The Bahá’í way of life

Bahá'u'lláh taught that each human being is "a mine rich in gems" unknown even to the owner, let alone to others, and inexhaustible in its wealth. The purpose of life is to develop these capacities both for one's own life and for the service of humanity. Life in this world, as Bahá'u'lláh presents it, is like the life of a child in the womb of its mother: the moral, intellectual, and spiritual powers which a human being develops here, with the help of God, will be the "limbs" and "organs" needed for the soul's progress in the worlds beyond this earthly one.

The way of life which Bahá'ís seek to cultivate, therefore, is one that encourages personal development. Daily prayer and meditation free the soul from conditioned patterns and open it to new possibilities. Joining in projects with peoples of diverse backgrounds breaks down traditional prejudices. The use of alcohol or narcotic drugs is avoided, except when prescribed for medical reasons, because these substances eventually deaden the mind. The latter is also true of the habit of backbiting, which weakens trust between people and undermines the spirit of unity upon which human progress depends. Bahá'u'lláh's writings attach great importance to the institution of the family as the foundation of human society. The sanctity of marriage, recognition of the equality of the husband and wife, and the use of consultation are especially emphasized.

For the individual, the day-to-day practice of the Bahá'í Faith gradually becomes an entirely new way of life. Yet, in contrast to the image of a religious lifestyle that is cloistered or ignorant of worldly concerns, the way of life for Bahá'ís and their families is one which is at once and the same time both deeply spiritual and eminently practical. 

For while Bahá'ís are encouraged - indeed, it is considered a religious obligation - to pray and meditate every day, they are also expected to be wholly engaged with the world at large. In particular, Bahá'u'lláh asks that Bahá'ís view service to humanity as among their highest priorities. 

In this regard, Bahá'ís outwardly appear to lead a life that is in many respects not much different from their friends and neighbors: they work, raise families, participate in community affairs and enjoy such modern social activities as watching movies or television, attending or competing in athletic games, and taking part in festivals and other general cultural events. 

Whether one is born into a Bahá'í family or a new declarant, the spiritual growth that one strives for as a Bahá'í becomes a life-long process. Whether in terms of spiritual practice, moral behavior, social activism or community participation, Bahá'ís seek to continually improve themselves and the world around them. The Inner Life 

Like the Messengers of God that have come before Him, Bahá'u'lláh explained that prayer is among the most important ways to cultivate spiritual growth and development. Bahá'u'lláh wrote thousands of prayers. There are prayers for general use, for healing, for spiritual growth, for tests and trials, for marriage, for community life, for children and for humanity itself. 

Bahá'u'lláh also said that although the supplicant may at first remain unaware of the effect of prayer, the grace of God "must needs sooner or later exercise its influence upon his soul." 

Other spiritual obligations include meditation and fasting. Bahá'u'lláh asked that His followers spend some time each day reading the Word of God and reflecting on its meaning. Bahá'ís understand that the writings of Bahá'u'lláh are the Word of God for this age, and that such reading and meditation has a transforming effect on the soul. 

Bahá'u'lláh did not, however, specify a particular format for meditation. Instead, each individual is free to choose his or her own form of meditation. For some Bahá'ís it may be enough to spend a few minutes contemplating the meaning of a passage in the Bahá'í writings each day. Others may incorporate more rigorous forms into their daily routine. One important practice, however, is to reflect on the day's events each evening, to consider the value and worth of one's deeds.

The obligation to fast occurs yearly, a practice which is common among virtually all of the world's religions. For Bahá'ís the Fast occurs every March, for nineteen days from the 2nd to the 20th. During this period, Bahá'ís abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset, about 12 hours each day. It is considered to be a time for deep reflection and spiritual renewal. However, for those who are ill, pregnant and/or nursing, traveling, or over 70 years old, the Fast is not obligatory. 

In all of the Faith's spiritual practices, there are essentially no rituals. The only time Bahá'ís are obligated to pray in a congregational manner, for example, is in praying for the dead. Nor is there a priesthood or a clergy. The individual is, accordingly, responsible for his or her own spiritual growth. All forms of superstition are eschewed, and people are not reliant on rituals or clergy for their spiritual progress. 

The Outer World

Beyond the essentials of prayer, meditation and fasting, Bahá'ís view good deeds and service to humanity as the most important elements of spiritual training and progress. 

The principles which guide Bahá'ís in their interactions with the outside world are the same high moral values that have been taught in all of the world's major religions: love, compassion, courtesy, charity, faithfulness, honesty, trustworthiness, and humility. 

In the concept of service, all of these values come together. Whether in terms of family relationships, where the goal is to serve one's spouse, children and parents, or in terms of the community at large, where one is to promote the well-being of others either through their profession, trade, business or volunteer community projects, Bahá'ís understand that it is through service to others that we can best develop our own selves - and reach the highest levels of human happiness.