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O SON OF MAN!
If thou lovest Me, turn away from thyself; and if thou seekest My pleasure, regard not thine own; that thou mayest die in Me and I may eternally live in thee.
O SON OF SPIRIT!
There is no peace for thee save by renouncing thyself and turning unto Me; for it behooveth thee to glory in My name, not in thine own; to put thy trust in Me and not in thyself, since I desire to be loved alone and above all that is. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 5.
The oldest and most consistent spiritual guidance, from just about every philosophy, faith and belief system, involves self-transcendence. In these two early passages from Baha’u’llah’s Hidden Words, that eternal advice returns.
“Turn away from thyself,” Baha’u’llah asks us. Krishna, Buddha, Christ and Muhammad all asked us to do the same:
Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind. – Krishna, the Bhagavad-Gita
Though one should conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, he who conquers his own self, is the greatest of all conquerers. – Buddha
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. – Luke 9: 23-24.
The most excellent struggle is that for the conquest of self. – Muhammad, The Qu’ran.
But what does it mean to turn away from our selves, to be selfless?
The Baha’i teachings exalt the search for the self. Baha’u’llah urges all people to seek self-knowledge, to independently look for truth, to explore the things that open up the understanding of the self:
But knowing the self, that unique part of each of person, does not end our spiritual journey. Instead, knowing the self means the journey has begun.
Baha’u’llah, and in fact every Prophet of God, every Divine Messenger who brings us a new Faith, encourages all people to widen their focus beyond the insistent self, to try to see and comprehend the big picture:
…led by the light of the name of the All-Seeing God, make your escape from the darkness that surroundeth you. Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 94.
Once we each understand our selves, once we know who we are, then the Baha’i teachings encourage us to explore and comprehend the wider reality all around us – to let our “vision be world-embracing.”
And that reality includes more than just the physical, material world. That reality includes the spiritual world, the mystical, unseen reality beyond the tangible. Baha’u’llah asks us, in these two Hidden Words, to really begin to consider our own mortality, and then to decide what to do with that reality.
He asks us to trust God, to love God and to glory in His name. He suggests that only the death of the ego and the self can demonstrate our love. And He references the eternal, calling us all to recognize that this physical life will inevitably end. An eternal life awaits everyone, and this short, limited physical life, Baha’u’llah tells us later in the Hidden Words, only precedes it. Ultimately, he asks us to “die in Me” –transcending the self, adopting kind, selfless behavior and loving and serving humanity just for the sake of God.
This path of self-transcendence, Baha’u’llah tells us just as all the Messengers of the past have told us, will lead us to happiness:
Perchance ye may not be consumed by the fire of self and passion, nor allow the vain and worthless objects of this nether world to withhold you from Him Who is the Eternal Truth. Glory and abasement, riches and poverty, tranquility and tribulation, all will pass away, and all the peoples of the earth will erelong be laid to rest in their tombs. It behoveth therefore every man of insight to fix his gaze upon the goal of eternity, that perchance by the grace of Him Who is the Ancient King he may attain unto the immortal Kingdom and abide beneath the shade of the Tree of His Revelation. – Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 169.
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