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How do I become Baha’i?
Spirituality

Renouncing our Separateness from Others

David Langness | May 7, 2016

PART 4 IN SERIES Escaping the Greatest Prison

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 | May 7, 2016

PART 4 IN SERIES Escaping the Greatest Prison

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

With renunciation life begins. – Natalie Clifford Barney

The pure heart is one that is entirely cut away from self. To be selfless is to be pure. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 106.

The ultimate renunciation involves not just detaching from the ego and the self, but renouncing the illusion of our separateness from others.

The Baha’i teachings call, above all else, for the oneness and unity of all humanity. Baha’is strive to rid themselves of prejudices, to go beyond the artificial boundaries of race, religion and nationality:

All mankind are creatures and servants of the one God. The surface of the earth is one home; humanity is one family and household. Distinctions and boundaries are artificial, human. Why should there be discord and strife among men? All must become united and coordinated in service to the world of humanity. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 107-108.

Renouncing those boundaries—the source of so much pain and grief in the world—can lift each one of us from the realm of the animal to the realm of the spiritual:

If man were to care for himself only he would be nothing but an animal for only the animals are thus egoistic. If you bring a thousand sheep to a well to kill nine hundred and ninety-nine the one remaining sheep would go on grazing, not thinking of the others and worrying not at all about the lost, never bothering that its own kind had passed away, or had perished or been killed. To look after one’s self only is therefore an animal propensity. It is the animal propensity to live solitary and alone. It is the animal proclivity to look after one’s own comfort. But man was created to be a man — to be fair, to be just, to be merciful, to be kind to all his species, never to be willing that he himself be well off while others are in misery and distress — this is an attribute of the animal and not of man. Nay, rather, man should be willing to accept hardships for himself in order that others may enjoy wealth; he should enjoy trouble for himself that others may enjoy happiness and well-being. This is the attribute of man. This is becoming of man. Otherwise man is not man — he is less than the animal.

The man who thinks only of himself and is thoughtless of others is undoubtedly inferior to the animal because the animal is not possessed of the reasoning faculty. The animal is excused; but in man there is reason, the faculty of justice, the faculty of mercifulness. Possessing all these faculties he must not leave them unused. He who is so hard-hearted as to think only of his own comfort, such an one will not be called man.

Man is he who forgets his own interests for the sake of others. His own comfort he forfeits for the well-being of all. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 42.

This definition of a new level of spirituality, based on the Baha’i teachings, asks each of us to renounce the idea of our separateness from others. It asks us to recognize our inherent unity with every other human being. Ultimately, it asks us to become just, merciful and kind to all people—to act on our oneness.

For Baha’is, that defines the true spirit of religion—selflessness and pure-heartedness:

…a religious individual must disregard his personal desires and seek in whatever way he can wholeheartedly to serve the public interest; and it is impossible for a human being to turn aside from his own selfish advantages and sacrifice his own good for the good of the community except through true religious faith. For self-love is kneaded into the very clay of man, and it is not possible that, without any hope of a substantial reward, he should neglect his own present material good. That individual, however, who puts his faith in God and believes in the words of God — because he is promised and certain of a plentiful reward in the next life, and because worldly benefits as compared to the abiding joy and glory of future planes of existence are nothing to him — will for the sake of God abandon his own peace and profit and will freely consecrate his heart and soul to the common good. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 96-97.

Next: No Prison but the Prison of Self

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