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For the vast majority of living beings, few elements are as universally needed as water. Whether it’s reviving dry earth with rain, sheltering animals in the sea, cascading down in a cleansing shower, or filling up a glass for us to gulp, water holds profound significance around the world.
In this exploration of the spiritual meaning of water, let’s unpack the wisdom behind water’s sacred symbolism, immersing ourselves in the insights that each symbol conveys.
1. Depth of Wisdom: Water Spiritually Signifying Knowledge
Have you wondered why superficial people are called “shallow” while those who have a profound awareness and understanding are described as “deep”?
The person who merely stands in the shallow part of the water can neither experience nor fully understand the life and beauty that lie underneath the surface. That’s likely why Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, used “ocean” to symbolize a depth of knowledge and wisdom when he wrote:
Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths.
The verses that were revealed by God’s messengers offer a treasure trove of profound insights and spiritual remedies for this world that can’t all be gleaned from a cursory read. That’s why the Baha’i writings ask us to ponder and meditate on the word of God, so we can gain a deeper understanding of “the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths.”
2. The “Water of Life”: A Spiritual Symbol of Sustenance
Not only do the verses of God enhance our understanding of our reality, but they also revitalize our hearts and spirits. Baha’u’llah wrote:
Sow the seeds of My divine wisdom in the pure soil of thy heart, and water them with the water of certitude, that the hyacinths of My knowledge and wisdom may spring up fresh and green in the sacred city of thy heart.
Reading and reciting the word of God every day is important for our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. They symbolically quench our thirst and enable us to spiritually grow and develop. Abdu’l-Baha, one of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith, wrote:
Obligatory prayers and supplications are the very water of life. They are the cause of existence, of the refinement of souls, and of their attainment to the utmost joy.
Baha’is believe that the prayers that were revealed by the prophets, or Manifestations of God, including Abraham, Zoroaster, Moses, the Buddha, Krishna, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, the Bab, and Baha‘u’llah, have the greatest power. The central figures of the Baha’i Faith revealed thousands of prayers for us to say on every subject ranging from protection and aid and assistance to spiritual growth and healing.
3. The Spiritual Significance of Water as Symbolic “Showers of Mercy”
Baha’is believe in the truth and oneness of all religions. We see each appearance of a divine educator as an outpouring of God’s mercy to humanity. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
Even as thou hast witnessed, in the day of the appearance of the Point of the Qur’án—may my soul be offered up for Him—the splendours of God’s manifold grace shone forth, clear and manifest, through that luminous Day-Star upon the whole of creation, and for a thousand years that heavenly grace was vouchsafed unto all lands and regions and unto the realities of all created things. And when that Dispensation drew to a close, those signs and splendours returned to the unseen realm.
Then “a new Day dawned” with the coming of the Bab, the herald of Baha’u’llah, and Baha’u’llah. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
The Morn of Oneness rose, and the Day-Star of the world gleamed bright. The Most Great Ocean surged, and its billowing waves mounted to the Concourse on high. The clouds of bounty gathered above, and the showers of mercy rained down. The light of truth appeared, and the way of guidance was made manifest. The glorious testimony was disclosed and the path of the All-Merciful Lord became plain and evident.
4. Water’s Spiritual Meaning in Cleansing and Purification
This life-giving power of the divine writings and teachings is also spiritually cleansing. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
This is why, in Holy Scriptures, the counsels of heaven are likened to water, even as the Qur’án saith: ‘And pure water send We down from Heaven,’ and the Gospel: ‘Except a man be baptized of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.’ Thus is it clear that the Teachings which come from God are heavenly outpourings of grace; they are rain-showers of divine mercy, and they cleanse the human heart.
That’s why water is used as a symbol of purification and seeking remission of sins in baptisms. Abdu’l-Baha explained:
It is not that Christ was in need of baptism, but He submitted to it because at that time this action was praiseworthy and acceptable before God and presaged the glad-tidings of the Kingdom. However, He later said that true baptism was not with material water but with spirit and with water, and, elsewhere, with spirit and with fire. What is meant here by ‘water’ is not material water, for elsewhere it is explicitly stated that baptism must be with spirit and with fire, and the latter makes it clear that the intention is not material fire and water, since baptism with fire is impossible.
Therefore, by ‘spirit’ is meant divine grace; by ‘water’, knowledge and life; and by ‘fire’, the love of God. For material water cleanses not the heart of man but his body. Rather, the heavenly water and spirit, which are knowledge and life, cleanse and purify the heart of man. In other words, the heart that partakes of the outpouring grace of the Holy Spirit and becomes sanctified is made goodly and pure. The purpose is that the reality of man be purified and sanctified from the defilements of the world of nature, which are vile attributes such as anger, lust, worldliness, pride, dishonesty, hypocrisy, deceit, self-love, and so on.
5. From a Drop to an Ocean: The Spiritual Meaning of Water for Unity
All those egotistical and earthly defilements make people weak and divided like isolated drops, unable to realize their true potential. But when people purify themselves from all material attachments and harmoniously come together to work for the betterment of the world, they become strong and powerful. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
Whensoever holy souls, drawing on the powers of heaven, shall arise with such qualities of the spirit, and march in unison, rank on rank, every one of those souls will be even as one thousand, and the surging waves of that mighty ocean will be even as the battalions of the Concourse on high.
What a blessing that will be—when all shall come together, even as once separate torrents, rivers and streams, running brooks and single drops, when collected together in one place will form a mighty sea. And to such a degree will the inherent unity of all prevail, that the traditions, rules, customs and distinctions in the fanciful life of these populations will be effaced and vanish away like isolated drops, once the great sea of oneness doth leap and surge and roll.
I swear by the Ancient Beauty, that at such a time overwhelming grace will so encircle all, and the sea of grandeur will so overflow its shores, that the narrowest strip of water will grow wide as an endless sea, and every merest drop will be even as the shoreless deep.
The spiritual meaning of water signifies how we should live our lives. So, let’s strive to continuously immerse ourselves in the ocean of divine knowledge and be sustained by this “water of life,” so we may be cleansed by the “rain-showers of divine mercy” and come together to “form a mighty sea.”