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The Spiritual Quest

If we are to find and understand the knowledge which leads to lasting happiness and contentment, we must search for it. Our search, however, should not be among the things of this world, which only lead to sadness and suffering. Rather we must make our search a spiritual quest. Bahá'u'lláh has likened the search to a spiritual journey and he has described how we must set about this journey.

The first condition for success in the search is patience and perseverance.

Without patience the wayfarer on this journey will reach nowhere and attain no goal. Nor should he ever be downhearted; if he strive for a hundred thousand years and yet fail to behold the beauty of the Friend, he should not falter . . .

The second condition for success is to search with an open mind. We must be ready to set aside our fondest ideas and our preconceived notions:

It is incumbent on these servants that they cleanse the heart--which is the wellspring of divine treasures--from every marking, and that they turn away from imitation, which is following the traces of their forefathers and sires . . . Nor shall the seeker reach his goal unless he sacrifice all things. That is, whatever he hath seen, and heard, and understood, all must he set at naught, that he may enter the realm of the spirit, which is the City of God.

The third condition is an intense desire for the goal of the quest, an ardour or burning passion to achieve the objective. For the journey may be long and hard and there will be the many distractions of our daily lives to tempt us away.

The true seeker hunteth naught but the object of his quest, and the lover hath no desire save union with his beloved. . . Labour is needed, if we are to seek Him; ardour is needed, if we are to drink of the honey of reunion with Him; and if we taste of this cup, we shall cast away the world.
On this journey the traveller abideth in every land and dwelleth in every region. In every face, he seeketh the beauty of the Friend; in every country he looketh for the Beloved. He joineth every company, and seeketh fellowship with every soul, that haply in some mind he may uncover the secret of the Friend, or in some face he may behold the beauty of the Loved One.

Click here for a longer quotation from Bahá'u'lláh on the True Seeker and the Search.

Our first step on this journey is to detach ourselves from the attractions of this physical world. It is our clinging to these things of the physical world that blinds us to spiritual reality and holds back our spiritual progress. We must try to free ourselves from this:

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. (Bahá'u'lláh).

It is not only the physical things of this world to which we cling. Bahá'u'lláh also calls upon people to shatter "the idols of their vain imaginings."

Even as the swiftness of lightning ye have passed by the Beloved One, and have set your hearts on satanic fancies. Ye bow the knee before your vain imagining, and call it truth. Ye turn your eyes towards the thorn, and name it a flower. Not a pure breath have ye breathed, nor hath the breeze of detachment been wafted from the meadows of your hearts. Ye have cast to the winds the loving counsels of the Beloved and have effaced them utterly from the tablet of your hearts, and even as the beasts of the field, ye move and have your being within the pastures of desire and passion.

The process of detaching ourselves from our love for the attractions of this world is, however, a painful one. It is for this reason that Bahá'u'lláh says that if our hearts are attracted by love for the spiritual world then our companion in the course of our spiritual journey is pain. And yet this pain, because its result is joy and contentment, should be welcomed.

Love setteth a world aflame at every turn, and he wasteth every land where he carrieth his banner . . . He hath bound a myriad victims in his fetters, wounded a myriad wise men with his arrow. Know that every redness in the world is from his anger, and every paleness in men's cheeks is from his poison. He yieldeth no remedy but death, he walketh not save in the valley of the shadow; yet sweeter than honey is his venom on the lover's lips, and fairer his destruction in the seeker's eyes than a hundred thousand lives.

This pain, Bahá'u'lláh says, is caused by the burning away of the veils of illusion that have kept us bound to this world and away from the spiritual world. It is through this burning that the spirit is purified and a love arises for the spiritual world. Once these veils have been removed, then we see the world with different eyes; we discern a new meaning in the events of our lives and in everything around us.

His inner eyes will open and he will privily converse with his Beloved; he will set ajar the gate of truth and piety, and shut the doors of vain imaginings. He . . . seeth war as peace, and findeth in death the secrets of everlasting life . . . He beholdeth justice in injustice, and in justice, grace. In ignorance he findeth many a knowledge hidden, and in knowledge a myriad wisdoms manifest. He breaketh the cage of the body and the passions, and consorteth with the people of the immortal realm . . . And if he meeteth with injustice he shall have patience, and if he cometh upon wrath he shall manifest love.

Excerpt from A Short Introduction to The Bahá'í Faith by Moojan Momen.

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