Baha'Is: The Soul Makes The Key Choice
Should the unborn babe, unaware of its future, have a choice at this point in its evolution, it might question these unnecessary encumbrances that restrict its comfort. But it cannot. These physical attributes are being developed for its emergence into the material world.
When, suddenly, the miracle of birth occurs, that baby is thrust into another realm of existence where the faculties of sight and hearing, taste and motion are not only necessary, but can bring much joy and pleasure.
For Baha'is the physical birth of a child into the material world is compared with a spiritual birth, or rebirth, of the soul upon the death of the physical body. In this realm, the soul is freed of the restrictions of the body.
"For just as the effects and the fruitage of the uterine life are not to be found in that dark and narrow place, and only when the child is transferred to this wide earth do the benefits and uses of growth and development in that previous world become revealed," wrote 'Abdu'l-Baha.
Baha'is believe that reward and punishment, heaven and hell, requital and retribution for actions done in this present life will stand revealed in that other world beyond. Just as if human life in the womb were limited to that uterine world, existence there would be nonsensical, irrelevant so too if the life of this world, the deeds done here and their fruit, did not come forth in the world beyond.
"O son of the Supreme!
"I have made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore dost thou grieve? I made the light to shed on thee its splendor. Why dost thou veil thyself therefrom?"
These words of Baha'u'llah, Prophet-founder of the Baha'i Faith, are meant to assist humanity while on this earthly plane of existence in understanding the transition from the material world into the spiritual, to see it as a great event, not a rebirth, but a birth into a different realm.
For Baha'is, "re-birth" is when the human rational soul becomes aware of its Creator and strives to maintain a material life grounded in spiritual values. The human soul is free on this plane of existence to turn toward the Creator or to follow a materialistic path. Unlike the unborn babe, the soul in this realm can determine the direction of its future, or afterlife.
How can we acquire these spiritual qualities? Through the knowledge and love of God. Through faith and philanthropic deeds.
Through self-sacrifice, severance from this world, through sanctity and holiness.
Baha'is believe that the soul, once brought into existence, continues to develop.
In the material world it can move closer or more distant from God.
Should the individual drift from God, the soul will be deprived of eternal life. If the soul chooses to live a life of sanctity and holiness it will become the cause of love among mankind and attain a "second" birth and everlasting existence.
There is no sense of heaven or hell after death, rather there is closeness or distance from God, as the loneliness of being separated from a loved one or the happiness of reunion. But progress in that realm is possible only through the mercy and justice of God. Free will exists only in the material world. After death souls can progress closer to God. Prayers for the departed can assist all souls.
But while the soul continues into another realm, this is not a reincarnation. Once brought into existence the soul continues to develop through this material world and eternally through all the worlds of God.
It is, however, only in this earthly life that the soul is empowered to determine its future.
Pat Kinney is a member of the Baha'i Faith community of North Jersey.
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