The Life of the Spirit: Character and Conduct
The following article is from bahai.org.
Central to the spiritual life is the development of spiritual qualities that assist each of us in our eternal journey towards God. In this world, the cultivation of such qualities is inseparable from an ongoing refinement of our conduct in which our actions increasingly come to reflect the nobility and integrity with which every human being is endowed. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states:
“We must strive unceasingly and without rest to accomplish the development of the spiritual nature in man, and endeavor with tireless energy to advance humanity toward the nobility of its true and intended station.”
Spiritual qualities develop in a matrix of growing love and knowledge, and in accordance with divine law. As we allow the knowledge of God to increase in our minds and hearts, the qualities of our higher nature begin to flourish. With greater and greater clarity, we discern between that which is conducive to loftiness and that which leads to abasement, and we advance in our understanding of the physical universe, the human being, society, and the life of the spirit. Love grows with knowledge and true understanding is enhanced by love. A false dichotomy between heart and mind is avoided.
There are many factors that contribute to this development, among them prayer, reflection, willingness to learn, and constant daily effort—particularly in service to humanity. In striving to live a spiritual life, too much focus on oneself can be counterproductive. Bahá’u’lláh writes that we should fix our thoughts on “that which will sanctify…the hearts and souls of men.” “This,” He continues, “can best be achieved through pure and holy deeds, through a virtuous life and a goodly behavior.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has written: “How excellent, how honorable is man if he arises to fulfill his responsibilities; how wretched and contemptible, if he shuts his eyes to the welfare of society and wastes his precious life in pursuing his own selfish interests and personal advantages.”
We may think of our efforts to develop spiritual qualities in terms of walking humbly with our Lord, persevering and learning, free from guilt, accepting the inevitability of error, but never losing sight of what is potentially within us. Although difficulties and setbacks are unavoidable, this is a joyful pursuit, full of happiness.
Among the greatest dangers in this lifelong process, in this gradual refinement of character, are self-righteousness, superiority and pride—traits which distort the entire spiritual enterprise and undermine its foundation. Bahá’u’lláh has written:
“O CHILDREN OF MEN! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory.”
Exploring this topic
This collection of pages consists of an article on the subject of divine law followed by several pages containing extracts from the writings of the Bahá’í Faith.