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What are we and what is our purpose?

What is the reason that we are upon the earth? What is the purpose of our lives here? Such questions have been the theme of the meditations and speculations of many philosophers and religious leaders down the ages. To understand the Bahá'í view on such questions, however, it is necessary to examine first the Bahá'í teachings on the true nature of a human being.

The Bahá'í scriptures state that the human being is spiritually a different order of being from the animal and all other beings. Bahá'u'lláh says that, whereas everything in creation is capable of reflecting some of the divine attributes, human beings alone have the capacity to reflect them all:

Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of man, however, He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone of all created things man hath been singled out for so great a favour, so enduring a bounty.

Our purpose in life, therefore, is to develop this potential and show these divine attributes in our actions. During our lives here on earth, we must try to acquire as many of these divine attributes as possible and to perfect them. Human beings have two sides to their nature, a lower aspect which is concerned with the material or animal side of our life, and a higher aspect which is the spiritual side. It is this second higher aspect that makes us truly human. `Abdu'l-Bahá says that we must constantly struggle to ensure that our higher side overcomes our animal side.

Then if the divine power in man, which is his essential perfection, overcomes the satanic power, which is absolute imperfection, he becomes the most excellent among the creatures; but if the satanic power overcomes the divine power, he becomes the lowest of the creatures.

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

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