A Bahá’í Perspective
“JOY gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better, able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness. But when sadness visits us we become weak, our strength leaves us, our comprehension is dim and our intelligence veiled . . . There is no human being untouched by these two influences; but all the sorrow and the grief that exist come from the world of matter — the spiritual world bestows only the joy!” (Bahá’í Writings).
We often reflect about the true meaning of happiness and on how to attain lasting happiness and contentment in our lives. We see all around us, people trying to discover answers to this question. Many try to find happiness through material objects: by acquiring a better house, a newer car, a faster computer.
Relationships that are for gratification of physical desires or losing weight in order to become physically more attractive, are viewed as keys to happiness. Some even try to achieve happiness through dangerous means, such as turning to alcohol or drugs.
However, more and more people are realising that these answers do not bring about true and lasting happiness.
The happiness resulting from these activities is temporary, as stated in the Bahá’í Writings: “Happiness consists of two kinds; physical and spiritual. The physical happiness is limited; its utmost duration is one day, one month, one year. Spiritual happiness is eternal and unfathomable. This kind of happiness appeareth in one’s soul with the love of God and suffereth one to attain to the virtues and perfections of the world of humanity”.
The reason for physical solutions not resulting in lasting happiness is 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.
Our lives have a more noble purpose. According to the Bahá’í Teachings, our lives have a spiritual purpose.
Spiritual and material aspects in our lives natures
“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”, say the Bahá’í Writings
We have legitimate physical needs, that have to be catered for, such as food, shelter, companionship, and protection from threatening forces, but this should not become the purpose of our lives.
The spiritual and higher nature in our lives has its origin with God, who chose to confer upon us, “the unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him”.
A purpose of creation is to know God and to worship Him. Knowledge and worship of God lead us to the love of God; love of God in turn leads us to obedience to His commandments and service in His path. To serve God is to serve humanity.
In order to attain to lasting happiness, physical accomplishments have to be reinforced by spiritual perfections, as stated in the following quotations from the Bahá’í Writings:
“. . . 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 there from, nor will the happiness of the world of humanity, which is the ultimate aim, be attained”.
True joy can be attained by means of praying and supplicating to God and by acting in accordance with God’s teachings. The Bahá’í Scriptures state:
“When one supplicates to his Lord, turns to Him and seeks bounty from His ocean, this supplication brings light to his heart, illumination to his sight, life to his soul and exaltation to his being”.
Another source of spiritual joy is service to others. Service gives meaning, purpose and stimulus to life. Serving humanity and bringing joy to others also enrich ourselves spiritually and bring us joy.
“. . . is there any deed in the world that would be nobler than service to the common good?” “. . . 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,” say the Bahá’í Writings.
Lasting happiness is also conditional to our unity. Currently millions around the world are suffering from the ravages of conflict and war. The coming together of the peoples of the world in a harmonious relationship and unity is, therefore, the most crucial need of today.
According to the Bahá’í Writings, “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.”
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