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Do you think of yourself as a noble being? Would you like to be a nobler person?
Most of us probably would. So let’s take a look, from a spiritual perspective, at what that means, and what it requires.
The Baha’i teachings suggest that, with practice, nobility can actually become a conscious habit:
It is possible to so adjust one’s self to the practice of nobility that its atmosphere surrounds and colours all our acts. When these acts are habitually and conscientiously adjusted to noble standards with no thought of the words that might herald them then nobility becomes the accent of life. At such a degree of evolution one scarcely needs to try to be good any longer; all our deeds are the distinctive expression of nobility. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 4, p. 194.
So how can that happen? How can we “habitually and conscientiously” adjust our acts to reflect more noble standards, and gradually develop a sustainable pattern of noble behavior? Abdu’l-Baha, at a talk he gave in Paris in 1911, suggested six progressive steps to achieve that spiritual goal:
Oh, friends of God! If ye will trust in the Word of God and be strong; if ye will follow the precepts of Baha’u’llah to tend the sick, raise the fallen, care for the poor and needy, give shelter to the destitute, protect the oppressed, comfort the sorrowful and love the world of humanity with all your hearts, then I say unto you that ere long this meeting-place will see a wonderful harvest. Day by day each member will advance and become more and more spiritual. But ye must have a firm foundation and your aims and ambitions must be clearly understood by each member. They shall be as follows:
1. To show compassion and goodwill to all mankind.
2. To render service to humanity.
3. To endeavour to guide and enlighten those in darkness.
4. To be kind to everyone, and show forth affection to every living soul.
5. To be humble in your attitude towards God, to be constant in prayer to Him, so as to grow daily nearer to God.
6. To be so faithful and sincere in all your actions that every member may be known as embodying the qualities of honesty, love, faith, kindness, generosity, and courage. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 73-74.
Let’s start with step number one on Abdu’l-Baha’s short list of six steps. A noble person, as Abdu’l-Baha suggests, shows compassion and goodwill to everyone:
May you consider all religions the instruments of God and regard all races as channels of divine manifestation. May you view mankind as the sheep of God and know for a certainty that He is the real Shepherd. Consider how this kind and tender Shepherd cares for all His flock; how He leads them in green pastures and beside the still waters. How well He protects them! Verily, this Shepherd makes no distinctions whatsoever; to all the sheep He is equally kind. Therefore, we must follow the example of God and strive in pathways of goodwill toward all humanity. – The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 419.
This initial step begins with the hard work of abolishing our inner prejudices. We all have them. Often subconscious or even unconscious, our biases against some groups of people—various types or classes or religions or races or nationalities—all get in the way of goodwill toward all people. Since God makes no distinctions among us, Abdu’l-Baha says, why should we make any distinctions?
Notice, though, that this passage from the Baha’i teachings does not say this step will happen instantaneously. Instead, Abdu’l-Baha asks us to “strive in pathways of goodwill toward all humanity.” This striving implies that the process takes some time and some effort to accomplish. Ridding ourselves of bias, racism and prejudice involves a lifelong commitment; a willingness to question our own inner motives and attitudes; and a clear-eyed engagement in the work of self-reflection and self-improvement.
Once you set foot on that path, however, you’re on your way to a more noble life.
Next: Noble Service to the Common Good
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