Consider this question for a minute: who’s the most spiritual person you know?

Got it? O.K., now visualize that person, and try to figure out why you feel that way. What makes him or her so spiritual, in your opinion? What admirable spiritual qualities does the person have that you recognize, applaud, and would like to emulate?

Or, to put the question another way, let’s say you’d like to become a more spiritual person—how do you do it? What steps can you take to develop your spirituality?

The Baha’i teachings offer us several practical responses to those important questions. Abdu’l-Baha summarized many of them in this advice he gave to a woman from New York:

The first thing to do is to acquire a thirst for Spirituality, then Live the Life! Live the Life! Live the Life! The way to acquire this thirst is to meditate upon the future life. Study the Holy Words, read your Bible, read the Holy Books, especially study the Holy Utterances of Baha’u’llah; Prayer and Meditation, take much time for these two. Then will you know this Great Thirst, and then only can you begin to Live the Life!

To live the Life you must be the very kindest woman, you must be the most pure, you must be absolutely truthful, and live a perfectly moral life.

Visit your neighbours when they are sick or in trouble, offer your services to them, try to show them that you are longing to serve them.

Feed the poor, divide what you have. Be contented to remain where God has placed you; be faithful in your care of those to whom He has trusted you, never waver in this—show by your life you have something different, so that all will see and will say, ‘What has this person that I have not?’

Show the world that in spite of the utmost suffering, poverty, sickness, you have something which gives you comfort, strength and peace—that you are happy—serene—satisfied with all that is in your life. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 9, p. 86.

Here’s a simplified list of the ten things Abdu’l-Baha recommends, in order:

  1. Acquire a great thirst for spirituality
  2. Meditate on the future of your life
  3. Study and read the Holy Books, especially Baha’u’llah’s
  4. Take much time for prayer and meditation
  5. Strive to develop kindness, purity and truthfulness
  6. Live a moral life
  7. Visit your neighbors and offer to serve them
  8. Feed the poor and divide what you have
  9. Be content, and faithful to those in your care
  10. Be happy, serene and satisfied: live the spiritual life!

woman-reading-tabletLet’s examine these ten steps, one by one, in this series of short essays. First, how do we “acquire a thirst for spirituality?” Abdu’l-Baha suggests that “The way to acquire this thirst is to meditate upon the future life.” Those first two steps, meant to give us a vision of the hereafter, can change your entire perspective.

We all have a future ahead of us. Most people tend to think of it as stretching far out in front of them, especially if they’re young. Conversely, older people often think of their future as a diminishing quantity, as a limited, ever-shrinking time frame followed by death and the unknown.

But what if we all have an eternal future, as the Baha’i teachings promise? What if our souls live forever?

Know thou that the soul of man is exalted above, and is independent of all infirmities of body or mind… When it leaveth the body, however, it will evince such ascendancy, and reveal such influence as no force on earth can equal. Every pure, every refined and sanctified soul will be endowed with tremendous power, and shall rejoice with exceeding gladness. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 153-154.

Abdu’l-Baha asks us to think about that beautiful vision of an afterlife, obviously. He suggests that we meditate upon our future life, and contemplate what it could—and will—look like. He asks us to see beyond our physical existence, and to meditatively imagine what life after death would mean for our thoughts and actions here in this material world. Once we begin to earnestly ask those questions, he implies, we start to acquire that “Great Thirst” for spirituality. When we recognize that we have a second life, one that continues eternally, we want the knowledge and the enlightenment and the awareness that allows us to comprehend what that life might be.

This takes some time, some reflection, some transcendence. It isn’t easy, but it can be illuminating, joyful and mind-expanding. It can open up enormous possibilities for every human being. Try it today, and again tomorrow, and see what develops.

Next: Study the Holy Words

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

1 Comment

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  • Dec 29, 2015
    The passage from "Star of the West" forms part of the "pilgrim's notes" of Anise Rideout. Clearly, to some, the use of language, the theme of unaided human self-transformation, and the absence of mention of "the knowledge of God" in the context of personal growth, all indicate that Ms. Rideout's presentation is not an accurate rendering of the Master's words. Indeed, one of your fellow contributor's to BahaiTeachings.org wrote the Universal House of Justice in 2003, asking whether the passage you quoted was authoritative, as the House had included that passage in a compilation. The House replied that the "Star ...of the West" quote is not authoritative.
    Does it matter whether words - in translation - are authoritative or not? Yes, when we use those words in support of teaching the Faith. That is why the Guardian made a clear distinction between authoritative texts and pilgrims' notes.
    Nowhere in the Writings does the Master encourage people to acquire a "thirst for Spirituality". He mentions a thirst for truth, a thirst for reality, a thirst for the fountain of the knowledge of God, etc.; but not a thirst for Spirituality. Nor does the Master tell us to acquire a thirst; He assumes, I suppose, that a seeker after truth already has a thirst for truth.
    In the Writings, the Master uses the term "future life" only three times, and never as something one should meditate upon. While we may recognize a future life in the next worlds of God as a reward, or punishment; but as Baha'is we do not use that potential reward as motivation to do God's Will. We do God's Will because it is His Will... and our joyful service and duty. We can't become selfless by pursuing selfish goals.
    While I don't know what you mean by spirituality, I do notice that you believe it is something acquired by one's own efforts -- "This takes some time, some reflection, some transcendence. It isn’t easy, but it can be illuminating, joyful and mind-expanding. It can open up enormous possibilities for every human being. Try it today, and again tomorrow, and see what develops." No, everything begins with God and ends with God -- ""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. Unless he acquires these forces and attains to these requirements, he will surely be deprived of the life that is eternal. 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-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 226)
    Just some thoughts from another Baha'i.
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