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Seeking After the Best Spiritual Gifts

The Baha’i teachings say that divine knowledge can emanate from God to our soul, and then, if we are open to it, can become manifest in us and through us to the world.

This all happens through the rational faculty of the soul, our “true mind” which shines on and animates our material body. From one perspective this feels like a light cast into our heart, a burning in our bosom, which enlightens our understanding of the holy writings of the Baha’i and all other world Faiths, brings things like the signs of God to our attention, and prompts and guides us in our lives in all sorts of ways.

This sounds like a “gift of the spirit!” In Christianity, in the 12th chapter of First Corinthians, there is a wonderful discussion about the various gifts of the spirit available to humanity:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. –  1 Corinthians 12:1-11.

Baha’is understand that part of our unique station as members of the human race is the capacity to reflect all the Names and Attributes of God. Baha’u’llah said:

Having created the world and all that liveth and moveth therein, He, through the direct operation of His unconstrained and sovereign Will, chose to confer upon man the unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him—a capacity that must needs be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary purpose underlying the whole of creation …. Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of man, however, He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone of all created things man hath been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 65.

You might imagine some of the names and attributes of God, such as the Knower, the Seeing, and the Guide being reflected in the mirror of our soul and shining down to us in the physical world through our rational faculties. The process is the same for other names and attributes of God such as the Merciful, the Powerful, the Fashioner, the Sustainer, the Opener or Victory Giver, the Exalter, the Just, the Gentle or Kind, the Nourisher, the Generous, the Wise, the Steadfast, the Beneficent, the Gatherer or Unifier, the Witness, the Healer, and infinite others. These names are attributes—inherent gifts in the Creator and aspirational gifts for the creation.

Getting in touch with this spiritual power these gifts represent can be very exciting. However, in Christianity and Hinduism and Buddhism, and in all of the great religions, we are counseled not to become obsessed and overly attached to the various spiritual gifts themselves.

In the next chapter of FirstCorinthians, for example, Paul counsels us:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. – 1 Corinthians 13:1-8.

Similar teachings exist in Hinduism and Buddhism, where seeking after spiritual power can be a distraction from one’s true purpose of self-realization, and from compassion for and service to others.

The Buddha had this to say, in his Akankheyya-Sutta:

If a Bhikkhu [devoted Buddhist monk] should desire, Brethren, to hear with clear and heavenly ear, surpassing that of men, sounds both human and celestial, whether far or near, let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone! – Verse 15.

As the Buddha and the Baha’i teachings counsel us, we need to learn to look through the impermanent things of this world and perceive the eternal:

Strive thou day and night to serve the Cause of Him Who is the Eternal Truth, and be thou detached from all else but Him. By Myself! Whatever thou seest in this Day shall perish. Supremely lofty will be thy station, if thou remainest steadfast in the Cause of thy Lord. – Baha’u’llahGleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 245.

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