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When I read sacred scriptures or even the “Words of Wisdom” in every Time magazine issue, I am always moved to thoughtfully consider the import of those words—to try to delve a little deeper. First I take personal meaning from them. I usually ask myself, “How does this effect my life? My outlook on life? My relationships with others? With God?”
If you do that, too, you’re “deepening” your knowledge—and your self-knowledge. You’re delving deeper into what you know and what you don’t know, with the hope of increasing your understanding and becoming a deeper person.
For decades, I’ve studied the Baha’i writings this way. Baha’is often call that kind of study “deepening,” and many Baha’is have regular deepening classes to study together. Essentially, that sort of serious study involves delving into the depth of the meaning of the words, what they signify, what they symbolize, and what actions they call forth in personal transformation. Every religion has spent ages delving, interpreting, organizing, spreading and acting upon the holy words of their founders, and the Baha’i Faith follows that pattern, too, with one exception: Baha’is have no clergy. That means every individual becomes responsible for their own level of knowledge and understanding.
So if you’d like a better, more penetrating knowledge of the Baha’i teachings, you can start deepening by yourself. Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, encouraged everyone to do exactly that:
Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths. – The Most Holy Book, p. 85.
The Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, expounded on Baha’u’llah’s advice:
Indeed if an avowed follower of Baha’u’llah were to immerse himself in, and fathom the depths of, the ocean of these heavenly teachings, and with utmost care and attention deduce from each of them the subtle mysteries and consummate wisdom that lie enshrined therein, such a person’s life, materially, intellectually and spiritually, will be safe from toil and trouble, and unaffected by setbacks and perils, or any sadness or despondency. – from a letter to the Baha’is of Adhirbayjan, January 1923.
That’s quite a promise! Who wouldn’t want to be freed from toil and trouble?
That kind of freedom comes from fully absorbing the hopeful, happy message of the Baha’i teachings, and then beginning to live that message. So while deepening relates to knowing oneself and freeing that self, it can also involve questioning one’s own motives and actions. To deepen means to read the Baha’i writings with intention, searching out one’s spirit, mind and body on the most personal level, through meditation and introspection.
As an example of deepening, let’s examine this passage from Baha’u’llah:
Were man to appreciate the greatness of his station and the loftiness of his destiny he would manifest naught save goodly character, pure deeds, and a seemly and praiseworthy conduct. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 172.
These words seem apparent: man has a nobler station than he himself realizes, and if he could share that nobility with others, soon the whole earth would be unified. We see this exemplified all the time on the news by actions of heroes and heroines, ordinary people performing selfless acts by providing aid to others.
Baha’u’llah’s quote continues:
If the learned and wise men of goodwill were to impart guidance unto the people, the whole earth would be regarded as one country. Verily this is the undoubted truth. This servant appealeth to every diligent and enterprising soul to exert his utmost endeavor and arise to rehabilitate the conditions in all regions and to quicken the dead with the living waters of wisdom and utterance, by virtue of the love he cherisheth for God, the One, the Peerless, the Almighty, the Beneficent. – Ibid.
These words of wisdom, when they become the subject of true deepening, don’t simply reside in the mind. They take root in the soul, and cause us to want to fulfill their visionary spiritual advice. They ask us to aspire to a nobler, higher reality. They call upon our souls to exert our “utmost endeavor” and “arise to rehabilitate the conditions in all regions.” These words inspire us to serve others, the true calling of all real religion.
The Baha’i teachings call for selfless action. If we truly want to succeed at uplifting the plight of hundreds of millions from poverty or injustice, from destitution, or genocide and oppression, we’ll respond to that call, because of the love of God—which brings with it the love for every human soul and by extension, the hope, desire and wish for everybody’s well-being, not just our own.
Next: How to Consult about Reality–Lovingly