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While studying the Baha’i writings this morning I came across the following quote from Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith:
Wert thou to scan the pages of the Book of Life, thou wouldst, most certainly, discover that which would dissipate thy sorrows and dissolve thine anguish.
I’ve scanned the Baha’i writings a LOT over my 40 years as a Baha’i and yet today, I don’t remember anything that could dispel the sorrows and anguish that have been dogging me this past year.
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Trying to find relief, I started to journal all of the things I remembered from the Baha’i teachings:
- there is a purpose to life’s tests – to draw me closer to God and develop the virtues I’ll need in the afterlife;
- this world ends in the twinkling of an eye, and in the life to come I won’t have the problems I have now;
- there will be justice and compensation for what I’ve suffered;
- and God’s plan is way beyond my understanding.
So, I thought, why isn’t this enough to dissipate my sorrows and dispel my anguish?
As I pondered all of this, I quickly came to see that I used to look for the formula to a better life in all the wrong places. First I turned to materialism, thinking if I just got the right education, and the right job and bought a house and put money into solid investments and got enough life insurance to protect me when times went wrong, surely I could protect myself and my family.
When that didn’t work, I thought that if I had the perfect spouse and the perfect children, I could live the Hollywood/Hallmark life I saw on TV.
When that didn’t work, I turned to addictions and divorce and therapy and recovery, all still believing there was something out there that, if I just worked hard enough, would give me the life I believed I deserved and wanted as a reward for doing all the right things.
Then I found the Baha’i Faith, immersed myself in community activities and increased my service, thinking that would work. Mind you, I piled all of this onto my existing life, one action after another, until it all came crashing down and I burned out trying to do it all perfectly, in my attempt to be the perfect Baha’i and succeed spiritually where I had failed materially.
Fortunately, I finally found this passage from the writings of Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’u’llah’s son and successor, and it has given me great comfort:
… for this earthly world is narrow, dark and frightful, rest cannot be imagined and happiness really is non-existent, everyone is captured in the net of sorrow, and is day and night enslaved by the chain of calamity; there is no one who is at all free or at rest from grief and affliction. Still, as the believers of God are turning to the limitless world, they do not become very depressed and sad by disastrous calamities – there is something to console them …
This taught me that my old view of the world was based on false premises, and forced me to re-examine the beliefs and motives underlying my behavior. I had to learn to accept life on life’s terms and remember that this world is a hard place to live in. Everyone’s life has sorrow and no one is free from grief or affliction. In some ways, this was a relief, because it meant I wasn’t bad for not finding the right key to the door of a perfect life, and I wasn’t being punished by God for some imaginary infraction.
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Because of life-affirming insights like this one, I love turning to the Baha’i writings every morning and evening. As the passage above suggests, I do find much to console me in those beautiful writings, exactly when I need to hear it. Abdul-Baha gave me a key to unlock the mysteries of life, and because he’s a spiritual source I absolutely trust, I used that key to free myself from the past.
I’ve learned that when I change my habits of thought and ways of acting in the world, to come into conformity with a new way of living, I’m a lot happier even though I have less materially. I’m finding new ways to build community and serve humanity, this time allowing my movement and my stillness to be wholly directed by God, instead of being directed by the false gods and gurus I’d followed in the past. Even when I think life doesn’t go my way, I am grateful!
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