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Faith in a better future; faith in humanity; faith in God and faith in ourselves—all these kinds of faith diminish the need for cynicism and distrust.
The Baha’i teachings offer us a new road to faith, with a path towards unity, hope and happiness. In one place in his writings, Baha’u’llah defined faith this way: “Let each morn be better than its eve and each morrow richer than its yesterday.” – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138.
If you consistently think tomorrow will be richer than yesterday, then you have faith—which simply means you’ve found a way to approach the future with hope and happiness:
… the first bestowal to the world of humanity is happiness, that kind of happiness which is unalterable and ideal. If, by happiness physical enjoyment of material things is meant then the ferocious wolf is made happy because he kills the innocent lamb and satisfies his hunger for a few hours. This is not happiness. Happiness is a psychological condition created in brain, mind and heart, the effect of which works out from the centre to the circumference. For example, after many days and nights of reflection the philosopher unravels a seemingly unsolvable problem. As the result, a wave of supreme happiness surges through his being. The philanthropist comes to the assistance of thousands of half-starved, half-clothed, afflicted people of a nation. In his deed he wins much contentment. An engineer spans a large river with a suspension or cantilever bridge, or an architect makes the design of an edifice. Each finds true enjoyment in his work. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 7, p. 107.
“Happiness is a psychological condition,” Abdu’l-Baha said, “created in brain, mind and heart …” He also said “If a man become touched with the divine spark, even though he be an outcast and oppressed, he will be happy and his happiness cannot die.” – Divine Philosophy, p. 57. In another passage, he said “…the heart is never at rest and never finds real joy and happiness until it attaches itself to the eternal.” – Ibid., pp. 136-137.
How do we find faith, then, and secure the happiness it brings?
You may have noticed that cynicism and a lack of faith in the future rarely seems to afflict anyone who actively works toward the betterment of the world—who exemplifies an abundance of deeds. Psychologists recognize this fact, that an inward-facing focus on the self leads to conceit, self-absorption and cynicism; and that an outward-facing focus on others leads to selflessness, transcendence of the small, petty concerns of life and a growing sense of inner peace and joy.
So if you make an effort, every day, to help others, you’re much more likely to have a positive, hopeful, non-cynical outlook. That’s the key to faith, which welcomes the future and creates the psychological condition we call happiness.
You might imagine that it works in the opposite way—that those who actively engage with other people’s pressing problems would have more negative views of the future; and those who have little contact with others and their troubles could tend to have a rosier, more optimistic view. But interestingly enough, it turns out that mental well-being, happiness and a positive view of the future all result directly from helping others, from an “other-directed” point of orientation in life.
This important realization—that true happiness comes from turning your efforts toward serving other people—resonates throughout the Baha’i teachings. This quote—attributed to Abdu’l-Baha but not authenticated—gives some indication of the Baha’i view of the value of service as it relates to our inner joy and happiness:
Be not the slave of your moods, but their master. But if you are so angry, so depressed and so sore that your spirit cannot find deliverance and peace even in prayer, then quickly go and give some pleasure to someone lowly or sorrowful, or to a guilty or innocent sufferer! Sacrifice yourself, your talent, your time, your rest to another, to one who has to bear a heavier load than you—and your unhappy mood will dissolve into a blessed, contented submission to God.
This eternal advice—that happiness and faith come to those who actively serve humanity—resonates throughout religion and science. The Baha’i teachings confirm and emphasize this advice, and even promise that such deeds will cause “the fragrant breezes of the rose gardens of divine mercy” to “waft through the windows of your souls:”
Therefore, be ye assured and confident that the confirmations of God are descending upon you, the assistance of God will be given unto you, the breaths of the Holy Spirit will quicken you with a new life, the Sun of Reality will shine gloriously upon you, and the fragrant breezes of the rose gardens of divine mercy will waft through the windows of your souls. Be ye confident and steadfast; your services are confirmed by the powers of heaven, for your intentions are lofty, your purposes pure and worthy. God is the helper of those souls whose aim is to serve humanity and whose efforts and endeavors are devoted to the good and betterment of all mankind. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 448.