What does a “devotional attitude” mean and what kind of implications does it have in ones practical day-to-day life? What aspects does “devotional attitude” touch upon? Devotional has a facet of meanings such as love and loyalty for a person or a cause, worship or observance and prayer. It seems that all these meanings somehow focus on a focal point, a centre of attention, which is revered and obeyed. Attitude, on the other hand, means “settled way of thinking or feeling about something”. Combining these two definitions, it seems that devotional attitude in the context of a Bahá’í life, would imply incorporating love, loyalty, worship and observance as the way or the mode of operation in our patterns of thinking and feelings about Bahaullah as expressed in our behaviour as we translate that which has been written into reality. If we entertain such a concept of what a devotional attitude could mean, what quotes would be helpful in better understanding and hopefully increasing a devotional attitude in our lives. Perhaps the following brief compilation could inspire some reflection and higher understanding of the matter.

The quotes below touch upon the necessary requirement of detachment, the need for reflection on what the Holy Writings, the regularity that is required, about being conscious or “present” when we recite the Holy Writings and finally deeds. (Download as pdf A Devotional Attitude – Compilation)  

 

Detachment – It seems as if detachment is a necessary requirement.

O SON OF GLORY! Be swift in the path of holiness, and enter the heaven of communion with Me. Cleanse thy heart with the burnish of the spirit, and hasten to the court of the Most High. (The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh, Persian no. 8)

Say: Deliver your souls, O people, from the bondage of self, and purify them from all attachment to anything besides Me. Remembrance of Me cleanseth all things from defilement, could ye but perceive it. Say: Were all created things to be entirely divested of the veil of worldly vanity and desire, the Hand of God would in this Day clothe them, one and all, with the robe “He doeth whatsoever He willeth in the kingdom of creation ” that thereby the sign of His sovereignty might be manifested in all things. Exalted then be He, the Sovereign Lord of all, the Almighty, the Supreme Protector, the All-Glorious, the Most Powerful. (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, sec. 136)

Worship thou God in such wise that if thy worship lead thee to the fire, no alteration in thine adoration would be produced, and so likewise if thy recompense should be paradise. Thus and thus alone should be the worship which befitteth the one True God. Shouldst thou worship Him because of fear, this would be unseemly in the sanctified Court of His presence, and could not be regarded as an act by thee dedicated to the Oneness of His Being. Or if thy gaze should be on paradise, and thou shouldst worship Him while cherishing such a hope, thou wouldst make God’s creation a partner with Him, notwithstanding the fact that paradise is desired by men. Fire and paradise both bow down and prostrate themselves before God. That which is worthy of His Essence is to worship Him for His sake, without fear of fire, or hope of paradise. Although when true worship is offered, the worshipper is delivered from the fire, and entereth the paradise of God’s good-pleasure, yet such should not be the motive of his act. However, God’s favour and grace ever flow in accordance with the exigencies of His inscrutable wisdom. The most acceptable prayer is the one offered with the utmost spirituality and radiance; its prolongation hath not been and is not beloved by God. The more detached and the purer the prayer, the more acceptable is it in the presence of God. (Selections from the Writings of the Bab pp. 77-78)

Therefore, know thou that the True One possesseth invisible worlds which human meditation is unable to comprehend and the intellect of man hath no power to imagine. When thou wilt purify and clarify thy spiritual nostrils from every worldly moisture, then thou wilt inhale the holy fragrances diffusing from the merciful gardens of these worlds. (Bahá’í World Faith: Selected Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 393)

We must strive to attain to that condition by being separated from all things and from the people of the world and by turning to God alone. It will take some effort on the part of man to attain to that condition, but he must work for it, strive for it. We can attain to it by thinking and caring less for material things and more for the spiritual. The further we go from the one, the nearer we are to the other. The choice is ours. Our spiritual perception, our inward sight must be opened, so that we can see the signs and traces of God’s spirit in everything. Everything can reflect to us the light of the Spirit. (Report of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s words as quoted in Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 89)

In the highest prayer, men pray only for the love of God, not because they fear Him or hell, or hope for bounty or heaven…. When a man falls in love with a human being, it is impossible for him to keep from mentioning the name of his beloved. How much more difficult is it to keep from mentioning the Name of God when one has come to love Him…. The spiritual man finds no delight in anything save in commemoration of God. (Report of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s words as quoted in Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 95)  

 

Reflection – It seems that detachment, although a prerequisite, is not enough. Reading the Holy Writings and Prayers that is backed up with reflection, pondering, meditation and reading is also important aspects of a devotional attitude.

Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths. Take heed that ye do not vacillate in your determination to embrace the truth of this Cause–a Cause through which the potentialities of the might of God have been revealed, and His sovereignty established. With faces beaming with joy, hasten ye unto Him. This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future. Let him that seeketh, attain it; and as to him that hath refused to seek it -verily, God is Self-Sufficient, above any need of His creatures. (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, par. 182)

Do thou meditate on that which We have revealed unto thee, that thou mayest discover the purpose of God, thy Lord, and the Lord of all worlds. In these words the mysteries of Divine Wisdom have been treasured.. (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, sec. 79)

Were any man to ponder in his heart that which the Pen of the Most High hath revealed and to taste of its sweetness, he would, of a certainty, find himself emptied and delivered from his own desires, and utterly subservient to the Will of the Almighty. Happy is the man that hath attained so high a station, and hath not deprived himself of so bountiful a grace. (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, sec. 163)

Chant the Words of God and, pondering over their meaning, transform them into actions! I ask God to cause thee to attain a high station in the Kingdom of Life forever and ever. (Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbas, vol. I p. 85)

Bahá’u’lláh says there is a sign (from God) in every phenomenon: the sign of the intellect is contemplation and the sign of contemplation is silence, because it is impossible for a man to do two things at one time –he cannot both speak and meditate. It is an axiomatic fact that while you meditate you are speaking with your own spirit. In that state of mind you put certain questions to your spirit and the spirit answers: the light breaks forth and the reality is revealed. You cannot apply the name ‘man’ to any being void of this faculty of meditation; without it he would be a mere animal, lower than the beasts. Through the faculty of meditation man attains to eternal life; through it he receives the breath of the Holy Spirit–the bestowal of the Spirit is given in reflection and meditation. The spirit of man is itself informed and strengthened during meditation; through it affairs of which man knew nothing are unfolded before his view. Through it he receives Divine inspiration, through it he receives heavenly food. Meditation is the key for opening the doors of mysteries. In that state man abstracts himself: in that state man withdraws himself from all outside objects; in that subjective mood he is immersed in the ocean of spiritual life and can unfold the secrets of things-in-themselves. To illustrate this, think of man as endowed with two kinds of sight; when the power of insight is being used the outward power of vision does not see. This faculty of meditation frees man from the animal nature, discerns the reality of things, puts man in touch with God. This faculty brings forth from the invisible plane the sciences and arts. Through the meditative faculty inventions are made possible, colossal undertakings are carried out; through it governments can run smoothly. Through this faculty man enters into the very Kingdom of God. Nevertheless some thoughts are useless to man; they are like waves moving in the sea without result. But if the faculty of meditation is bathed in the inner light and characterized with divine attributes, the results will be confirmed. The meditative faculty is akin to the mirror; if you put it before earthly objects it will reflect them. Therefore if the spirit of man is contemplating earthly subjects he will be informed of these. But if you turn the mirror of your spirits heavenwards, t e heavenly constellations and the rays of the Sun of Reality will be reflected in your hearts, and the virtues of the Kingdom will be obtained. Therefore let us keep this faculty rightly directed–turning it to the heavenly Sun and not to earthly objects–so that we may discover the secrets of the Kingdom, and comprehend the allegories of the Bible and the mysteries of the spirit. May we indeed become mirrors reflecting the heavenly realities, and may we become so pure as to reflect the stars of heaven. (Paris Talks, pp. 174-76)  

 

Regularity – A devotional attitude as a daily habit does not come by sporadic efforts but rather from daily effort.

Recite ye the verses of God every morning and evening. Whoso reciteth them not hath truly failed to fulfil his pledge to the Covenant of God and His Testament, and whoso in this day turneth away therefrom hath indeed turned away from God since time immemorial. Fear ye God, O concourse of My servants! (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, par. 149) 

Occupy thyself in remembrance of the Beauty of Him Who is the Unconstrained at early morn, and seek communion with Him at the hour of dawn. O ‘Ali! Remembrance of Me is a healing medicine to the souls and a light to the hearts of men. (Bahá’u’lláh quoted in the Compilation Prayer, Meditation and the Devotional Attitude)

Remembrance of God is like the rain and dew which bestow freshness and grace on flowers and hyacinths, revive them and cause them to acquire fragrance, redolence and renewed charm. “And thou hast seen the earth dried up and barren: but when We send down the rain upon it, it stirreth and swelleth, and groweth every kind of luxuriant herb. Strive thou, then, to praise and glorify God by night and by day, that thou mayest attain infinite freshness and beauty. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá quoted in the Compilation Prayer, Meditation and the Devotional Attitude)

 

Humility – It seems to very important as part of a devotional attitude, to read, study and reflect on the Holy Writings and pray with the utmost humility and supplication.

It behoveth the servant to pray to and seek assistance from God, and to supplicate and implore His aid. Such becometh the rank of servitude, and the Lord will decree whatsoever He desireth, in accordance with His consummate wisdom. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá quoted in the Compilation Prayer, Meditation and the Devotional Attitude)

All that the sages and mystics have said or written have never exceeded, nor can they ever hope to exceed, the limitations to which man’s finite mind hath been strictly subjected. To whatever heights the mind of the most exalted of men may soar, however great the depths which the detached and understanding heart can penetrate, such mind and heart can never transcend that which is the creature of their own conceptions and the product of their own thoughts. The meditations of the profoundest thinker, the devotions of the holiest of saints, the highest expressions of praise from either human pen or tongue, are but a reflection of that which hath been created within themselves, through the revelation of the Lord, their God. Whoever pondereth this truth in his heart will readily admit that there are certain limits which no human being can possibly transgress. Every attempt which, from the beginning that hath no beginning, hath been made to visualize and know God is limited by the exigencies of His own creation- a creation which He, through the operation of His own Will and for the purposes of none other but His own Self, hath called into being. Immeasurably exalted is He above the strivings of human mind to grasp His Essence, or of human tongue to describe His mystery… (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, sec. 148)  

 

Consciousness – It is also necessary to be “present” when reciting the Holy Verses, for if one is not “there”, the effect is not as one would think.

Take heed lest excessive reading and too many acts of piety in the daytime and in the night season make you vainglorious. Should a person recite but a single verse from the Holy Writings in a spirit of joy and radiance, this would be better for him than reciting wearily all the Scriptures of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Recite ye the verses of God in such measure that ye be not overtaken with fatigue or boredom. Burden not your souls so as to cause exhaustion and weigh them down, but rather endeavour to lighten them, that they may soar on the wings of revealed Verses unto the dawning-place of His signs. This is conducive to nearer access unto God, were ye to comprehend. (Kitab-i-Aqdas par. 149)

The wine of renunciation must needs be quaffed, the lofty heights of detachment must needs be attained, and the meditation referred to in the words “One hour’s reflection is preferable to seventy years of pious worship” must needs be observed, so that the secret of the wretched behaviour of the people might be discovered, those people who, despite the love and yearning for truth which they profess, curse the followers of Truth when once He hath been made manifest… (Kitab-i-Iqan p. 238) 

Know thou, verily, it is becoming in a weak one to supplicate to the Strong One, and it behooveth a seeker of bounty to beseech the Glorious Bountiful One. When one supplicates to his Lord, turns to Him and seeks bounty from His Ocean, this supplication brings light to his heart, illumination to his sight, life to his soul and exaltation to his being. During thy supplications to God and thy reciting, ‘Thy Name is my healing,” consider how thine heart is cheered, thy soul delighted by the spirit of the love of God, and thy mind attracted to the Kingdom of God! By these attractions one’s ability and capacity increase. When the vessel is enlarged the water increases, and when the thirst grows the bounty of the cloud becomes agreeable to the taste of man. This is the mystery of supplication and the wisdom of stating one’s wants. (Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 93)  

 

Deeds – Perhaps one of the core concepts in a devotional attitude is to be ever conscious of translating what we have read and understood into action, to gradually, day by day, strive to transform ourselves, and the world, to create the Kingdom of God on earth.

It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action. (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh p. 250)

O SON OF DUST! Verily I say unto thee: Of all men the most negligent is he that disputeth idly and seeketh to advance himself over his brother. Say, O brethren! Let deeds, not words, be your adorning. (The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh, Persian no. 5)

Most of the quotes are from the compilation titled The Importance of Prayer, Meditation and Devotional Attitude compiled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice.

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