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This Tablet illuminates a very important aspect of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's response to Darwinism, which is His teaching that "struggle for survival," far from being innate to human nature, is really an erroneous notion, or at least a notion characterizing human

Tablet on the Struggle for Survival

by Abdu'l-Bahá

translated by Keven Brown.
edited by Mehdi Wolf.
published in Khitabát, pages 711-3
Hofheim, Germany: Baha'i Verlag, 1984
originally written as "Lawh-i-Tanázu'-i Baqá".
O honored society [for the advancement] of humanity! [1] [2] [3] [4]

All mankind should be grateful on account of your noble purpose and lofty intentions. All should be thankful and well-pleased that you are selflessly engaged in such a high endeavor, which is the cause of universal peace amongst mankind, inasmuch as the peace and tranquility of the entire creation depends upon improving the character of man; and the greatest means for training man to possess praiseworthy characteristics is noble aspirations and the expansion of the mind. Humanity must be invited to partake of this mighty gift. Observe that the primary principle adhered to by every individual of the human species is to attract benefit to himself and to avoid injury. His aim is to secure his own tranquility and happiness. This is his sole desire in life, and he strives to distinguish himself from all others through the ease, wealth, and fame he has obtained. This is the goal of every individual of the human species. But, in truth, this is a base, dangerous, and inferior notion. If man advances a little in his thinking and his aspirations become nobler, he will realize that he should strive to benefit his whole family and to protect it from harm, for he perceives that by bringing comfort and affluence to the whole family, his own felicity and prosperity will increase. Should his thinking expand even more and his aspirations grow in depth, he will realize that he should endeavor to bring blessings to the children of his country and nation and to guard them from injury. Although this aspiration and thought are for his own sake and that of his family, all the children of the nation will benefit therefrom. But this aspiration will become the cause of injury to other nations, for he then exerts the utmost effort to bring all the advantages of the human world to his own nation and the blessings of the earth to his own family, singling them out for the universal felicity of humankind. He imagines that the more other nations and neighboring countries decline, the more his own country and nation will advance, until by this means it surpasses and dominates the other nations in power, wealth, and influence.

However, a divine human being and a heavenly individual is sanctified from these limitations, and the expansion of his mind and the loftiness of his aspirations are in the utmost degree of perfection. The compass of his thinking is so vast that he recognizes in the gain of all mankind the basis of the prosperity of every individual member of his species. He considers the injury of any nation or state to be the same as injury to his own nation and state, indeed, the same as injury to his own family and to his own self. Therefore, he strives with heart and soul as much as possible to bring prosperity and blessings to the entire human race and to protect all nations from harm. He endeavors to promote the exaltation, illumination, and felicity of all peoples, and makes no distinctions among them, for he regards humanity as a single family and considers all nations to be the members of that family. Indeed, he sees the entire human social body as one individual and perceives each one of the nations to be one of the organs of that body. Man must raise his aspiration to this degree so that he may serve the cause of establishing universal virtues and become the cause of the glory of humankind.

At present the state of the world is the opposite of this. All the nations are thinking of how to advance their own interests while working against the best interests of other nations. They desire their own personal advantage while seeking to undermine affairs in other countries. They call this the "struggle for survival" (tanázu'-i baqá), and assert that it is innate to human nature. But this is a grievous error; nay, there is no error greater than this. Gracious God! Even in the animal kingdom cooperation and mutual assistance for survival are observed among some species, especially in the case of danger to the whole group. One day I was beside a small stream and noticed some young grasshoppers which had not yet developed wings seeking to cross to the other side in order to obtain food. To accomplish their goal, these wingless grasshoppers rushed forward into the water and vied with each other to form a bridge across the stream while the remaining grasshoppers crossed over on top of them. The grasshoppers were able to pass from one side of the stream to the other, but those insects which had formed the bridge in the water perished. Reflect how this incident illustrates co-operation for survival, not struggle for survival. Insofar as animals display such noble sentiments, how much more should man, who is the noblest of creatures; and how much more fitting it is in particular that, in view of the divine teachings and heavenly ordinances, man should be obliged to attain this excellence.

In the estimation of God, distinctions of race, divisions of borders, favoring one people over another, and all individual limitations are unworthy and rejected. All the prophets of God were sent down and all the sacred books were revealed for the purpose of assisting man to achieve this heavenly grace and this divine virtue. All the divine teachings can be summarized as this: that these thoughts singling out advantages to one group may be banished from our midst, that human character may be improved, that equality and fellowship may be established amongst all mankind, until every individual is ready to sacrifice himself for the sake of his fellowman. This is the divine foundation. This is the law come down from heaven. Such a firm foundation cannot be impregnated into human consciousness save by one universal and all-pervasive power, for every other power is helpless except for the power of the Holy Spirit. The outpourings of the Holy Spirit are such that they can transform man, imbuing him with all the virtues, bestowing upon him the second birth, baptizing him with the fire of the love of God, which is love for all created things, and quickening him with the water of eternal life, and the Holy Spirit itself.

The philosophers of old had the strongest resolve to improve human morals and strove to the utmost in this regard, but at most they succeeded in refining their own characters, not the virtues of all mankind. Refer to history and you will find that this is clear and evident. But the power of the Holy Spirit brings forth the universal virtues with which man is potentially endowed, illuminates the human world, bestows true exaltation, and trains all people. Thus, the well-wishers of the world must endeavor to attract by this attractive power the confirmations of the Holy Spirit. My hope is that the members of this honored society dedicated to the welfare of humanity, like a mirror, may acquire illumination from the Sun of Reality, and become the cause of training mankind to acquire virtues. I pray that my utmost esteem be acceptable to that eminent organization.


    [1] The text of this Tablet, the Lawh-i-Tanázu'-i Baqá of 'Abdu'l-Bahá', was forwarded to the Tarjuman E-mail listserve by Iskandar Hai on Aug 11, 2000. The Tablet was originally posted on the Bahá'í Studies E-mail listerve ( on Thursday, 10 Aug 2000 by the translator, Keven Brown. The text was captured and formatted by Mehdi Wolf, October 30 2000.

    [2] Editor's note: The title Lawh-i-Tanázu'-i Baqá is a provisional one given by the editor, and taken from the subject matter. However, in an E-mail message to the editor, dated Mon, Oct 30, 2000, the translator writes: "I agree with your naming the other Tablet by 'Abdu'l-Bahá' the Lawh-i-Tanázu'-i Baqá, since this seems to be its main topic. I don't know of any other title for it."

    [3] Translator's Note: "Khitabat was originally published in 3 volumes in Tíhrán, but was reprinted in one volume by Bahá'í-Verlag in 1984. The volume contains a number of Tablets at the end of part 3 in addition to talks. The talks are ones given during 'Abdu'l-Bahá's journeys to the West and include many of the talks currently printed in Paris Talks and Promulgation of Universal Peace." From aforementioned E-mail message to the editor, dated Monday, October 30, 2000.

    [4] In the same E-mail, the translator writes:

    "There was no date or circumstances given in Khitabat (Talks of 'Abdu'l-Bahá') on this Tablet, nor whom the honored society might be. I suspect it might be the Hague, though there were other organizations that might fit."
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