We all want to be happy! Many of us don’t know how; or more importantly, that it requires effort and the right kind of attitudes on our part.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá wants us to be hopeful, happy and rejoiced, which makes happiness a spiritual standard we’re striving to achieve.
Be thou hopeful and be thou happy and rejoiced. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 545)
I think the reason for this is so the world can see our belief in Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings will be reflected in our faces.
Believers, he added, must show their belief in their daily lives, so that the world might see the light shining in their faces . (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 124-125)
In New York ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:
May everyone point to you and ask “Why are these people so happy?” I want you to be happy … to laugh, smile and rejoice in order that others may be made happy by you. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 130)
Happiness has a practical purpose as well – it keeps our health, while depression of spirit begets diseases:
To Mrs Smith, a new Bahá’í, who belonged to a distinguished Philadelphia family and who was suffering with a headache, the Master said, ‘You must be happy always. You must be counted among the people of joy and happiness and must be adorned with divine morals. In a large measure happiness keeps our health while depression of spirit begets diseases. The substance of eternal happiness is spirituality and divine morality, which has no sorrow to follow it.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 129)
Joy is the best cure for illness. It’s better than a hundred thousand medicines.
Joy is the best cure for your illness. Joy is better than a hundred thousand medicines for a sick person. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 417)
Happiness vitalizes our strength, makes our intellects keener and our understanding less clouded. We’re better able to cope with the world and find our sphere of usefulness.:
Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 109)
Also, happiness helps others know they can trust and depend on us in all of our business and personal dealings:
Let the Light of Truth and Honesty shine from them, so that all who behold them may know that their word in business or pleasure will be a word to trust and depend upon. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 124-125)
We can’t know the spiritual life unless we are happy. Here’s how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá taught Mrs C about living in the spiritual life:
A ‘Mrs C’ was an early believer who went to ‘Akká. She belonged to a wealthy and fashionable group of people in New York. Her life had been conventional and rather unsatisfying. She had been a sincere Christian, but somehow had not gained much comfort from her religion. She had become somewhat melancholy. While travelling abroad, she had learned about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. She eagerly grasped His message and headed to the prison-city. Having arrived, she was fascinated by everything, most especially by the Master.
She noticed that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá always greeted her with ‘Be happy!’ The other members of the party were not addressed in the same way by Him. This troubled her. Finally she asked someone to ask the Master why He addressed her in this way. With ‘His peculiarly illuminating smile‘, He replied, ‘I tell you to be happy because we can not know the spiritual life unless we are happy!’
‘Then Mrs C’s dismay was complete, and her diffidence vanished with the fullness of her despair. ‘”But tell me, what is the spiritual life?” she cried, “I have heard ever since I was born about the spiritual life, and no one could ever explain to me what it is!”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá looked at His questioner again with that wonderful smile of His, and said gently: “Characterize thyself with the characteristics of God, and thou shalt know the spiritual life!”’ – few words, but they were sufficient.
The characteristics of God? They must be such attributes as love and beauty, justice and generosity. ‘All day long her mind was flooded with the divine puzzle, and all day long she was happy. She did not give a thought to her duties, and yet when she arrived at the moment of her evening’s reckoning, she could not remember that she had left them undone.
‘At last she began to understand. If she was absorbed in Heavenly ideals, they would translate themselves into deeds necessarily, and her days and nights would be full of light. From that moment she never quite forgot the divine admonition that had been granted her: “Characterize thyself with the characteristics of God!” ‘And she learned to know the spiritual life.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 133)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us how he survived forty years of imprisonment, where, without happiness, he couldn’t have lived through those years:
I myself was in prison forty years—one year alone would have been impossible to bear —nobody survived that imprisonment more than a year! But, thank God, during all those forty years I was supremely happy! Every day, on waking, it was like hearing good tidings, and every night infinite joy was mine. Spirituality was my comfort, and turning to God was my greatest joy. If this had not been so, do you think it possible that I could have lived through those forty years in prison? (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 111-112)
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