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Old 06-30-2018, 02:09 PM   #1
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God vs. Self: How important is personal happiness?

How important is personal happiness? What I am referring to is having material possessions, engaging in recreational activities that are fun, and engaging in activities that are physically pleasurable, oft referred to as the things of the flesh.

One can look at this from a psychological, philosophical or a religious viewpoint. I used to look at it from a psychological viewpoint so I felt a sense of entitlement to personal happiness. But now I look at it from a religious viewpoint. Consequently, I have done a complete 180 and the entire focus of my life has changed. All I care about is God and the Faith.

I look around me and everyone around me seems to be enjoying themselves in a materialistic sense, so I feel really alone. However, I cannot turn back the clock and go back to my old life when all I cared about was my personal happiness. I cannot consider that important anymore because I know it isn’t. I cannot justify such a life and I really don’t want one.

I often feel like nobody understands how I feel, not even Baha’is. Does anyone here understand how I feel? The United States is submerged in a sea of materialism. It is thus no wonder I cannot find anyone who understands how I feel.

My husband understands how I feel and he is on the same page although his focus is very different from mine. I tend to look at individuals in need and he looks at the crumbling of society, but neither one of us cares about material world enjoyments.

So one might ask, why can’t I justify a life based upon personal happiness? Well, it is in the Writings. Baha’u’llah wrote a lot about this subject. If Baha’u’llah speaks for God and Baha’u’llah is infallible, and the translations are accurate, then it says what it says. Baha’u’llah either meant what He wrote or it was not to be taken the way I am taking it. But I read what I read and I cannot interpret it any other way than what the words say and what they mean to me. Below are just a few passages of many.

“By self-surrender and perpetual union with God is meant that men should merge their will wholly in the Will of God, and regard their desires as utter nothingness beside His Purpose….. The station of absolute self-surrender transcendeth, and will ever remain exalted above, every other station.” Gleanings, p. 337

“It behoveth thee to consecrate thyself to the Will of God. Whatsoever hath been revealed in His Tablets is but a reflection of His Will. So complete must be thy consecration, that every trace of worldly desire will be washed from thine heart. This is the meaning of true unity.” Gleanings, p. 338

“Suffer not the habitation wherein dwelleth My undying love for thee to be destroyed through the tyranny of covetous desires, and overcloud not the beauty of the heavenly Youth with the dust of self and passion.” Gleanings, p. 323

“The Most Great Name beareth Me witness! How sad if any man were, in this Day, to rest his heart on the transitory things of this world! Arise, and cling firmly to the Cause of God. Be most loving one to another. Burn away, wholly for the sake of the Well-Beloved, the veil of self with the flame of the undying Fire, and with faces joyous and beaming with light, associate with your neighbor.” Gleanings, p. 316

“Dispute not with any one concerning the things of this world and its affairs, for God hath abandoned them to such as have set their affection upon them. Out of the whole world He hath chosen for Himself the hearts of men—hearts which the hosts of revelation and of utterance can subdue. Thus hath it been ordained by the Fingers of Bahá, upon the Tablet of God’s irrevocable decree, by the behest of Him Who is the Supreme Ordainer, the All-Knowing.” Gleanings, p. 279

“Thou art God’s shadow on earth. Strive, therefore, to act in such a manner as befitteth so eminent, so august a station. If thou dost depart from following the things We have caused to descend upon thee and taught thee, thou wilt, assuredly, be derogating from that great and priceless honor. Return, then, and cleave wholly unto God, and cleanse thine heart from the world and all its vanities, and suffer not the love of any stranger to enter and dwell therein. Not until thou dost purify thine heart from every trace of such love can the brightness of the light of God shed its radiance upon it, for to none hath God given more than one heart. This, verily, hath been decreed and written down in His ancient Book. And as the human heart, as fashioned by God, is one and undivided, it behoveth thee to take heed that its affections be, also, one and undivided. Cleave thou, therefore, with the whole affection of thine heart, unto His love, and withdraw it from the love of any one besides Him, that He may aid thee to immerse thyself in the ocean of His unity, and enable thee to become a true upholder of His oneness. God is My witness. My sole purpose in revealing to thee these words is to sanctify thee from the transitory things of the earth, and aid thee to enter the realm of everlasting glory, that thou mayest, by the leave of God, be of them that abide and rule therein….” Gleanings, pp. 237-238

All Baha’is interpret the Writings differently, according to a combination of factors such as childhood upbringing, heredity, education, adult experiences, and present life circumstances. I do not expect anyone to agree with my interpretation of the Writings. I have never encountered a Baha’i who interprets those passages as I do and takes them as seriously as I do. That does not mean such a Baha’i does not exist. However, it does not really matter to me if people agree with me. I would just like to get other opinions.

Last edited by Trailblazer; 07-01-2018 at 06:44 PM.
 
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Old 06-30-2018, 06:49 PM   #2
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I have studied Hinduism for some time now. I'm a firm believer in the idea that there is one true religion, the religion of God. Thus to me the ideas present in the faiths I study often blend and connect together. I see as well that one cannot justify material happiness over spiritual happiness. In fact I thought of creating this very thread because I feel very alone, especially in my local area.

It is emphasized in the Puranas (especially the Bhagavata) that material happiness stifles the progress of the soul when one is absorbed in it. It is as though a person is embracing their lower, mortal self instead of their immortal spiritual self.

This is not to say that material joys should be completely shunned, as long as we enjoy our material things within a spiritual life and realize the greater importance of spiritual progress rather than material. I couldn't think of those quotes you posted in any other way.
 
Old 06-30-2018, 11:39 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saveyist View Post
I have studied Hinduism for some time now. I'm a firm believer in the idea that there is one true religion, the religion of God. Thus to me the ideas present in the faiths I study often blend and connect together. I see as well that one cannot justify material happiness over spiritual happiness. In fact I thought of creating this very thread because I feel very alone, especially in my local area.

It is emphasized in the Puranas (especially the Bhagavata) that material happiness stifles the progress of the soul when one is absorbed in it. It is as though a person is embracing their lower, mortal self instead of their immortal spiritual self.

This is not to say that material joys should be completely shunned, as long as we enjoy our material things within a spiritual life and realize the greater importance of spiritual progress rather than material. I couldn't think of those quotes you posted in any other way.
Thanks for responding. I have not studied other religions such as Hinduism but I know they all have the same spiritual truths, such as what Jesus said in Matthew 16:23-26 about denying self.

This is an important subject for me but it does not seem to be that important to others; either that or they do not like talking about it. I have posted it on other forums and nobody even seems to even understand what I am saying about attachment to the world coming in between us and God. It feels kind of lonely.

I know from experience that the world comes in between me and God because I used to be attached to worldly desires and I was not close to God back then. It was as if God did not even exist. I guess that has biased me towards austerity because I do not want to go back to that way of life again. I was never very materialistic but I was attached to things of the flesh. It finally took its toll on me. Certainly what Baha’u’llah wrote confirms my experience, and if I am going to be a true believer I cannot ignore His injunctions, nor would I want to.

“Say: Should your conduct, O people, contradict your professions, how think ye, then, to be able to distinguish yourselves from them who, though professing their faith in the Lord their God, have, as soon as He came unto them in the cloud of holiness, refused to acknowledge Him, and repudiated His truth? Disencumber yourselves of all attachment to this world and the vanities thereof. Beware that ye approach them not, inasmuch as they prompt you to walk after your own lusts and covetous desires, and hinder you from entering the straight and glorious Path.” Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 275-276
 
Old 07-01-2018, 12:33 AM   #4
Tony Bristow-Stagg
 
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With this subject, it has as many thoughts, as it does have a diversity of people that think.

Happiness is a personal journey in finding God. We will all pass through many stages of happiness in this life, when what is happiness, will take on different meanings as each of us strive to connect with God Purpose, or fail to pursue Gods Purpose for each of us.

If we want to pursue true happiness, then Abdul'baha is that example to consider. Each of us have to find our own balance in pursuing that example.

Abdul'baha was very successful in his dealings in this world. He shared this success like no other person has acheived, as all His dealings had a purpose in service to Baha'u'llah. There have been books written on the businesses started by Abdul'baha.

I wish you always well in finding your balance, Happiness is a state of mind, a fire that this world and its dealings can never put out.

Regards Tony
 
Old 07-01-2018, 02:37 AM   #5
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Joined: May 2018
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I agree with Tony Fish

But also
It is indeed a good and praiseworthy thing to progress materially, but in so doing, let us not neglect the more important spiritual progress, and close our eyes to the Divine light shining in our midst. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 63.

Additional I am trying to recall a verse from the writings of Baha'u'llah that says something about ' all the bounty of this world being ment for us' but I can't quite remember it or find it ..

My 2cents worth,
T
 
Old 07-01-2018, 03:09 AM   #6
Tony Bristow-Stagg
 
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Joined: Sep 2010
From: Normanton Far North Queensland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Traveller View Post
I agree with Tony Fish

But also
It is indeed a good and praiseworthy thing to progress materially, but in so doing, let us not neglect the more important spiritual progress, and close our eyes to the Divine light shining in our midst. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 63.

Additional I am trying to recall a verse from the writings of Baha'u'llah that says something about ' all the bounty of this world being ment for us' but I can't quite remember it or find it ..

My 2cents worth,
T
The passage you are looking for says there is no harm if one partakes of all the joys of the world as long as they do not let them become between the beleiver and God.

That is some challenge

Regards Tony
 
Old 07-01-2018, 06:26 AM   #7
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Abdul-Baha said a lot about happiness and its importance. I am not very good at being joyful but I keep trying...

"All that has been created is for man who is at the apex of creation and who must be thankful for the divine bestowals, so that through his gratitude he may learn to understand life as a divine benefit. If we hold enmity with life, we are ingrates, for our material and spiritual existence is the outward evidences of the divine mercy. Therefore we must be happy and pass our time in praises, appreciating all things. But there is something else: detachment. We can appreciate without attaching ourselves to the things of this world. It sometimes happens that if a man loses his fortune he is so disheartened that he dies or becomes insane. While enjoying the things of this world we must remember that one day we shall have to do without them.

Attach not thyself to anything unless in it thou seest the reality of God - this is the first step into the court of eternity. The earth life lasts but a short time, even its benefits are transitory; that which is temporary does not deserve our heart's attachment.

Material favors sometimes deprive us of spiritual favors and material rest of spiritual rest. A rich man said to Christ, "I would fain be thy disciple." "Go and put into practice the ten commandments," replied the Christ. "But I know them by heart and have always practiced them." "Then sell what thou hast and take up thy cross and follow me." The man returned to his home. But the rich who are attracted through their hearts have the spark and are like unto brilliant torches. BAHA'O'LLAH has spoken of the importance of their station. Certain rich ones have sacrificed their possessions and even their lives for this cause. Riches did not prove an obstacle for them and they are like unto stars in the heaven of both worlds - flames of reality.

Detachment does not consist in setting fire to one's house, or becoming bankrupt or throwing one's fortune out of the window, or even giving away all of one's possessions. Detachment consists in refraining from letting our possessions possess us. A prosperous merchant who is not absorbed in his business knows severance. A banker whose occupation does not prevent him from serving humanity is severed. A poor man can be attached to a small thing.

A rich man and a poor man lived in the same town. One day the poor man said to the rich man, "I want to go to the Holy Land." The rich man replied, "Very good, I will go also," and they started from the town and began their pilgrimage. But night fell and the poor man said, "Let us return to our houses to pass the night." The rich man replied, "We have started for the Holy Land and must not now return." The poor man said, "The Holy Land is a long distance to travel on foot. I have a donkey, I will go and fetch it." "What?" replied the rich man, "are you not ashamed? I leave all my possessions to go on this pilgrimage and you wish to return to get your donkey! I have abandoned with joy my whole fortune. Your whole wealth consists of a donkey and you cannot leave it!" You see that fortune is not necessarily an impediment. The rich man who is thus detached is near to reality. There are many rich people who are severed and many poor who are not."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 134)
 
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