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Spiritual Gravity

Just as the earth attracts everything to the centre of gravity, and every object thrown upward into space will come down, so also material ideas and worldly thoughts attract man to the centre of self. Anger, passion, ignorance, prejudice, greed, envy, covetousness, jeal­ousy and suspicion prevent man from ascending to the realms of holi­ness, imprisoning him in the claws of self and the cage of egotism.  The physical man, unassisted by the divine power, trying to escape from one of these invisible enemies, will unconsciously fall into hands of another. No sooner does he attempt to soar upward than the density of the love of self, like the power of gravity, draws him to the centre of the earth. The only power that is capable of delivering man from this captivity is the power of the Holy Spirit. The attraction of the power of the Holy Spirit is so effective that it keeps man ever on the path of upward ascension.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 241)

This is one of my very favorite analogies in the Faith and I’m always sorry I can’t find it in a more acceptable translation.  It may just be that it’s there and I’m just using the wrong search terms to find it, so if anyone has an equivalent quote in something more authoritative, please let me know.

In the meantime, this seems to be the Bahá’í equivalent of the Christian “7 Deadly Sins” (anger, passion, ignorance, prejudice, greed, envy, covetousness, jealousy and suspicion).  It makes sense that each of this prevents us from ascending to the realms of holiness.  I’ve certainly found that when I try to master one, another pops up and I fall into hands of another.  It feels a bit like God’s playing “whack a mole” with me!

Just as man is incapable of defying gravity, so too are we unable to escape from one of these invisible enemies without assistance from a divine power.  It’s not that we need help from the Holy Spirit, but it seems to be that all that’s required from me is that I’m attracted to the power of the Holy Spirit.

Knowing that the attraction of the power of the Holy Spirit is effective in keeping me on the path of upward ascension, I am grateful!

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

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness

 

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Molding the World and Being Affected By It

We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved.  Man is organic with the world.  His inner life molds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it . . . Through them [the Baha’i teachings] will the human heart be changed, and also our social environment provides the atmosphere in which we can grow spiritually and reflect in full the light of God.  (on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Compilation of Compilations, V1, #3.3)

I had to read this quote several times before I thought I might understand what Shoghi Effendi is saying.  Starting from the end and moving backwards, it reminds me that my social environment provides the atmosphere in which I can grow spiritually, but it also deeply affects my inner life.

As a highly sensitive introvert, I can only be out in the world a short time before the world’s negativity draws me under like an undertow and I need to isolate myself for awhile before I can regain my equilibrium and go out into the world again.  I’m like a cell phone that’s near the end of its life, unable to hold a charge for very long without needing to be plugged in again.

I used to compare myself to others, and to other Writings which urge us to be more and do more, which fed my addiction to beating myself up.  Now I’m more gentle with myself, forgiving myself, understanding that God created me as an introvert, and gave me unique tests to shape my character.  He knows my weakness and frailties and yet, He chose me to be part of His army of light, so it’s OK to need time to recharge my battery.

Now that I’m conscious of my own motives and God’s mercy and forgiveness, there’s no need to beat myself up, and I am grateful!

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

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

 

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Envy and Jealousy

At the same time those who show forth envies, jealousies, etc., toward a servant, are depriving themselves of their own stations, and not another of his, for they prove by their own acts that they are not only unworthy of being called to any station waiting them, but also prove that they cannot withstand the very first test – that of rejoicing over the success of their neighbour, at which God rejoices . . .  Envy closes the door of Bounty, and jealousy prevents one from ever attaining to the Kingdom of Abhá.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 6, No. 6, p. 44)

First of all, I wanted to understand the difference between envy and jealousy as they are often paired in the Bahá’í Writings.  It seems that we envy people when we want what they have and we’re jealous when we want to keep for ourselves what belongs exclusively to us.  Envy involves 2 people – me and the person who has what I want and it is what feeds the “keeping up with the Jones’s”.

If someone is jealous, on the other hand, they feel angry or bitter because they think that another person is trying to take a lover, friend or possession away from them, so it involves 3 people.  It’s often what feeds suspicions of infidelity.  Both come out of a lack of trust towards yourself (to manage your affairs) or to your partner (to be loyal).

With that in mind, we can understand the quote better.  The problem is that when we give in to envy and jealousy, we deprive ourselves of our own station, close the door of bounty and prevent ourselves from ever attaining the Kingdom of Abha.  If I don’t appreciate the bounties and blessings that are continually streaming forth for me, why would God give me any more?

Knowing that the solution to envy and jealousy is to rejoice over the success of my  neighbors, 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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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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9 Invisible Enemies that Trap Us in the Prison of Self

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

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

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

What does surrendering to these enemies result in?

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

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

Anger

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

 

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

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

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

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

Passion

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

Ignorance

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

Prejudice

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

Greed

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

Envy

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

Covetousness

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

Jeal­ousy

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

Suspicion

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

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

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

So how do we break free?

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

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

How do we access this power?

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

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

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

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

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