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O QUINTESSENCE OF PASSION! Put away all covetousness and seek contentment; for the covetous hath ever been deprived, and the contented hath ever been loved and praised. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah, p. 39.
The Baha’i Faith offers the power of contentment, inspires self-improvement, motivates service to society, and sets high ideals, in the form of practical applications of spiritual principles, individually and collFgectively.
Let’s talk about the power of contentment. This means to “count your blessings.” In a newly authorized translation, Baha’u’llah reveals a beautiful prayer of praise and thanksgiving, the original which is inF Arabic, as follows:
He is God, exalted is He, the Lord of might and grandeur!
O God, my God! I yield Thee thanks at all times and render Thee praise under all conditions.
In prosperity, all praise is Thine, O Lord of the Worlds, and in its absence, all gratitude is Thine, O Desire of them that have recognised Thee!
In adversity, all honour is Thine, O Adored One of all who are in heaven and on earth, and in affliction, all glory is Thine, O Enchanter of the hearts of those who yearn after Thee!
In hardship, all praise is Thine, O Thou the Goal of them that seek after Thee, and in comfort, all thanksgiving is Thine, O Thou whose remembrance is treasured in the hearts of those who are nigh unto Thee!
In wealth, all splendour is Thine, O Lord of them that are devoted to Thee, and in poverty, all command is Thine, O Thou the Hope of them that acknowledge Thy unity!
In joy, all glory is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God, and in sorrow, all beauty is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God!
In hunger, all justice is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God, and in satiety, all grace is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God!
In my homeland, all bounty is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God, and in exile, all decree is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God!
Under the sword, all munificence is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God, and in the safety of home, all perfection is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God!
In the lofty mansion, all generosity is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God, and upon the lowly dust, all favour is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God!
In prison, all fidelity is Thine, O Thou the Bestower of gifts, and in confinement, all eternity is Thine, O Thou Who art the ever-abiding King!
All bounty is Thine, O Thou Who art the Lord of bounty, and the Sovereign of bounty, and the King of bounty!
I bear witness that Thou art to be praised in Thy doings, O Thou Source of bounty, and to be obeyed in Thy behests, O Thou Ocean of bounty, He from Whom all bounty doth proceed, He to Whom all bounty doth return!
Baha’u’llah (Newly authorized translation. Courtesy of Dr. Iskandar Hai.)
You can listen to an audio of this captivating and enchanting prayer, chanted in the original Arabic here.
As in the Hidden Word that opens this article, if a person always wants more, that person will never be satisfied, “for the covetous hath ever been deprived.” This is because desire for what others possess (covetousness) is a kind of greed.
Greed, by its very nature, is insatiable. Such greed or desire can never be fully satisfied, because it is a flaw in one’s character, a kind of personality disorder—not in the clinical sense, but rather in the practical sense.
On the other hand, a person who counts his or her blessings is in a state of relative contentment, which is an attractive personality trait, in that it serves as a model for others: “for … the contented hath ever been loved and praised.”
This might sound a little bit unusual, but let’s take a look at this last statement more closely. In my understanding of it, this teaching basically advises a kind of enlightened self-interest (which can then develop into genuine altruism), by suggesting that, if a person would like to be appreciated (“loved and praised”), then being “contented” (i.e. generally happy with one’s lot in life) will not only be good for you, but will be good for others as well, for they will appreciate your outlook on life, as a model and inspiration for them.
This is easier for some than for others, depending on one’s circumstances in life. It’s easy for one who lives in relative ease to be contented. For those whose life is one of hardship and/or serious medical issues, being satisfied in life can be quite challenging.
In such a case, “contentment” does not mean complete and utter resignation. That can result in a kind of cynicism, in which one resigns oneself to the whims of “Fate.”
Rather, contentment is a base, a foundation, a proving ground, a test of character, and a point of departure for doing what’s right, and for seeking the assistance of others (such as qualified medical doctors) when there is a genuine need.
Then, when it’s our turn to return the favors we have been blessed with in life, when we can offer our assistance to others who have genuine needs, provided we have the resources (individually as well as collectively as a community) to offer, along with our service-consecrated time and energy.
While the Baha’i writings describe “fate” as those inevitable circumstances in life that we cannot change or avert (such as death), when it comes to those circumstances that you can change, then it’s good to try to do so, to the best of your ability.
So, in addition to prayers of thanksgiving, it is perfectly reasonable to offer what might be characterized as “prayers of necessity,” as you prepare to meditate, receive inspiration, decide to act (resolution and volition), and then take action. This is a good formula for taking your own life into your own hands in a way that makes sense and can produce the best results.
Baha’i teachings encourage a brief period of meditation following prayer, with the hope and assurance that inspiration will follow, so that one can follow the prayer and meditation with practical action. Doing so should increase your own “contentment,” especially if you better your lot in life.
Thanksgiving is not simply being appreciative of what you have been given in the past, or even in the present, but by pursuing a path in life that will cause you to be even more appreciative and, in so doing, will make others more appreciative as well: “for … the contented hath ever been loved and praised.”
Enlightened self-interest is a good place to start. It is not a purely altruistic motivation, but one that can eventually lead to an interest in making this world a better place.
Thanksgiving (giving praise to God) leads to giving to others. Thanksgiving is not only state of mind, but a process as well. Contentment and thanksgiving are part of the open secret to living a happy and productive life.