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How do I become Baha’i?
Spirituality

Spiritual Guidance from the Real Experts

David Langness | May 20, 2014

PART 5 IN SERIES Riots Gangbangers and Compassion

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 20, 2014

PART 5 IN SERIES Riots Gangbangers and Compassion

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

In this series of essays, we’ve talked about compassion and how to bring it about in the human heart. I know two ways to do that: 1. Work with people who need your help; and 2. Follow the teachings of a Prophet.

When we say we “follow” Jesus or Buddha or Muhammad or Baha’u’llah, what does that really mean?

Of course it usually means that we try to adhere to the spiritual guidance these great Prophets have left us. It means we attempt to take in some of their love and kindness and make it a part of our souls. It usually means we congregate with other followers of their Faith, and share the fellowship and closeness that comes from common beliefs and goals.

But following a Prophet means something else much deeper — it generally refers to how we model our lives. When we start to see a Prophet of God as a model, we attempt to conform our own thoughts and actions to a higher example.

This powerful step, which involves a lifelong commitment to living selflessly, defines what it means to be fully human. Rather than devoting all of our efforts toward our own selfish ends, we follow the example of the Prophet and evolve to a higher and more spiritual level of development.

Baha’is believe that God gives humanity the great Prophets and Messengers for precisely that reason:

Let me ask: What is the purpose of Prophethood? Why has God sent the Prophets? It is self-evident that the Prophets are the Educators of men and the Teachers of the human race. They come to bestow universal education upon humanity, to give humanity training, to uplift the human race from the abyss of despair and desolation and to enable man to attain the apogee of advancement and glory. The people are in darkness; the Prophets bring them into the realm of light. They are in a state of utter imperfection; the Prophets imbue them with perfections. The purpose of the prophetic mission is none other than the education and guidance of the people. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 405.

The Prophets of God, the Baha’i writings say, endure their suffering to teach us love and compassion:

God sent all His Prophets into the world with one aim, to sow in the hearts of men love and goodwill, and for this great purpose they were willing to suffer and to die. All the sacred Books were written to lead and direct man into the ways of love and unity…. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 106.

When faith in a Prophet succeeds in sowing love and goodwill toward others in our hearts, we begin to develop the noble virtues:

Universal benefits derive from the grace of the Divine religions, for they lead their true followers to sincerity of intent, to high purpose, to purity and spotless honor, to surpassing kindness and compassion, to the keeping of their covenants when they have covenanted, to concern for the rights of others, to liberality, to justice in every aspect of life, to humanity and philanthropy, to valor and to unflagging efforts in the service of mankind. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 98.

Pema Chodron

Pema Chödrön

This spiritual development, this moral evolution, this acquisition of the higher virtues all involves generating and sustaining compassion for other human beings, and then acting on that compassion by diligently doing our best to help them.

The Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön says the truest and best measure of compassion lies not in our service of those on the margins, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them. Father Gregory Boyle writes “Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” And Abdu’l-Baha writes:

Without action nothing in the material world can be accomplished, neither can words unaided advance a man in the spiritual Kingdom. It is not through lip-service only that the elect of God have attained to holiness, but by patient lives of active service they have brought light into the world.

Therefore strive that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers. Turn towards God, and seek always to do that which is right and noble. Enrich the poor, raise the fallen, comfort the sorrowful, bring healing to the sick, reassure the fearful, rescue the oppressed, bring hope to the hopeless, shelter the destitute! – Paris Talks, pp. 80-81.

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Comments

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  • Carol F. Campbell
    May 21, 2014
    -
    Mr. Langness, I am definitely a fan of your writing! Why are you not on facebook? I would like to follow you there. You manage to balance your personal path with the writings which strikes me as very authentic and real! Please continue this important work, not only for the Baha'is but for followers of all Paths! Warm Greetings!
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