The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
People all seem to have one common goal – searching for happiness. Over the ages human beings have tried many paths to get there.
Some climb the highest mountains to find the elixir of life; some allow their professions to dominate their lives; some let the quest to acquire material things consume them; some spend their lives in the pursuit of physical pleasure; still others are engaged totally in an ascetic life of yoga, meditation, and charity.
Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote that the key to happiness is a balanced life: “Set before thine eyes God’s unerring Balance and, as one standing in His Presence, weigh in that Balance thine actions every day, every moment of thy life.”
This kind of balance makes sense, because a traveler will never be satisfied with just one destination. Humans are multi-faceted and complex beings. This means education, career, family life, and charity are all important, but all must be seen as elements of a complete, happy life through a spiritual eye.
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Caring for the Body
We devote a great deal of care to our physical selves. We eat and drink to maintain our health, supplying vitamins, proteins, minerals and other essentials to our bodies. We spend a significant amount of time daily to earn money, find food, and cook meals. If our bodies get sick we receive medical care from doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and dietitians. Thankfully, a huge network of individuals, families, governments, and industry work together for our common physical benefit.
Caring for the Soul
However, we cannot say the same for our spiritual well-being. If a soul is concerned about its spiritual health, most of the time it’s on its own. Of course, religious groups as well as other associations try to provide help to those in need of spiritual or psychological assistance.
What happens when a soul does not make a conscientious effort to improve its well-being? Like any living thing, the spirit can wither without proper sustenance. The consequences of spiritual negligence are subtle. You don’t see it coming, until one day you realize something is deeply wrong. Should you realize what went wrong, you will wish you could turn back the clock.
When the body fails to function well we usually notice immediate signs and symptoms: discomfort or pain. Fortunately, symptoms and signals of inner spiritual malaise exist as well – but we have to learn how to listen for and recognize them, as they are not always as obvious as physical signals.
Here are seven of those spiritual symptoms:
1. Emptiness. You may not have any physical, emotional, or material problems, yet you think life should be more than just daily existence.
2. Negligence. Negligence can be characterized as not participating in activities that replenish the soul.
3. Ego. If you are too occupied with your own concerns rather than the concerns of others, you may find that life is not really satisfying. Many studies have demonstrated that those with higher goals, like serving others, are happier than those who are self-centered. A person may have many outward successes, but inside they can still be searching for a clear direction and fulfillment.
4. Fault finding or backbiting and disparaging others. Abdu’l-Baha told a group, “Let your thoughts dwell on your own spiritual development, and close your eyes to the deficiencies of other souls.”
5. Apathy, or an absence of interest in inner spiritual development.
6. Imbalance. A balanced adult life consists of work, family, recreation, and faith. Sometimes we end up spending too much time on one of these and end up neglecting the others. Demands at work may leave little time for other important activities. This can create conflicts internally and externally. Once in a while it is good to pause and examine all your activities, reflect on them, and see if recalibration is needed.
7. Prejudices. Biases and prejudices are veils separating us from the truth. Baha’u’llah exhorted us to strive daily to eliminate all prejudices, saying “Close your eyes to racial differences, and welcome all with the light of oneness.”
Establishing a Daily Spiritual Practice
Many of these spiritual obstacles arise from our lower natures, so one way to overcome them is to establish a daily spiritual practice – which regularly shifts our focus to a higher level of consciousness. We can achieve an elevated purpose through acquiring spiritual virtues and perfections, according to Abdu’l-Baha:
By what means can man acquire these things? How shall he obtain these merciful gifts and powers? First, through the knowledge of God. Second, through the love of God. Third, through faith. Fourth, through philanthropic deeds. Fifth, through self-sacrifice. Sixth, through severance from this world. Seventh, through sanctity and holiness.
One worldwide organization does exist to nurture and safeguard the spiritual health of all people – the Baha’i Faith. It aims to unite all hearts in one universal cause, one common Faith, and invites all of humanity, no matter what race or religion, to participate in such a soul-sufficing and civilization-building process.
To promote this universal goal, let’s look at some activities Baha’is regularly take part in to maintain a thriving community where spirit and body are given equal importance. Baha’is believe that we humans exist in an organic relationship with our environment. Individuals and societies are inseparable; in fact, each influences the other. Some of the teachings and activities of the Baha’i Faith are:
- Daily obligatory prayer and meditation
- The Baha’i Nineteen Day Feast, during which the members of the Baha’i community gather to read prayers and writings, consult about matters of the Faith in their community, and socialize together
- An annual period of fasting during the daylight hours for nineteen days
- Study circles – a sequence of courses on spirituality, designed to develop some of the qualities, attitudes, and capacities necessary for service to humanity
- Thoughtful daily reading of the Baha’i writings
- Engaging in work or a profession is considered as worship to God if it is done in the spirit of service
- The pursuit of education and the teaching of others are so highly regarded that they are considered the same as worship
- Pilgrimage to the Baha’i Shrines is recommended as a way to connect to the lives of the Central Figures of the Baha’i Faith
- Regional and national Baha’i Schools are organized throughout the year, where believers go for weekends or whole weeks to study the Baha’i teachings as a way to replenish the soul and discover ways to apply the spiritual teachings in their lives.
- Local children’s classes
- Devotional meetings
- Living life according to the Baha’i principles
These represent just a few examples of how the Baha’i teachings and the activities of Baha’i individuals and communities provide the soul with the nourishment it needs regularly. In the same way we make serious efforts to maintain healthy physical beings, our soul does not grow on its own. We must strive to develop our spiritual qualities. The Baha’i teachings give us a template for growing and keeping your soul healthy and happy.