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Personal Transformation

“And the honor and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good.”

— ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

The Bahá’í teachings describe the human being as intrinsically noble, with a soul that has the capacity to seek knowledge, understanding, and a mystical connection with its Creator. Our human purpose is to develop spiritually by living life in service to others.

Every individual has the responsibility to independently seek out the truth. Bahá’u’lláh emphasized that we should acquire knowledge with our “own eyes and not through the eyes of others.” We all have the ability to distinguish truth from falsehood.

In this process, however, we also depend upon the help of others. Bahá’u’lláh taught that education must be accessible to all, irrespective of one’s social status or background. Knowledge plays a central role in human life, by elevating the human condition and stimulating the progress of society. We learn from two systems of knowledge — science and religion — which together describe different aspects of a single reality.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá said that the soul “can discover the realities of things, comprehend the peculiarities of beings, and penetrate the mysteries of existence. All sciences, knowledge, arts, wonders, institutions, discoveries and enterprises come from the exercised intelligence of the rational soul.” The powers of the soul are strengthened through prayer, meditation, and acts of selfless service to others.

Prayer and meditation nourish our souls and help us to be more attentive to the presence of God in our lives. The Bahá’í writings include many prayers that invite contemplation on essential truths and draw us into a closer relationship with God. These prayers also call us to moments of silence and reflection, when we turn our hearts towards the Creator. Prayer is also shared in collective worship, where devotions strengthen the bonds of unity and help the individual to see their life as part of a larger whole.

To live a spiritual life, however, one must do more than pray. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote, “By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds.” Our human purpose is only fulfilled when we act on our beliefs through active participation in the lives of those around us. For instance, to be generous, we must be giving with our time and resources. If one believes in justice, it is not enough to say that one wants more justice — one has to actually, patiently work against injustice. The process of personal transformation, therefore, is intimately connected with the individual’s efforts to contribute to the betterment of the world — in their family, community, and profession.

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