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Spirituality

Keep Your Eyes Fixed on the Exalted Kingdom

David Langness | Jul 29, 2016

PART 2 IN SERIES A Rule to Guide Thy Life

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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David Langness | Jul 29, 2016

PART 2 IN SERIES A Rule to Guide Thy Life

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Have you—like my young son as he grew up—ever wanted a rule book for life?

In the first essay in this series of articles on the spiritual rules of life from a Baha’i perspective, I quoted a passage from a letter Abdu’l-Baha wrote to a Baha’i woman who asked for a rule she could use to guide her life. In his short answer, Abdu’l-Baha gave her a brief but amazingly profound set of spiritual guidelines, all in one single paragraph, for living a good life. Here, I’ve separated the phrases and sentences in that paragraph from one another, and bulleted them as a single list, just the way my young son wanted it, for easy reference:

  • Believe thou in God, and keep thine eyes fixed upon the exalted Kingdom;
  • be thou enamoured of the Abha Beauty;
  • stand thou firm in the Covenant;
  • yearn thou to ascend into the Heaven of the Universal Light.
  • Be thou severed from this world, and reborn through the sweet scents of holiness that blow from the realm of the All-Highest.
  • Be thou a summoner to love, and be thou kind to all the human race.
  • Love thou the children of men and share in their sorrows.
  • Be thou of those who foster peace.
  • Offer thy friendship, be worthy of trust.
  • Be thou a balm to every sore, be thou a medicine for every ill.
  • Bind thou the souls together.
  • Recite thou the verses of guidance.
  • Be engaged in the worship of thy Lord, and rise up to lead the people aright.
  • Loose thy tongue and teach, and let thy face be bright with the fire of God’s love.
  • Rest thou not for a moment, seek thou to draw no easeful breath.

The first sentence of Abdu’l-Baha’s advice, with its four dependent clauses, all has to do with developing and sustaining a strong belief in a Supreme Being:

Believe thou in God, and keep thine eyes fixed upon the exalted Kingdom; be thou enamoured of the Abha Beauty; stand thou firm in the Covenant; yearn thou to ascend into the Heaven of the Universal Light. – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 26.

“Believe thou in God,” he wrote, “and keep thine eyes fixed upon the exalted Kingdom.” Here he tells us that this creation has a Creator, and asks us to constantly be mindful of our Creator. He tells us, too, that an “exalted Kingdom” exists, a realm beyond the physical which we can aspire to, hope for and aim towards. He promises us, in other words, that this material life doesn’t limit our existence.

When I initially read this passage, it surprised me that the Baha’i teachings would begin such a listing of life-rules with a prescription for belief in God. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized what a solid foundation that belief can build. If you’re firmly convinced that your Creator loves and values you; if you hold a vision of an exalted Kingdom that confers life after death; then you can dispense with fear. You can see that death, the source of so much human anxiety and dread, has no power to harm you. You can conceive of an everlasting life, and realize that you will truly live forever.

Then Abdu’l-Baha wrote “be thou enamored of the Abha Beauty” and “stand thou firm in the Covenant.” That part of this passage probably needs some explanation.

In the Baha’i writings, Baha’u’llah has several honorific titles and names: the Blessed Beauty, the Pen of the Most High, the All-Highest Horizon, the Most Great Ocean, just to mention a few. The title “Abha Beauty” uses “Abha,” a superlative form of the word “Baha,” which means “glory” or “glorious.” The name Baha’u’llah means “the glory of God.” These poetic, metaphorical names indicate the high, honored station of a messenger of God, and refer to the deep spiritual beauty of the message itself.

Seat of the Universal House of Justice

Seat of the Universal House of Justice (the elected leadership of the Baha’i Faith)

Also in this passage, the capitalized word “Covenant” refers to the plan Baha’u’llah set in motion before his passing to provide for the harmonious and continuous operation of the Faith. The Baha’i covenant, which has resulted in a succession of appointed and now elected leadership to guide and direct the global Baha’i community, has maintained and protected the unity of the Faith for more than a century.

So when Abdu’l-Baha asks us to believe in God, to keep our eyes fixed on the exalted Kingdom, to be enamored of Baha’u’llah’s message and to stand firm in the Baha’i covenant, he’s giving us a new way to think about and act on religious belief. Rather than simply following a set of rules and laws interpreted by a member of the clergy; this new spiritual call to all humanity asks each of us to individually and autonomously decide for ourselves whether we believe in a Creator, and then to make an informed, rational and reasonable decision about what actions that belief inspires.

Once we make those independent decisions, Abdu’l-Baha wrote, we will “yearn thou to ascend into the Heaven of the Universal Light.”

This inner belief—that a loving Supreme Being made our immortal souls, and that our souls will ultimately ascend to that light-filled realm—begins the Baha’i approach to the rules of life. Rather than starting with a litany of “do’s and don’ts,” it asks us to go beyond the restrictions and laws of this world and recognize the universal law of creation. It asks us to fall in love with our Creator, and to turn our eyes, our souls and our hearts toward the light of a new revelation from Baha’u’llah.

Next: How to be Severed from this World

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Comments

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  • John Clarke
    Jul 30, 2016
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    I love how your son asked a sincere question and received a profound answer that made sense to him even at age 6. Over time I have become convinced of the power of these writings to help and heal because I have heard many anecdotes of the beneficial effect that Baha'i words have on youth (educated and uneducated, young and older) and on their subsequent behaviour and relationships.
  • Hooshang S. Afshar
    Jul 30, 2016
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    Dear Stephen Kent Gray, Thank you for comments and questions, it shows that you are interested in investigation and understanding of the Baha'i religion. This short passage is from the late Guardian of the Faith in his book The World Order of Baha'u'llah, also available in Appreciations of the Baha'i Faith article in bahai-library.com. "THE Revelation proclaimed by Bahá'u'lláh, His followers believe, is divine in origin, all-embracing in scope, broad in its outlook, scientific in its method, humanitarian in its principles and dynamic in the influence it exerts on the hearts and minds of men. The mission of the Founder ...of their Faith, they conceive it to be to proclaim that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is continuous and progressive, that the Founders of all past religions, though different in the non-essential aspects of their teachings, "abide in the same Tabernacle, soar in the same heaven, are seated upon the same throne, utter the same speech and proclaim the same Faith. (from Writings Baha'u'llah)" His Cause, they have already demonstrated, stands identified with, and revolves around, the principle of the organic unity of mankind as representing the consummation of the whole process of human evolution. This final stage in this stupendous evolution, they assert, is not only necessary but inevitable, that it is gradually approaching, and that nothing short of the celestial potency with which a divinely ordained Message can claim to be endowed can succeed in establishing it. The Bahá'í Faith recognizes the unity of God and of His Prophets, upholds the principle of an unfettered search after truth, condemns all forms of superstition and prejudice, teaches that the fundamental purpose of religion is to promote concord and harmony, that it must go hand-in-hand with science, and that it constitutes the sole and ultimate basis of a peaceful, an ordered and progressive society. It inculcates the principle of equal opportunity, rights and privileges for both sexes, advocates compulsory education, abolishes extremes of poverty and wealth, exalts work performed in the spirit of service to the rank of worship, recommends the adoption of an auxiliary international language, and provides the necessary agencies for the establishment and safeguarding of a permanent and universal peace." I would like to briefly explain further a small point that progressive revelation is like progressive education from primary school to university. Reaching to high levels of capacity and intellect do not render former educations null and void rather they are now the foundations. Regarding the term Covenant, Abdul-Baha's title is also The Centre Of Covenant who was appointed by Baha'u'llah in His writings as His successor. Abdul-Baha similarly appointed the Guardian, Shoghi Efendi, in his Will and Testament to succeed him who in turn made preparation for the election and establishment of the Universal House of Justice. The whole of these authoritative successive appointments are termed the institution of Covenant which one can research and study. Good luck with your independent investigation of the truth.
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  • Jul 29, 2016
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    As the world isn't 100% all Baha'is does that mean that since non-Baha'is are Baha'is they aren't fulfilling the laws of life? Let's say a non-Baha'i or even a Baha'i does independent investagtion of truth which leads them to be a religion other than Baha'i, since your sectarian reading of the quotes doesn't leave much room for the fact other religions exist, how do they follow the rules of life without having converting or reverting? Why do Baha'is despite believing in unity of religion always treat past Manifestation/Faiths/religions as if they were null and void now, so that everyone should ...convert?
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  • Jul 29, 2016
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    Covenant can mean either the Covenant of God or the Covenant of Bahalloah. So point 3 isn't as sectarian as you said. It can mean Convenant of Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, etc if you think about it too.
  • Jul 29, 2016
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    Have I ever wanted a rule book for life personally? It's really complex as a question for me. I've always been a person who cared for goodness, but have always had a complex relationship with boundaries, laws, regulations, and rules. Basically, I've always had a Chaotic Good character alignment in RPG terms. Despite the Chaotic part of my alignment, rules like the Golden Rule and Non-Agression Principle, but explaining much more would be really complicated as Character Alignment is very nuanced. Besides all that, you have listed fifteen bulletin points that will be used in this series of essays. While ...non-sectarian on the surface, you have and probably will interpret all of the bulletin points in Baha'i specific ways in such that people who aren't Baha'is won't have fullfilled your interpretation of the points.
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  • Jul 29, 2016
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    So basically the first four points are summarized as: 1 believe in God, 2 believe in Bahollah (rather than any previous Manifestation), 3 believe in the Baha'i Faith (rather than any previous religion), and believe in life after death. This is my summarizing of your summarizing of the first four points. Point 2 can be generalized to any Mainifestation (Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, etc). Point 3 can be generalized to any religion (Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc). Believing in the Manifeststion and his Faith/religion doesn't neccesarily mention one specific one over all others like you interpreted ...points 2 and 3 to mean.
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