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Sanctify your ears from the idle talk of them that are the symbols of denial and the exponents of violence and anger. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 72.
A permanent peace in the world of existence can be established only through the power of the spirit. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 175.
Do you remember the last time you got really mad?
Consider it for a minute. Try to remember your anger, and recall what caused it. Did it happen when someone cut you off on the highway? When someone intentionally disrespected you? Or did it occur when someone hurt you, whether they realized it or not? Now consider: where did it come from?
Personally, I tend to have a pretty deep well of rage and anger. I’m working on it with prayer and meditation, but I still feel it from time to time. I don’t know why I have it. Maybe my upbringing caused it—I had a violent father, an ex-Marine war veteran who believed that sparing the rod definitely spoiled the child. Or maybe the war I had to go experience, and the things I saw there, made it happen. I’ve always felt a high level of sensitivity to injustice, though, and I’ve tried to re-direct some of my anger toward righting the injustice I see, which seems to help.
Anyway, we all have some of that stored-up pain inside us. In some people it emerges as self-destructiveness, or substance abuse, or criminal behavior. The other day I read about a man whose intense internal anger made him fear he would hurt others; so he got a gun and called the police and threatened them with it. They shot him. The newspaper called it suicide-by-cop; but I could feel his unbearable pain and suffering.
This world can deliver us bucketfuls of that kind of hurt, pain and anger. The Baha’i teachings say:
…the trials which beset our every step, all our sorrow, pain, shame and grief, are born in the world of matter; whereas the spiritual Kingdom never causes sadness. A man living with his thoughts in this Kingdom knows perpetual joy. The ills all flesh is heir to do not pass him by, but they only touch the surface of his life, the depths are calm and serene.
Today, humanity is bowed down with trouble, sorrow and grief, no one escapes; the world is wet with tears; but, thank God, the remedy is at our doors. Let us turn our hearts away from the world of matter and live in the spiritual world! It alone can give us freedom! If we are hemmed in by difficulties we have only to call upon God, and by His great Mercy we shall be helped. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 109-110.
“Turn our hearts away from the world of matter,” Abdu’l-Baha advises us, “and live in the spiritual world.” What does that mean?
For Baha’is that task lies at the heart of all religion. It asks us to raise our sights beyond the daily material considerations of life and allow our hearts and souls to seek what they yearn for—a sense of calm, confident inner peace. That divine tranquility means we can move past our trials and troubles, which all come as a result of our attachment to this fleeting physical plane. Only this mystical, transcendent sense of connection to something beyond the material world can give us true peace.
The Baha’i teachings say that the growth of spirituality, in the individual soul and in the world, will bring us that sense of peace:
I want to make you understand that material progress and spiritual progress are two very different things, and that only if material progress goes hand in hand with spirituality can any real progress come about, and the Most Great Peace reign in the world. If men followed the Holy Counsels and the Teachings of the Prophets, if Divine Light shone in all hearts and men were really religious, we should soon see peace on earth and the Kingdom of God among men. The laws of God may be likened unto the soul and material progress unto the body. If the body was not animated by the soul, it would cease to exist. It is my earnest prayer that spirituality may ever grow and increase in the world, so that customs may become enlightened and peace and concord may be established. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 107-108.