A Bahá’í Perspective
We all wish to have a healthy, peaceful and prosperous life. In particular, at this period with global health challenges impacting on many aspects of our lives, it is common to reflect on the meaning of true prosperity and on how to achieve it.
A happy and prosperous life, in the Bahá’í view, can be achieved when the practical and spiritual aspects of our lives advance harmoniously together.
According to the Bahá’í Writings, “material civilization is one of the means for the progress of the world of mankind, yet until it becomes combined with Divine civilization, the desired result, which is the felicity of mankind, will not be attained”.
For the material and spiritual aspects of life to advance together we need to examine the meaning of true prosperity. We obviously need material means for advancement of civilization, and achieving prosperity means that everyone should have access to such means. Prosperity, however, is not just accumulation of wealth. Material means, in the Bahá’í view, need to be used for higher purposes, such as fostering unity, uplifting and edifying the life of society, and facilitating access to knowledge for everyone.
According to the Bahá’í Writings: “It is indeed a good and praiseworthy thing to progress materially, but in so doing, let us not neglect the more important spiritual progress …”.
Our essential identity is our soul
We as human beings are the highest form of life, not simply because of the material side of our nature, but because of our spirit. Some think that the body exists by itself and that the spirit depends on it. On the contrary, the body depends on the spirit. Although we exist on earth in physical bodies, our essential identity is defined by an invisible, rational, and everlasting soul. Bahá’u’lláh confirmed the existence of a separate, rational soul for every human being. In this life, He said, the soul is related to the physical body. It provides the underlying animation for the body, and is our real self. When we die, the soul continues to live.
The body can be compared to a vehicle which is being used by the soul for its journey through earthly life. As such it is important to cater for the needs of both the body (the vehicle) and the soul (the driver). Material means are necessary for humanity to be able to pursue its spiritual and other goals. However, since the eternal part is our soul, we should not live on earth as if only our physical life and pleasures are all that matter.
According to the Bahá’í Writings: “… only if material progress goes hand in hand with spirituality can any real progress come about, and the Most Great Peace reign in the world. If men followed the Holy Counsels and the Teachings of the Prophets, if Divine Light shone in all hearts and men were really religious, we should soon see peace on earth and the Kingdom of God among men”.
It is the Bahá’í view that only through balancing material and spiritual aspects in life that we can achieve prosperity in its fullest sense. Only when material and spiritual civilization advance together can we attain to well-being, peace and prosperity.
We each need to take charge of our own spiritual development. Cultivation of our spiritual side has several benefits: we develop more and more of those qualities that lie at the foundation of true happiness and social progress. Such qualities include faith, courage, love, compassion, trustworthiness and humility. As these qualities become increasingly manifest in individuals, society as a whole advances.
Acceptance of the teachings of the Messengers of God and obedience to the laws they reveal are the requirements for success in our spiritual development. Even though such recognition is very important, it alone is not a sufficient basis for spiritual growth. Observing the laws and teachings of God is the next step in our path to spiritual growth. In other words, our efforts to conform to the various laws and teachings given to us by the Messenger of God should be the necessary consequence of our belief in God and His Messenger.
Spirituality permeates action
What do we mean by spirituality? It is easy to take this concept superficially, for example, as tool for maximizing satisfaction or some rituals that make us feel good in our material lives.
True spirituality, in the Bahá’í view, “permeates action and channels individual and collective efforts for the betterment of society, it cultivates thirst for knowledge, it elevates work to the station of worship, it promotes empathy, it provides for the control of selfish impulses, it emphasises oneness and interconnectedness, it fosters generosity and humility, and it nurtures appreciation for diversity and attraction to beauty”.
Spirituality, the Bahá’í Writings state, “is the greatest of God’s gifts …May you, one and all, increase daily in spirituality, may you be strengthened in all goodness, may you be helped more and more by the Divine consolation, be made free by the Holy Spirit of God, and may the power of the Heavenly Kingdom live and work among you”.
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OPINION: Flora Teckie