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The Baha’i writings explain that each of us has a soul associated with the physical body, and that this soul lives on after our passing. But what wonders await us there?
I recently had an experience that made me think about the next life and the spiritual worlds of God that Baha’is believe are in store for everyone. No, I did not have a near-death experience where my life flashed before my eyes, or any other traumatic event. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Let me explain.
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It was my daughter-in-law’s birthday, and, along with my wife and son, we decided to celebrate by having a picnic at a nearby state forest. After a 45-minute hike up a trail through the woods, we arrived at our picnic spot. We sat on a flat rock next to a fast-rushing stream, spread out our tablecloth, and began our picnic lunch.
I soon became more aware of the absolute beauty of my surroundings. The crystal-clear stream was about 100 feet wide, and it rapidly flowed down huge smooth stones for about 300 feet, ending in a swirling pool. Hugging both sides of the stream banks were green mountain laurels. Towering above them were tall evergreen trees of different hues. Mixed in were oaks, maples, and other trees producing spring leaves and buds, all with their different shades of color. Towering above them were the majestic Appalachian Mountains. The mid-April air was at a perfect temperature, white clouds drifted in a bright blue sky, and a slight breeze made the air refreshing. I was with loved ones, and the food we brought along with us was delicious!
As I took all this in, I thanked God for family, talk, and laughter, and for the sound of the stream, our health, the food, and everything about the day.
I started to think about the next world we will enter when we pass away from this one. How could there possibly be something better than this beautiful place?
Two verses from the writings of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, came to mind. The first was a comparison he made of the spiritual world of God to this physical existence. He wrote:
“The world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother.”
Think about the difference between the world we live in and the womb from where we originated. Although both worlds are physical, the differences are vast. One is dark, confined, and offers little movement, while the other is filled with endless light, wonders of nature, space, and movement, even into the heavens!
The second quote that came to mind was a passage from Baha’u’llah’s “Hidden Words:”
“I have made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore dost thou grieve? I made the light to shed on thee its splendor. Why dost thou veil thyself therefrom?”
When I first read this verse many years ago, to say I was surprised is an understatement! One does not usually associate death with joy and light. The loss of any loved one is the cause of great sadness. But I came to understand that the passage refers to people who experience death and enter into that spiritual world that is so different from our own.
The Baha’i writings include a wealth of information about the mysteries of the soul and its path to God. We can learn to develop our soul through the acquisition of spiritual virtues, prayer, and reading the holy writings, and by reflecting on how our actions — both good and bad — have an impact on our life in this world and the next.
Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah, revealed several prayers for the departed. One of those prayers includes the following sentence: “O Lord, glorify his station, shelter him under the pavilion of Thy supreme mercy, cause him to enter Thy glorious paradise, and perpetuate his existence in Thine exalted rose garden, that he may plunge into the sea of light in the world of mysteries.”
In my youth, our home was located not far from the municipal swimming pool. My siblings and friends practically lived in that pool throughout the Minnesota summers! To plunge into water for us was truly a daily delight. The image of plunging “into a sea of light in the world of mysteries”… well, it is hard to imagine anything that would be more joyful!
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Baha’u’llah also revealed prayers for the departed. In one of these prayers, we find the following astounding verse: “Grant, then, O my God, that Thy servant may consort with Thy chosen ones, Thy saints and Thy Messengers in heavenly places that the pen cannot tell nor the tongue recount.”
If the Manifestation of God, who has intimate knowledge of the next world, is unable to say or write a description of the “heavenly places” where we will be able to communicate with prophets and saints, what more can be said? The very thought of such an experience fills the heart with hope, joy, and anticipation.
Similarly, Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
“The mysteries of which man is heedless in the earthly world, those will he discover in the heavenly world, and there will he be informed of the secrets of the truth…will even manifestly behold the Beauty of God in that world. Likewise will they find all the friends of God, both those of the former and recent times, present in the heavenly assemblage… Likewise, a love that one may have entertained for anyone will not be forgotten in the world of the Kingdom, nor wilt thou forget there the life that thou hadst in the material world.”
These and several other passages of the Baha’i writings give us a small taste of the wonders of the next world. As we meditate on these verses, we come to a better understanding of how death can indeed be “a messenger of joy.”
So, back to that question I asked myself while sitting on that rock, contemplating my beautiful surroundings — how can any world be better than the one we now live in?
It seems that we can’t know the details, but the next world sounds wondrous, indeed!
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