Challenges And Opportunities In Life A Bahá’í Perspective

We have many challenges in life.  However, life is also full of opportunities for individual advancement and growth, for service to the common good and for the betterment of our communities.

Our greatest challenges today are the corruption of morals and the prevalence of prejudice, suspicion, hatred, selfishness and lack of trustworthiness.  This is because the spiritual aspects of life are often neglected and the material aspects seem to occupy most of our times.  The desperate need of humanity today, is to know how to live our lives, what the purpose of life is, and how we should act towards one another.

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”, and while “material civilization is one of the means for the progress of the world of mankind,” until it is “combined with Divine civilization, the desired result, which is the felicity of mankind, will not be attained”.

Adhering to spiritual principles is the practical basis for social transformation, since the change for betterment of our communities ultimately depends on the pure motives and good deeds of its individual members – such as tolerance, compassion, love, justice, humility, sacrifice, trustworthiness, and dedication to the well-being of others.

Fulfilment of the basic purpose of our lives
Physical solutions alone do not result in a happy and peaceful life, because they fail to fulfil the basic purpose of our existence. The purpose of our lives is not just to acquire material objects, to be entertained, or to satisfy our physical desires.

It is the Bahá’í view that our lives have a more noble purpose, a spiritual purpose.  The Bahá’í Writings state: “In man there are two natures; his spiritual or higher nature and his material or lower nature. In one he approaches God, in the other he lives for the world alone”.

The spiritual side of our lives, referred to as soul seeks to know and love, it is touched by awe and splendour, and holds to that which is eternal and good.  It is our spiritual side that exhibits attributes such as truthfulness, courtesy, generosity, compassion, justice, love, and trustworthiness, which are essential for individual and social transformation and lead to true happiness. 

Of course, one has to acknowledge that , we have legitimate physical needs that also have to be catered for, such as food, shelter, companionship, and protection from threatening forces.  But, we cannot find fulfilment in these necessities alone and these should not become the purpose of our lives.  

The Bahá’í Writings state: “…until material achievements, physical accomplishments and human virtues are reinforced by spiritual perfections, luminous qualities and characteristics of mercy, no fruit or result shall issue therefrom, nor will the happiness of the world of humanity, which is the ultimate aim, be attained”.  

Service to others is another source of fulfilment in life and spiritual joy. Service gives meaning, purpose and stimulus to life.  Serving humanity and bringing joy to others also enrich ourselves spiritually. “… is there any deed in the world that would be nobler than service to the common good?” say the Bahá’í Writings, andfurther state: “…what pleasure can compare the pleasure of bringing joy and hope to other hearts. The more we make others happy the greater will be our own happiness and the deeper our sense of having served humanity”.

Challenges created because of prejudice
We need to overcome our prejudices and misunderstandings that are amongst the greatest challenges in life and are the cause of strife between various groups in our societies. 

According to the Bahá’í Writings: “Prejudices of all kinds-whether religious, racial, patriotic or political-are destructive of divine foundations in man.  All the warfare and bloodshed in human history have been the outcome of prejudice” and “Until all nations and peoples become united by the bonds of the Holy Spirit in this real fraternity, until national and international prejudices are effaced in the reality of this spiritual brotherhood, true progress, prosperity and lasting happiness will not be attained by man”.

Challenges leading to opportunities
The process of human development requires moral and spiritual choices, often involving challenges, which represent opportunities for spiritual growth.  If we pass our tests and trials in life with courage and fortitude we grow stronger spiritually. 

The Bahá’í Writings state:  “The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering.  The more the ground is ploughed, the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be.  Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment.  His attitude in this world will be that of divine happiness.  Man is, so to speak, unripe: The heat of the fire of suffering will mature him.  Look back to the times of the past, and you will find the greatest men have suffered most”. 

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OPINION: Flora Teckie