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Wanting What We Don’t Have 

Put away all covetousness and seek contentment; for the covetous hath ever been deprived, and the contented hath ever been loved and praised.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian 50)

Wow, envy is such a test for me!  I often fall into “compare and despair” where I compare myself to others and want what they have.  It might be something material (a better house, car, job, vacation), or physical (longer legs, shorter nose) or relational (an ideal spouse, perfect kids, lots of family and friends) or something intangible (more confidence, better social skills).  When I’m focused on what I don’t have or get caught up in “keeping up with the Jones’s” or wanting a better social status, it’s hard to be happy or reliant on God.  Envy lowers my self-worth and self-esteem and deprives me of the opportunity to see and be grateful for what I do have.

The antidote to envy is to accept who we are, count our blessings, ask God to provide us with what we need, rejoice in the good fortune of others and believe in God’s perfect justice. Also, we can use envy wisely if it makes us aspire to be a better person and work hard to succeed in our endeavors.

Remembering that letting go of envy and embracing contentment will enable me to be loved and praised by God, I am grateful!

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

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

 

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Attachments to This World

The world is but a show, vain and empty, a mere nothing, bearing the semblance of reality. Set not your affections upon it.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 328)

I have so many attachments to this physical world and I see that they are holding me back.  I’m attached to the area where I live; I’m attached to my beliefs, even when they are wrong or hurting me.  I’m attached to relationships I’ve outgrown.  I’m attached to my lifestyle.  I’m attached to the way I teach and serve.  I’m attached to my comfort zone.  I’m attached to the lies I tell myself.  I don’t know how to let go.  This quote tells me none of it matters.  It’s all just a chimera.

What’s real is the world of the spirit.  What’s real is my relationship to God and His desire to have me draw closer to Him.  What’s real are the virtues that I’m acquiring which will serve me well in the next world.  What’s real is my prayer life.

I love the prayer of the Bab which starts “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 . . .”  (Baha’i Prayers, p. 79).  It tells me what’s really important.

Remembering to let go of my attachment to the world, I am grateful.

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

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

 

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Turning to the Light 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He uses a very clear example here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adib reminds us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Life Has No Fruit

Some people have told me that this quote terrifies them:

The basest of men are they that yield no fruit on earth. Such men are verily counted as among the dead, nay better are the dead in the sight of God than those idle and worthless souls.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Persian Hidden Words #81)

They’ve come to understand “fruit” as meaning children, family life, productive work, service, philanthropy etc, and when they don’t marry and/or have children, or they lose a job or they don’t make enough to make ends meet, they judge themselves harshly and punish themselves with this quote.

But I think the Bahá’í Writings have a different understanding of what this quote means.

It’s true:

The fleeting hours of man’s life on earth pass swiftly by and the little that still remaineth shall come to an end, but that which endureth and lasteth for evermore is the fruit that man reapeth from his servitude at the Divine Threshold.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 234)

We know that one of the reasons we’re put on this earth is to develop the virtues we’ll need in the next world, so perhaps the “fruit that man reapeth from his servitude at the Divine Threshold” are the virtues we are continually acquiring.

With regards to your life bearing no fruit – I know this is a chronic source of pain for some of us, and I have every confidence we will be absolutely astonished when we get to the next world, to find out just how much fruit we’ve harvested to bring with us, I promise!  Let’s have this discussion then, OK?

Keep these quotes in mind – so you can banish the lies (my life has no fruit) from your hamster wheel, and replace it with the truth:

Read this:

One who performeth neither good deeds nor acts of worship is like unto a tree which beareth no fruit, and an action which leaveth no trace. Whosoever experienceth the holy ecstasy of worship will refuse to barter such an act or any praise of God for all that existeth in the world.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting)

Ask yourself:

  • Have you ever performed a good deed? Make a list of 25 of them!
  • Have you ever performed an act of worship? Said your daily prayers?  Attended a devotional gathering?

If so, your life has fruit!

Read this:

The Tree of Life is full of blossoms, leaves and fruits!—shade thereof is a peace to the soul and a rest to the consciousness. Whosoever is under this Tree will certainly partake of fruit. But shade trees are many in the forest, which, though fresh and verdant, are, nevertheless, fruitless. This truth shall finally become clear and manifest unto thee.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 126)

Ask yourself:

  • Are you under the “tree of life”?

If so, your life has fruit!

Read this:

The fleeting hours of man’s life on earth pass swiftly by and the little that still remaineth shall come to an end, but that which endureth and lasteth for evermore is the fruit that man reapeth from his servitude at the Divine Threshold.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 234)

Ask yourself:

  • Have you ever performed an act of service? At home?  To your parents?  Your spouse?  Your children?  Your boss?  Your coworkers?  The Faith?

If so, your life has fruit!

Read this:

What are the fruits of the human world? They are the spiritual attributes which appear in man. If man is bereft of those attributes, he is like a fruitless tree. One whose aspiration is lofty and who has developed self-reliance will not be content with a mere animal existence. He will seek the divine Kingdom; he will long to be in heaven although he still walks the earth in his material body, and though his outer visage be physical, his face of inner reflection will become spiritual and heavenly. Until this station is attained by man, his life will be utterly devoid of real outcomes. The span of his existence will pass away in eating, drinking and sleeping, without eternal fruits, heavenly traces or illumination—without spiritual potency, everlasting life or the lofty attainments intended for him during his pilgrimage through the human world. You must thank God that your efforts are high and noble, that your endeavors are worthy, that your intentions are centered upon the Kingdom of God and that your supreme desire is the acquisition of eternal virtues. You must act in accordance with these requirements. A man may be a Bahá’í in name only. If he is a Bahá’í in reality, his deeds and actions will be decisive proofs of it. What are the requirements? Love for mankind, sincerity toward all, reflecting the oneness of the world of humanity, philanthropy, becoming enkindled with the fire of the love of God, attainment to the knowledge of God and that which is conducive to human welfare.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 335)

Ask yourself:

  • What are your spiritual attributes? We all have them?  If you are stuck, this list will help.  Make a list of your strengths and/or ask your loved ones.  They’ll be able to tell you.
  • Are your aspirations lofty?
  • Have you developed self-reliance?
  • Do you seek the divine Kingdom?
  • Do you long to be in heaven?
  • Is your face of inner reflection spiritual and heavenly?
  • Are your efforts high and noble?
  • Are your endeavors worthy?
  • Are your intentions centered upon the Kingdom of God?
  • Is your supreme desire the acquisition of eternal virtues?
  • Do you have love for mankind and sincerity toward all?
  • Do your deeds reflect the oneness of the world of humanity?
  • Are you philanthropic through sacrificial donations to the Fund?
  • Is your Right of God up to date?
  • Are you becoming enkindled with the fire of the love of God?
  • Do you have a knowledge of God?
  • Do you understand that which is conducive to human welfare?

If so, your life has fruit!

If not, you know what you need to work on!

Read this:

… the fruit of man’s earthly existence, which is the recognition of the one true God …
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 344-345)

Ask yourself:

  • Have you recognized God?

If so, your life has fruit!

Conclusion:

So let’s summarize.  As you can see, the fruits of your life include:

  • Recognition of the one true God
  • performing good deeds and acts of worship
  • shade to others, which is a peace to their souls and a rest for their consciousness
  • servitude at the Divine Threshold
  • spiritual attributes
  • lofty aspirations
  • seeking the divine Kingdom
  • longing to be in heaven while you still walk the earth
  • your face of inner reflection is spiritual and heavenly
  • gratitude that your efforts are high and noble, that your endeavors are worthy, that your intentions are centered upon the Kingdom of God and that your supreme desire is the acquisition of eternal virtues
  • acting in accordance with these requirements
  • all your deeds and actions
  • your love for mankind
  • your sincerity toward all
  • reflecting the oneness of the world of humanity
  • philanthropy
  • becoming enkindled with the fire of the love of God
  • attaining knowledge of God and that which is conducive to human welfare.

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