The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
As humans living in the 21st century, spirituality, like religious groups and organizations that have suffered losses in membership and devotion, seems to be declining.
Traditional organized religion has faded in so many ways – nasty revelations undermine it, the young increasingly avoid it, and materialism supplants it. No matter whether we live in capitalist, socialist, communist, or totalitarian societies, the need for God in human life appears to have shrunk.
The world’s major religions, plagued by disunity, factions, conflict, collapsing social order and civil strife, and greater disparities between rich and poor throughout the globe, have lost believers, credibility, and moral authority. These traditional belief systems, which up until now have held societies and cultures together by giving their adherents a set of principles and virtues to live by, are slowly losing their influence.
So how do you hold onto a marriage, a job, security for you and your family and your faith in the future in the face of a world gone mad with acquiring things rather than virtues?
Increasingly, things like money, wealth, and power control human motivation – but where are the deeper, more universal human values? Why can’t we abolish inequality, provide universal healthcare, feel protected in our home and country, and use technology to improve all lives rather than the bottom lines of corporations? Where’s peace, fairness, and justice?
True peace and tranquility will only be realized when every soul will have become the well-wisher of all mankind. He Who is the All-Knowing beareth Me witness: were the peoples of the world to grasp the true significance of the words of God, they would never be deprived of their portion of the ocean of His bounty. In the firmament of truth there hath never been, nor will there ever be, a brighter star than this.
“Become a well-wisher of all mankind” – doesn’t that seem like something Christ said two thousand years ago, and which we haven’t managed to do yet? Baha’u’llah’s new Faith teaches unity as the sovereign remedy for all the ills of humankind. However, I alone can’t unify my local municipal governing council, let alone state legislative bodies, or Congress, or the world’s disparate nations.
But I can control what I say, how I say it, what I do, and how I do it. Not knowing all the ways to accomplish that, I need a mentor, a guide, a teacher. My wife Janet is a big help in that regard, with sage advice. She, like me, turns to the wise spiritual guidance of the Baha’i principles and writings – since we’ve both accepted Baha’u’llah’s belief system.
So far we’ve done well, in careers, as parents, as volunteers in the community, in many ways. Knowledge has been the key – knowing we don’t have all the answers, deepening our knowledge of the Baha’i moral and spiritual teachings, and seeking knowledge and guidance from others we trust. Many of us puzzle over the potential impact we can have as individuals on a dysfunctional world, but the Baha’i writings say two things are necessary:
Today the benefits of universal peace are recognized amongst the people, and likewise the harmful effects of war are clear and manifest to all. But in this matter, knowledge alone is far from sufficient: A power of implementation is needed to establish it throughout the world. … the power of implementation in this great endeavour is the penetrating influence of the Word of God and the confirmations of the Holy Spirit.
Doing the right thing, even if difficult, and acquiring virtues, praying, trying to set good examples for our children, being kind to everyone, showing courtesy and respect to all, and supporting our Faith and worthy causes, these actions hopefully help make me a well-wisher and an implementer rather than a passive knower. These are daily goals, not ends. In these ways, I get to keep what I have – my confidence in the world to come and my understanding that accepting the will of God is my best course.
When things go well, when they work out, or even when some things don’t, I have faith that God and Baha’u’llah want the best for me, for us, for all humanity. There is wisdom when things happen the way they do. Sometimes it helps us learn from our individual or collective mistakes, and other times it helps us thank the Holy Spirit for the strength to see it through. This prayer by Abdu’l-Baha says it best:
Lord! Pitiful are we, grant us Thy favor; poor, bestow upon us a share from the ocean of Thy wealth; needy, do Thou satisfy us; abased, give us Thy glory. The fowls of the air and the beasts of the field receive their meat each day from Thee, and all beings partake of Thy care and loving-kindness.
Deprive not this feeble one of Thy wondrous grace and vouchsafe by Thy might unto this helpless soul Thy bounty.
Give us our daily bread, and grant Thine increase in the necessities of life, that we may be dependent on none other but Thee, may commune wholly with Thee, may walk in Thy ways and declare Thy mysteries. Thou art the Almighty and the Loving and the Provider of all mankind.