One day I was having a conversation with someone, and they asked a question. The question, which was a very insightful one – and genuinely asked – went something like this.
“I am a good person. I earn a living. I look after my family. I don’t do bad things. Isn’t that good? What more do I need to do?”
I didn’t know the answer. Of course the short answer is yes – these are good – but I knew there was something missing. As sometimes happens, the answer came to me later. It was in writings of Abdu’l Baha.
Abdu’l Baha frames the question in the context of spiritual growth – a process.
Every imperfect soul is self-centered and thinketh only of his own good. But as his thoughts expand a little he will begin to think of the welfare and comfort of his family. If his ideas still more widen, his concern will be the felicity of his fellow citizens; and if still they widen, he will be thinking of the glory of his land and of his race. But when ideas and views reach the utmost degree of expansion and attain the stage of perfection, then will he be interested in the exaltation of humankind. He will then be the well-wisher of all men and the seeker of the weal and prosperity of all lands. This is indicative of perfection.
Thus, the divine Manifestations of God had a universal and all-inclusive conception. They endeavored for the sake of everyone’s life and engaged in the service of universal education. The area of their aims was not limited—nay, rather, it was wide and all-inclusive.
Therefore, ye must also be thinking of everyone, so that mankind may be educated, character moderated and this world may turn into a Garden of Eden.
Here are some of Baha’u’llah’s statements which bear on this theme.
It is Our wish and desire that every one of you may become a source of all goodness unto men, … Beware lest ye prefer yourselves above your neighbors.
Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches. … 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. … cling unto that which profiteth mankind, whether young or old, whether high or low.
With the utmost friendliness and in a spirit of perfect fellowship take ye counsel together, and dedicate the precious days of your lives to the betterment of the world and the promotion of the Cause of Him Who is the Ancient and Sovereign Lord of all.
Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth.
(This article is the 73rd in a series of what I hope will be 200 articles in 200 days for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh. The anniversary is being celebrated around the world on 21 and 22 October 2017, The articles are simply my personal reflections on Bahá’u’lláh’s life and work. Any errors or inadequacies in these articles are solely my responsibility.)