There is a widespread view that spirituality and daily practical life are separate issues. This raises the question: what is the meaning of having faith if it is not consciously manifested in our daily action and in our relationship with others? Moral and spiritual behaviours should be practiced at home and at work as much as in a temple or a place of worship.
“It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding,” Bahá’u’lláh states, “to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action”.
A common view shared by many people is that one can attain to salvation through belief alone. Of course, the knowledge of our Creator leading to belief in Him is most important and is the first requirement. However, comprehending the Words of God and belief in Him should result in constructive deeds. As stated in the Bahá’í Writings: “the foundation of success and salvation is the knowledge of God, and that the results of the knowledge of God are the good actions which are the fruits of faith,” and “through the power of faith, obey ye the teachings of God, and let all your actions conform to His laws”.
We all praise and admire good deeds and noble actions and would like to be treated well by others. We often tell our children that it is good to make someone happy and to be kind and loving towards others, and that we should avoid being a cause of pain to anyone. But often these remain as good words and are seldom translated into action.
It is not enough to recognize what is moral and ethical. This knowledge should be put into action. One should be actively engaged in performing deeds that promote personal transformation and betterment of our communities.
“The attainment of any object”,according to the Bahá’í Writings, “is conditioned upon knowledge, volition and action. Unless these three conditions are forthcoming there is no execution or accomplishment. In the erection of a house it is first necessary to know the ground and design the house suitable for it; second, to obtain the means or funds necessary for the construction; third, to actually build it.” and “All of us know that International Peace is good; that it is conducive to the general welfare of humanity and the glory of man; but we are in need ofwill, volition and action. We must act”.
The moral exercise of free will
All our actions are expressions of our capacity to choose and make decisions. It is through the moral exercise of free will that we advance spiritually. We have the choice between justice and injustice and the power both to do good and bad.
Moral maturity comes from spiritual awareness. The moral code that has the transformative power for action originates from the guidance given to us by our Creator. As our knowledge and love of God increases, the qualities of our higher nature begin to flourish.
According to the Bahá’í Writings, “We must strive unceasingly and without rest to accomplish the development of the spiritual nature in man, and endeavour with tireless energy to advance humanity toward the nobility of its true and intended station”.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the development of our spiritual qualities. Among them are prayer, reflection, a willingness to learn, and daily effort. Serving humanity is another factor that contributes greatly to our spiritual growth and development.
There are also some dangers that we have to avoid during the lifelong process of developing our spiritual qualities and refining our character. Among these are self-righteousness, superiority and pride – as such traits distort our efforts towards our spiritual growth.
One has to remember that the development of spiritual qualities is crucial to our well-being, in both this life and the next. Belief in the immortality of the soul and in an all-knowing and judging God ought to provide us with motivation for moral conduct. However, the highest morality does not consist in actions performed in the hope of heavenly reward or in fear of punishment; good deeds should be done for the sake of God and because of our love for Him and humanity.
Actions that promote individual and social transformation
A moral person would consciously and actively be engaged in performing actions that promote not only individual, but also social transformation. The following words of Bahá’u’lláh capture the essence of faith reflecting in our daily action: “Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbour, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer to the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts”.
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