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Old 04-19-2017, 06:00 AM   #1
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Ambition

I'm dealing with an issue recently that I'm sure many others before me have dealt with. It's the subject of ambition in it's many forms.

I find my biggest issue with the Baha'i faith right now is not knowing how one is supposed to balance worldly and spiritual ambitions. We are supposed to support ourselves through the pursuit of a craft or profession, which is a sort of worldly ambition. You can claim it's a spiritual pursuit, in a way, since it is commanded by Baha'u'llah. Inevitably, though, it deals with worldly cares and concerns. I see no way I can avoid that.

On the other hand, we are supposed to turn away from worldly pursuits and focus entirely on God....and somehow do this while not neglecting our role in the world. How does one cultivate the detachment necessary to balance both the worldly and the spiritual? I find it hard to do. One moment, I'm reading the Holy Writings and I feel particularly close to God. The next, I'm working toward my career goals, which include entrepreneurship of all things. When I'm focused on the latter, material things become a primary focus. I don't have what I consider amoral career ambitions, but I sometimes feel that the message of God gets a little lost among them.

So to restate the question, how does one find balance between the worldly and spiritual? I've found numerous quotes that amount to the fact that I should find balance, but I don't seem to find much guidance on how to actually do it...
 
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Old 04-19-2017, 06:08 AM   #2
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Indeed. Been struggling with this question during my entire life as a Bahá'í.

gnat
 
Old 04-19-2017, 11:52 AM   #3
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Good question. The purpose of this life being to know and love God is the key. Our journey in life helps find the balance and it is a great head start to know the Apex of knowledge in this day, lays within the Message for this day from Baha'u'llah and the Laws that Message contains.

Thus this is the greatest attainment we can obtain in this day, that is the acceptance of Baha'u'llah, following the laws and Service to the Cause. This is lasting, this is true life and the remainder we do is to assist in that aim. All we do in life is in that Praise and in that Service.

Now we have in Baha'u'llah's Laws guidance to become the best we can in both that Service and our Material pursuits in Life. This is the tricky part finding that balance and this is the Journey that is our life, Ihave found Baha'u'llah gives us what we need to make that journey and always gives guidance.

The advice I can Give is the world needs all occupations from sciences to labour to the Arts and crafts, we can all find our place and can diversify accross lots to earn our way. While pursuing life, never forget what the highest aim of our life is, if one does the world is a strong magnet and it will focus ones efforts in the World.

Be ambitious to know God and serve the cause and find a path in life that can serve that ambition. Work is worship when done in this manner.

A Be well, be happy and may you find your balance.

Regards Tony

Last edited by tonyfish58; 04-20-2017 at 02:17 AM.
 
Old 04-19-2017, 11:39 PM   #4
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Greetings Scribe,

All forms of spirituality are exhibited through the human character. In 1991 some Bahá'ís from Canada were keen to assist people to better appreciate this spiritual process and they published some material cards that were designed to help people to understand how peoples characters reflect spirituality in all forms of pursuits. While these might not be for everyones taste, you can explore this process yourself by examining the material available on their website and looking into this approach further. It is called the Virtues Project and you can read about it here https://www.virtuesproject.com

In time you will come to appreciate that you can exhibit a spiritual approach in everything that you undertake once you understand what spiritual qualities you need to reflect in any given situation along with understanding the importance of sacrificing your own ambition for the wider needs of humanity.

In relationship to approaching a career, one Bahá'ís was a promising opera singer and he was expected to progress very well in his field. Then the Guardian initiated the Ten Year Crusade and called for the Bahá'ís around the world to sacrifice their material lives and dedicate themselves to opening a number of countries to the Bahá'í Faith by uprooting themselves and pioneering. This promising opera singer was faced with a challenge. Should he continue his studies and serve the Faith through his career, or give it all up to pioneer? He posed this question to the wife of the Guardian, Amatu’l-Bahá Ruhiyyih Khanum. In her reply to him she explained that everything that he did in his career would improve his spiritual rewards in this life, but anything he offered to the Cause will be rewarded for eternity. With this he abandoned he studies, pioneered to the most challenging country designated for any Bahá'í and was awarded with the title Knight of Bahá'u'lláh. When he passed away the Universal House of Justice wrote a highly praised obituary for him. It described him as having profound knowledge. He never did become an opera singer. Instead he undertook a number of assorted jobs and lived his life in relative poverty. His cutlery was broken and held together with glue, he wrote to people all over the world and was even awarded with university PhD from North Korea for his anti-war poetry; one of the few westerners ever to receive such an accolade. Most importantly his name, like all other Knights of Bahá'u'lláh, is now engraved in the Shrine of the Báb.

The real challenge that you face here is a life of service, certitude or martyrdom. All three are spiritual. In contemporary dreams blue is a life of service, green is a life of certitude and red is a life of martyrdom. Do understand that martyrdom is based on dying to the self, not necessarily dying through being put to death. This is why martyrdom is manifested differently from the east and the west. So do appreciate that western Bahá'ís can be attributed as martyrs too. All of these three fields demand sacrifice but by different degrees. Know one thing. Whatever path you choose you will be tested in order to harness your humility. While it is Written that God does not test us beyond our capacity, nothing is written about how we might test ourselves beyond our capacity. This is where humility comes into play. The more humble you are the less likely you will expect any rewards. In essence some Bahá'ís can emotionally break if they believe they have sacrificed too much and not received anything in return. In such a situation they can become prone to blaming other Bahá'ís for their own lack of progress and are even liable to become bitter towards both the Faith and its sincere believers too.

Social science faculties that study religious communities have already conducted advanced data analysis into the Bahá'í Community just like they have many other religious communities. Currently they estimate that the average Bahá'í will remain within the Bahá'í Faith for a period of seven years before leaving. Naturally this does not mean that everyone that joins it leaves, rather those that spend a lifetime within it are rarer to find. I think you will find that most users on this forum will have been Bahá'ís over seven years. So even if they do not yet realise it they are already above average believers. Try not to make the mistake of assuming that your life has to reach other peoples expectations, it does not. It is merely a vehicle to allow your soul to progress within this world. All too often people make life too complex for themselves by trying to appear important to others. In the full scheme of human existence peoples lives will invariable become little more than chicken scratchings in the dirt.

Earth

Last edited by Earth; 04-19-2017 at 11:42 PM.
 
Old 04-20-2017, 01:59 PM   #5
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And after all these years as a Bahá'í, I still understand nothing, because the message I get is: Don't get yourself an education, don't become an opera singer, a doctor, a lawyer, an economist... Go teach the Faith instead. The message I get is: make yourself destitute and do every menial job you can find, while teaching the Faith. And I cannot make heads and tails out of this.

gnat
 
Old 04-20-2017, 03:57 PM   #6
Tony Bristow-Stagg
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gnat View Post
And after all these years as a Bahá'í, I still understand nothing, because the message I get is: Don't get yourself an education, don't become an opera singer, a doctor, a lawyer, an economist... Go teach the Faith instead. The message I get is: make yourself destitute and do every menial job you can find, while teaching the Faith. And I cannot make heads and tails out of this.

gnat
The key is to do both.

In your pursuits in life you can do both, it is not one and the other, it is but a mingling of functions with choices.

The important thing is not to loose the purpose of it all in the choices we make in our material lives.

Such a big discussion Gnat, all of us will have stories to share. We all have pursued a path in life and on that path have found, lost and found faith to various degrees on numerous occasions.

Regards Tony
 
Old 04-20-2017, 05:36 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gnat View Post
And after all these years as a Bahá'í, I still understand nothing, because the message I get is: Don't get yourself an education, don't become an opera singer, a doctor, a lawyer, an economist... Go teach the Faith instead. The message I get is: make yourself destitute and do every menial job you can find, while teaching the Faith. And I cannot make heads and tails out of this.
This is a very common attitude in Christianity as well, and I admit it gets frustrating at times. Still, with all of Baha'i's emphasis on education you'd think you'd get a different message...especially since the development of the world according to the Baha'i vision is going to take many different types of people from all walks of life. Some of the development will, out of necessity, require the use of worldly influence to make the appropriate changes. This doesn't sit well with some people, but I don't see how one can avoid it.

It took a bit of searching but I found a quote from the Gleanings that addresses the issue of material wealth. Here it is:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Baha'u'llah
Know ye that by “the world” is meant your unawareness of Him Who is your Maker, and your absorption in aught else but Him. The “life to come,” on the other hand, signifieth the things that give you a safe approach to God, the All-Glorious, the Incomparable. Whatsoever deterreth you, in this Day, from loving God is nothing but the world. Flee it, that ye may be numbered with the blest. 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. Eat ye, O people, of the good things which God hath allowed you, and deprive not yourselves from His wondrous bounties. Render thanks and praise unto Him, and be of them that are truly thankful. (Gleanings From the Writings of Baha'u'llah, 128.4)
In this context, what is meant by "the world" for one person would be very different from what it would mean for another person. It all depends on one's ability to stay grounded in faith. For some, staying grounded might mean they have to move to a third world country and teach the Faith living a life of abject poverty. For others, they may be able to stay grounded through far less extreme means.

Of course, that still brings me back to my original issue. If I want to stay grounded in faith, I may have to make some changes. I have the sneaking suspicion, however, that no matter what path I take, there will always be plenty of distractions to shift my focus from God to worldly things. "No matter where you go, there you are." I will still need to learn detachment no matter what I do. The "work as worship" suggestion from a previous post would be an excellent start in my current situation. I could definitely do more in service to God and the world, too. I'm not sure what I could do just yet, but I'm sure I can think of something.

P.S. Speaking of opera stars and celebrities, has anyone listened to Rainn Wilson's podcast yet? He is an actor best known for his role on the American version of the TV show, "The Office". He was raised as a Baha'i, and is apparently still active in the Faith. I haven't had the chance to listen to an episode yet, though I have read his book/autobiography, The Bassoon King. It's an entertaining read...
 
Old 04-21-2017, 11:33 AM   #8
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As work is worship in this Faith, I believe we should try to be the best at what we do. Keeping our faith as our guide, we can live our faith at our work. Nobody has to be cutthroat or insensitive to the needs of others to be successful. My faith drives my attitude, behavior and drive to accomplish work. There are many writings about work.....we are encouraged to work and enjoy the fruits of our labor....for me the bottom line is sharing with others and encouraging others. I don't just want me to be successful, I want everybody to succeed.....both spiritually and financially. This is what I pray for daily, because if you can succeed in loving God, finding your faith, and following God's laws, than your life will be successful. I pray for all to experience the joy of loving and serving God.

Loving regards,
Becky
 
Old 04-21-2017, 03:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scribe View Post
This is a very common attitude in Christianity as well, and I admit it gets frustrating at times. Still, with all of Baha'i's emphasis on education you'd think you'd get a different message...especially since the development of the world according to the Baha'i vision is going to take many different types of people from all walks of life. Some of the development will, out of necessity, require the use of worldly influence to make the appropriate changes. This doesn't sit well with some people, but I don't see how one can avoid it.

It took a bit of searching but I found a quote from the Gleanings that addresses the issue of material wealth. Here it is:



In this context, what is meant by "the world" for one person would be very different from what it would mean for another person. It all depends on one's ability to stay grounded in faith. For some, staying grounded might mean they have to move to a third world country and teach the Faith living a life of abject poverty. For others, they may be able to stay grounded through far less extreme means.

Of course, that still brings me back to my original issue. If I want to stay grounded in faith, I may have to make some changes. I have the sneaking suspicion, however, that no matter what path I take, there will always be plenty of distractions to shift my focus from God to worldly things. "No matter where you go, there you are." I will still need to learn detachment no matter what I do. The "work as worship" suggestion from a previous post would be an excellent start in my current situation. I could definitely do more in service to God and the world, too. I'm not sure what I could do just yet, but I'm sure I can think of something.

P.S. Speaking of opera stars and celebrities, has anyone listened to Rainn Wilson's podcast yet? He is an actor best known for his role on the American version of the TV show, "The Office". He was raised as a Baha'i, and is apparently still active in the Faith. I haven't had the chance to listen to an episode yet, though I have read his book/autobiography, The Bassoon King. It's an entertaining read...
Re Rainn Wilson I urge everyone to google an address he made during the graduation ceremony at his alma mater, a most edifying speech indeed! I apologise for not knowing how to provide links.
 
Old 04-22-2017, 05:25 AM   #10
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Re Rainn Wilson I urge everyone to google an address he made during the graduation ceremony at his alma mater, a most edifying speech indeed! I apologise for not knowing how to provide links.
I just looked it up and watched it. To watch it, click here. (EDIT: The preview of my post showed the video embedded just from me posting the URL, so here is the link and perhaps the video itself, depending on your browser...)



Even though Baha'i lacks any formal clergy, it's still often nice to hear a good "Baha'i sermon" from different speakers now and then. I really like Mr. Wilson's speech. You can also find some good speeches at the Baha'i Teachings website or the Baha'i Teachings Youtube channel, whichever you prefer.
 
Old 04-22-2017, 04:30 PM   #11
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I was doing some Google searches today and I found a great link from a Baha'i named Susan Gammage that talks about service. It's a lot of reading, but if you have the time it might be worth it. The section entitled "How Can We Serve?" addresses some of the issues talked about in this thread.

I know that teaching is an ideal outlet for yearnings to serve in the Baha'i faith. I hope it doesn't seem as if I'm downplaying the idea too much. For me, though, it sounds rather intimidating, not in the least because I haven't actually signed a membership card yet. I just haven't experienced much in the way of Baha'i community life first hand. I don't feel qualified to teach at the moment, let alone teach abroad.

I have, however, had quite an appetite for material that deals with applying Baha'i teachings to one's daily life. That's why rare sites like Susan Gammage's blog are a real blessing. A quick search through the "Categories" menu reveals a plethora of topics that deal with issues you don't often see discussed elsewhere on the web--at least from a Baha'i perspective. (And since I brought it up earlier in the thread, it also seems she's been interviewed by Rainn Wilson on the Baha'i blog podcast.)

As for my own ambitions regarding the Baha'i faith, I find I'm far more concerned with local issues and just getting my own life in order than becoming an ideal world citizen. I'm not really sure what "ideal world citizen" means, exactly, but somehow I don't think I live up to it. I'll try to do what I can, where I can though...
 
Old 04-22-2017, 08:45 PM   #12
Tony Bristow-Stagg
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scribe View Post
I was doing some Google searches today and I found a great link from a Baha'i named Susan Gammage that talks about service. It's a lot of reading, but if you have the time it might be worth it. The section entitled "How Can We Serve?" addresses some of the issues talked about in this thread.

I know that teaching is an ideal outlet for yearnings to serve in the Baha'i faith. I hope it doesn't seem as if I'm downplaying the idea too much. For me, though, it sounds rather intimidating, not in the least because I haven't actually signed a membership card yet. I just haven't experienced much in the way of Baha'i community life first hand. I don't feel qualified to teach at the moment, let alone teach abroad.

I have, however, had quite an appetite for material that deals with applying Baha'i teachings to one's daily life. That's why rare sites like Susan Gammage's blog are a real blessing. A quick search through the "Categories" menu reveals a plethora of topics that deal with issues you don't often see discussed elsewhere on the web--at least from a Baha'i perspective. (And since I brought it up earlier in the thread, it also seems she's been interviewed by Rainn Wilson on the Baha'i blog podcast.)

As for my own ambitions regarding the Baha'i faith, I find I'm far more concerned with local issues and just getting my own life in order than becoming an ideal world citizen. I'm not really sure what "ideal world citizen" means, exactly, but somehow I don't think I live up to it. I'll try to do what I can, where I can though...
I would see a world citizen as one that works on getting their own life in order and working in their Local Community building the thought that we are but One Human Race under One God.

One does not have to travel the world these days to do that, we are but a click away from the whole world. It would be good that the internet could be used without fear of cyber attacks or fraud. That way we may bet to know people more than just a screen name.

Susan Gammage sites are a great source of information and resources.

I have spent only a hand full of years close to Organized Community Baha'i Activity, the rest of the time I have been remote. To be qualified as a teacher comes from what your heart has found, It happens one mention at a time as you share that with another soul.

Regards Tony

Last edited by tonyfish58; 04-22-2017 at 08:59 PM.
 
Old 04-24-2017, 02:36 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gnat View Post
And after all these years as a Bahá'í, I still understand nothing, because the message I get is: Don't get yourself an education, don't become an opera singer, a doctor, a lawyer, an economist... Go teach the Faith instead. The message I get is: make yourself destitute and do every menial job you can find, while teaching the Faith. And I cannot make heads and tails out of this.

gnat
Ha ha Just found this Gnat - PART TWO

Detachment

As an example of the methods of Abdu'l-Baha's teaching: My father was having difficulty understanding this matter of Detachment. Just what were we supposed to become detached from? We were taught not to become isolated and detached as were the monks in a monastery. It was also an obligation to work and support those dependent upon us. So where did detachment fit into this picture? One day Father asked Abdu'l-Baha about all this. They were walking up Broadway after a meeting and Abdu'l-Baha made no answer. After walking a few blocks, Father repeated his question. Still no answer. They reached 76th Street, where the Kinneys lived and turned left to West End Avenue. As they mounted the outside steps, Father asked for the third time. Abdu'l-Baha reached the front door, opened it, and started up the inner stair to His room, Father pattering along after. They reached the second floor, and turned on up to the third, Father following doggedly. Abdu'l-Baha entered His room with Father close on His heels. And there the Master turned. "Mistair Ives," He asked gently, "Are you interested in detachment?" Father, his face scarlet, was silent. He couldn't say he was and he wouldn't say he wasn't.

Did that help...ha ha

Regards Tony
 
Old 04-24-2017, 02:42 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
Ha ha Just found this Gnat - PART TWO

Detachment

As an example of the methods of Abdu'l-Baha's teaching: My father was having difficulty understanding this matter of Detachment. Just what were we supposed to become detached from? We were taught not to become isolated and detached as were the monks in a monastery. It was also an obligation to work and support those dependent upon us. So where did detachment fit into this picture? One day Father asked Abdu'l-Baha about all this. They were walking up Broadway after a meeting and Abdu'l-Baha made no answer. After walking a few blocks, Father repeated his question. Still no answer. They reached 76th Street, where the Kinneys lived and turned left to West End Avenue. As they mounted the outside steps, Father asked for the third time. Abdu'l-Baha reached the front door, opened it, and started up the inner stair to His room, Father pattering along after. They reached the second floor, and turned on up to the third, Father following doggedly. Abdu'l-Baha entered His room with Father close on His heels. And there the Master turned. "Mistair Ives," He asked gently, "Are you interested in detachment?" Father, his face scarlet, was silent. He couldn't say he was and he wouldn't say he wasn't.

Did that help...ha ha

Regards Tony
Indeed it did. It paved the road for another 40 years of confusion in my life. But I'm zealously and fanatically committed to detachment, so I'll make it.

Or, as I sometimes say, I hate and despise intolerant people.

gnat
 
Old 04-24-2017, 03:05 PM   #15
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Indeed it did. It paved the road for another 40 years of confusion in my life. But I'm zealously and fanatically committed to detachment, so I'll make it.

Or, as I sometimes say, I hate and despise intolerant people.

gnat
Good on you, as detachment is the goal of us all, and it seems we all ask the same questions

I think this one from the link posted above carries a lot of thought, as it is in prayer we now talk and how many times does a grand thought pop into your mind during prayer, by the end you try to pop that out of your head and replace it with a lesser action, because the first thought, it is way to grand

Obedience and trust


"..Every thing He did or said taught someone something: but He warned, "Listen to and obey the first thing I say - for that is what is best for you. If, however, I find you reluctant, I soften and reduce My request till I arrive at a burden that, you feel, suits the strength of your shoulders. But My first request would not have been beyond your strength - if you had only trusted Me." Shoghi Effendi repeated this and it seems the Universal House of Justice functions on the same principle..."

Regards Tony
 
Old 04-25-2017, 07:12 AM   #16
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Quote:
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But I'm zealously and fanatically committed to detachment, so I'll make it.

Or, as I sometimes say, I hate and despise intolerant people.
Thank you for this. It made me laugh....
 
Old 04-25-2017, 04:12 PM   #17
Jcc
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Baha'u'llah teaches moderation, and that we are necessarily connected to the world as long as we are alive. He said hold to the cord of material means. That we should have a profession and earn a living so we can expend it to benefit ourselves and others.

What I understand from all of this is that back and white absolute denial of one's material needs is not permitted any more than extravagant consumption and greed for material possessions is permitted. We all have to find the balance, that depends on our own capabilities and circumstances, and nobody will do it perfectly. We should not think poorly of others if they are fortunate enough to get a good education and earn a high income, nor if they content themselves with a humble job and low income. Our spiritual growth matters much more than material gain, but as long as we have the right attitude and strike the right balance, material means should not prevent spiritual growth.

Last edited by Jcc; 04-25-2017 at 04:28 PM.
 
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