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Show the world that in spite of the utmost suffering, poverty, sickness, you have something which gives you comfort, strength and peace—that you are happy—serene—satisfied with all that is in your life. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 9, p. 86.
Comfort, strength, peace; happy, serene and satisfied, Abdu’l-Baha says when he describes the emotions that come from experiencing true spirituality. We all know, deep in our hearts, that real happiness doesn’t come from self-satisfaction—instead, it comes from helping others:
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. – Gandhi
Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve. – Dr. Albert Schweitzer
Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time. – Marian Wright Edelman
Lasting happiness and serenity, the Baha’i teachings say, arise from the love we actively show to humanity. Those actions allow us to express our true spirituality. When we show that love in deeds of selfless service, we fulfill our inner purpose, allow our hearts to grow and live a life of meaning:
God has created man to yield some fruit from his being, or existence, an eternal fruit, an everlasting result. If the world of humanity be confined to the short space of material life here, if man should devote his energies to temporary results—for the life of this world is short, the blessings of this world are temporary, the virtues of the world of nature are temporary, the happiness of the world of nature is temporary—this cannot be called fruitage, because it is temporary and hence useless. Nay, rather, man must be a blessed tree bearing eternal fruits. Thus everlasting spirituality may be his.
The real fruit of the human tree is everlasting, and that is the love for God, that is the knowledge of God, that is service to the world of humanity, that is kindness to all mankind, and that is endeavouring and striving for the material and spiritual—or ideal—development of the world of man. This is the everlasting fruit. This is the divine effulgence. This is the divine bestowal. This is the everlasting life. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 3, pp. 193-194.
No longer, the Baha’i writings tell us, can we simply recognize the existence of our souls and believe that such a simple acknowledgement makes us spiritual. It does not. What makes us truly spiritual, what gives our souls the eternal life we all seek, emerges from incorporating our beliefs into what we do every day:
They should justify their claim to be Baha’is by deeds and not by name. He is a true Baha’i who strives by day and by night to progress and advance along the path of human endeavor, whose most cherished desire is so to live and act as to enrich and illuminate the world, whose source of inspiration is the essence of Divine virtue, whose aim in life is so to conduct himself as to be the cause of infinite progress. Only when he attains unto such perfect gifts can it be said of him that he is a true Baha’i. For in this holy Dispensation, the crowning glory of bygone ages and cycles, true Faith is no mere acknowledgment of the Unity of God, but rather the living of a life that will manifest all the perfections and virtues implied in such belief. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Baha’i World, Volume 1, p. 12.
So once again, let’s revisit those ten recommendations for living a happy, serene life from Abdu’l-Baha:
- Acquire a great thirst for spirituality
- Meditate on the future of your life
- Study and read the Holy Books, especially Baha’u’llah’s
- Take much time for prayer and meditation
- Strive to develop kindness, purity and truthfulness
- Live a moral life
- Visit your neighbors and offer to serve them
- Feed the poor and divide what you have
- Be content and faithful to those in your care
- Be happy, serene and satisfied: live the spiritual life!
This clear, sequential set of spiritual guidelines, if you put them into practice, will lead you to a life of spirituality and serenity.