A Bahá’í Perspective
People all over the world talk about their longing for peace and harmony. On the other hand they go along with the proposition that human beings are selfish and aggressive and therefore incapable of erecting a peaceful social system based on harmony and reciprocity. Such views of human nature and related attitudes and behaviours, has contributed greatly to the problems in our societies today, including social conflicts, war, and moral and spiritual apathy.
Achievement of peace, in the Bahá’í view, calls for fundamental changes in our mindset and acceptance that human beings have innate capacity for harmony and cooperation. It calls for the recognition that we are created inherently noble, as confirmed in the following quotation form the Bahá’í Writings: “God has created man lofty and noble, made him a dominant factor in creation. He has specialized man with supreme bestowals, conferred upon him mind, perception, memory, abstraction and the powers of the senses. These gifts of God to man were intended to make him the manifestation of divine virtues, a radiant light in the world of creation, a source of life and the agency of constructiveness in the infinite fields of existence”.
Material and spiritual aspects in life
Human nature has two sides: the material side and the spiritual side. Our spiritual side exhibits attributes such as truthfulness, courtesy, generosity, compassion, justice, love, and trustworthiness, which are essential for individual and social transformation. The willingness to sacrifice our immediate self-interest because of higher goals is one of the signs of our spiritual side.
On the other hand, we have legitimate physical needs which cry for satisfaction: food, shelter, companionship, and protection from threatening forces. It is not in the nature of human beings to be material beings alone, just as it is not in the nature of human beings to want to live in poverty thinking of the next world only. However, it is important that the material and the spiritual aspects of our lives advance together in order for humanity to prosper and be happy.
Our essential identity
Human beings exist on earth in physical bodies. But, the essential identity of each person is defined by an invisible, rational, and everlasting soul. The Bahá’í Writings confirm the existence of a separate, rational soul for every human being and that in this life the soul is associated to the physical body. It provides the underlying animation for the body, and is our real self.
Human soul is immortal and our spiritual capacities and qualities, being part of the immortal soul, will eternally endure, while the body and its capacities will not.
“…We have three aspects of our humanness, so to speak, a body, a mind and an immortal identity — soul or spirit” according to the Bahá’í Writings, which also explain that “The endowments which distinguish the human race from all other forms of life are summed up in what is known as the human spirit; the mind is its essential quality. These endowments have enabled humanity to build civilizations and to prosper materially. But such accomplishments alone have never satisfied the human spirit, whose mysterious nature inclines it towards transcendence, a reaching towards an invisible realm, towards the ultimate reality, that unknowable essence of essences called God. The religions brought to mankind by a succession of spiritual luminaries have been the primary link between humanity and that ultimate reality, and have galvanized and refined mankind’s capacity to achieve spiritual success together with social progress.”
Adequate education and direction
In nature there is the law of the survival of the fittest. Without proper education one can follow such inclination.
If we allow a developed land to return to its natural state, it would become a field of thorns and useless weeds, but by cultivation it will become fertile and will yield a harvest. “Therefore, it is not intended that the world of humanity should be left to its natural state. It is in need of the education divinely provided for it. The holy, heavenly Manifestations of God have been the Teachers. They are the divine Gardeners Who transform the jungles of human nature into fruitful orchards and make the thorny places blossom as the rose” and “Unquestionably, the seminal force in the civilizing of human nature has been the influence of the succession of these Manifestations of the Divine that extends back to the dawn of recorded history”.
To build a just and peaceful society, the material aspects of life and community development, whether environmental, economic, social or legal, must be driven by spiritual principles and priorities. As such, education should lead to the discovery and perfection of our inherent capabilities and instil a commitment to serve the best interests of our community and the world as a whole.
We need to recognize that we are created noble and develop the powers and capacities latent within us, so that we may contribute our share towards an ever-advancing civilization and establishment of peace on earth.
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