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Spirituality

On the Spiritual Path–Facing Your Own Imperfections

David Langness | Mar 28, 2015

PART 23 IN SERIES What Makes Us Mature?

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 | Mar 28, 2015

PART 23 IN SERIES What Makes Us Mature?

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

There is a crack in everything—that’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen

The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise. – Alden Nowlan

My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet. – Mahatma Gandhi

When one has once fully entered the realm of love, the world–no matter how imperfect–becomes rich and beautiful, it consists solely of opportunities for love. – Soren Kierkegaard

All religions teach that we should love one another; that we should seek out our own shortcomings before we presume to condemn the faults of others, that we must not consider ourselves superior to our neighbors! – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 149.

The Baha’i teachings, and all truly spiritual paths, challenge each seeker to directly face and deal with his or her own inner demons.

We all have them, those imperfections and problems and issues that hamper our spiritual growth. The process that allows us to understand them and struggle to overcome them, as painful and troublesome as it can sometimes be, has a direct relationship to every person’s spiritual progress.

In many ways, facing and dealing with your own inner imperfections represents the main purpose of walking a spiritual path:

Nothing-is-more-fruitful-btIt is my hope that you may consider this matter, that you may search out your own imperfections and not think of the imperfections of anybody else. Strive with all your power to be free from imperfections. Heedless souls are always seeking faults in others. What can the hypocrite know of others’ faults when he is blind to his own? …As long as a man does not find his own faults, he can never become perfect. Nothing is more fruitful for man than the knowledge of his own shortcomings. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244.

As human beings, we tend to ignore, deny or remain blissfully ignorant about our own flaws. If you don’t believe it, try this exercise: make a list of your shortcomings, the things you would really like to change about yourself. You’ll likely find that it’s not an easy task.

Here’s one approach that can make it much simpler and more productive–the Baha’i practice of bringing yourself to account at the end of each day:

O Son of Being! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 11.

Man-reflectingWhen you review your deeds daily, just by setting aside some time each day to go over your actions and their outcomes, you give yourself a gauge of progress and growth. Many psychologists and therapists recommend this practice, whether by regular reflection, meditation or by journaling, because it provides clarity and a sense of direction to life. From a spiritual perspective, especially for seekers walking a path of inner growth and maturation, it provides us with a regular time each day to check in with our souls.

Daily self-accounting has another benefit, too—it can give you a way to measure your progress. When you identify an inner shortcoming, you can work on it each day and, after several of those days have passed, do a personal inventory and see how you’re doing. When this daily spiritual practice continues habitually over time, it can reform the human character, educate the soul and enlighten the spirit:

Let us turn toward the spiritual sun and acquire a light which will render the world luminous, so that we may be freed from matter and acquire celestial qualities, that this limited life may merge into the eternal. When man thus adorns himself, he will progress every day with new vigor; his soul will become more and more sensitized and the laws and morals of the world will be reconstructed with divine conviction. Then man will make real discoveries, penetrate the mysteries and so reflect them that he will become the image of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 58.

This daily practice of reflection and self-accounting also makes for an increase in humility, because doing it regularly reminds us of our own faults and foibles, and allows us to better feel love for all humanity:

Be in perfect unity. Never become angry with one another. Let your eyes be directed toward the kingdom of truth and not toward the world of creation. Love the creatures for the sake of God and not for themselves. You will never become angry or impatient if you love them for the sake of God. Humanity is not perfect. There are imperfections in every human being, and you will always become unhappy if you look toward the people themselves. But if you look toward God, you will love them and be kind to them, for the world of God is the world of perfection and complete mercy. Therefore, do not look at the shortcomings of anybody; see with the sight of forgiveness. The imperfect eye beholds imperfections. The eye that covers faults looks toward the Creator of souls. He created them, trains and provides for them, endows them with capacity and life, sight and hearing; therefore, they are the signs of His grandeur. You must love and be kind to everybody, care for the poor, protect the weak, heal the sick, teach and educate the ignorant. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 92.

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Comments

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  • Mar 31, 2015
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    The demon is not within. In fact there is no demon. Such ideas of demon, sin against God, punishment and so on, are from the old school thinking. With the Baha’s commandment of balancing our spiritual views with scientific knowledge, one has to look beyond such limiting and objectifies knowledge of spirituality. Indeed Bab and Baha’ had foreseen this possibility and had actively encouraged their followers to move on from the out dated understanding of truth and reality and seek “NEW” knowledge with reliance on scientific knowledge.
    What is called the demon within, according to the ...new findings in the science of neurology, is nothing but the direct result of social conditioning and what a person learns from the outside world, parents, teachers, leaders and the media. Therefore there is no demon even within a murderer or a child soldier. This is compatible with Abdul-Baha’s approach in healing and education; No one should be hated and every one deserved love, from the Master’s point of view and His basis was that there is no evil or demon. It is rather lack of love and deprivation from education.
    Baha pointed us to look within for His love and place. Right in your and my heart. According to the Baha’i perspective on this issue, the ultimate truth, the highest level of cosmic consciousness, the so called creator Herself, is standing within you: Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting. Hidden words, Baha.
    O SON OF THE WONDROUS VISION! I have breathed within thee a breath of My own Spirit, that thou mayest be My lover. Hidden words, Baha
    O SON OF BEING! Thy heart is My home; sanctify it for My descent. Hidden words, Baha
    O SON OF MAN! Thou art My dominion and My dominion perisheth not; wherefore fearest thou thy perishing? Thou art My light and My light shall never be extinguished; why dost thou dread extinction? Thou art My glory and My glory fadeth not; thou art My robe and My robe shall never be outworn. Abide then in thy love for Me, that thou mayest find Me in the realm of glory. Hidden words, Baha
    O SON OF BEING! Thou art My lamp and My light is in thee. Get thou from it thy radiance and seek none other than Me. For I have created thee rich and have bountifully shed My favor upon thee. Hidden words, Baha
    This is the way to the future and can only happen if we try to investigate the truth with fresh eyes and a mind free from the “demon” of social conditioning which is “external” to us. When people feel the spiritual bounty, love and cosmic creative beauty within, there will be no more room for the darkness of demon.
    I understand that these are just analogies, yet such limited and counter productive analogies go a long way to deter the progressive and scientific community away from the light of love and knowledge that Baha radiated for humanity. More over, the idea of guilt and regret about imperfections for young people who are going through puberty and the challenges of self-awareness is particularly damaging and dangerous. Such a black and white description of imperfections from within, can also cause disempowerment of the youth and triggering self-harm attitude.
    I would say to the youth that: you are the Divine cosmic lamp, the creative power of Divine intervention in the sorry state of human affairs, the bearer of the Glory of God within your beautiful heart, the hope of peace and love for the desperate humanity, the indestructible robe (string theory) which can manifest supreme spiritual virtues and creativities. Please don’t look at your perceived and socially constructed weaknesses. You are the most wonderful reality in the whole universe, go and claim your true self by loving, serving, educating and helping humanity. No guilt, no regrets, no self-hate, no self-imposed limitations. Fly with love and take the entire humanity in your beautiful and innocent heart, because your heart is big enough.
    With love and peaceful joy, Farvardin Daliri
    Read more...
  • Mar 28, 2015
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    Although I haven't yet read all of the hundreds of articles on this wonderful website, of the dozens that I have read, this is definitely a favorite that I will come back to!
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