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Old 05-10-2015, 08:50 AM   #1
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Do We Need To Renounce The World?

by Peter Gyulay


You’ve heard the saying: we are not material beings having a spiritual experience–rather, we are spiritual beings having a material experience. If that’s true, how should we think about the material world? Do we have to renounce the material things of the world to lead a spiritual life?

In many spiritual traditions, if a person decides to dedicate him or herself to living a spiritual life, it can often mean renouncing the things of the world: from money to marriage. The Baha’i teachings have a unique and fascinating perspective on this important question. Baha’u'llah says:

"Know ye that by “the world” is meant your unawareness of Him Who is your Maker, and your absorption in aught else but Him… Flee it, that ye may be numbered with the blest." – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, p 276

And in another instance Baha’u'llah says:

"Say: By the world is meant that which turneth you aside from Him Who is the Dawning-Place of Revelation, and inclineth you unto that which is unprofitable unto you. Verily, the thing that deterreth you, in this day, from God is worldliness in its essence. Eschew it, and approach the Most Sublime Vision, this shining and resplendent Seat. Blessed is he who alloweth nothing whatsoever to intervene between him and his Lord." – The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p 77

These words do not refer to any particular types of material objects, social relationships or ways of living that need to be renounced in order to live a spiritual life.

In a broader way, Baha’u'llah tells us that we need to renounce anything that stands between us and God. This could mean that some things we usually considered worldly, are in fact acceptable. About this Baha’u'llah says:

"Should a man wish to adorn himself with the ornaments of the earth, to wear its apparels, or partake of the benefits it can bestow, no harm can befall him, if he alloweth nothing whatever to intervene between him and God, for God hath ordained every good thing, whether created in the heavens or in the earth, for such of His servants as truly believe in Him." –Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, p 276

The Baha’i teachings ask us to enjoy the riches the world offers, as long as they do not come between us and God. But how do we make sure that they do not block us from God? Baha’u'llah explains:

"No harm, assuredly, can befall him if he partaketh with justice of the benefits of this world, inasmuch as We have created all things for such of Our servants as truly believe in God." – The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p 77

The Baha’i teachings also counsel moderation. If we use the things of this world with moderation, they are less likely to become barriers between us and God. That being said, while material wealth does not necessarily need to be renounced, it can often be a spiritual road block. On this subject Baha’u'llah wrote:

"O ye that pride yourselves on mortal riches! Know ye in truth that wealth is a mighty barrier between the seeker and his desire, the lover and his beloved. The rich, but for a few, shall in no wise attain the court of His presence nor enter the city of content and resignation. Well is it then with him, who, being rich, is not hindered by his riches from the eternal kingdom, nor deprived by them of imperishable dominion. By the Most Great Name! The splendor of such a wealthy man shall illuminate the dwellers of heaven even as the sun enlightens the people of the earth!" – The Hidden Words, p 41

Here Baha’u'llah makes it clear that it is easier to live a spiritual life without too much wealth, because wealth can so easily tie us to the world. However, Baha’u'llah also says that if a wealthy person can manage to stay connected to God, he can benefit the world through this wealth. Such a person would be able to use his wealth for the betterment of mankind, and in consecration to God, because he is not attached to it.

In the end “the world” does not mean everything in this physical world. It refers only to the things in this world that stand between us and God. Our material attachments in this world block us from God. An interest, passion, hobby, career, souvenir, relationship or any other noun that we have in our life can function as a potential barrier between us and God. We are the only judges of these barriers; therefore, we must stay vigilant in weeding them out.

Two approaches seem possible here. One approach: to simply rid ourselves of the attachments in our life. The other: to keep those things in our life, but change our relationship to them. Prayer and reflection will help us find the best approach.
 
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Old 05-10-2015, 11:26 AM   #2
Tony Bristow-Stagg
 
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Each has to find their own path with this.

I often wonder about all the good things of the Earth that have been ordained for us.

I often wonder of those that make a living from creating luxury items, that they too must make a living.

Then you see absolute poverty and wonder how the balance will be found.

I personally see it as a time to give as much as one can, Materialism is so out of Control that it needs a complete overhaul! We need to start afresh and reset the balance.

The question we should ask ourselves is is it just to partake of many if the good things this world has to offer, when there are so many who have not a thing and can barely exist. Some of the living standards in the Solomon Islands would have to be seen to be believed and no one is helping them, not even their own country?

God bless and regards Tony
 
Old 05-10-2015, 12:08 PM   #3
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very very very beneficial and beautiful piece of writing. the explanation about the meaning of "worldly life" and "world" is wonderful. thank you so much
 
Old 05-11-2015, 03:59 AM   #4
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And then we arrive at the annoying question: what is "too much"? Should we live in Europe and America, constantly reminding ourselves that anything more than the ordinary level in the Solomon Islands is "too much"?

Having been a Bahá'í for more than thirty years, I've never found a way to resolve such questions. And that is immensely annoying.

gnat
 
Old 05-11-2015, 08:05 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gnat View Post
And then we arrive at the annoying question: what is "too much"? Should we live in Europe and America, constantly reminding ourselves that anything more than the ordinary level in the Solomon Islands is "too much"?

Having been a Bahá'í for more than thirty years, I've never found a way to resolve such questions. And that is immensely annoying.

gnat
I want to suggest my answer about this question of "how much"
I personally think it is different from person to person. one person may be distracted from God and spiritual world only by having an average car. someone else may have ten houses and twenty cars and yet detached from all of them. I know people who have big factories and very comfortable life and their concern is how to have a good spiritual life. I also know people who neither have much of material life neither any of spiritual life.
but there is also one other point and that is in all things we should keep "JUSTICE" in front of our eyes. now if I am living in a country (and in bigger scales in a world) which is full of people who are dying out of hunger and poverty, then it is unjust if I have more than necessities of life. it is not just if I go to restaurant every night while my neighbors' children are dying of hunger.
so the gist of my answer is three words:
1-detachment despite of having material wealth
2-justice
3-middle path
 
Old 05-11-2015, 09:18 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gnat View Post
And then we arrive at the annoying question: what is "too much"? Should we live in Europe and America, constantly reminding ourselves that anything more than the ordinary level in the Solomon Islands is "too much"?

Having been a Bahá'í for more than thirty years, I've never found a way to resolve such questions. And that is immensely annoying.

gnat
"It is not enough for us to say, "I love God." But I also have to love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me." (Mother Teresa of Calcutta - Address To The National Prayer Breakfast, Washington, D.C.)

Peace.

Sojourner
 
Old 05-11-2015, 09:24 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maryamr View Post
I want to suggest my answer about this question of "how much"
I personally think it is different from person to person. one person may be distracted from God and spiritual world only by having an average car. someone else may have ten houses and twenty cars and yet detached from all of them. I know people who have big factories and very comfortable life and their concern is how to have a good spiritual life. I also know people who neither have much of material life neither any of spiritual life.
but there is also one other point and that is in all things we should keep "JUSTICE" in front of our eyes. now if I am living in a country (and in bigger scales in a world) which is full of people who are dying out of hunger and poverty, then it is unjust if I have more than necessities of life. it is not just if I go to restaurant every night while my neighbors' children are dying of hunger.
so the gist of my answer is three words:
1-detachment despite of having material wealth
2-justice
3-middle path
Very well thought out. We must remember that it is not money, which is the root of all evil, but rather the love of money. Wealth can be a great thing when it is used to help those around us who are less fortunate.

Peace.

Steve
 
Old 05-11-2015, 09:58 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Sojourner View Post
Very well thought out. We must remember that it is not money, which is the root of all evil, but rather the love of money. Wealth can be a great thing when it is used to help those around us who are less fortunate.

Peace.

Steve
 
Old 05-11-2015, 10:13 AM   #9
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Renouncing the world, I think, is detaching from the world. One can detach from the world without withdrawing wholly from it. You can interact and act with and within the world without being attached too it. The Taoists call this Acting without Acting, Wei Wu Wei. I think the key to this is, in essence, not to let the world act on you. A liberation from desires through God.

So have wealth, but not for want of wealth, eat but not for hunger, love but not for the sake of lust. 'Tis the Valley of Contentment.
 
Old 05-11-2015, 10:52 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gnat View Post
And then we arrive at the annoying question: what is "too much"? Should we live in Europe and America, constantly reminding ourselves that anything more than the ordinary level in the Solomon Islands is "too much"?

Having been a Bahá'í for more than thirty years, I've never found a way to resolve such questions. And that is immensely annoying.

gnat
Dear Gnat - Yes To That Maryamr has good thoughts about it, it is each individual to decide.

We do have the Master as the example and what He chose. If we then think about it is not an obligation to give all we can to the needy, sick and dispossesed.

It gets into very circular reasoning!

It will be something we struggle with all our days! IMHO we are just as much caught up in the Material downfall as is the whole world, yes where us the balance?

God bless and regards Tony
 
Old 05-11-2015, 11:01 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sojourner View Post
"It is not enough for us to say, "I love God." But I also have to love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me." (Mother Teresa of Calcutta - Address To The National Prayer Breakfast, Washington, D.C.)

Peace.

Sojourner
very beautiful
 
Old 05-11-2015, 11:03 AM   #12
Tony Bristow-Stagg
 
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Very well thought out. We must remember that it is not money, which is the root of all evil, but rather the love of money. Wealth can be a great thing when it is used to help those around us who are less fortunate.

Peace.

Steve
Yes it definitely can and is, as poverty needs wealth.

Then one has to ask how much one is willing to give. This to me is the struggle for all.

The balance is in the Baha'i Writings as well, but understanding this balance is what we all have to work on, rich and poor!

God bless and regards Tony
 
Old 05-11-2015, 11:04 AM   #13
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thank you Walrus; thank you Tony
 
Old 05-11-2015, 02:17 PM   #14
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One can also be attached to religiosity, eg hosting feasts,fire sides,various committees etc and forget the basics of faith, loving God and loving your neighbour
 
Old 05-11-2015, 03:00 PM   #15
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One can also be attached to religiosity, eg hosting feasts,fire sides,various committees etc and forget the basics of faith, loving God and loving your neighbour
Excellent point. Baha'u'llah was reported (by Mr. Faizi) to find pride one of the qualities He disliked most. So if anyone ever manages to become truly humble, they must also not be proud because of it.
 
Old 05-02-2017, 11:58 AM   #16
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To me, one is attached sinfully to the worldly things when we rennounce to reason, and start considering material things not as a vehicles to access spiritual growth, but as ends in themselves.

"God has given us rational minds for this purpose, to penetrate all things, to find truth. If one renounce reason, what remains?”
(Abdu'l Bahá, Divine Philosophy, page 102). Reason is the wings of man's life and his ladder to spiritual growth.

A person starts pursuing things irrationally when she starts trading higher values (health, relationships, peace of mind) for lower values (properties, titles, fame, money). You know the story... Esau giving up to Jacob a patriarchal blessing out of a lentil stew.
Is enjoying a delicious lentil stew something sinful? No way! Is it sinful trading it for your spiritual future? Yes.

So, pursuing a new Mercedes, or a million likes in Facebook, or a $150 dinner in a fancy restaurant, is not bad in itself as long as you answer yourself honestly the question: Am I doing this rationally? Or am I giving up to a fantasy, an insatiable addiction, or social pressure?

There are very good reasons and very bad reasons to pursue, say, a new pair of shoes. Just be honest with you on why you are pursuing it and what you intend to do with it.

If you have worked hard, like shoes and need a new pair, go and get the best pair of shoes you can get for your money: comfortable, trendy design, high quality. Pamper yourself.
But if by spending time and money to buy those shoes you are endagering your ability to afford your education, wasting time, risking your health or damaging your relationships... if you are doing it because of you have become mentally addicted to shoes or your urge to please the expectations of your social circle, then you are doing it for the wrong reason, attaching yourself to "the world" and worshiping another god.

Last edited by camachoe; 05-02-2017 at 12:17 PM.
 
Old 05-02-2017, 12:39 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by camachoe View Post
To me, one is attached sinfully to the worldly things when we rennounce to reason, and start considering material things not as a vehicles to access spiritual growth, but as ends in themselves.

"God has given us rational minds for this purpose, to penetrate all things, to find truth. If one renounce reason, what remains?”
(Abdu'l Bahá, Divine Philosophy, page 102). Reason is the wings of man's life and his ladder to spiritual growth.

A person starts pursuing things irrationally when she starts trading higher values (health, relationships, peace of mind) for lower values (properties, titles, fame, money). You know the story... Esau giving up to Jacob a patriarchal blessing out of a lentil stew.
Is enjoying a delicious lentil stew something sinful? No way! Is it sinful trading it for your spiritual future? Yes.

So, pursuing a new Mercedes, or a million likes in Facebook, or a $150 dinner in a fancy restaurant, is not bad in itself as long as you answer yourself honestly the question: Am I doing this rationally? Or am I giving up to a fantasy, an insatiable addiction, or social pressure?

There are very good reasons and very bad reasons to pursue, say, a new pair of shoes. Just be honest with you on why you are pursuing it and what you intend to do with it.

If you have worked hard, like shoes and need a new pair, go and get the best pair of shoes you can get for your money: comfortable, trendy design, high quality. Pamper yourself.
But if by spending time and money to buy those shoes you are endagering your ability to afford your education, wasting time, risking your health or damaging your relationships... if you are doing it because of you have become mentally addicted to shoes or your urge to please the expectations of your social circle, then you are doing it for the wrong reason, attaching yourself to "the world" and worshiping another god.
And, in my opinion, the worst kind of materialism is not attachment to things, but the habit to regard people as things.

gnat
 
Old 05-03-2017, 05:35 AM   #18
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Sobering thought, gnat.

I think you hit the nail on the head.

When a person, who is fundamentally a spiritual being, is treated by other human being like a ATM machine, or like a pet, a step in a ladder, a number, a sex toy, a lifesaver, a business case, or anything else than an spiritual being, we realize the wrongdoer has gone far away from God.

Now one comment that I have as an student and still outsider of the Bahai Faith: the widespread use of the term "materialism" I find in Bahai writings and posts.

I think I am getting how you guys use the term, and I have no fundamental disagreement, but I feel a bit uncomfortable as it may suggest a big split between "matter" and "spirit". "Matter" being low and bad, while spirit is good and high. I don't think this dualistic thinking makes any good to our life while in this body.

I prefer to think in matter and spirit as different aspects of the same ONENESS of the Sun of Reality... the ONENESS of God.

Our material bodies, for example, are essential for our spiritual development. Otherwise we wouldn't have needed an experience in a material body. We would have been just "spirits" eternally.

That's why I personally choose to think in terms of rational vs irrational life. Wisdom vs stupidity. Knowledge vs ignorance. Light vs. darkness. Truth vs Falsehood, Reality vs Fantasy.... and not in terms of "materialism" vs "spirituality". But this is a personal preference. Perhaps I am more a monist than a dualist... I don't know and probably has no relevance.

Anyway, when we act rationally, we're acting in harmony with our spiritual nature in a world ruled by physical laws of strict causality. We are then connecting to the Oneness of God.

Last edited by camachoe; 05-03-2017 at 05:43 AM.
 
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