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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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Healthy Anger

If he exercises his anger and wrath against the bloodthirsty tyrants who are like ferocious beasts, it is very praiseworthy; but if he does not use these qualities in a right way, they are blameworthy. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 215)

I love it when I find moderation in the Bahá’í Writings!  This quote is one of those times.  It suggests that there are times when it’s praiseworthy to be angry, as long as we do it in the right way.  This begs the question:  what is the right way?  Is it becoming an advocate like Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa or Mahatma Gandhi?  Maybe some people are called on to do this, but I always like to bring it back to my purpose in life – to know and worship God and to acquire the virtues I’ll need in the next world.

Anger can make me push on towards my goals in the face of problems and barriers, giving me determination and perseverance.  When you I use my anger to communicate a sense of injustice, aimed at finding a solution rather than just venting, it can benefit and strengthen relationships, strengthening my virtues of love, forgiveness, compassion and unity building.  People don’t have to guess where I stand.  Anger can motivate me to change if I notice when I get angry and why.  I can learn what to do to improve my life, which contributes to my transformation.

Knowing that anger isn’t always bad, if I use it the right way, 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 Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness

 

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God Knows Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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A Story About Steadfastness

Love Fortitude

Photo By Sameer Sharma and Hena Parvez

From Adib Taherzadeh’s The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, Volume 2, Chapter 2

Warning: This story may be hard for some to read because of its violence.

Though the people in Yazd were steeped in prejudice against the new Faith and apt to fly into a fierce fury at the sight of anyone who was identified as ‘Bábí’, they nevertheless admired Ali-Akbar for his rare qualities and charming manners. Moreover, his reputation as the best engraver had won him real affection by all who had come to know him. Even the Governor and the officials felt reluctant to have him executed. They did everything in their power to make him utter a mere word of lip-denial against the new Faith and thus save his own life. They employed many a word of persuasion, threat and promise but none could induce this valiant hero to recant nor did the pomp and might of a ruthless potentate influence this stout-hearted man of God to compromise his cherished faith in favor of this fleeting life and its earthly vanities. The Governor grew angry; he could not tolerate one who dared to challenge his authority and persist in his own ideas.

Furious with rage, the Governor summoned his Farrash-bashi (chief steward) and ordered him to put this defiant Bábí to death at once by blowing him from the mouth of a cannon. The order was immediately passed on to the artillery unit who hauled their gun out of the barracks to the adjoining public square. Then the Farrash-bashi accompanied by the executioner led the valiant victim to the square amidst a gathering multitude of spectators.

Eager to save Ali-Akbar from his fate, the Farrash-bashi employed ingenious ways of intimidation and inducement in a futile effort to break down his spirit and make him abjure his allegiance to the new Faith.

The cannon from which he was to be blown was an old type muzzle-loader, and the Farrash-bashi, knowing that it was as yet unloaded, hit upon the idea of staging a mock execution in the hope that the victim would succumb to the fright and terror that such an ordeal would usually provoke. Therefore, assuming a wild and serious look, he barked orders at the executioner to hurry up, tie down the victim
tightly to the mouth of the gun and have him blown off without further delay. Thus Ali-Akbar was bound to the gun and left in this frightful position for quite a long while during which the gun crew kept running back and forth pretending to be adjusting their gun, as though they were just about to fire.

During the whole time the Farrash-bashi was watching the victim closely, urging him to recant. However, he was amazed to see that instead of becoming terrified and shaken Ali-Akbar had maintained his calm and fortitude throughout. The Farrash-bashi soon realized that intimidation had failed to bring about what he hoped for. He ran towards the gunner, stopped him from his false attempt at discharging the unloaded gun, and asked the executioner to set the victim free.

By that time (about ll a.m.) the whole square was fully packed with a seething mass of spectators who looked stupefied and bewildered.

As soon as Ali-Akbar was unfastened the Farrash-bashi came over to him expressing his sympathy in a kindly manner. He then conducted him to an adjacent public cistern away from the crowd where he offered him a seat near to himself on a little platform. He reasoned with Ali-Akbar most earnestly, urged and persuaded him again and again to denounce the Faith and save his own life, but the effort proved unsuccessful. There sat Ali-Akbar solid as a rock, immovable and uncompromising, resisting the full force of these dire tests. As these painful moments dragged on, the Farrash-bashi began to perceive with bitter plainness that nothing whatever could induce this invincible youth to recant. Dismayed and disappointed, he led him back to the scene of death and ordered the gun crew to load their gun forthwith. Meanwhile a new idea occurred to him which might well prove effective in breaking down the victim’s fortitude. He sent his men to fetch Ali-Akbar’s poor wife and child to the scene — a very strong and challenging inducement indeed. After a few moments the unfortunate wife appeared in a state of panic holding the hand of their beloved child who looked sweet and attractive in this best suit.

She faced her husband and weeping bitterly implored, ‘Come and have pity on this child!’ ‘What am I to do without you?’ she sobbed. But Ali-Akbar did not answer; he turned his back on them. Again the wife and child came forward and stood in front of him. She flung herself at his feet, begging and imploring. But Ali-Akbar kept silent and once again turned away from them. Then the little child ran over to his father and grabbing the hem of his garment exclaimed ‘Daddy, Daddy, why do you turn away from me?

Don’t you love me any more?’

These simple, these piercing words must have moved Ali-Akbar more than anything else. Perhaps he could not bear it, for he raised his head heavenward in such a gesture as to make an impassioned appeal. It seemed as if he were saying: ‘Oh God! I entreat Thee to spare me from further temptations.’

The tragic episode had reached its climax. The occasion had become so gripping, so heart-rending that many among the onlookers were stricken with grief and sympathy. Even the Farrash-bashi’s eyes were dimmed with tears.

The heroic self-renunciation and superhuman fortitude manifested by this gallant martyr shattered the last scrap of hope which the Farrash-bashi entertained in making the victim abjure his faith. Browbeaten and dismayed, he decided to put an end to this sad spectacle by carrying out the Governor’s order at once.

So the victim was presently bound up once again to the mouth of the cannon in front of his unfortunate wife and child. As soon as this had been done the site was cleared of all those who stood nearby, but the child refused to be pushed further away. He became restive and kept crying and pleading, ‘Take me to my Daddy! Let me go near him!’

The dreadful end was now at hand. A tense feeling had seized upon the souls and a sense of dread and awe overwhelmed the whole mass of the people in the square.

At a sharp signal from the Farrash-bashi the gunner ignited the explosive charge which was designed to send the victim sky-high, torn into bits in a split of a second. But to the profound amazement of all the gun didn’t go off! Again and again the charge was ignited but the gun still wouldn’t go off! Everybody looked stupefied and spellbound.

The Farrash-bashi ran towards the victim and calling him by his name exclaimed, ‘We don’t want you to be killed; it seems that God does not wish it either. Now won’t you have sympathy for your child?!’ But he did not say a word, even when his horror-stricken wife and child rushed once again to his side. He stayed as calm and unconcerned as ever.

In the meantime the gunner was busy at the breech refilling the charge. The Farrash-bashi paused a moment in earnest expectation. Perhaps he would now give way. Perhaps he would say a word of denial. Perhaps something would happen that could save his life.

However, to Ali-Akbar’s mind a compromise was utterly unthinkable… The soul longed and craved to sacrifice his puny frame for the love of his Lord and to take his flight to the abode of the Beloved. Now the golden opportunity had offered itself… His prolonged and unexampled fortitude served increasingly to throw into relief the striking contrast between his own noble vision and the Farrash-bashi’s base pattern of thought.

Far from being grieved and shaken, how jubilant, how thrilled, how relaxed must have felt his soul when the Farrash-bashi in his utter despair and bewilderment signaled once again to fire.

And this time in a flash of a second the body of Ali-Akbar, blasted into bits amidst a tremendous burst of fire and smoke, flew sky-high, then came down from heaven like a swarm of tiny meteors, accompanied by a shower of crimson droplets, to be scattered far and wide all over the square.

The Governor ordered that the fragments of his body should be left exposed until sunset, that they might be trampled upon by men and animals.

5 Ways to Achieve Our Purpose in Life

 

What’s my purpose? What’s the purpose in being alive?  These are two questions I often hear!  Many people struggle with this question and never find an answer, because they are looking in the material realm; and not in the spiritual.

As Bahá’ís we’re lucky because the Bahá’í Writings tell us clearly!  The purpose of this life is to prepare us for the next life:

One must remember that the purpose of this life is to prepare the soul for the next.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 359)

There are 5 ways to accomplish this:

1.  To know God and to be obedient to His commandments:

The purpose of God in creating man hath been, and will ever be, to enable him to know his Creator and to attain His Presence. To this most excellent aim, this supreme objective, all the heavenly Books and the divinely-revealed and weighty Scriptures unequivocally bear witness. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 70-71)

If we accomplish this, we will be in paradise:

Whoso hath recognized the Day Spring of Divine guidance and entered His holy court hath drawn nigh unto God and attained His Presence, a Presence which is the real Paradise, and of which the loftiest mansions of heaven are but a symbol. Such a man hath attained the knowledge of the station of Him Who is “at the distance of two bows,” Who standeth beyond the Sadratu’l-Muntaha. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 70-71)

If we don’t, we will have condemned ourselves to the misery of remoteness and the nethermost fire, no matter what our earthly life might look like.

Whoso hath failed to recognize Him will have condemned himself to the misery of remoteness, a remoteness which is naught but utter nothingness and the essence of the nethermost fire. Such will be his fate, though to outward seeming he may occupy the earth’s loftiest seats and be established upon its most exalted throne.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 70-71)

The short obligatory prayer reminds us of our purpose every day when we say it:

I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth. There is none other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i Prayers, p. 3)

2.  To attain our share of the flood of grace which God pours forth for us:

The whole duty of man in this Day is to attain that share of the flood of grace which God poureth forth for him. Let none, therefore, consider the largeness or smallness of the receptacle. The portion of some might lie in the palm of a man’s hand, the portion of others might fill a cup, and of others even a gallon-measure.   (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)

3.  To carry forward an ever-advancing civilization:

All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. The Almighty beareth Me witness: To act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth. Say: O friends! Drink your fill from this crystal stream that floweth through the heavenly grace of Him Who is the Lord of Names. Let others partake of its waters in My name, that the leaders of men in every land may fully recognize the purpose for which the Eternal Truth hath been revealed, and the reason for which they themselves have been created.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 214)

4.  To acquire the virtues we’ll need in the next world:

Just as a baby in womb doesn’t know why it’s developing arms, legs, eyelashes etc; we can’t understand why we need to develop virtues for the next world either.  We have to take it on faith, trusting that, just as it became apparent soon after birth, it will become clearly apparent in our next birth too:

As the child in the womb does not yet know the use of its members, it does not know what its eyes are for, neither its nose, nor ears, nor tongue — so also it is with the soul on earth. It cannot understand here the uses and powers of its spiritual gifts, but directly it enters the eternal kingdom, it will become clearly apparent.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers 9, p. 48)

While the baby is in the womb, there are certain things which must be properly developed, or the baby will be handicapped in this world.  Similarly, we must develop certain qualities in this world, or we will be handicapped in the next:

As it is not yet shown while the child is in the womb of its mother, what its condition will be, whether it will have all the gifts of God or not, whether it will be perfect in all its members or not, whether it will be blind, or deaf, or dumb—but afterwards, when it enters the world, then it becomes clearly apparent if it is defective or not—so it is with the soul in this present state. Its perfection or its lackness is not understood until it enters the heavenly kingdom; then it is clearly seen, and then the soul understands whether or not it is lacking in the gifts of God.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers 9, p. 47)

To put it another way:

In this world he must prepare himself for the life beyond. That which he needs in the world of the Kingdom must be obtained here. Just as he prepared himself in the world of the matrix by acquir­ing forces necessary in this sphere of existence, so, likewise, the indis­pensable forces of the divine existence must be potentially attained in this world.  What is he in need of in the Kingdom which transcends the life and limitation of this mortal sphere? That world beyond is a world of sanctity and radiance; therefore, it is necessary that in this world he should acquire these divine attributes. In that world there is need of spirituality, faith, assurance, the knowledge and love of God. These he must attain in this world so that after his ascension from the earthly to the heavenly Kingdom he shall find all that is needful in that eternal life ready for him.  That divine world is manifestly a world of lights; therefore, man has need of illumination here. That is a world of love; the love of God is essential. It is a world of perfections; virtues, or perfections, must be acquired. That world is vivified by the breaths of the Holy Spirit; in this world we must seek them. That is the Kingdom of ever­lasting life; it must be attained during vanishing existence.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 226)

What are the virtues that are important?

The virtues and attributes pertaining unto God are all evident and manifest, and have been mentioned and described in all the heavenly Books. Among them are trustworthiness, truthfulness, purity of heart while communing with God, forbearance, resignation to whatever the Almighty hath decreed, contentment with the things His Will hath provided, patience, nay, thankfulness in the midst of tribulation, and complete reliance, in all circumstances, upon Him. These rank, according to the estimate of God, among the highest and most laudable of all acts. All other acts are, and will ever remain, secondary and subordinate unto them.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 290)

That world beyond is a world of sanctity and radiance; therefore it is necessary that in this world he should acquire these divine attributes. In that world there is need of spirituality, faith, assurance, the knowledge and love of God. These he must attain in this world so that after his ascension from the earthly to the heavenly Kingdom he shall find all that is needful in that life eternal ready for him.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 63)

That divine world is manifestly a world of lights; therefore man has need of illumination here. That is a world of love; the love of God is essential. It is a world of perfections; virtues or perfections must be acquired. That world is vivified by the breaths of the Holy Spirit;  in this world we must seek them. That is the Kingdom of life everlasting; it must be attained during this vanishing existence.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 63-64)

Man is born naked and when dead he is also naked. He brings nothing with him to this world, and when he departs he cannot take anything physical with him to the next. But whatever he has given to the Cause of God while on this earth, his time, his labours, his resources, as well as his services to his fellow human beings, these he can take with him to the spiritual realms. This is one way of transforming something which belongs to the world of matter into the spiritual worlds of God.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 3, p. 78)

So from these quotes we see that in this world, we need to develop:

  • trustworthiness
  • truthfulness
  • purity of heart while communing with God
  • forbearance
  • resignation to whatever the Almighty hath decreed
  • contentment with the things His Will hath provided
  • patience and thankfulness in the midst of tribulation
  • complete reliance, in all circumstances, upon God
  • sanctity
  • radiance
  • spirituality
  • faith
  • assurance
  • illumination
  • the knowledge and love of God
  • the breaths of the Holy Spirit
  • time, labour, resources
  • service to our fellow man

We won’t understand how these qualities will be needed till we get to the next world:

For just as the effects and the fruitage of the uterine life are not to be found in that dark and narrow place, and only when the child is transferred to this wide earth do the benefits and uses of growth and development in that previous world become revealed—so likewise reward and punishment, heaven and hell, requital and retribution for actions done in this present life, will stand revealed in that other world beyond. And just as, if human life in the womb were limited to that uterine world, existence there would be nonsensical, irrelevant—so too if the life of this world, the deeds here done and their fruitage, did not come forth in the world beyond, the whole process would be irrational and foolish.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 184)

How can we acquire those things? Through:

  • the knowledge of God
  • the love of God
  • faith
  • philanthropic deeds
  • self-sacrifice
  • severance from this world
  • sanctity and ho­liness

By what means can man acquire these things? How shall he obtain these merciful gifts and powers? First, through the knowledge of God. Second, through the love of God. Third, through faith. Fourth, through philanthropic deeds. Fifth, through self-sacrifice. Sixth, through severance from this world. Seventh, through sanctity and ho­liness.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 226)

If we do these things, we will enjoy everlasting existence and more:

But if he possesses the knowledge of God, becomes ignited through the fire of the love of God, witnesses the great and mighty signs of the Kingdom, becomes the cause of love among mankind and lives in the utmost state of sanctity and holiness, he shall surely attain to second birth, be baptized by the Holy Spirit and enjoy everlasting existence.   (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 226)

If we don’t, we will surely be deprived of eternal life!

Unless he acquires these forces and attains to these require­ments, he will surely be deprived of the life that is eternal. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 226)

5.  To Bear and Endure

In the Fire Tablet, we learn that we were created to “bear and endure”!  This suggests that we can’t expect life to go our way; or to be easy!

Thou wert created to bear and endure, O Patience of the worlds.  (Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, p. 218)

As long as there is life on earth, there will also be suffering!

As long as there will be life on earth, there will be also suffering, in various forms and degrees.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 280)

The reason is to advance our minds and spirits; draw us closer to God; and help us acquire virtues:

‘Does the soul progress more through sorrow or through the joy in this world?’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.—‘The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. His attitude in this world will be that of divine happiness. Man is, so to speak, unripe: the heat of the fire of suffering will mature him. Look back to the times past and you will find that the greatest men have suffered most.’  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 178)

This takes us back to know and worship God – since our suffering reminds us to turn to God.

How can we achieve our purpose in life?

One way is through work!

You should also endeavour to engage in some useful occupation, or by training yourself to have such an occupation, as work in itself another means at our disposal, in accordance with our Teachings, to draw nearer to God, and to better grasp His purpose for us in this world.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 282)

And another, of course is through prayer – specifically the Short Obligatory Prayer:

I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth. There is none other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.  (Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, p. 3)

How has this helped you understand your purpose?  How will knowing this change your life?  Post your thoughts below!