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Here’s a short story to reflect on the purpose of this life:
Once upon a time, there was a man with four wives. The man knew the end of his life was approaching, so he summoned his wives to his bedside to ask them if any of them would accompany him into the next world, because he was quite frightened of the prospect of making that journey alone.
He asked his first wife, whom he had always loved for her beauty, but she replied that she was unable to accompany him on his journey.
He then asked his second wife, who had always been there to support him. But she replied that she simply could not abandon this world.
Next, he asked his third wife, who had gained much wealth, fame, and success. But she replied that no, she would not end her life for his benefit.
Last of all, the man spoke to his fourth wife. She had always been humble and generous to the people around her. When he asked her if she would accompany him, without even a moment’s hesitation, she replied yes. He realized that he would have given her much more attention than he had if he had known how faithful she was. Thus, together, they slipped the surly bonds of this world in the wee hours of the morning.
There’s a moral to this story. You see, we all have four “spouses” of a sort. The first “wife” is our own physical body. When we are young, we are full of vitality and dreams for the future. We engage in sports and win or lose, we give it our best. On one hand, we are a part of the universe.
But on the other hand, youth is very short, and while we may spend money on ourselves, buying clothing, getting a good education, none of this can accompany us into the next world.
The second wife symbolizes our family. We love them, we trust them, but the farthest they can go with us is to our funeral — although we may be reunited in the next world once they also leave this life.
His third wife symbolizes material possessions. We may spend our lives acquiring the latest smartphone, nice cars, or big houses, but in the end, none of them will accompany us into the next world. Instead, they will be divided among others.
The fourth wife symbolizes the soul. We may often ignore our soul, distracted by the material things around us, but it is the only thing that will accompany us into the afterlife. The Baha’i Writings explain the relationship between our material reality and our spiritual reality. Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote:
Man has two powers, and his development two aspects. One power is connected with the material world and by it he is capable of material advancement. The other power is spiritual and through its development his inner, potential nature is awakened. These powers are like two wings. Both must be developed, for flight is impossible with one wing.
We must strive unceasingly and without rest to accomplish the development of the spiritual nature in man, and endeavor with tireless energy to advance humanity toward the nobility of its true and intended station. For the body of man is accidental; it is of no importance. The time of its disintegration will inevitably come. But the spirit of man is essential and therefore eternal. It is a divine bounty. It is the effulgence of the Sun of Reality and therefore of greater importance than the physical body.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying life. Care for your body and keep it healthy, for it is the vehicle for your soul. There is nothing wrong with loving your family; cherish them. Enjoy your possessions; care for them and enjoy the comfort they provide. But we should never ever allow our body, family, or possessions to come between us and our souls.
Baha’u’llah explained 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 ever hope to unravel. It is the first among all created things to declare the excellence of its Creator, the first to recognize His glory, to cleave to His truth, and to bow down in adoration before Him. If it be faithful to God, it will reflect His light, and will, eventually, return unto Him. If it fail, however, in its allegiance to its Creator, it will become a victim to self and passion, and will, in the end, sink in their depths.”
Take time to be alone. Meditate profoundly and pray daily. Focus on serving your community and contributing to the betterment of the world. You are not a body with a soul. You are a soul that temporarily has an association with a body.