11. Striving


  • Activities

 

1.List what you do to strive every day to bring your behavior more into accordance with the high standards that are set forth in the Teachings?

 

2. Why do you do this?

 

3. What ranks among the highest and most laudable of all acts? List at least five things.

 

4. From what you have read, write a short statement on why to strive every day to bring your behavior more into accordance with the high standards that are set forth in the Teachings?

 

5. Set some goals to make sure you incorporate the practice of striving. Set long and short-term goals. The more defined, measurable, inspiring and motivating they are, the more likely you are to achieve them. They should be challenging yet achievable. You may want to reward yourself to keep motivated.

 

6. Chose one virtue, standard, teaching or goal to focus on for a designated time, such as an hour, day or week. Pray, meditate and read about it. Practice it so that you and others can see a change in your behavior. Evaluate you progress daily. As you grow, add new goals from your daily readings.

 

7. Read William S. Hatcher’s The Concept of Spirituality , II. The Process of Spiritual Growth, 3. The Dynamics of the Spiritual Growth Process (947-51), to get more and deeper background information for this and the next module.

 

8. Read and meditate on selections from the Writings of Baha’u’llah on “The Civilizing of Human Character” at http://info.Bahá’í.org/article-1-3-2-21.html

 

  • Living a Spiritual Life: 11. Striving rich text format

Rodney H. Clarken

Copyright © 2011

Module Objective

To appreciate and practice striving every day to bring our behavior more into accordance with the high standards that are set forth in the Bahá’í Teachings.

To develop the disposition of striving.

Note: See Course Introduction module for background information.

What is the essential requisite for spiritual growth?

4. Striving every day to bring our behavior more into accordance with the high standards that are set forth in the Teachings.

What is the definition of strive?

1. To exert much effort or energy; endeavor.

Synonyms: To exert one’s mental or physical powers, usually under difficulty and to the point of exhaustion: drive, fag, labor, moil, strain1, sweat, toil, travail, tug, work.
Assignment

List what you do to strive every day to bring your behavior more into accordance with the high standards that are set forth in the Teachings?

Why do you do this?

Assignment follow-up

There are many potential answers to this question. See how many you can find in this module that are meaningful to you.

One answer to why is that striving is an essential requisite for spiritual growth: it will increase our love for, knowledge of  and nearness to God. You will find more in this module.

For what are we to strive?

Say, strive ye to attain that which ye have been promised in the Books of God, and walk not in the way of the ignorant. My body hath endured imprisonment that ye may be released from the bondage of self. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 11)

Strive, that ye may truly recognize and know Him, and observe befittingly His precepts. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 5)

Why strive?

There can be no doubt whatever that, in consequence of the efforts which every man may consciously exert and as a result of the exertion of his own spiritual faculties, this mirror [of His beauty] can be so cleansed from the dross of earthly defilements and purged from satanic fancies as to be able to draw nigh unto the meads of eternal holiness and attain the courts of everlasting fellowship. . .  (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, sec. CXXIV, p. 262)

How is our potentiality manifested?

Know thou that all men have been created in the nature made by God, the Guardian, the Self-Subsisting. Unto each one hath been prescribed a pre-ordained measure, as decreed in God’s mighty and guarded Tablets. All that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition. Your own acts testify this truth . . . (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, sec. LXXVII, p. 149)

On what depends progress?

Success or failure, gain or loss, must, therefore, depend upon man’s own exertions. The more he striveth, the greater will be his progress. (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 81-2)

For what does Baha’u’llah say we should strive?

The following slides will give two short passages from Baha’u’llah to help us know for what, how and why to strive. His Writings  and the Bahá’í Teachings are filled with guidance to help us on the path to true spirituality and happiness.

O peoples of the world!

Forsake all evil, hold fast that which is good. Strive to be shining examples unto all mankind, and true reminders of the virtues of God amidst men. He that riseth to serve My Cause should manifest My wisdom, and bend every effort to banish ignorance from the earth. Be united in counsel, be one in thought.

Let each morn be better than its eve and each morrow richer

than its yesterday. Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches. Take heed that your words be purged from idle fancies and worldly desires and your deeds be cleansed from craftiness and suspicion. Dissipate not the wealth of your precious lives in the pursuit of evil and corrupt affection,

nor let your endeavors be spent

in promoting your personal interest. Be generous in your days of plenty, and be patient in the hour of loss. Adversity is followed by success and rejoicings follow woe. Guard against idleness and sloth, and cling unto that which profiteth mankind, whether young or old, whether high or low. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 137)

The virtues and attributes pertaining unto God

are all evident and manifest, and have been mentioned and described in all the heavenly Books. Among them are trustworthiness, truthfulness, purity of heart while communing with God, forbearance, resignation to whatever the Almighty hath decreed,

contentment with the things His Will hath provided,

patience, nay, thankfulness in the midst of tribulation, and complete reliance, in all circumstances, upon Him. These rank, according to the estimate of God, among the highest and most laudable of all acts. All other acts are, and will ever remain secondary and subordinate unto them. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 290)

Pause and reflect

It is recommended that you memorize one or both of the above quotes. The guidance and virtues mentioned in them are important for you to be able to remember and use on a daily basis.

What ranks among the highest and most laudable of all acts?

List at least five

Check your answers by referring to the slides.

He is a true Bahá’í who strives by day and by night

to progress and advance along the path of human endeavor, whose most cherished desire is so to live and act as to enrich and illuminate the world, whose source of inspiration is the essence of divine virtue, whose aim in life is so to conduct himself as to be the cause of infinite progress. Only when he attains unto such perfect gifts can it be said of him that he is a true Bahá’í. (Abdul-Baha in The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 346)

How can failures help us?

We must always look ahead and seek to accomplish in the future what we may have failed to do in the past. Failures, tests, and trials, if we use them correctly, can become the means of purifying our spirits, strengthening our characters, and enable us to rise to greater heights of service. (on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 12/14/41)

Upon what should our thoughts be fixed?

Do not busy yourselves in your own concerns; let your thoughts be fixed upon that which will rehabilitate the fortunes of mankind and sanctify the hearts and souls of men. (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 93-94)

What must we overcome?

The individual alone must assess its [his task] character, consult his conscience, prayerfully consider all its aspects, manfully struggle against the natural inertia that weighs him down in his effort to arise, shed, heroically and irrevocably, the trivial and superfluous attachments which hold him back, empty himself of every thought that may tend to obstruct his path…(on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 7/19/56)

Why should we strive to follow God’s laws?

Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty….Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power.(2)  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas,  4, 5, p. 20)

Question?

From what you have read, write a short statement on why to strive every day to bring your behavior more into accordance with the high standards that are set forth in the Teachings?

Why strive? Possible answers

It is an essential requisite for spiritual growth. To increase our love for, knowledge of  and nearness to God.

To achieve greater understanding, meaning, fulfillment, purpose, happiness, joy, power, love, purity, radiance and efficiency of character.

Abiding by spiritual laws and principles, like physical laws, is essential for well-being and happiness.

Why is it difficult?

It is often difficult for us to do things because they are so very different from what we are used to, not because the thing itself is particularly difficult. With you, and indeed most Bahá’í who are now, as adults, accepting this glorious Faith, no doubt some of the ordinances, like fasting and daily prayer, are hard to understand and obey at first. (on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 3/16/49)

Is divine grace sufficient?

No matter how strong the measure of Divine grace, unless supplemented by personal, sustained and intelligent effort it cannot become fully effective and be of any real and abiding advantage. (Shoghi Effendi, 2/27/28)

How will the means be found?

When the will and the desire are strong enough, the means will be found and the way opened . . .(Shoghi Effendi, 2/21/57, Living the Life, 38)

What if we do not see the need?

Bahá’u’lláh would not have given us these things if they would not greatly benefit us, and, like children who are sensible enough to realize their father is wise and does what is good for them, we must accept to obey these ordinances even though at first we may not see any need for them. As we obey them we will gradually come to see in ourselves the benefits they confer. (on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 3/16/49)

Assignment: Goal Setting

Set some goals to make sure you incorporate the practice of striving.

Set long and short-term goals. The more defined, measurable, inspiring and motivating they are, the more likely you are to achieve them. They should be challenging yet achievable. You may want to reward yourself to keep motivated.

Some possible goals?

Turn every stumbling block into a stepping stone–make problems and overcoming tests a means for improving character, spiritual development and happiness.

Avoid backbiting, the worst human quality.

Do not dwell on the faults and failings of others; instead discover and root out our own.

Bring yourself to account each day.

Other goals

One can hardly imagine what a great influence genuine love, truthfulness and purity of motives exert on the souls of men. But these traits cannot be acquired unless every believer makes a daily effort to gain them…. (Shoghi Effendi in The Individual and Teaching,  #32, p. 15)

Additional guidance on achieving your goals

Associate with people who support your goals and are like minded.

Make a daily or hourly effort. Progress little by little, day by day, challenge by challenge, victory by victory. No pain, no gain.

Treat prayer, meditation and reading like food; striving, service and teaching like exercise. They must be balanced.

Assignment: Practice

Chose one virtue, standard, teaching or goal to focus on for a designated time, such as an hour, day or week. Pray, meditate and read about it. Practice it so that you and others can see a change in your behavior. Evaluate you progress daily. As you grow, add new goals from your daily readings.

Assignment: Read

Read William S. Hatcher’s The Concept of Spirituality , II. The Process of Spiritual Growth, 3. The Dynamics of the Spiritual Growth Process (947-51), to get more and deeper background information for this and the next module.

Assignment: Read and meditate

Read and meditate on selections from the Writings of Baha’u’llah on “The Civilizing of Human Character” at http://info.Bahá’í.org/article-1-3-2-21.html

And Morality and Spiritual Growth

You have finished this module and may proceed to the next.

12. Instruct/Teach

 

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