So many BahaiTeachings.org readers responded to and liked and forwarded and commended and recommended and tweeted and re-tweeted our New Year’s Day article on spiritual New Year’s resolutions that we made a new resolution ourselves — to publish more lists about spiritual matters. That’s because a list has the advantage of brevity, beauty and boldness, like all things short and simple. And a list just naturally lends itself to reminding ourselves to work on our selves.
In that spirit, here’s our first list of 2014 – a quick rundown of the four things each of us can do to explore and ultimately transcend our ego, our lower nature, our insistent self:
- First, understand your inner reality. Explore your character, your motivations, your strengths and weaknesses, the true desires of your soul. Meditate. Ponder. Reflect. Psychological self-awareness, self-knowledge and understanding forms the foundation of all spiritual progress, the initial step in our most profound journey. The Baha’i teachings encourage everyone to truly examine and explore their own inner reality:
- Next, search for truth. Once you’ve made the effort to look into your own heart, to see what motivates you in your inner spiritual life, it’s time to decide, for yourself, what matters most to you. Discover your own inner truths by asking yourself what you truly believe in — and then fearlessly follow that path. Don’t be surprised if this step means letting go of a little of that self you’ve been uncovering. This usually requires a sincere quest and an open mind:
- Discovering the truth in life can be daunting, but the true seeker perseveres, looking for truth and finding it. Once found, the truth will challenge you – every spiritual tradition and each spiritual path teaches that the truth will ask you to begin transcending your inner self, letting go of your ego, moving past this physical existence toward a wider, higher and more inclusive reality:
- Transcending your insistent inner self and conquering your own ego and its desires means moving beyond selfishness to selflessness. You can measure selflessness through your actions – how much do you dedicate your life to the service of others? Once you’ve begun the process of self-transcendence, of freely giving your energies to the well-being of humanity, of freeing your soul from those chains and fetters of a solely material existence, you can start “soaring in this unbounded realm”:
In order to find truth we must give up our prejudices, our own small trivial notions; an open receptive mind is essential. If our chalice is full of self, there is no room in it for the water of life. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 136.
The mass of the people are occupied with self and worldly desire, are immersed in the ocean of the nether world and are captives of the world of nature, save those souls who have been freed from the chains and fetters of the material world and, like unto swift-flying birds, are soaring in this unbounded realm. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 281.
Do all ye can to become wholly weary of self, and bind yourselves to that Countenance of Splendors; and once ye have reached such heights of servitude, ye will find, gathered within your shadow, all created things. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 76.
O ye loved ones of God! In this, the Baha’i dispensation, God’s Cause is spirit unalloyed. His Cause belongeth not to the material world. It cometh neither for strife nor war, nor for acts of mischief or of shame; it is neither for quarrelling with other Faiths, nor for conflicts with the nations. Its only army is the love of God, its only joy the clear wine of His knowledge, its only battle the expounding of the Truth; its one crusade is against the insistent self, the evil promptings of the human heart. Its victory is to submit and yield, and to be selfless is its everlasting glory. In brief, it is spirit upon spirit. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 256.