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When a baby is born into this world, she “dies” with respect to the warm comfortable mother’s womb where she has happily lived for nine months.
She leaves that life forever as she enters this life – with no idea that this life even exists. This life, then, represents the afterlife of the mother’s womb.
The sole purpose of the baby being in the mother’s womb is to grow all the organs and limbs she will need in order to function in this life.
Taking this analogy a step further, this life is the womb for the next life.
With all the issues we deal with every day – our health, relationships, careers, finances, possessions, hobbies, you name it – the sole purpose of our being in this womb we call Earth is to develop our souls for the next life, the life of the spirit. Everything else in our lives ends with our deaths. Only our souls go on to the next plane of existence.
So how do we develop our souls for that next life? The Baha’i teachings have answers to that critical question.
First, those teachings recommend that we recognize the message of God for the age we live in; and second, we then “observe every ordinance” that message contains:
The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation. … It behoveth every one who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory, to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable. Neither is acceptable without the other. Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the Source of Divine inspiration.
Baha’is believe God has revealed His will periodically throughout history through His messengers, the founders of the major world religions – Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, and for this new day in human history, Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith.
Recognizing the divine authority of a messenger of God requires that we conduct our own independent investigation of truth, willing to let go of all prejudices, superstitions, and beliefs that prevent us from objectively evaluating and accepting that new message. Only when we very humbly open our minds and hearts to the possibility of someone being a messenger of God can we accept his teachings as the Word of God, and understand God’s will.
Also, as the second part of Baha’u’llah’s injunction asks, we must be willing to follow the principles, teachings, and laws revealed by God’s messenger. These “twin duties,” the Baha’i teachings assure us, will help us become more spiritual beings.
Here are just a few ways we can do this:
1. Develop a close relationship with God by praying; loving and praising Him; continually thanking Him for the countless blessings He has bestowed upon us throughout our lives; having faith and trusting in His grace that He is always there for us, loving us and protecting us, at all times and under all conditions.
2. Acquire God-like attributes and strive to make our daily behavior reflect these attributes – such as love, compassion, forgiveness, kindness, justice, patience, trustworthiness, integrity, courtesy, the Golden Rule, etc.
3. Be of service to others. The more we serve other people, the more selfless we become. Moreover, Baha’u’llah said that work performed in the spirit of service is worship.
4. Stay focused on our spiritual nature: our reality is our soul, not our body.
5. Strive to be in unity and harmony with all people, regardless of who they are and what they believe.
6. In this new day, Baha’u’llah taught that all human beings must fully embrace the indisputable fact that humankind is one family. There is only one race – the human race. We are all one beautiful human flower garden. We need to accept and appreciate our diversity, not condemn and destroy it.
As a corollary to this, we must do everything in our power to totally eliminate all our prejudices – racial, religious, gender, cultural, political, national, economic, educational, tribal, etc. Not only does this greatly benefit our souls; it also brings about desperately needed unity and harmony.
All of this requires commitment. Our daily words and actions, based on total unconditional commitment to become deeply spiritual, are the true reflection of who we are as human beings.
Because we’re human, though, we’ll always fall short of these high ideals. But we must keep trying, no matter how difficult or painful. God knows our hearts. He knows how sincere we are in our daily efforts to become the noble spiritual human beings we were created to be.
We must constantly give ourselves love, kindness, gentleness, and forgiveness, and we must appreciate who we are. These two powerful quotations from the writings of Baha’u’llah elaborate further on these exalted themes:
… The nature of the soul after death can never be described, nor is it meet and permissible to reveal its whole character to the eyes of men. 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 … – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah
… man can never hope to attain unto the knowledge of the All-Glorious, can never quaff from the stream of divine knowledge and wisdom … unless and until he ceases to regard the words and deeds of mortal men as a standard for the true understanding and recognition of God and His Prophets. – The Book of Certitude