Morality and Spiritual GrowthThe ultimate aim in life of every human soul, the Bahá'í writings state, should be to attain moral and spiritual excellence--to align one's inner being and outward behavior with the will of an all-loving Creator. That each individual has been bestowed with a unique destiny by God--a destiny which unfolds in accordance with the free exercise of the choices and opportunities presented in life--lies at the center of Bahá'í belief. In particular, it is through the moral exercise of our divinely conferred free will that opportunities are provided for spiritual advancement. "All that which ye potentially possess," Bahá'u'lláh confirms, "can...be manifested only as a result of your own volition."1
In a poetic passage, Bahá'u'lláh described the actions of the moral individual and urged His followers to live accordingly:
Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of 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. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility.2
Bahá'u'lláh, like Abraham, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad and the other Divine Messengers who preceded Him, sought to awaken the moral and creative capacities latent in human nature. "Noble have I created thee," is the Divine assurance, "Rise then unto that for which thou wast created."3 He states that "the purpose for which mortal men have...stepped into the realm of being, is that they may work for the betterment of the world and live together in concord and harmony."4 "Let each morn," He urges, "be better than its eve and each morrow richer than its yesterday. Man's merit lieth in service and virtue and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches. Take heed that your words be purged from idle fancies and worldly desires and your deeds be cleansed from craftiness and suspicion. Dissipate not the wealth of your precious lives in the pursuit of evil and corrupt affection, nor let your endeavors be spent in promoting your personal interest... Guard against idleness and sloth, and cling unto that which profiteth mankind, whether young or old, whether high or low."5
From the Bahá'í perspective, religion has been the chief civilizing force in human history. Moral maturity thus comes from spiritual awareness. As stressed throughout the Bahá'í writings, the primary purpose of God in revealing His will through His Messengers is to effect a transformation in the moral and material conditions of human existence. The transformation called for by Bahá'u'lláh is directed to the inner character of every human being and to the organization of society--a transformation that engenders cooperation, compassion, rectitude of conduct, and justice.
In linking spiritual development to personal behavior, Bahá'u'lláh wrote "that the citadels of men's hearts should be subdued through the hosts of a noble character and praiseworthy deeds."6 He exhorts the world's peoples to "illumine their beings with the light of trustworthiness ," "the ornament of honesty," and the "emblems" of "generosity."7 Service to humankind is the purpose of both individual life and all social arrangements: "Do not busy yourselves in your own concerns; let your thoughts be fixed upon that which will rehabilitate the fortunes of mankind and sanctify the hearts and souls of men."8
Bahá'u'lláh sets before us the highest standard of morality and urges us to strive to attain it. To do so is the only path to true happiness and fulfillment. Our moral and spiritual advancement is therefore crucial to our well-being in both this life and the next . As Bahá'u'lláh counsels: "Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting." 9
- Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 2d. rev. ed. (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1976), p. 149.
- Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh p. 285.
- Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1985), p. 9.
- Bahá'u'lláh, quoted in Trustworthiness: A Compilation of Extracts from the Bahá'í Writings (London: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1987), p. 5.
- Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1995), p. 138.
- Trustworthiness, p. 5.
- Ibid., p. 2; and Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1984), p. 25.
- Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 93-94.
- The Hidden Words, p. 3.