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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.

Causes And Effects Of Sin

 

In previous articles we’ve looked at the concept of sin from a Baha’i perspective.  Now I’d like to look at what causes it and how it effects us.

Sin causes pathogenic factors which cause diseases to become compounded, multiplied and transmitted to others:

We see clearly, therefore, how powerful are sin and contumacy as pathogenic factors. And once engendered these diseases become compounded, multiply, and are transmitted to others. Such are the spiritual, inner causes of sickness.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 153)

Sin comes from the demands of nature:

All sin comes from the demands of nature, and these demands, which arise from the physical qualities, are not sins with respect to the animals, while for man they are sin. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 119)

When we overcome one, we’ll fall into another:

The physical man, unassisted by the divine power, trying to escape from one of these invisible enemies, will unconsciously fall into hands of another.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Volume 10 – Issue 7)

Love of self:

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, Star of the West, Volume 10 – Issue 7)

What’s the Purpose of Sin?

Again it seems that we need contrasts; so that we can make a choice for good; and so others may be attracted to the Faith:

But when we find ourselves falling short we must add to this response the high resolve to “gain victory over (our) own selves” as speedily as possible, as a mercy to ourselves and to our fellow men, so that others may be attracted to the Faith without hindrance.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 120)

What Happens When We Sin?

The body is in torment:

If the soul falls into sin, the body is in torment!  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 65)

Sins cause physical ailments:

It is certainly the case that sins are a potent cause of physical ailments. If humankind were free from the defilements of sin and waywardness, and lived according to a natural, inborn equilibrium, without following wherever their passions led, it is undeniable that diseases would no longer take the ascendant, nor diversify with such intensity.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 152)

Sins inflict painful wounds on our souls – it’s a painful torture:

All his sins and shortcomings are tools of torture inflicting painful wounds upon the souls of the Chosen Ones of God [and] . . .  is painful torture to them. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 227)

Sins cause disease, calamity, natural disasters including floods, hurricanes and earthquakes:

According to the teaching of the Prophets, disease and all other forms of calamity are due to disobedience to the Divine Commands. Even disasters due to floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes are attributed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá indirectly to this cause.  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 95)

What Happens To The Sinner?

There is a clear link between sin and disease:

It is certainly the case that sins are a potent cause of physical ailments. If humankind were free from the defilements of sin and waywardness, and lived according to a natural, inborn equilibrium, without following wherever their passions led, it is undeniable that diseases would no longer take the ascendant, nor diversify with such intensity.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 152)

His sufferings are remedial and educative, reminding us that we’ve strayed from the right path:

The suffering that follows error is not vindictive, however, but educative and remedial. It is God’s Voice proclaiming to man that he has strayed from the right path. If the suffering is terrible, it is only because the danger of wrongdoing is more terrible, for “the wages of sin is death.” (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 95)

He is deprived of God’s bounties and blessings:

The favors of God are all-surrounding, but should the conscious eye of the soul of man remain veiled and darkened, he will be led to deny these universal signs and remain deprived of these manifestations of divine bounty.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 90)

. . . such a person will surely be deprived of the blessings of the Almighty.  Beware, beware, lest ye fall short of what hath been set forth in this letter.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Nearness to God, p. ‘Izzat 15)

He’s prevented from ascending to the realms of holiness, and imprisoned in self and ego:

. . . prevent man from ascending to the realms of holi­ness, imprisoning him in the claws of self and the cage of egotism.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Volume 10 – Issue 7)

He becomes dissatisfied about not finding a job he likes; or a place in the world that fits him:

You should never be too depressed about your dissatisfaction concerning not finding a job you like, a place in the world that fits you. If you analyse it this general sense of misfit is one of the curses of your generation, one of the products of the world’s disequilibrium and chaos. It is not confined to your life, it is pretty general.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 454)

What do the Bahá’í Writings say about “Generational Sin” or “Sins of the Father”?

Many Christians believe that because of Adam’s “original sin”, all of his descendants were, without reason, guilty sinners, which is far from the justice of God:

But the mass of the Christians believe that, as Adam ate of the forbidden tree, He sinned in that He disobeyed, and that the disastrous consequences of this disobedience have been transmitted as a heritage and have remained among His descendants. Hence Adam became the cause of the death of humanity. This explanation is unreasonable and evidently wrong, for it means that all men, even the Prophets and the Messengers of God, without committing any sin or fault, but simply because they are the posterity of Adam, have become without reason guilty sinners, and until the day of the sacrifice of Christ were held captive in hell in painful torment. This is far from the justice of God.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 120)

If the father of a thousand generations committed a sin, is it just to demand that the present generation should suffer the consequences thereof?

Could we conceive of the Divinity, Who is Justice itself, inflicting punishment upon the posterity of Adam for Adam’s own sin and disobedience? Even if we should see a governor, an earthly ruler punishing a son for the wrongdoing of his father, we would look upon that ruler as an unjust man. Granted the father committed a wrong, what was the wrong committed by the son? There is no connection between the two. Adam’s sin was not the sin of His posterity, especially as Adam is a thousand generations back of the man today. If the father of a thousand generations committed a sin, is it just to demand that the present generation should suffer the consequences thereof?  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 449-450)

These interpretations and statements are due to a misunderstanding of the meanings of the Bible.

There are other questions and evidences to be considered. Abraham was a Manifestation of God and a descendant of Adam; likewise, Ishmael, Isaac, Jeremiah and the whole line of prophets including David, Solomon and Aaron were among His posterity. Were all these holy men condemned to a realm of punishment because of a deed committed by the first father, because of a mistake said to have been made by their mutual and remotest ancestor Adam? The explanation is made that when Christ came and sacrificed Himself, all the line of holy Prophets who preceded Him became free from sin and punishment. Even a child could not justly make such an assertion. These interpretations and statements are due to a misunderstanding of the meanings of the Bible.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 449-450)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains how the sins of parents can carry forward 3 or 4 generations in practical terms (not because of God’s judgement):

If a man does a great injustice to another in his life, then, after his death, his son will be despised for having had such a father and in some cases the injury might be so serious that the effect would reach to the grandson, etc., or a man may, by wrong living, fall into consumption and give that disease to his children unto the third or fourth generation. “Both physically and mentally the sins of the fathers may be visited upon the children.”  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Daily Lessons Received at ‘Akká 1979 ed., pp. 45-46)

Children can inherit the weaknesses and ineffectiveness of their parents:

The variety of inherited qualities comes from strength and weakness of constitution — that is to say, when the two parents are weak, the children will be weak; if they are strong, the children will be robust. In the same way, purity of blood has a great effect; for the pure germ is like the superior stock which exists in plants and animals. For example, you see that children born from a weak and feeble father and mother will naturally have a feeble constitution and weak nerves; they will be afflicted and will have neither patience, nor endurance, nor resolution, nor perseverance, and will be hasty; for the children inherit the weakness and debility of their parents.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 212)

How has this helped you understand the topic better?  Post your comments below.

What Does The Bahá’í Faith Teach About Sin?

Whenever I introduce the concept of sin in a Bahá’í gathering, I can see and feel the collective intake of breath, fear, condemnation and judgement.  “We don’t have sin the Bahá’í Faith”, people say.  “We only focus on the positive.  That’s a Christian topic, not a Bahá’í one.  I didn’t join the Bahá’í Faith to hear about sin”, and so on.  I want to open up a dialogue to try to help us see sin differently than we might have been taught in the past.  You might like to start this series by first reading Why I Love the  Concept of Sin.

In the Bahá’í Writings, sin could be defined as anything that the Concourse on High might find averse:

Say: It behoveth every one that holdeth fast to the hem of Our Robe to be untainted by anything from which the Concourse on high may be averse. Thus hath it been decreed by thy Lord, the All-Glorious, in this His perspicuous Tablet. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 307)

Or might take us away from His love:

Say: Set ye aside My love, and commit what grieveth Mine heart? What is it that hindereth you from comprehending what hath been revealed unto you by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise?  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 307)

Every minute of every day we all think, do and say things that are in direct contradiction of the life God wants us to live.  How do we know this?  The Báb teaches us the standard in this prayer:

I beg Thee to forgive me, O my Lord, for every mention but the mention of Thee, and for every praise but the praise of Thee, and for every delight but delight in Thy nearness, and for every pleasure but the pleasure of communion with Thee, and for every joy but the joy of Thy love and of Thy good-pleasure, and for all things pertaining unto me which bear no relationship unto Thee, O Thou Who art the Lord of lords, He Who provideth the means and unlocketh the doors.  (The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 79)

I can’t think of a single person who lives a life in which their:

  • Only mention is of God
  • Only praise is of God
  • Only delight is in God’s nearness
  • Only pleasure is in communing with God

Yet this is the standard we’re to strive for; and anything less is disobedience and sin.

We are all sinners:

‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us:

We are all sinners, and Thou art the Forgiver of sins, the Merciful, the Compassionate.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 176)

This teaching is incredibly liberating when we understand it.  It means God knows that we’re going to fall short.  It’s just a given.

It’s nothing to shy away from or pretend doesn’t exist.  When we can acknowledge this truth about ourselves; and about others, we can make true progress towards healing and forgiveness.

I’m a sinner; you’re a sinner; we’re all sinners; and it’s all part of God’s creation and design.

God doesn’t want us to follow our idle fancies and vain imaginings:

Fear ye God and follow not your idle fancies and corrupt imaginings, but rather follow Him Who is come unto you invested with undeniable knowledge and unshakeable certitude.  (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 61)

We can’t hide our sins from God:

O Heedless Ones! Think not the secrets of hearts are hidden, nay, know ye of a certainty that in clear characters they are engraved and are openly manifest in the holy Presence.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian 59)

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 favor, and not of your deserving.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 60)

Death is better than sin:

Certainly for an intelligent man death is better than sin . . .  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 265)

We need sins as a contrast:

If none be found to stray from Thy path, how, then, can the ensign of Thy mercy be unfurled, or the banner of Thy bountiful favour be hoisted? And if iniquity be not committed, what is it that can proclaim Thee to be the Concealer of men’s sins, the Ever-Forgiving, the Omniscient, the All-Wise? (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 310-311)

 What Qualities Are Defined As Sin?

Lying:

Certainly it is hard to think of a sin that does not require some kind of a lie to go with it.  (Marzieh Gail, Arches of the Years, p. 94)

The Bahá’í Teaching is that all the sins are on one side of the scales, and lying on the other, and that lying outweighs them all. (Marzieh Gail, Arches of the Years, p. 94)

Anger, sensuality, jealousy, avarice, cruelty, pride

The animal is the source of imperfections, such as anger, sensuality, jealousy, avarice, cruelty, pride: all these defects are found in animals but do not constitute sins. But in man they are sins.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 119)

Ignorance, cruelty, ungodliness, insincerity, unfaithfulness, unworthy thoughts:

Man’s ignorance, his cruelty, his ungodliness, his selfishness, his insincerity and . . . One act of unfaithfulness — even a glance betraying the insincerity of the individual or an unworthy thought emanating from his mind . . . (Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 227)

Betrayal of trust, neglect, being remiss in the performance of duties, oppression, extortion, selfishness

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 . . .  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 403-404)

Dissension and strife, contention, estrangement and apathy

Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than dissension and strife, contention, estrangement and apathy, among the loved ones of God. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)

Idle talk and advancing yourself over others:

Verily I say unto thee: Of all men the most negligent is he that disputeth idly and seeketh to advance himself over his brother. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 5)

Antagonism, hatred, selfish struggle for existence, jealousy, revenge, ferocity, cunning, hypocrisy, greed, injustice and tyranny

All the imperfections found in the animal are found in man. In him there is antagonism, hatred and selfish struggle for existence; in his nature lurk jealousy, revenge, ferocity, cunning, hypocrisy, greed, injustice and tyranny. So to speak, the reality of man is clad in the outer garment of the animal, the habiliments of the world of nature, the world of darkness, imperfections and unlimited baseness.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 110)

Dishonesty, laxity and negligence, unlawfully exacting money, securing private gains or seeking personal benefits

Should anyone, God forbid, manifest one iota of dishonesty, or show laxity and negligence in carrying out his duties, or unlawfully exact money from the people, be it even a singe penny, or secure private gains for himself, or seek personal benefits . . . (‘Abdul-Bahá, Nearness to God, p. ‘Izzat 15)

Material ideas and worldly thoughts, anger, passion, ignorance, prejudice, greed, envy, covetousness, jeal­ousy and 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 . . .  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Volume 10 – Issue 7)

Attachment to the world, avarice, envy, love of luxury and comfort, haughtiness and self-desire:

What is the dust which obscures the mirror? It is attachment to the world, avarice, envy, love of luxury and comfort, haughtiness and self-desire; this is the dust which prevents reflection of the rays of the Sun of Reality in the mirror.   (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244-245)

Anger, jealousy, dispute, covetousness, avarice, ignorance, prejudice, hatred, pride and tyranny:

It is, therefore, certain that sins such as anger, jealousy, dispute, covetousness, avarice, ignorance, prejudice, hatred, pride and tyranny exist in the physical world. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 119)

Repudiate the revealed Truth

It is certainly a much greater responsibility to reject the Manifestation in this day than it was in the past Dispensations, inasmuch as man, and indeed humanity as a whole, have been endowed with a greater measure of spiritual receptivity than ever before, and consequently it would be a much graver sin to repudiate the revealed Truth now than it would have been the case in by-gone ages and centuries.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 480)

Materialism, greed, corruption, conflict, malaise

The institutions of the old world order are crumbling and in disarray. Materialism, greed, corruption and conflict are infecting the social order with a grave malaise from which it is helpless to extricate itself. (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 563)

The closer we get to God, even the good deeds we do are considered by God as sins when performed by those at a higher station:

The good deeds of the righteous are the sins of the Near Ones. This is established.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 125)

This suggests that as we draw closer to God, His expectations of us are higher.

Many of us struggle with thoughts and feelings we don’t recognize as coming from our lower nature, so we can’t change them.  But when we know that they are “sins”, and can recognize them as they arise, and ask God for His forgiveness, we can rid ourselves of them.

Here are some quotes you can memorize, to help you recognize the truth, so that when one of these idle thoughts raises their ugly heads, you’ll have some ammunition to conquer them:

 

Abandonment Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 13)
Advancing self over others Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 94)
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)
Anxiety O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life.  (Author Unknown[i][1], Baha’i Prayers, p. 151)
Apathy (means indifference, boredom, laziness, lack of concern) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . apathy, 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)

Ponder and reflect. Is it thy wish to die upon thy bed, or to shed thy life-blood on the dust, a martyr in My path, and so become the manifestation of My command and the revealer of My light in the highest paradise? Judge thou aright, O servant!  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 46)

Approval Seeking ’Abdu’l-Bahá is reported to have said: . . . at all times seeking the approval of men is many times the cause of imperiling the approval of God.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, June 24, 1915)
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)
Attachment to the material world For attachment to the world has become the cause of the bondage of spirits, and this bondage is identical with sin . . . It is because of this attachment that men have been deprived of essential spirituality and exalted position.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 123)
Avarice (Greed) Well is it with him whom the fleeting vanities of the world have not deprived of a lasting adornment, and whom avarice and negligence have not shut out from the illumination of the sun of trustworthiness.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 335)
Betrayal The disintegration of basic institutions of social order . . . the betrayal of the life of the mind through surrender to ideologies as squalid as they have been empty . . .  are only the more obvious in a catalogue of horrors unknown to even the darkest of ages past.  (Commissioned by the Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 8)
Bitterness When our thoughts are filled with the bitterness of this world, let us turn our eyes to the sweetness of God’s compassion and He will send us heavenly calm!   (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 111)
Blame It behoveth you, therefore, to attach blame to no one except to yourselves, for the things ye have committed, if ye but judge fairly.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 222-223)
Boasting The children of God do the works without boasting, obeying His laws . . . This is what the near approach to God requires from you, and this is what I expect of you.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 17)
Bribery Those souls who are employed in government should approach their duties with entire detachment, integrity and independence of spirit, and with complete consecration and sanctity of purpose. Content with the wages they are receiving, they should see that they do not stain their fair character through acts of bribery and fraud.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 454)
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)

Corruption If, however, he abuse his position through corrupt or mercenary behaviour, he will be held in detestation at the Threshold of Grandeur and incur the wrath of the Abha Beauty — nay, he shall be forsaken by the one true God and all who adore Him.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 344)
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)
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)
Deception (means trickery, fraud, con) Any form of intrigue, deception, collusion and compulsion must be stopped and is forbidden.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 12)
Depression Be thou not unhappy; the tempest of sorrow shall pass; regret will not last; disappointment will vanish; the fire of the love of God will become enkindled, and the thorns and briars of sadness and despondency will be consumed! Be thou happy; rest thou assured upon the favors of Bahá’, so that uncertainty and hesitation may become non-existent and the invisible outpourings descend upon the arena of being!    (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 557)
Dishonesty Should anyone, God forbid, manifest one iota of dishonesty . . . in carrying out his duties, or unlawfully exact money from the people, be it even a singe penny, or secure private gains for himself, or seek personal benefits, such a person will surely be deprived of the blessings of the Almighty.  Beware, beware, lest ye fall short of what hath been set forth in this letter.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Nearness to God, p. ‘Izzat 15)
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)

Doubt Know thou of a certainty that thy Lord will come to thine aid with a company of the Concourse on high and hosts of the Abhá Kingdom.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 43)
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)
Estrangement (means rift, separation) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . estrangement . . . 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)

Reflect ye as to other than human forms of life and be ye admonished thereby: those clouds that drift apart cannot produce the bounty of the rain, and are soon lost; a flock of sheep, once scattered, falleth prey to the wolf, and birds that fly alone will be caught fast in the claws of the hawk. What greater demonstration could there be that unity leadeth to flourishing life, while dissension and withdrawing from the others, will lead only to misery; for these are the sure ways to bitter disappointment and ruin.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 278)

Extortion If, God forbid, he should be guilty of the least breach of trust, or approach his duties in a slack or desultory fashion, or extort so much as a farthing from the populace, or seek to further his own selfish interests and personal gain — then it is certain that he shall be deprived of the outpourings of God’s grace.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 341)
Fanaticism (means extremeism) The source of all these catastrophes is racial fanaticism, patriotic fanaticism, religious fanaticism and political fanaticism. The source of these fanaticisms is ancient imitations, religious imitations, racial imitations, patriotic imitations, and political imitations. As long as following such imitations persists, the very foundation of humanity is wrecked and the world of man is in great jeopardy.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Letter to Martha Root)
Fear Let the fear of no one dismay thee. Trust in the Lord, thy God, for He is sufficient unto whosoever trusteth in Him. He, verily, shall protect thee, and in Him shalt thou abide in safety.  (Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 60)
Fraud Content with the wages they are receiving, they should see that they do not stain their fair character through acts of bribery and fraud. Were one of the friends in this day to misappropriate so much as a single penny, the sacred mantle of God’s Cause would become sullied by his action and the shame of it would attach to the whole community.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 344)
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)
Gossip ’Abdu’l-Bahá is reported to have said:  I hope that the believers of God will shun completely backbiting, each one praising the other cordially and believe that backbiting is the cause of Divine Wrath, to such an extent that if a person backbites to the extent of one word, he may become dishonored among all the people, because the most hateful characteristic of man is fault-finding.   (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. IV, No. 11, p. 192)
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)
Guilt Commit not, O people, that which will bring shame upon you or dishonor the Cause of God in the eyes of men, and be not of the mischief-makers. Approach not the things which your minds condemn. Eschew all manner of wickedness, for such things are forbidden unto you in the Book which none touch except such as God hath cleansed from every taint of guilt, and numbered among the purified.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 277-278)
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)
Haughtiness (means conceit, pride, self-importance) Put away the garment of vainglory, and divest yourselves of the attire of haughtiness.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 47)
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 Baha’. This is the foundation of the most high pathway! Ye should conform your conduct and manners with the advices of Abdul-Baha. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 373)
Hypocrisy It is also essential to abstain from hypocrisy and blind imitation, inasmuch as their foul odour is soon detected by every man of understanding and wisdom.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 1)
Idle Talk Verily I say unto thee: Of all men the most negligent is he that disputeth idly and seeketh to advance himself over his brother. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 5)
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)
Imitation Man must free himself from the . . . thistles of imitations, that he may discover reality in the harvests of true knowledge. Otherwise the discovery of reality is impossible.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 76)
Injustice If a man does a great injustice to another in his life, then, after his death, his son will be despised for having had such a father and in some cases the injury might be so serious that the effect would reach to the grandson, etc., or a man may, by wrong living, fall into consumption and give that disease to his children unto the third or fourth generation.  “Both physically and mentally the sins of the fathers may be visited upon the children.”  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Daily Lessons Received at ‘Akká 1979 ed., pp. 45-46)
Insincerity Suffer not your idle fancies, your evil passions, your insincerity and blindness of heart to dim the luster, or stain the sanctity, of so lofty a station.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 326)
Isolation Seclude yourselves in the stronghold of My love. This, verily, is a befitting seclusion, were ye of them that perceive it. He that shutteth himself up in a house is indeed as one dead. It behoveth man to show forth that which will profit all created things, and he that bringeth forth no fruit is fit for fire.  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 49)
Jealousy Jealousy consumeth the body . . . avoid [it] as you would a lion.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 460)
Judgmentalism Therefore, no one should glorify himself over another; no one should manifest pride or superiority toward another; no one should look upon another with scorn and contempt; and no one should deprive or oppress a fellow creature.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 62)
Laxity (means carelessness, sloppiness) Should anyone, God forbid , . . . show laxity . . . in carrying out his duties . . . such a person will surely be deprived of the blessings of the Almighty.  Beware, beware, lest ye fall short of what hath been set forth in this letter.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Nearness to God, p. ‘Izzat 15)

All of them, be they men or women, must, at this threatening hour when the lights of religion are fading out, and its restraints are one by one being abolished, pause to examine themselves, scrutinize their conduct, and with characteristic resolution arise to purge the life of their community of every trace of moral laxity that might stain the name, or impair the integrity, of so holy and precious a Faith.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 29)

Loneliness There is no harm in thy loneliness in those regions; for verily, the hosts of confirmation are thy help, thy Glorious Lord is thy protector and the angels of the Kingdom are thy fellow-speakers. Glad-tidings be unto thee for this! Blessed art thou for this!  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 61)
Love of luxury and comfort Otherwise, woe and misery to the soul that seeketh after comforts, riches, and earthly delights while neglecting to call God to mind! (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 240)
Lust Bahá’u’lláh, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, has exhorted us not to indulge our passions and in one of His well-known Tablets ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encourage us to keep our “secret thoughts pure”.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 364)
Lying If the sum of all sins were to be weighed in the balance, falsehood would, on its own, countervail them; nay its evils would even outweigh them and its detriment prove greater. It were better for thee that thou shouldst be a blasphemer and tell the truth than that thou shouldst mouth the formulas of faith and yet be a liar.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Trustworthiness, p. 12.)
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)
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)
Negativity You certainly have no right to feel negative; you have embraced this glorious Faith and arisen with devotion to serve it, and your labours are greatly appreciated by both the Guardian and your fellow-Bahá’ís. With something as positive as the Faith and all it teaches behind you, you should be a veritable lion of confidence, and he will pray that you may become so.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)
Neglect There are many things which will, if neglected, be wasted, and come to nothing.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Education, p. 3)

Neglect not My commandments if thou lovest My beauty, and forget not My counsels if thou wouldst attain My good pleasure.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 39)

This is the work of a true Bahá’í, and this is what is expected of him. If we strive to do all this, then are we true Bahá’ís, but if we neglect it, we are not followers of the Light, and we have no right to the name.  God, who sees all hearts, knows how far our lives are the fulfillment of our words.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 81)

Negligence (careless, inattention) Should anyone, God forbid, manifest one iota of . . . negligence in carrying out his duties . . . such a person will surely be deprived of the blessings of the Almighty.  Beware, beware, lest ye fall short of what hath been set forth in this letter.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Nearness to God, p. ‘Izzat 15)

But alas! man is not grateful for this supreme good, but sleeps the sleep of negligence, being careless of the great mercy which God has shown towards him, turning his face away from the light and going on his way in darkness.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 20)

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)
Perfectionism We humans are never going to become perfect, for perfection belongs to a realm we are not destined to enter. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 453)
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)
Pride As to him who turneth aside, and swelleth with pride, after that the clear tokens have come unto him, from the Revealer of signs, his work shall God bring to naught.   (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 60)
Remiss (means careless, inattentive, negligent) We ourselves have been remiss and we should have sought Your protection before; in any case we come now to implore Your pardon and help.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 111)
Securing private gains Bahá’ís will become known to all as people . . . whose concern is to serve the common good, not to advance their own interests, and whose aim is to further the welfare and prosperity of the people, not to foster their own well-being.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 340)
Self-desire Verily, those who withhold themselves from the shelter of the Branch are indeed lost in the wilderness of perplexity; and are consumed by the heat of self-desire, and are of those who perish.  (Baha’u’llah, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 205)
Self-hatred and self-pity O ye roses in the garden of God’s love! O ye bright lamps in the assemblage of His knowledge! May the soft breathings of God pass over you, may the Glory of God illumine the horizon of your hearts. Ye are the waves of the deep sea of knowledge, ye are the massed armies on the plains of certitude, ye are the stars in the skies of God’s compassion, ye are the stones that put the people of perdition to flight, ye are clouds of divine pity over the gardens of life, ye are the abundant grace of God’s oneness that is shed upon the essences of all created things.  On the outspread tablet of this world, ye are the verses of His singleness; and atop lofty palace towers, ye are the banners of the Lord. In His bowers are ye the blossoms and sweet-smelling herbs, in the rose garden of the spirit the nightingales that utter plaintive cries. Ye are the birds that soar upward into the firmament of knowledge, the royal falcons on the wrist of God.  Why then are ye quenched, why silent, why leaden and dull?   (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 265)
Self Interest If they accept office, their motive is to render service to the whole of humanity, not to seek their own self-interest; and their object is to vindicate the cause of truth, not to give themselves over to self-indulgence and base ingratitude.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 342)
Selfishness But if he show the slightest taint of selfish desires and self love, his efforts will lead to nothing and he will be destroyed and left hopeless at the last.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 71)
Sensuality In other words, the spirituality of the Religion of God had been changed into materiality, and virtues into vices; the love of God had been changed into hatred, enlightenment into darkness, divine qualities into satanic ones, justice into tyranny, mercy into enmity, sincerity into hypocrisy, guidance into error, and purity into sensuality.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 54)
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)

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)
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)
Ungodliness The company of the ungodly increaseth sorrow, whilst fellowship with the righteous cleanseth the rust from off the heart.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Persian Hidden Words 56)
Unfaithfulness Ya-Baha’u’l-Abha! I have forsaken the world and its people, am heartbroken because of the unfaithful, and am weary.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 433)
Unworthy thoughts One act of unfaithfulness — even a glance betraying the insincerity of the individual or an unworthy thought emanating from his mind — is as painful torture to Him.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 3, p. 233)
Usury (overcharging interest on moneylending) We have, according to the text of the Book, forbidden unto all men the practice of usury.   (Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 192)

[1] With regard to the status of the prayer, “O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit” . . . all attempts to locate the original text of the prayer have, so far, proved unsuccessful. In the absence of the text it is not possible to authenticate, completely, the prayer in question.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual, 5 June 2006)

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

Why I Love the Concept of Sin

 

In the early days of my recovery from childhood abuse, I longed for someone who had been healed to show me the way; and I couldn’t find anyone.  I promised that if I got through the pain, I’d show others what I discovered, so they could get back on the path without as many wrong turns as I’d made.

In 2010, after trying everything else to recover from anxiety and depression, a friend gave me a copy of the book “A More Excellent Way” by Christian Pastor Henry Wright.  I was impressed by his teachings, because he backed everything up with quotes from the Bible.  Not only did it change the course of my life irrevocably, it also made me a better Bahá’í, and put me on the course of sharing what I’ve learned in my blog and in my books.

I took his online course called “Be in Health”; and stopped the videos after every new concept, to find validation for his points in the Bahá’í Writings.  The first thing that got my attention was when Henry Wright called anxiety “fear”; and said that fear was a sin, because in the Bible, God has told us to “fear not”; and when we indulged in fear, we were also guilty of the sin of pride, because we were assuming that we had to solve our problems alone; and didn’t trust God to be part of the process.  This not only got my attention, but it also changed my life!

As long as I was suffering from the medical condition “anxiety”, I needed a medical solution; none of which got at the root of the problem; so anxiety was always there, but “managed”.

When I thought of it as fear, and a lack of trust in God; and could see it as against the Will of God, I now had a problem I could do something about:  Immerse myself in the Bahá’í Writings; find out what they said about sin; and God’s forgiveness; and then “follow the instructions”.  When I did this, the spiritual roots of my anxiety and depression were taken care of and have not returned!  And I am grateful!

Understanding the nature of sin was at the core of my recovery, because if I could accept that God created me noble, and out of His love for me; and if I believed that His work is perfect and that His perfection includes the fact that we are all sinners, then everyone is on a level playing field; and forgiveness and compassion become possible.

It was easier to understand that my abusers were also created by a loving God; and that because they were sinners, I got hurt.  I didn’t get hurt because they didn’t love me.  I didn’t get hurt because I was a bad person and God was punishing me.  I got hurt because they chose to use their free will in activities that went against the Will of God.  They were acting from their lower natures; and will be accountable to God for the choices that they made.

I came to realize that as bad as the first 17 years of my life were; the next  36 years were even worse, because of the abuse I perpetrated on myself, through the lies I told myself (you’re worthless; nobody loves you; nobody will ever love you; it was all your fault).

I came to understand that these actions too were coming from my lower nature; and I would be accountable to God for holding on to them; believing them to be true; and allowing their poison to hurt the people around me; just as my abusers had hurt me.  The choices each of us made were different; but in the end, the result was the same.

My experience has shown me that most Bahá’ís don’t like to talk about sin.  For many of us, this idea conjures up a negative “fire and brimstone”; “going straight to hell” kind of God, which isn’t what the Writings teach.

Personally, I love that Bahá’u’lláh tells us He created us perfect:

O SON OF BEING!

With the hands of power I made thee and with the fingers of strength I created thee; and within thee have I placed the essence of My light. Be thou content with it and seek naught else, for My work is perfect and My command is binding. Question it not, nor have a doubt thereof.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Arabic Hidden Words, #12)

And ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us that we are all sinners:

We are all sinners, and Thou art the Forgiver of sins, the Merciful, the Compassionate. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 176)

This suggests that God knew He was creating us as sinners, and it’s all part of His perfect plan!  I’m a sinner; you’re a sinner; we’re all sinners!  It’s a level playing field that means none of us have a right to judge another, because we are all guilty of falling short of God’s injunctions.

The dictionary defines sin as:

  • transgression of divine law
  • any act regarded as such a transgression, especially a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle
  • any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, lapse, etc.; great fault or offense

So if God says “do this” and we don’t do it, it falls under this definition of sin.

Although the concept of “sin” isn’t popular in many Bahá’í circles, the word “sin” appears 578 times in Ocean.  If we include the synonyms, we find over 18,000 occurrences, just on those synonyms!  If I did a word search on the synonyms of the synonyms, the permutations and combinations would take a lifetime of immersion in God’s Ocean to unravel!  Suffice it to say that the Bahá’í Writings indeed focus on sin; and teach us how to overcome it.

Although we could use any of these synonyms instead of “sin”, the truth is that the names of things do not affect what they really are; so I’ve used the word “sin” here, even knowing that it may make some people cringe.

Why does such a small word have the power to make us feel small, dirty, ashamed, less than, not good enough, a failure and a host of other negative emotions?  I believe it’s because it got mistranslated somewhere along the line; and then used to make us want to change our behaviour by shaming us into doing what other people want.

I wonder if we can put our feelings associated with this word aside and assume a humble posture of learning as we go through what I’ve learned about sin together; starting with these key concepts:

  • The Bahá’í teachings compare the human heart to a mirror, which, if turned away from the light of the sun (i.e. God), is incapable of receiving God’s love.

And, as we are reminded by the House of Justice:

It must be remembered that individuals can reform, and a reprehensible past does not necessarily disqualify a believer from building a better future.  (Written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, #123, p. 34)

My goal is to help us realize that we all sin, by falling short of God’s standards.  It doesn’t mean we’re bad.  It’s just part of living in our lower nature, when we know what the Writings teach us about our dual nature, we can ask God to forgive us, move into our higher nature and make each day better than the day before.

Let each morn be better than its eve and each morrow richer than its yesterday.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 138)

Every day, in the morning when arising you should compare today with yesterday and see in what condition you are. If you see your belief is stronger and your heart more occupied with God and your love increased and your freedom from the world greater then thank God and ask for the increase of these qualities. You must begin to pray and repent for all that you have done which is wrong, and you must implore and ask for help and assistance that you may become better than yesterday so that you may continue to make progress.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Compilation of Compilations, Vol I, p. 376)

With all these caveats in mind, let’s get started!

 

 

Synonym Occurrences One of the Key Teachings

 

Blameworthy 130 The natural emotions are blameworthy and are like rust which deprives the heart of the bounties of God.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244)
Censurable 9 For example, if someone oppresses, injures and wrongs another, and the wronged man retaliates, this is vengeance and is censurable.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 269)
Corrupt 924 We enjoin the servants of God and His handmaidens to be pure and to fear God, that they may shake off the slumber of their corrupt desires, and turn toward God, the Maker of the heavens and of the earth.  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 23)
Depraved 46 But left in his natural condition without education and training, it is certain that he will become more depraved and vicious than the animal.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 309)
Depravity 63 Liberty causeth man to overstep the bounds of propriety, and to infringe on the dignity of his station. It debaseth him to the level of extreme depravity and wickedness.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 335)
Disgraceful 93 Let those who, driven by their passions or by their inability to exercise discipline in the control of their anger, might be tempted to inflict violence on another human being, be mindful of the condemnation of such disgraceful behavior by the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh.  (Universal House of Justice,  NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)
Erring 119 I know not how long they shall ride the steed of desire and wander erringly in the desert of heedlessness and error.   (Bahá’u’lláh, Lawh-i-Sultan, Tablet to Nasiri’d Din Shah – Browne)
Error 1816 The emphatic and vigorous language of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and Testament is at this time of His own passing, the safeguard of the Cause: “Unto the Most Holy Book every one must turn and all that is not expressly recorded therein must be referred to the Universal House of Justice. That which this body, whether unanimously or by majority doth carry, that is verily the Truth and the Purpose of God Himself. Whoso doth deviate therefrom is verily of them that love discord, hath shown forth malice, and turned away from the Lord of the Covenant.” And again: “All must seek guidance and turn unto the Centre of the Cause and the House of Justice. And he that turneth unto whosoever else is indeed in grievous error.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 317-318)
Evil 3696 The reality underlying this question is that 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. 77)
Failing 2714 We must supplicate Bahá’u’lláh to assist us to overcome the failings in our own characters, and also exert our own will power in mastering ourselves.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 115)
Fault 522 The great tragedy of mankind at this time is the failure of the vast majority of human beings to heed the Divine Call, and this is in large part occasioned by the failure of most of those who have believed to live up to the high standard that Bahá’u’lláh has set. This is the condition in which we must work in our service to mankind, turning a sin-covering eye to the faults of others, and striving in our own inmost selves to purify our lives in accordance with the divine Teachings.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 498)
Guilty 253 If, God forbid, he should be guilty of the least breach of trust, or approach his duties in a slack or desultory fashion, or extort so much as a farthing from the populace, or seek to further his own selfish interests and personal gain — then it is certain that he shall be deprived of the outpourings of God’s grace.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 452)
Immoral 151 In one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers to some of the spiritual and social implications of the violation of the laws of morality and, concerning the penalty here described, He indicates that the aim of this law is to make clear to all that such an action is shameful in the eyes of God and that, in the event that the offence can be established and the fine imposed, the principal purpose is the exposure of the offenders — that they are shamed and disgraced in the eyes of society. He affirms that such exposure is in itself the greatest punishment.  (Notes to The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 200)
Iniquity 292 Thou seest the sinner, O my Lord, who hath turned towards the dawning-place of Thy forgiveness and Thy bounty, and the mountain of iniquity that hath sought the heaven of Thy mercy and pardon.  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 5)
Led Astray 41 The people, however, have been led astray, and are truly of the heedless.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 296)
Misconduct 31 Then there are those high ethical standards to which Bahá’u’lláh calls His followers, such as trustworthiness, abstention from backbiting, and so on; generally speaking, obedience to these is a matter for individual conscience, and the Assemblies should not pry into people’s lives to see whether or not they are following them; nevertheless, if a believer’s conduct falls so far below the standard set by Bahá’u’lláh that it becomes a flagrant disgrace and brings the name of the Faith into disrepute, the Assembly would have to intervene, to encourage the believer to correct his ways, to warn him of the consequences of continued misconduct, and possibly, if he does not respond, to deprive him of his administrative rights.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 638)
Mistake 651 Perhaps the greatest test Bahá’ís are ever subjected to is from each other; but for the sake of the Master they should be ever ready to overlook each other’s mistakes, apologize for harsh words they have uttered, forgive and forget.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 601)
Offense 175 While Bahá’u’lláh specified that the extent of the penalty

depends upon “the severity of the injury”, there is no record of His having set out the details of the size of the indemnity with regard to each degree of offence. The responsibility to determine these devolves upon the Universal House of Justice.   (Notes to The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 201)

Reprehensible 156 Every intelligent man comprehends that murder, theft, treachery, falsehood, hypocrisy and cruelty are evil and reprehensible.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 266)
Sin 876 All sin comes from the demands of nature, and these demands, which arise from the physical qualities, are not sins with respect to the animals, while for man they are sin. The animal is the source of imperfections, such as anger, sensuality, jealousy, avarice, cruelty, pride: all these defects are found in animals but do not constitute sins. But in man they are sins.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 119)
Sinful 122 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. 62)
Sinner 302 We are all sinners, and Thou art the Forgiver of sins, the Merciful, the Compassionate.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 176)
Transgression 387 Nevertheless, after a certain time, and through the transgression of both the Muhammadans and the Christians, hatred and enmity arose between them. Beyond this fact, all the narrations of the Muslims, Christians and others are simply fabrications, which have their origin in fanaticism, or ignorance, or emanate from intense hostility.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 21-22)
Ungodly 273 In the passage ‘eschew all fellowship with the ungodly, ‘Bahá’u’lláh means that we should shun the company of those who disbelieve in God and are wayward. The word ‘ungodly’ is a reference to such perverse people.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 483)
Vile 172 How foolish and ignorant must a man be, how base his nature, and how vile the clay of which he is fashioned, if he would defile himself with the contamination of bribery, corruption and perfidy towards the state! Truly, the vermin of the earth are to be preferred to such people!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 345)
Wicked 736 Nevertheless, it is certain that between the good, the sinners and the wicked who are veiled from God there is a difference. For the veiled one who has good principles and character deserves the pardon of God, while he who is a sinner, and has bad qualities and character, is deprived of the bounties and blessings of God. Herein lies the difference.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 238)
Wickedness 227 Commit not, O people, that which will bring shame upon you or dishonor the Cause of God in the eyes of men, and be not of the mischief-makers. Approach  278  not the things which your minds condemn. Eschew all manner of wickedness, for such things are forbidden unto you in the Book which none touch except such as God hath cleansed from every taint of guilt, and numbered among the purified.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 277)
Wrong 3010 Also the child should be made to understand that we don’t fear God because He is cruel, but we fear Him because He is Just, and, if we do wrong and deserve to be punished, then in His Justice He may see fit to punish us.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 237)
Wrongdoing 107 . . . in the world of mankind there are two safeguards that protect man from wrongdoing. One is the law which punishes the criminal  . . . whereas the ideal safeguard, namely, the religion of God, prevents both the manifest and the concealed crime, trains man, educates morals, compels the adoption of virtues and is the all-inclusive power which guarantees the felicity of the world of mankind.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 302)

That’s over 18,000 occurrences, just on those synonyms!  If I did a word search on the synonyms of the synonyms, the permutations and combinations would take a lifetime of immersion in God’s Ocean to unravel!  Suffice it to say that the Bahá’í Writings indeed focus on sin; and teach us how to overcome it.

 

With that in mind, let’s see what the Writings teach us about sin, over the next few blog postings.

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!

Overcoming Backbiting – Changing our Behaviour

 

How do we overcome this cultural past-time?

Just stop!

As with many things, deeds not words are what is required:

However, deprivation of voting rights is usually of little help in such circumstances and should be resorted to only after other remedies have been tried and failed . . . Rash action can dampen the zeal of the community, and this must be avoided at all costs.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 60)

We’re asked to refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causes sadness in men:

Verily I say, the tongue is for mentioning what is good, defile it not with unseemly talk. God hath forgiven what is past. Henceforward everyone should utter that which is meet and seemly, and should refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causeth sadness in men. Lofty is the station of man!  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 219-220)

A silent tongue is the safest:

A silent tongue is the safest. Even good may be harmful, if spoken at the wrong time, or to the wrong person.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 125)

If the situation is not serious, we should ignore it:

Sometimes, however, the matter does not seem grave enough to warrant reporting to the Spiritual Assembly, in which case it may be best to ignore it altogether. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

 ‘Abdu’l-Baha longed to see us use our lips in praise of others instead:

I hope that the believers of God will shun completely backbiting, each one praising the other cordially.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. IV, No. 11, p. 192)

One must expose the praiseworthy qualities of the souls and not their evil attributes.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. IV, No. 11, p. 192)

If some means were devised so that the doors of backbiting were shut eternally and each one of the believers unsealed his lips in praise of others. (’Abdu’l-Baha, Star of West, Vol. IV. p. 192)

We must overlook people’s shortcomings and faults and speak only of their virtues:

The friends must overlook their shortcomings and faults and speak only of their virtues and not their defects.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. IV, No. 11, p. 192)

We must think of our own imperfections and try to remove them:

On no subject are the Bahá’í teachings more emphatic than on the necessity to abstain from fault-finding and backbiting while being ever eager to discover and root out our own faults and overcome our own failings.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 88)

In ‘Star of the West’, Volume 8, No. 10, on page 138, there is a record of a reply given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in a private interview in Paris in 1913. He was asked ‘How shall I overcome seeing the faults of others — recognizing the wrong in others?’, and He replied: ‘I will tell you. Whenever you recognize the fault of another, think of yourself! What are my imperfections? — and try to remove them. Do this whenever you are tried through the words or deeds of others. Thus you will grow, become more perfect. You will overcome self, you will not even have time to think of the faults of others.’  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 89)

The task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will-power and energy:

Each of us is responsible for one life only, and that is our own. Each of us is immeasurably far from being ‘perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect’ and the task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will- power and energy.   (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 92)

I love this analogy – If we allow our attention and energy to be taken up in efforts to keep others right and remedy their faults, our own furrow will assuredly become crooked:

If we allow our attention and energy to be taken up in efforts to keep others right and remedy their faults, we are wasting precious time. We are like ploughmen each of whom has his team to manage and his plough to direct, and in order to keep his furrow straight he must keep his eye on his goal and concentrate on his own task. If he looks to this side and that to see how Tom and Harry are getting on and to criticize their ploughing, then his own furrow will assuredly become crooked.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 92)

Here’s a story of how ‘Abdu’l-Baha helped someone overcome the things she’d said about her worst enemy:

A woman went to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, received His teachings and blessings, and asked for a special work.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, ‘Spread the law of love.  Live in accord with love, reciprocity and cooperation.’  She answered, ‘I want something special.  All Baha’is are asked to do this.’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá answered, ‘Very well.  Come tomorrow morning, when you are about to leave, and I will give you the special work.’  She was very happy all that day and night, in anticipation. The next day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said to her, ‘I am going to give you my son that you may educate him physically, mentally and spiritually.’  She was surprised, and was made happy at this.  But her surprise gave way to wonder when she reflected that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had no son.  What could He mean? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked, ‘Do you know this son of mine?’  Then He told her:  In her city there had lived a man, her worst enemy.  He had died leaving a son, who no one to take care of him:  this was now her task.  When she heard this she was overwhelmed.  She was spiritually reborn.  She wept and said, ‘My Master, I now know what the Baha’i Cause means.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 106)

When We Hear Others Gossiping

Justice requires we do our own investigation; seeing with our own eyes and knowing through our own knowledge, instead of relying on others:

The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 2)

We should ignore it:

Ignoring gossip and slander is a positive, constructive and healing action helpful to the community, the gossiper and to the persons slandered.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

We should close our ears to it:

You must not listen to anyone speaking about another, because no sooner do you listen than you must listen to someone else and thus the circle will be enlarged endlessly.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Ramleh, Egypt, 29 October 1913, Star of the West – 4, p. 104)

We should tactfully but firmly prevent others from making accusations or complaints against others in our presence:

We should therefore, as tactfully as possible, but yet firmly, do our utmost to prevent others from making accusations or complaints against others in our presence. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 93)

When we hear gossip and backbiting, we can stop the discussion in a friendly manner, with questions such as:

  • Would this detraction serve any useful purpose?
  • Would it please the Blessed Beauty?
  • Would it contribute to the lasting honour of the friends?
  • Would it promote the holy Faith?
  • Would it support the covenant?
  • Would it be of any possible benefit to any soul?

If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect:  would this detraction serve any useful purpose? Would it please the Blessed Beauty, contribute to the lasting honour of the friends, promote the holy Faith, support the covenant, or be of any possible benefit to any soul? No, never! On the contrary, it would make the dust to settle so thickly on the heart that the ears would hear no more, and the eyes would not longer behold the light of truth.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections From The Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp. 230-231)

We could tactfully draw the offender’s attention to the teachings on the subject:

Or perhaps the relationship is such that he can tactfully draw the offender’s attention to the teachings on the subject — but here he must be very careful not to give the impression of prying into a fellow-believer’s private affairs or of telling him what he must do, which would not only be wrong in itself but might well produce the reverse of the desired reaction.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

We could tactfully draw the offender into Bahá’í activities hoping that as his knowledge of the teachings and awareness of the Faith deepens, he will spontaneously improve his patterns of conduct:

There are also other things that can be done by the Bahá’í to whose notice such things come. For example he could foster friendly relations with the individual concerned, tactfully drawing him into Bahá’í activities in the hope that, as his knowledge of the teachings and awareness of the Faith deepens, he will spontaneously improve his patterns of conduct. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

 We can always consult our LSA or Auxiliary Board member for advice:

If a believer faced with knowledge of another Bahá’ís conduct is unsure what course to take, he can, of course, always consult his Local Spiritual Assembly for advice. If, for some reason, he is reluctant at that stage to inform his Spiritual Assembly, he can consult an Auxiliary Board member or assistant.  Whatever steps are taken, it is vital that the believers refrain from gossip and backbiting, for this can only harm the Faith, causing perhaps more damage than would have been caused by the original offense.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

 Here are 3 stories of how ‘Abdu’l-Baha showed us how to handle discussions that involve backbiting:

When once someone complained of Lua to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, He turned to the person who had made the criticism and with a benign smile, said, ‘But she loves her Lord.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 164)

Under a grove of trees near Lake Michigan, while in Chicago in 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave intimate and loving counsel to His friends:  ‘Some of you may have observed that I have not called attention to any of your individual shortcomings.  I would suggest to you, that if you shall be similarly considerate in your treatment of each other, it will be greatly conducive to the harmony of your association with each other.’  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 88)

It is related that His Holiness Christ — May my life be a sacrifice to Him! — one day, accompanied by His apostles, passed by the corpse of a dead animal. One of them said: ‘How putrid has this animal become!’ The other exclaimed: ‘How it is deformed!’ A third cried out: ‘What a stench! How cadaverous looking!’ but His Holiness Christ said: “Look at its teeth! how white they are!’ Consider, that He did not look at all at the defects of that animal; nay, rather, He searched well until He found the beautiful white teeth. He observed only the whiteness of the teeth and overlooked entirely the deformity of the body, the dissolution of its organs and the bad odour.  This is the attribute of the children of the Kingdom. This is the conduct and the manner of the real Bahá’ís. I hope that all the believers will attain to this lofty station.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 91)

He stopped the fault-finding by focusing on something positive instead.

‘Abdu’l-Baha also understood those who gossiped, and showered them with love and forgiveness, as these stories illustrate:

That very afternoon, in my room with two of the believers, I spoke against a brother in the truth, finding fault with him, and giving vent to the evil in my own heart by my words . . . A little later we all went to supper, and my hard heart was unconscious of its error, until, as my eyes sought the beloved face of my Master, I met His gaze, so full of gentleness and compassion that I was smitten to the heart.  For in some marvellous way His eyes spoke to me; in that pure and perfect mirror I saw my wretched self and burst into tears.  He took no notice of me for a while and everyone kindly continued with the supper while I sat in His dear Presence washing away some of my sins in tears.  After a few moments He turned and smiled on me and spoke my name several times as though He were calling me to Him.  In an instant such sweet happiness pervaded my soul, my heart was comforted with such infinite hope, that I knew He would cleanse me of all of my sins.’  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 63)

We began to argue about the New York Assembly: as to whether or not it was united!  Mr Kinney declared that it was. I said it was not. I even went so far as to mention the breeder of the discord, to condemn her destructive work!  But when X and I crept off to the room we were temporarily occupying — crept through the black, vaulted halls and rooms, over the old stone floors, to the rear wing of the house — a feeling of guilt such as I could hardly bear consumed me.  Next morning when I met our Lord outside the dining room door, in the sunny little court I so love because it is associated with His footsteps, with the benediction of His Presence, looking with eyes that … forgave? … no, that understood … deep, deep into my eyes, He put out His hand and took mine in a clasp of love.  (Diary of Juliet Thompson)

Who Can Help?

As with everything in the Faith, we need all 3 protagonists – the individual, the community and the Institutions.

First, as individuals, we need to really study the Writings and become peacemakers:

What the believers need is not only … to really study the teachings, but also to have more peace-makers circulating among them. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 89)

The the older and the more mature Bahá’ís can help the weaker ones to function and live like true believers:

It is one of the functions of the older and the more mature Bahá’ís, to help the weaker ones to iron out their difficulties and learn to really function and live like true believers!  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 89)

The NSA could provide for the proper deepening of the friends to instill in them a respect for Bahá’í laws:

We think it would be much better for the National Assembly to provide for the proper deepening of the friends and in a loving and patient manner attempt to instill in them a respect for Bahá’í laws.   (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 60)

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