The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
If you are one of the 32 million people who have food allergies in the United States, you know what it’s like to eat something that you know you shouldn’t.
Whether you experience hives, stomach pain, or swelling of the tongue or throat, we all know that the harmful reactions we experience last longer and are far more significant than the temporary high we get from indulging in a tasty treat. And, just like our physical health, our spiritual wellness also requires self-control and abstinence from habits that can harm our mind and spirit.
Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, explained that we need to have “a chaste, pure, and holy life, unsullied and unclouded by the indecencies, the vices, the false standards, which an inherently deficient moral code tolerates, perpetuates, and fosters” in order to spiritually heal ourselves and our nation.
Holiness and chastity are not meant to be confused with bigoted puritanism. It is exemplified by pure deeds, clean thoughts, a noble moral conduct, and our resulting spiritual health, upliftment, and vitality.
One speck of chastity is greater than a hundred thousand years of worship and a sea of knowledge.
Here are nine ways you can live a chaste, pure, and holy life, according to the Baha’i writings.
1. Be Modest
In order to live a pure and holy life, we need to manage our ego and not vaunt our success, progress, or achievements.
Let your thoughts dwell on your own spiritual development, and close your eyes to the deficiencies of other souls. Act ye in such wise, showing forth pure and goodly deeds, and modesty and humility, that ye will cause others to be awakened.
Modesty doesn’t just apply to our behavior, but also to how we dress and present ourselves. In the Baha’i Faith, what we wear is left to our discretion. “But beware,” Baha’u’llah warned, “O people, lest ye make yourselves the playthings of the ignorant.” When we dress modestly, we treat ourselves with dignity and respect and prevent ourselves from being sexualized and objectified.
2. Have a Clean Mind
If we want our actions to be chaste, our thoughts have to be as well. The Buddha said, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.”
When I was around 14 years old, I realized how influential the media and entertainment industry is in influencing our thoughts. And, after reading that a chaste and holy life “condemns the prostitution of art and of literature,” as explained by Shoghi Effendi, I decided to stop reading books, listening to music, and watching any television shows or movies that prevented my mind and thoughts from remaining clean and innocent. Not only did this cleanse my mind, but it also refreshed my heart and spirit.
3. Use Kind, Decent, and Appropriate Language
I’m so grateful that I was raised in a household that does not cuss or insult each other. Baha’u’llah wrote:
Verily I say, the tongue is for mentioning what is good, defile it not with unseemly talk. God hath forgiven what is past. Henceforward everyone should utter that which is meet and seemly, and should refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causeth sadness in men.
When you engage in insults, slander, gossip, or profanity, you defile your tongue, which is meant for kind words. Our words should bring people together, not tear everyone apart.
4. Exercise Moderation
Shoghi Effendi wrote:
Such a chaste and holy life, with its implications of modesty, purity, temperance, decency, and clean-mindedness, involves no less than the exercise of moderation in all that pertains to dress, language, amusements, and all artistic and literary avocations.
It’s okay if we enjoy the occasional decent game or video, as long as we don’t become addicted or attached to them. Abdu’l-Baha advised us to not let a pastime become a waste of time. Our spiritual health and growth should be our priority, and our thoughts should be centered on serving humanity.
5. Abandon Frivolous Conduct
According to a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, the global governing body of the Baha’i Faith, one of the signs of a society that is declining in morality is “an almost frenetic devotion to pleasure and diversion, an insatiable thirst for amusement, a fanatical devotion to games and sport, a reluctance to treat any matter seriously, and a scornful, derisory attitude towards virtue and solid worth.
Abandonment of ‘a frivolous conduct’ does not imply that a Bahá’í must be sour-faced or perpetually solemn. …Frivolity palls and eventually leads to boredom and emptiness, but true happiness and joy and humour that are parts of a balanced life that includes serious thought, compassion and humble servitude to God, are characteristics that enrich life and add to its radiance.”
6. Abstain From All Alcoholic Drinks
The Baha’i writings say:
The drinking of wine is, according to the text of the Most Holy Book, forbidden; for it is the cause of chronic diseases, weakeneth the nerves, and consumeth the mind.
In addition to changing your mood, behavior, and coordination and hindering your ability to think clearly, increased alcohol consumption has been proven to increase a person’s risk of developing various types of cancers, illnesses, and diseases associated with the heart, liver, lungs, pancreas, mouth, throat, brain, breast, colon, rectum, and intestines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated, “Excessive alcohol use was responsible for more than 140,000 deaths in the United States each year during 2015–2019.” That was more than 380 deaths per day, shortening the lives of those who died by “an average of 26 years, for a total of nearly 3.6 million years of potential life lost.”
So, it’s no surprise that Baha’u’llah asked us to become “intoxicated with the wine of the love of God, and not with that which deadeneth your minds.”
7. Abstain From Opium and Similar Habit-Forming Drugs
Like alcohol, drugs are also incredibly dangerous and addictive as well.
Abdu’l-Baha wrote that opium, for example, “fasteneth on the soul, so that the user’s conscience dieth, his mind is blotted away, his perceptions are eroded. It turneth the living into the dead. It quencheth the natural heat. No greater harm can be conceived than that which opium inflicteth.”
8. Be Chaste Before Marriage
Of course, abstaining from premarital sex is an important part of a chaste life. Nowadays, our culture overemphasizes the importance of physical love in relationships. But, Baha’is believe that sex is a sacred, intimate act that should only be shared with your spouse — the love of your life who you are committed to and share a priceless bond with.
According to Dr. Charles Everett Koop, a former surgeon general of the U.S., “When you have sex with someone, you are having sex with everyone they have had sex with for the last ten years, and everyone their partners have had sex with for the last ten years.” Premarital sex can make you and your future spouse vulnerable to a variety of sexually transmitted diseases. Some sexually transmitted viruses can even cause mutations in your future offspring.
I don’t feel deprived by being chaste; I feel protected, liberated, and blessed. Physical intimacy can also cloud your judgment when you’re getting to know somebody that you are attracted to. Instead, Baha’is believe that we should become thoroughly acquainted with the character of the person we’re romantically interested in and “establish bonds of comradeship and love which are eternal and founded on the spiritual life of man, not on his physical life.” This will ultimately lead to a happier and more satisfying marriage.
A study in the “Journal of Family Psychology” found that people who waited to have sex until marriage rated the quality of their sex as 15% higher, their satisfaction with their relationships as 20% higher, and the stability of their relationship as 22% higher than people who had premarital sex.
If you are not married but have already lost your virginity, you may still want to consider abstaining from sex until marriage. It’s never too late to make changes in your life.
9. Be Faithful to Your Spouse
The Baha’i writings say:
Chastity implies both before and after marriage an unsullied, chaste sex life. Before marriage absolutely chaste, after marriage absolutely faithful to one’s chosen companion. Faithful in all sexual acts, faithful in word and in deed.
The brightness of the light of chastity sheddeth its illumination upon the worlds of the spirit, and its fragrance is wafted even unto the Most Exalted Paradise.
I hope you found these tips for a holy, pure, and chaste life helpful. This lifestyle will surely illuminate your mind, heart, and soul.