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If someone believes in and loves God, naturally they will want to do as God wishes. They will want to please God and live according to His Will. But how is this possible? How can we know God’s Will?
After all, from a Baha’i perspective, the Creator is a perfect and unknowable being, so how could we possible read His Mind? Obviously, we can’t.
So, what can we do? Here, for your consideration, are a few spiritual suggestions.
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First, we can do our best to do what is good. God is good. Well, to be more accurate, God is the highest good, and our task in life involves adopting and internalizing more and more of God’s spiritual attributes, to aspire to and attain to higher levels of human goodness. So, how do we know what is good? There are two ways: revelation and reflection.
The primary way we know what is good: learning about the truths that have been revealed to us through the various messengers of God. These prophets and perfect beings have appeared throughout history to progressively reveals God’s truth to humanity, according to the capacity of the people in each place and era in which they appeared. Figures such as Krishna and Christ, Moses and Muhammad, Buddha and Baha’u’llah taught people about the nature of reality and how to live a noble life. In the words of Baha’u’llah:
The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High.
Many of the teachings of these great spiritual messengers attest to the timeless truths about human existence: that humans have an eternal soul, that our task in life is to purify our souls, and that we should do to others as we would like them to do to us. The prophets and founders of the world’s great Faiths have also taught and modelled the array of divine qualities we should all aspire to: love, kindness, truthfulness and justice, to name just a few. So, by striving to develop these qualities each day, we are doing what God wants us to do – we are becoming closer to God.
But second, life often presents us with moral dilemmas and difficult decisions to make. So, how do we know what’s “good” each step of the way? Not only has the Creator gifted us with the revealed truth from the prophets, He has also created us with our own inner faculties of reason and intuition. We can use the power of thought and feeling to help decipher the right path.
In a speech Abdu’l-Baha gave to the Theosophical Society in New York in 1912, he said that human beings are capable of exhibiting:
… justice, sincerity, faithfulness, knowledge, wisdom, illumination, mercy and pity, coupled with intellect, comprehension, the power to grasp the realities of things and the ability to penetrate the truths of existence.
We can use our rational powers of reason to think things through, to plan, assess, question and probe. On the other hand, Abdu’l-Baha said, “Intuition is a power, or a light, by which a human being perceives the realities of things without the medium of the outward senses.” When we combine the powers of rational, independent investigation of the truth with our inner powers of intuition, we can follow them both in order to do what feels pure and noble.
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Third, and most important, is that we try to align our reason and intuition guided by the divine standard of the holy messengers. When we have to choose between two alternatives, we can use this standard to try to see which path, behavior, or action is the most noble. For example, we might be buying a refrigerator. One is cheaper, but the other has a better energy rating. The second one would be the nobler option because it would use less energy and hence contribute to less greenhouse emissions so is better for the planet. As an added bonus, it is also cheaper over the long-run because it would lead to lower power bills.
But sometimes both choices are noble. We might be trying to decide whether to move to City A or City B, both equal distances from family with similar amenities and opportunities. So, which one do we choose? Here we can just go by our gut or even flip a coin. As long as we commit to living a noble life in City A and City B, both choices are noble.
We can say that the divine teachings provide us with the parameters to work within, which are the spiritual laws: don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, etc. Then we have the religious principles that guide us along that highway, that help us keep in the right lane at the right speed. But then we come to many possible turns and crossroads available to us. These are ours to follow or not.
But if we are imperfect beings – and none of us is perfect, and all of us make mistakes – then how do we know when we are doing the right or wrong thing? We don’t. We are imperfect beings with limited insight, so we can’t know without a doubt that we are on “the right path.” All we can do is use our powers of reason and intuition to weigh things, and compare our actions against the divine standards that have been revealed to us. As long as we do our best, as long as we make a sincere effort to be good, God will accept our efforts – and if God will accept our efforts, then in practical terms we can rest assured that we have done good, not in a self-righteous sense, but in the sense of feeling quietly confirmed that we continue to walk a noble path.
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