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Spirituality

You Only Live Once–and Die Once

David Langness | Nov 26, 2014

PART 5 IN SERIES What Comes Next: Life After Death

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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David Langness | Nov 26, 2014

PART 5 IN SERIES What Comes Next: Life After Death

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely. – Buddha

Death may be the greatest of all human blessings. – Socrates

There is no death—only a change of worlds. – Chief Seattle

A stone I died and rose again a plant;
A plant I died and rose an animal;
I died an animal and was born a man.
Why should I fear? What have I lost by death? – Rumi

Know thou that the Kingdom is the real world, and this nether place is only its shadow stretching out. – Abdu’l-Baha

If death leads us to an eternal life, into a spiritual reality, toward the kingdom of heaven, then how do we get there? What path do we take? Do we simply try to do our best and hope it all works out in the end?

The Baha’i teachings answer those critical questions by advising us to detach from the material world and work to attach our hearts to the spiritual world. Transcending the self and its insistent demands, the Baha’i teachings say, unlocks the door to everlasting life.

What Near-Death Experiences Teach Us

For those who have undergone near-death experiences the importance of the physical, material world often fades in comparison. Two well-known Baha’is who went through their own NDEs—Ricky Bradshaw and Renee Pasarow (watch Renee Pasarow’s account of her NDE) –both found that this physical world seemed much less important to them afterward. Their near-death experiences convinced them that this fleeting existence only represented a mere shadow of the next one that awaits us all:

Unless the soul of man is quickened by the breaths of the Holy Spirit and he becomes vivified by the life of the Supreme Kingdom, all his powers, efforts and accomplishments are in vain… I am summoning you to the world of the Kingdom. I am calling you away from this world. Nothing you can ever think of here will remain. You, yourself, will pass away as the roses wither at the touch of winter’s breath. I wish for you heavenly happiness. I am praying that the confirmations of God may descend upon you… I wish you to escape from this hell of materialism. Be not occupied with material things. Live in the spiritual world… Think of nothing else.

I wish you to live in the world of the Spirit–to see the Divine Reality in everything, to behold the illumination of the world of the Kingdom beyond and within the gloomy mask of this mortal existence. For the world of the Kingdom is a world of Lights, a world of happiness, a world of accomplishment, the real and eternal world. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Vol. 3, p. 574.

Everything in this material world, Abdu’l-Baha reminds us, inevitably perishes. Everything we can see and touch is temporary and temporal. No physical existence lasts—so why attach our hopes and hearts to it? Why cling selfishly to material things when today they belong to us, but tomorrow they belong to someone else? The Baha’i teachings advise us, instead, to attach our hearts to the spiritual attributes, virtues and realities which will bring us an immortal life:

The rewards of this life are the virtues and perfections which adorn the reality of man. For example, he was dark and becomes luminous, he was ignorant and becomes wise, he was neglectful and becomes vigilant, he was asleep and becomes awakened, he was dead and becomes living, he was blind and becomes a seer, he was deaf and becomes a hearer, he was earthly and becomes heavenly, he was material and becomes spiritual. Through these rewards he gains spiritual birth, and becomes a new creature. He becomes the manifestation of the verse in the Gospel where it is said of the disciples that they were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God; that is to say, they were delivered from the animal characteristics and qualities which are the characteristics of human nature, and they became qualified with the divine characteristics, which are the bounty of God; this is the meaning of the second birth. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 323.

The One Essential Near-Death Experience Message

This one essential message of transformation and detachment and spiritual growth appears to virtually everyone who has a near-death experience: prepare now, by tilling the soil of your soul with radiant love for all humanity, for your second birth. Just as you emerged from your mother’s womb into a world filled with unimaginable life, you will soon emerge into another, even more astonishing life, one suffused with light and joy and freedom:

We must not be attached to anything in the world. It is not worth one thought. We must not desire for those we love that they should be captivated by the attachments of this world. Nay, rather, we should desire for them eternal things, the things of the Kingdom. We should seek to free ourselves from all attachments. The things of this world are like the waves of the sea. It is impossible that they should endure. In comparison, the things of the Kingdom are like rocks, firm and enduring.

If one is attached to the demands of the human body he will never be at rest, for the body is constantly demanding change. This tree growing before the window, it is impossible that it should not die, no matter how it is tended and how well it is watered. How foolish to spend one’s time and energy on that which cannot endure. If one is turned toward heavenly things he will become like a rock. But if his heart be attached to anything in this world it will become subject to change. Attachments are like ropes which drag us to the earth when we try to fly. To be detached is to be free, is to be flying in a new ether, is to be light, is to be joyous-and a Baha’i should be joyous. He should attain to such a station of joy that the world will enquire as to his secret. – Abdu’l-Baha, quoted in a letter written by Miss Juliet Thompson by Mrs Isabel Fraser, Hamleh, 24 September 1913.

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