How to be, and how not to be—no, this isn’t a take-off on Hamlet’s soliloquy from Shakespeare.

The extensive writings of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the newest world religion, provide humanity with gems of spiritual advice, admonition and guidance. If we’re open to understanding them, these wise counsels can teach us how to be and how not to be. They can help guide us through life, providing a spiritual compass that always points toward love, kindness and compassion.

So I made a list.

For the past several years, I’ve combed through Baha’u’llah’s writings and compiled some of his sage advice. These quoted words of Baha’u’llah, singled out as aphorisms, were originally addressed to specific individuals or groups of people, in different strata of various societies, in a wide variety of circumstances. Nonetheless, they have a universal and timeless applicability.

Recently, I found the following extract to add to the collection:

… be busied in whatever may be conducive to the betterment of the world and the education of its peoples. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 270.

So I began a search through the quotes I had already compiled at that point—there are currently 486 of them—to make sure I hadn’t already included this one. To do this, I looked for the word “be” at the beginning of every quote in the collection.

While doing so, I noticed something interesting: quite a few of the quotes began with the word “be.” Of course, that’s what a prophet of God does, I realized: teach us how to be in the world.

The thought came, “Why not make these powerful quotes from Baha’u’llah, which begin with either ‘be’ or ‘be not,’ the heart of a Baha’ essay?” Well, this is that essay, and here they are:

  • Be forbearing one with another and set not your affections on things below.
  • Be not the cause of grief, much less of discord and strife.
  • Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor …
  • Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy …
  • Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech.
  • Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful …
  • Be generous in your days of plenty, and be patient in the hour of loss.
  • Be not troubled in poverty nor confident in riches …
  • Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in …
  • Be ye guided by wisdom in all your doings, and cleave ye tenaciously unto it.
  • Be not careless of the virtues with which ye have been endowed …
  • … be content with little, and be freed from all inordinate desire.
  • Be thou patient, though thy heart be consumed in its separation from God…
  • Be united in counsel, be one in thought.
  • … be not of those who rove distractedly in the wilderness of their desires.
  • … be not numbered with the wayward.
  • Be most loving one to another.
  • Be bounteous to others as God hath been bounteous to thee…
  • … be at peace with one another; take heed lest ye do aught that may provoke intransigence amongst you.
  • Be generous unto them whom ye find in manifest poverty.
  • Be patient, for thy Lord is patient.
  • … be not of them that wander distraught in the wilderness of error.
  • … be thou of them who are sharp-sighted, who scan heedfully, who are steadfast in their purpose…
  • Be vigilant, that ye may not do injustice to anyone, to the extent of a grain of mustard seed.
  • … be not of them that are bereft of understanding. The appointed Hour hath struck…
  • … be of them whose minds are firmly fixed and grounded in God.
  • Be ye God’s manifestations of trustworthiness in every land.
  • Be fair to yourselves and to others, that the evidences of justice may be revealed…
  • … be busied in whatever may be conducive to the betterment of the world and the education of its peoples.  

Normally, I would include the sources for all these individual quotes from Baha’u’llah. But in this essay I wanted to simply convey them so that you could feel their collective impact without an accompanying citation for each one—which in these instances, might often be as long as the quotation! (If you’d like to know the sources, just let me know in the comment box below, and I’ll email them to you.)

Later this year, on October 22nd, Baha’is and their friends all around the world will celebrate the 200-year bicentennial anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s birth in 1817. As we approach that celebration, it is fascinating to consider what Baha’u’llah urged us to be. His words continue to become ever more timely and meaningful.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.


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