When we recognize Baha’u’llah as the Manifestation of God for this day and age, the Baha’i writings say, we begin to transform our entire beings. Abdu’l-Baha explains that Baha’u’llah, tortured and imprisoned for forty years:
…bore all these ordeals and calamities in order that our hearts might become enkindled and radiant, our spirits be glorified, our faults become virtues, our ignorance transformed into knowledge; in order that we might attain the real fruits of humanity and acquire heavenly graces; although pilgrims upon earth we should travel the road of the heavenly kingdom; although needy and poor we might receive the treasures of life eternal. – Baha’i World Faith, p. 223.
If we want to be truly transformed, shouldn’t we, according to our capacity, pour out our resources and our time and pare away from our lives the trivialities, the superficial excesses and the things that one acquires by the nature of the society we inhabit? Shouldn’t we concentrate on the eternal rather than the temporal and the temporary? This path, which means focusing on the highest and most important part of our reality – the spiritual – tells us that the honor in such a life-giving renunciation is inestimable.
The Baha’i writings very emphatically say that those souls who have passed from this world to the next become aware of the mysteries of this world:
The mysteries of which man is heedless in this earthly world, those will he discover in the heavenly world, and there will he be informed of the secret of truth…. Undoubtedly, the holy souls who find a pure eye and are favored with insight will, in the kingdom of lights, be acquainted with all mysteries… – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 204.
In fact, if we could see ourselves the way the souls on the other side see us, we would know that they are aware of our spiritual condition, and when they see us attracted and moving by the influence of this divine light they rejoice, they pray for us, they pour confirmations upon us. When they see us enshrouded in the mists of heedlessness and distraction because of our attachments and passions they also pray for us, to deliver us from that condition.
This renunciation of the physical and the temporal does not mean that we give up happiness and joy, or that the Baha’i teachings want us to live a deprived, ascetic or monastic life. Instead, it simply recognizes what is lasting and important, and what is not. It gives the proper weight and balance to our earthly life, and it sets us on a path away from selfishness and toward service to others and to the world:
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, p. 96.
Baha’is believe that the forces of our time, the creative energies of the Word of God, work in us and through us. Baha’u’llah has revealed the words and the power that will create a just and peaceful world civilization. We live and move and have our being through that Word. The creative, transforming energies of God gain a concrete shape in the material world through the actions we take and the institutions that we form in accordance with His will.
New patterns of social action, new ways of thinking about reality and new ways of organizing human life crystallize out of Baha’u’llah’s divine message. Baha’u’llah’s vision of God’s remedy for humanity’s ills enables us to understand the chaos and turbulence of a planet in transition. The lens of the Baha’i Revelation gives us clarity in perceiving the forces of darkness that are also operating in society, and its standards enable us to combat them. The more we become pure reflections of the light of Baha’u’llah, the more successful we become in transmitting it to others.
Read the previous article in the series: Individual Spiritual Transformation
This essay, an edited excerpt from Forces of Our Time: The Dynamics of Light and Darkness, by Hooper C. Dunbar, George Ronald, Publisher, is used with the permission of both the author and the publisher.