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Spirituality

The Definition of Truth

David Langness | May 8, 2014

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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David Langness | May 8, 2014

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Honest boy

“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting.” – Buddha

“The object of the superior man is truth.” – Confucius

“Nature has planted in our minds an insatiable longing to see the truth.” – Cicero

The oldest definition of the word “truth” explains it as “the quality or state of being faithful.”

If something is true, in other words, it is faithful to reality. The Wikipedia definition says that truth “involves both the quality of ‘faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty, sincerity, veracity’, and that of “agreement with fact or reality.”

But truth means something else, too, something more mystical and profound. Truth doesn’t mean only the facts – it refers to the deep resonance we feel in our hearts when we encounter something pure, beautiful and authentic.

Just about everyone has looked at a stunning work of art, watched an exuberant dance, heard a moving poem or song, experienced the sweet joy of childhood or seen the great beauty in the natural world and said “This is truth!”

That feeling – the inmost recognition of truth in the heart, the acknowledgment of truth in the inner vision of the soul – determines our most deeply-held convictions. When we experience that level of recognition, we know, instinctively, that our human quest to seek truth actually creates us. From childhood we construct our lives from these moments of truth, assembling our own individual reality one truth at a time. Built into us from birth, the instinctual desire to search for truth makes us human.

Think about it – how did you arrive at your beliefs, your convictions, your own inner truths? You found them, most likely, when your mind, heart and soul recognized something real. You found them in your own lived experience, in your interaction with others, in the love you gave and the love you received.

When we find and recognize something true in this life, it changes us.

The Baha’i teachings ask everyone to conduct a fearless search for that life-changing truth:

The state in which one should be to seriously search for the truth is the condition of the thirsty, burning soul desiring the water of life, of the fish struggling to reach the sea, of the sufferer seeking for the true doctor to obtain the divine cure, of the lost caravan endeavoring to find the right road, of the lost and wandering ship striving to reach the shore of salvation.

Therefore, the seeker must be endowed with certain qualities. First of all, he must be just and severed from all else save God; his heart must be entirely turned to the supreme horizon; he must be free from the bondage of self and passion, for all these are obstacles. Furthermore, he must be able to endure all hardships. He must be absolutely pure and sanctified, and free from the love or the hatred of the inhabitants of the world. Why? because the fact of his love for any person or thing might prevent him from recognizing the truth in another, and, in the same way, hatred for anything might be a hindrance in discerning truth. This is the condition of seeking, and the seeker must have these qualities and attributes. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, pp. 38-39.

JusticeIn this short passage, Abdu’l-Baha explains how to find truth. He says a true seeker’s qualities must include:

  • Justice
  • Severance
  • Pure-heartedness
  • Freedom from self and passion
  • Endurance
  • Purity
  • And detachment from love or hatred.

When you seek the truth in life, those seven qualities will allow you to judge fairly and clearly.

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