How can we be happy?
Bahá'u'lláh's writings indicate that, if we want happiness and contentment, we must do precisely the opposite to what we are constantly being urged to do by many of those around us. He advises us:
Dissipate not the wealth of your precious lives in the pursuit of evil and corrupt affection, nor let your endeavours be spent in promoting your personal interest.
Referring to the illusion that wealth is of itself of any value to human happiness and development, Bahá'u'lláh says:
Thou dost wish for gold and I desire thy freedom from it. Thou thinkest thyself rich in its possession, and I recognize thy wealth in thy sanctity therefrom. By My life! This is My knowledge, and that is thy fancy; how can My way accord with thine?
Our belief that we can gain happiness by accumulating wealth and power or by indulging our sensual or material passions is due to the fact that we are deluded by the physical world that surrounds us. It seems so immediate and `real' that it is easy to think that it is the most important thing in our lives. The pressing immediacy and vividness of this world are veils hiding its emptiness. According to Bahá'u'lláh:
The world is but a show, vain and empty, a mere nothing, bearing the semblance of reality. Set not your affections upon it . . . Verily I say, the world is like the vapour in a desert, which the thirsty dreameth to be water and striveth after it with all his might, until when he cometh unto it, he findeth it to be mere illusion.
This world and all that it promises are impermanent and with us for only a short time. We should not therefore grow attached to what will eventually fade and wither away:
These few brief days shall pass away, this present life shall vanish from our sight; the roses of this world shall be fresh and fair no more, the garden of this earth's triumphs and delights shall droop and fade. The spring season of life shall turn into the autumn of death, the bright joy of palace halls give way to moonless dark within the tomb. And therefore is none of this worth loving at all, and to this the wise will not anchor his heart (`Abdu'l-Bahá).
We should try to change ourselves before the short time that we have on this earth comes to an end. Bahá'u'lláh urges us to cut ourselves free from the attractions of this world and the pursuit of selfish aims:
"O My Servant! Free from the fetters of this world, and loose thy soul from the prison of self. Seize thy chance, for it will come to thee no more."
The Futility of our Quest for Wealth
`Abdu'l-Bahá cites the animals as an example of the futility of our quest for wealth and power:
A bird, on the summit of a mountain, on the high, waving branches, has built for itself a nest more beautiful than the palaces of the kings! The air is in the utmost purity, the water cool and clear as crystal, the panorama charming and enchanting. In such glorious surroundings, he expends his numbered days. All the harvests of the plain are his possessions, having earned all this wealth without the least labour. Hence, no matter how much man may advance in this world, he shall not attain to the station of this bird!
Thus it becomes evident that in the matters of this world, however much man may strive and work to the point of death, he will be unable to earn the abundance, the freedom and the independent life of a small bird. This proves and establishes the fact that man is not created for the life of this ephemeral world: - nay, rather, is he created for the acquirement of infinite perfections, for the attainment to the sublimity of the world of humanity, to be drawn nigh unto the divine threshold, and to sit on the throne of everlasting sovereignty! (Tablets of the Divine Plan, pp. 42-43.)
Excerpt from A Short Introduction to The Bahá'í Faith by Moojan Momen.