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. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 9, p. 86.
When the Baha’i writings use the words “live the life,” the phrase usually refers to living a moral and spiritual life; a life following the teachings of Baha’u’llah; a life dedicated to kindness to others, the service of humanity and bringing about peace and unity on Earth. Asked a question while he was in London, Abdu’l-Baha defined it this way:
“I have never heard of Baha’u’llah,” said a young man. “I have only recently read about this movement, but I recognize the mission of Abdu’l-Baha and desire to be a disciple. I have always believed in the brotherhood of man as the ultimate solvent of all our national and international difficulties.”
“It makes no difference whether you have ever heard of Baha’u’llah or not,” was the answer, “the man who lives the life according to the teachings of Baha’u’llah is already a Baha’i. On the other hand a man may call himself a Baha’i for fifty years and if he does not live the life he is not a Baha’i.” – Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 105.
From a Baha’i perspective, this unique and very different definition of spirituality focuses primarily on two things: a person’s inner character, and the actual results of that inner character—the love and kindness that person shows in their actions toward others.
In fact, the Baha’i teachings go far beyond the traditional concept of individual human salvation. Some religious denominations believe that baptism, or conversion, or the confession of sins, or church attendance, or forgiveness from a member of the clergy, or being “born again” equals the salvation of the soul. When people from those Faiths say “Are you saved?” it implies a one-time decision or conversion can somehow redeem and purify our souls—but that’s not how the Baha’i teachings describe the process. Baha’is see the process of saving your soul as an organic, ongoing, lifelong practice of spiritual growth and development, not as a single event. Baha’is believe that recognizing God, the long-term spiritual evolution and maturation of your inner character, and the expression of that character in deeds results in the growth of the spirit:
…the foundation of success and salvation is the recognition of God, and… good deeds, which are the fruit of faith, derive from this recognition. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 274.
The Heavenly Father gave the priceless gift of intelligence to man so that he might become a spiritual light, piercing the darkness of materiality, and bringing goodness and truth into the world. If ye will follow earnestly the teachings of Baha’u’llah, ye shall indeed become the light of the world, the soul for the body of the world, the comfort and help for humanity, and the source of salvation for the whole universe. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 114-115.
So the Baha’i teachings don’t focus on individual salvation as much as they do on unity, oneness and the universal salvation of human civilization as a whole. Salvation, the Baha’i teachings suggest, not only brings about the spiritualization of the individual, but also the spiritualization of humanity and society.
We can first bring those things about inside ourselves, Abdu’l-Baha wrote, by developing the moral actions of kindness, purity and truthfulness:
To know that it is possible to reach a state of perfection, is good; to march forward on the path is better. We know that to help the poor and to be merciful is good and pleases God, but knowledge alone does not feed the starving man, nor can the poor be warmed by knowledge or words in the bitter winter; we must give the practical help of Loving-kindness. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 60.
To be pure and holy in all things is an attribute of the consecrated soul and a necessary characteristic of the unenslaved mind… First in a human being’s way of life must be purity, then freshness, cleanliness, and independence of spirit. First must the stream bed be cleansed, then may the sweet river waters be led into it. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 145.
Truthfulness is the foundation of all the virtues of the world of humanity. Without truthfulness progress and success in all of the worlds of God are impossible for a soul. When this holy attribute is established in man all the other divine qualities will also become realized. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 4, p. 183.
Then, the Baha’i teachings say, those wonderful inner qualities will inevitably find their realization in a deep longing to serve others.
Probably, when you think about the most spiritually-enlightened people you’ve ever known, they longed to be of service to the world in some compelling and significant way. They gave of themselves to help others. They overcame their own egos and concentrated on the needs of humanity as a whole. We admire and revere the human beings who can reach that level of spiritual development, because they transmit the pure, kind truth of the Creator’s love to us all.
Next: Feed the Poor, Divide What You Have