After 40 years of imprisonment for his faith, in his visit to Paris in 1911, Abdu’l-Baha, the eldest son and successor of the prophet founder of the Baha’i faith, spoke to an audience about the importance of spirituality:
“In this world we are influenced by two sentiments, Joy and Pain.
“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. The actualities of life seem to elude our grasp, the eyes of our spirits fail to discover the sacred mysteries, and we become even as dead beings.
“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!
“If we suffer, it is the outcome of material things, and all the trials and troubles come from this world of illusion.
“For instance, a merchant may lose his trade and depression ensues. A workman is dismissed, and starvation stares him in the face. A farmer has a bad harvest, anxiety fills his mind. A man builds a house which is burnt to the ground, and he is straightway homeless, ruined and in despair.
“All these examples are to show you that the trials which beset our every step, all our sorrow, pain, shame and grief, are born in the world of matter; whereas the spiritual Kingdom never causes sadness. A man living with his thoughts in this Kingdom knows perpetual joy. The ills all flesh is heir to do not pass him by, but they only touch the surface of his life, the depths are calm and serene.
“Today, humanity is bowed down with trouble, sorrow and grief, no one escapes; the world is wet with tears; but, thank God, the remedy is at our doors. Let us turn our hearts away from the world of matter and live in the spiritual world! It alone can give us freedom! If we are hemmed in by difficulties, we have only to call upon God, and by His great Mercy we shall be helped.
“If sorrow and adversity visit us, let us turn our faces to the Kingdom and heavenly consolation will be outpoured.
“If we are sick and in distress, let us implore God’s healing, and He will answer our prayer.
“When our thoughts are filled with the bitterness of this world, let us turn our eyes to the sweetness of God’s compassion and He will send us heavenly calm! If we are imprisoned in the material world, our spirit can soar into the Heavens and we shall be free indeed! ...
“I myself was in prison 40 years. But, thank God, during all those 40 years I was supremely happy! Every day, on waking, it was like hearing good tidings, and every night infinite joy was mine. Spirituality was my comfort, and turning to God was my greatest joy. If this had not been so, do you think it possible that I could have lived through those 40 years in prison?
“Thus, spirituality is the greatest of God’s gifts, and ‘Life Everlasting’ means ‘Turning to God.’ May you, one and all, increase daily in spirituality, may you be strengthened in all goodness, may you be helped more and more by the Divine consolation, be made free by the Holy Spirit of God, and may the power of the Heavenly Kingdom live and work among you.”
Hamed Eshraghian is a Mountain View resident and member of the Baha’i community. For more information, visit bahai.us.