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Spirituality

Peace, Progress and Personal Responsibility

David Langness | Oct 6, 2015

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 | Oct 6, 2015

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

We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own. – Cesar Chavez

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is appropriate and befitting that in this illumined age — the age of the progress of the world of humanity — we should be self-sacrificing and should serve the human race. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 68.

The engine of human progress, the Baha’i teachings say, runs on the fuel of our collective concern for one another. Without that selfless, altruistic dedication to the ongoing spiritual and material development of each individual and each culture, we cannot achieve the unity and harmony the world so desperately needs. Without love for each other, expressed not just in words but in deeds, the essential message of the prophets and founders of the world’s great Faiths will go unrealized:

The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying Their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High. The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 156-157.

The purpose of religion as revealed from the heaven of God’s holy Will is to establish unity and concord amongst the peoples of the world; make it not the cause of dissension and strife. The religion of God and His divine law are the most potent instruments and the surest of all means for the dawning of the light of unity amongst men. The progress of the world, the development of nations, the tranquillity of peoples, and the peace of all who dwell on earth are among the principles and ordinances of God. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, pp. 129-130.

Do you want progress? Most people do, but they define progress in different ways. From a Baha’i perspective, human progress depends on applying the principles Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha elucidated, which outline a vision for a unified, peaceful planet. Would you like to see growing bonds of unity in the world; a developing sense of the possibility of peace; and a collective global agreement to protect our environment? Would you be happy if the world could increase racial harmony, religious understanding and military disarmament? Do you support the equality of women and men, the elimination of prejudice, the essential agreement of science and religion? Can you envision the progress that could lead to upholding the human rights of every person?

If you answered yes to those questions, then the Baha’i teachings advise you to first put them into practice on an individual level:

You must become the means of lighting the world of humanity. This is the infallible proof and sign. Every progress depends on two things, knowledge and practice. First acquire knowledge, and, when conviction is reached, put it into practice. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 108.

O ye friends of God! Know ye verily that the happiness of the world of humanity is dependent upon the unity and solidarity of mankind, and that material and spiritual progress both rest upon universal friendliness and love among human individuals. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 4, p. 66.

So how can we light the world of humanity? Are we each responsible for the progress of all people? The Baha’i teachings outline our individual responsibility in this striking passage from Abdu’l-Baha:

May you develop so that each one of you shall become imbued with all the virtues of the human world. May you advance in all material and spiritual degrees. May you become learned in sciences, acquire the arts and crafts, prove to be useful members of human society and assist the progress of human civilization. May you be a cause of the manifestation of divine bestowals — each one of you a shining star radiating the light of the oneness of humanity toward the horizons of the East and West. May you be devoted to the love and unity of mankind, and through your efforts may the reality deposited in the human heart find its divine expression. I pray for you, asking the assistance and confirmation of God in your behalf. – The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 91.

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