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The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.
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The Virtues Basket: The Meaning of Purposefulness

PRESENTED BY Setareh Samandari Zargarpour | Feb 12, 2022

Purposefulness means setting goals and having the determination to achieve them. Purposeful people plan their lives to make things happen rather than letting things happen on their own. 

But beyond earthly goals, the Baha’i teachings say that God has created us as special individuals and has endowed us all with a great purpose. The purpose of life is twofold: One is the spiritual aspect of life and the other is the social aspect. Both are intertwined and complement each other. Baha’u’llah wrote:

God’s purpose in sending His Prophets unto men is twofold. The first is to liberate the children of men from the darkness of ignorance, and guide them to the light of true understanding. The second is to ensure the peace and tranquillity of mankind, and provide all the means by which they can be established.

First let’s look at the spiritual aspect of life, what Baha’u’llah called “the light of true understanding.” Most of us have an inner sense that there must be some greater purpose than what we have in this existence. Indeed, deep down we suspect that there must be an extraordinary purpose for us in this world and the next. 

Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, shed much light on this subject in his many mystical books and teachings. Baha’u’llah’s writings exalt each human being as a unique creation – as primarily spiritual beings experiencing a physical life in this world. We have a soul that emanates from the spiritual worlds of God, an individual spirit able to transcend mere material concerns. This means that the true purpose of life in the physical world is the development of the eternal soul. Baha’u’llah explained:

Know, verily, that the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can even hope to unravel … Verily I say, the human soul is, in its essence, one of the signs of God, a mystery among His mysteries …

Abdu’l-Baha, the exemplar of the Baha’i Faith, made a distinction between the body and the soul: 

These material bodies are composed of atoms; when these atoms begin to separate decomposition sets in, then comes what we call death …. With the soul it is different. The soul is not a combination of elements, it is not composed of many atoms, it is of one indivisible substance and therefore eternal. It is entirely out of the order of the physical creation; it is immortal.

In his book The Covenant Of Baha’u’llah, the Baha’i writer and historian Adib Taherzadeh pointed out that the spiritual and physical world are part of one realm of being governed by the same laws and principles – although the realm above has added features that are absent in the lower realm. For instance, a tree pushes its roots into the soil for food, but it grows towards the sky and receives the sunlight. The outpouring energies released by the sun cause the tree to flourish and blossom. Imagine if the tree had a choice and because of its love for the soil, it inclined downward and buried its branches in the ground. The tree would not be able to receive the sun light and would rot away. 

Similarly, a human being has to live in this world and depend upon material things for the necessities of life. However, one’s soul must be detached from this world, and aspire towards spiritual realms in order to fully develop. Unlike the tree, humans have free will, and can choose to fall in love with earthly things, depriving the soul of the power of faith or the inclination to aspire to spiritual realities. Thus, if we fail to acquire human virtues in this world, our souls can become impoverished. Purposefulness helps us avoid that kind of spiritual poverty.

In terms of the social aspect of life, Linda Popov explained that purposefulness helps us concentrate on our goals and achieve them. When we plan and accomplish our lofty ideals and spiritual goals one at a time and finish what we started, we purposely center our actions around the higher values of life. This kind of purposefulness can motivate us to accomplish great things. 

This Virtues Basket video helps us learn about the meaning of purposefulness and how to practice it – and how to aim our goals toward the higher values of life in order to progress in this world and the spiritual world to come. 

Setareh Samandari Zargarpour has always been an artist at heart, after a 20-year career in Banking as Branch Manager for Wells Fargo and Chase she transitioned to working in Film. She had finished her Master of Arts in Political Science from CSUN and utilized it...



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