The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
During a devotional gathering one of the participants brought up the topic of enlightenment. With spiritual enlightenment, he mentioned, we turn towards God and detach from the material world.
Indeed, Baha’u’llah wrote:
Detach yourselves from all else but Me, and turn your faces towards My face, for better is this for you than the things ye possess. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 257.
Baha’is believe that our purpose in life involves the development of divine attributes—to grow spiritually. But that does not mean we should become ascetics and deny ourselves the pleasures of the physical world. It is good to surround ourselves with beauty:
It is natural for the heart and spirit to take pleasure and enjoyment in all things that show forth symmetry, harmony, and perfection. For instance: a beautiful house, a well-designed garden, a symmetrical line, a graceful motion, a well-written book, pleasing garments — in fact, all things that have in themselves grace and beauty are pleasing to the heart and spirit… – Abdu’l-Baha, quoted by Mary L. Lucas in “A Brief Account of My Visit to Acca,” pp. 11-12.
We just need to keep it all in perspective:
If a man is successful in his business, art, or profession he is thereby enabled to increase his physical wellbeing and to give his body the amount of ease and comfort in which it delights. All around us today we see how man surrounds himself with every modern convenience and luxury, and denies nothing to the physical and material side of his nature. But, take heed, lest in thinking too earnestly of the things of the body you forget the things of the soul: for material advantages do not elevate the spirit of a man. Perfection in worldly things is a joy to the body of a man but in no wise does it glorify his soul.
…It is indeed a good and praiseworthy thing to progress materially, but in so doing, let us not neglect the more important spiritual progress, and close our eyes to the Divine light shining in our midst. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 62-63.
Know ye that by “the world” is meant your unawareness of Him Who is your Maker, and your absorption in aught else but Him. The “life to come,” on the other hand, signifieth the things that give you a safe approach to God, the All-Glorious, the Incomparable. Whatsoever deterreth you, in this Day, from loving God is nothing but the world. Flee it, that ye may be numbered with the blest. Should a man wish to adorn himself with the ornaments of the earth, to wear its apparels, or partake of the benefits it can bestow, no harm can befall him, if he alloweth nothing whatever to intervene between him and God, for God hath ordained every good thing, whether created in the heavens or in the earth, for such of His servants as truly believe in Him. Eat ye, O people, of the good things which God hath allowed you, and deprive not yourselves from His wondrous bounties. Render thanks and praise unto Him, and be of them that are truly thankful. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 276.
Certainly, material comforts make life more enjoyable, and welcoming beauty into our lives lifts our spirits. We just need to avoid becoming obsessed with or overly attached to the pleasures of the world. Rather than our needs, they’re our extras.