I once asked someone what their biggest fear was and they answered that they were most afraid of going to Hell. Basically, they were afraid of missing the mark, not trying hard enough in their life, getting to judgment day and then being told they had a one way ticket to the Netherworld. And the sad thing is, I don’t think that is a rare fear. I think it is an extremely common one.
As Baha’is, we don’t believe in a literal hell, but we definitely believe that we should try our best to live our lives in accordance with Baha’u’llah’s teachings. In the Hidden Words, we are commanded to take stock daily on how we’re doing…
O SON OF BEING! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)
Now, if I interpreted the above quote from a place of fear, I could completely freak out at the thought that I could die at any moment and be summoned to a reckoning – my own personal judgment day. That if I don’t have a good explanation for or have not asked forgiveness of all the things I’ve done wrong, I am going to be in one hell of a pickle. Pun somewhat intended.
But why should I think of it in such a scary, negative way? Of course I should take stock of how I’m doing on a daily basis. Why wouldn’t I? Don’t we all want to be the best version of ourselves that we can be? That’s what it’s truly all about, isn’t it? Personal Growth? In my mind there is nothing more important than striving to become better, to focus on developing my spiritual self – to become more patient, more compassionate, more just, more thoughtful, more loyal, more brave, more polite, more honest… more loving.
However, I’ve found that it can be a constant challenge to remain focused on those spiritual goals. What qualities do I need to focus on? Which ones need the most work? What should I actually do to be of service to humanity? And how can I function effectively in a world that doesn’t seem to value spirituality? Or care about focusing on the transcendent? When I start to get overwhelmed like that, it helps to remember…
Happiness consists of two kinds; physical and spiritual. The physical happiness is limited; its utmost duration is one day, one month, one year. It hath no result. 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. Therefore, endeavor as much as thou art able in order to illuminate the lamp of thy heart by the light of love. (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v3, p. 673)
All the happiest moments in my life have been when I feel truly and intimately connected to my spiritual side. So I just take a deep breath and pause. I disconnect from the craziness of daily life for just a moment. I remember who I am and what’s important to me. I remember that there is only one kind of happiness that is eternal – spiritual happiness. And to me, that happiness comes from aligning my actions with my spiritual beliefs.
Baha’u’llah teaches us that God “…hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes” upon humanity and made us like “a mirror of His own Self”. That ultimately, we have the potential to mirror forth the infinite qualities of God – patience, humility, compassion, trustworthiness, love, etc. When we see these qualities within ourselves and strive to embody them, we become closer to God and begin to know Him. We recognize the Divine within us. But it takes constant effort to keep that spark ignited…
These energies with which the Day Star of Divine bounty and Source of heavenly guidance hath endowed the reality of man lie, however, latent within him, even as the flame is hidden within the candle and the rays of light are potentially present in the lamp. The radiance of these energies may be obscured by worldly desires even as the light of the sun can be concealed beneath the dust and dross which cover the mirror. Neither the candle nor the lamp can be lighted through their own unaided efforts, nor can it ever be possible for the mirror to free itself from its dross. It is clear and evident that until a fire is kindled the lamp will never be ignited, and unless the dross is blotted out from the face of the mirror it can never represent the image of the sun nor reflect its light and glory. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 65)
So maybe the purpose of taking that time, on a daily basis, to bring myself into account isn’t to make me fearful about what may become of me if I don’t work hard enough but to help remind me of how bright and radiant I could become if I did. Maybe it’s not about the fear of going through a “reckoning” but the exaltation in store for us when we remember and strive to live God’s will.
So it is by God’s Grace and Mercy that He reminds us in that Hidden Word to make the daily effort to connect with Him, focus on our spiritual development and reset our intentions if necessary. Whether that be through prayer, reading the writings, meditating or even just sitting in silence, it is time well spent in my mind. And I am thankful for the reminder.
We all want to be able to lay our head down at the end of the day and say “I done good.” Right?
I reckon so.