

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Strengthening Your Relationship with God

 

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Turning to the Light 

He urges you to persevere and add up your accomplishments, rather than to dwell on the dark side of things. Everyone’s life has both a dark and a bright side. The Master said: “turn your back to the darkness and your face to Me”.  (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 2 December, 1980)

I find it so easy when I’m calling myself to account, to focus only on everything I did wrong.  I can ruminate for years on a past transgression, which I might believe God has forgiven, but I can’t forgive myself.  I think I’ve become attached to negativity, and to beating myself up.  People have told me for a long time that I have a tendency to be hard on myself.  Lately I’ve come to see this as an addiction.

Recently someone asked me if there is a concept of forgiving oneself in the Bahá’í Writings.  At first I fell into the thinking of the day, because I’ve been working on forgiving myself.  Now I’ve come to realize that the only one with the power to forgive me is God.  If I ask for forgiveness, it’s granted because His forgiveness exceeds His fury and He is the “ever-forgiving” and the “all merciful”.  If I can’t accept His forgiveness or don’t trust that it’s been given when I asked, then these are veils between me and God, which need to be removed through detachment.

Knowing I have permission to add up my accomplishments and focus on them, and knowing I can turn my back on the darkness as I turn towards God, I am grateful!

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

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

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13 Steps To Becoming Obedient

 

In a previous article, we’ve looked at Understanding Obedience, and now we’re going to look at how we can become obedient.

There are certain steps we can take on our path towards obedience:

  1. Enter into a covenant with God:

He must enter into a covenant with his Lord in order that he shall obey the divine commands.  (`Abdu’l-Baha:  Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 163).

  1. Fear God:

. . . lacking the fear of God an infinity of odious and abominable actions will spring up, and sentiments will be uttered that transgress all bounds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Education, p. 6)

  1. Mention God’s name day and night:

Fear thou God, thy Lord, and make mention of His Name in the day-time and at eventide. (The Bab, Fire and Light, p. 16)

Well is it with them who obey him, and call him to remembrance.  (Baha’u’llah:  Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, p. 79)

  1. Don’t follow the faithless:

Follow not the promptings of the faithless, lest thou be reckoned among the exponents of idle fancies.  Faithfully obey the Primal Point Who is the Lord Himself, and be of the righteous. (The Bab:  Selections from the Bab, p. 160)

  1. Don’t follow the ungodly or those who are also committing sins:

Obey ye My commandments, and follow not the ungodly, they who have been reckoned as sinners in God’s Holy Tablet.  (Baha’u’llah:  The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 43)

  1. Make an effort so God can guide you:

Whensoever he hath fulfilled the conditions implied in the verse:  “Whoso maketh efforts for Us,” he shall enjoy the blessings conferred by the words: “In Our Way shall We assuredly guide him.”   (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 266)

  1. Guard yourself, defend your Faith and Oppose your passions (desires, hungers, cravings, lusts, urges, rage, fury, outbursts, obsessions, crazes):

Whoso among the learned guardeth his self, defendeth his faith, opposeth his desires, and obeyeth his Lord’s command, it is incumbent upon the generality of the people to pattern themselves after him.  (Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 118)

  1. Pattern yourself after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:

. . . he must guard himself, defend his faith, oppose his passions and obey the commandments of his Lord.  It is then the duty of the people to pattern themselves after him.  (`Abdu’l-Bahá, Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 34)

  1. Have faith:

It is often difficult for us to do things because they are so very different from what we are used to, not because the thing itself is particularly difficult. With you, and indeed most Bahá’ís, who are now, as adults, accepting this glorious Faith, no doubt some of the ordinances, like fasting and daily prayer, are hard to understand and obey at first. But we must always think that these things are given to all men for a thousand years to come . . . Bahá’u’lláh would not have given us these things if they would not greatly benefit us, and, like children who are sensible enough to realize their father is wise and does what is good for them, we must accept to obey these ordinances even though at first we may not see any need for them. As we obey them we will gradually come to see in ourselves the benefits they confer.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 342)

  1. Let all your actions conform to His laws:

Through the power of faith, obey ye the teachings of God, and let all your actions conform to His laws.  (`Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 35)

  1. Sacrifice your personality:

They have to sacrifice their personalities, to a certain extent . . .  (Shoghi Effendi: Lights of Guidance, p. 83)

. . . when He desired to impress a person with the necessity of obeying the Teachings and rectifying his life, He never said: You must do thus and so, be self-sacrificing, see no fault in others, and so on — He always said: We must…  (Marzieh Gail, Dawn Over Mount Hira, p. 200)

  1. Know that no matter how difficult it might seem, the solution is within your power:

Certainly the problem confronting you is a difficult one.  However, its solution lies within your power . . . (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 366)

  1. Use doctors, pray and meditate and serve the Faith and your community:

You can be confident that with the help of doctors, by prayer and meditation, by self-abnegation and by giving as much time as possible to serving the Cause in your community you can eventually succeed in overcoming your problem.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 366)

What helps you become obedient?  Post your comments below.