An act, however infinitesimal, is, when viewed in the mirror of the knowledge of God, mightier than a mountain. Every drop proffered in His path is as the sea in that mirror.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 4)
An individual must center his whole heart and mind on service to the Cause, in accordance with the high standards set by Bahá’u’lláh. When this is done, the Hosts of the Supreme Concourse will come to the assistance of the individual, and every difficulty and trial will gradually be overcome.
(Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, p. 20)
By Thy grace I am, at all times, ready to serve Thee and am rid of all attachment to any one except Thee.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 184)
Cling, O ye people of Bahá, to the cord of servitude unto God, the True One, for thereby your stations shall be made manifest, your names written and preserved, your ranks raised and your memory exalted in the Preserved Tablet. Beware lest the dwellers on earth hinder you from this glorious and exalted station.
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 62)
He feels that, although your desire to partake actively of the dangers and mysteries afflicting so many millions of people today, is natural, and a noble impulse, there can be no comparison between the value of Bahá’í work and any other form of service to humanity. If the Bahá’ís could evaluate their work properly they would see that whereas other forms of relief work are superficial in character, alleviating the sufferings and ills of men for a short time at best, the work they are doing is to lay the foundation of a new spiritual Order in the world founded on the Word of God, operating according to the laws He has laid down for this age. No one else can do this work except those who have fully realized the meaning of the Message of Bahá’u’lláh, whereas almost any courageous, sincere person can engage in relief work, etc. The believers are building a refuge for mankind. This their supreme sacred task and they should devote every moment they can to this task.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 423)
He should … serve Him at all times and to the best of his ability.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, 5 June 1988)
He [‘Abdu’l-Bahá] says that you are already full of love for Him and when you return to America you will serve Him; that your attraction in this Cause and your devotion to it are in themselves service.
(The Diary of Juliet Thompson)
I have selected these latter words for emphasis because they indicate what seems to me to be the very heart of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s teachings. First: His invariable example. Second: His “humility of servitude.” This spirit of servitude was His distinguishing characteristic. The very title given Him by Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and by which He wished always to be known and addressed, “The Servant of Glory,” was indicative of the essential nature of this quality as it related to the Bahá’í teaching. He was once asked to act as honorary chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá is a servant,” He responded simply. “I am ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and no more. I am not pleased with whosoever praises me by any other tide. I am the servant of the Blessed Perfection, and I hope that this Servitude of mine will become acceptable. Whosoever mentions any
other name save this will not please me at all. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and no more. No person must praise me except by this name: “‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” And again: “The mystery of mysteries of these words, texts and lines, is servitude to the Holy Presence of the Beauty of Abhá, and effacement, evanescence and perfect dispersion before the Blessed Threshold. This is my brilliant diadem and my glorious crown. With this I will be glorified in the heavenly kingdom and the kingdom of this world. And with it I will approach unto the Beauty among the nearest ones to God, and no one is allowed to interpret other than this.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says that the “conditions of existence are limited to servitude, Prophethood and Deity.” That is to say: since man is incapable of attainment either to the station of the Divine Essence or of Prophethood (except in those unique instances of the anointed Ones, which occur, roughly speaking about every thousand years) the only possible station to which he may aspire is that of servitude. In spite of the fact that Jesus proclaimed much the same truth this is practically an entirely new conception, originating with the teaching of Bahá’u’lláh and exemplified in every deed and word of His majestic Son. It is important, then, that this word and its implications be examined. What does ‘Abdu’l-Bahá mean by Servitude? What possible ground can he have for asserting, as He does by implication, that unless man in this day attains that station he forfeits the right to be called man at all? When Jesus said: “He that would be greatest among you let him be the servant of all:” “The meek shall inherit the earth.” And when He washed His disciple’s feet-what did He mean? What was He trying to convey? Exactly what ‘Abdu’l-Bahá means when He made the statements I have quoted above. And it is very simple and demonstrable truth.
(Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, p. 201-202)
I hope that thou wilt cut thyself from all that is in this world; wilt sever thyself from all desires of this transitory world; wilt attach thy heart entirely to the light of truth and wilt, at all times, rise in the service of truth in the rose-garden of God.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 131)
If ye meet the abased or the down-trodden, turn not away disdainfully from them, for the King of Glory ever watcheth over them and surroundeth them with such tenderness as none can fathom … Flee not from the face of the poor that lieth in the dust, nay rather befriend him and suffer him to recount the tale of the woes with which God’s inscrutable Decree hath caused him to be afflicted … Whilst ye consort with him, the Concourse on high will be looking upon you, will be interceding for you, will be extolling your names and glorifying your action.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 314-315)
If you are sincerely intent on overcoming your problem, you must yourself determine to resist wayward impulses each time they arise and the House of Justice feels that there is no better way than to turn to the Writings to divert our thoughts into spiritual channels , perhaps to concentrate on what we may do to help others along the way to discovering the Bahá’í Faith. The more we occupy ourselves with teaching the Cause and serving our fellowman in this way, the stronger we become in resisting that which is abhorrent to our spiritual selves.
(Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05, Homosexuality)
It is a compromise between the two verses of the “Aqdas", one making it incumbent upon every Bahá’í to serve the promotion of the Faith and the other that every soul should be occupied in some form of occupation that will benefit society. In one of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh says that the highest form of detachment in this day is to be occupied with some profession and be self-supporting. A good Bahá’í, therefore, is the one who so arranges his life as to devote time both to his material needs and also to the service of the Cause.
(Universal House of Justice, The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Faith)
Know that nothing will benefit thee in this life save supplication and invocation unto God, service in His vineyard, and, with a heart full of love, be in constant servitude unto Him.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 374-375)
Learn well this Tablet, O Ahmad. Chant it during thy days and withhold not thyself therefrom. For verily, God hath ordained for the one who chants it, the reward of a hundred martyrs and a service in both worlds. These favors have We bestowed upon thee as a bounty on Our part and a mercy from Our presence, that thou mayest be of those who are grateful.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Tablet of Ahmad, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 211)
Let them step forth to take their places in the arena of service where their talents and skills, their specialized training, their material resources, their offers of time and energy and, above all, their dedication to Bahá’í principles, can be put to work in improving the lot of man.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 546)
Love and serve mankind just for the sake of God and not for anything else. The foundation of your love toward humanity must be spiritual faith and Divine assurance.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 213)
Moreover, although these insignificant amounts are not worthy of mention, they are well pleasing, since the donors offer them for the sake of God. If the offering be but a single grain it is regarded as the crowning glory of all the harvests of the world.
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 490)
No, rather he must return good for evil, and not only forgive, but also, if possible, be of service to his oppressor. This conduct is worthy of man.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 269)
Now I shall tell you the essence of service. Share your time with God. Spend half of the day in search of livelihood, guaranteeing your material life and dignified appearance and dedicate the other half in the acquisition of moral virtues and service at the threshold of God (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 17, Mar. 1927, p. 365)
Now, as though a wide window opened to a breeze from the world of explanation and understanding, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s glorification of the station of Servitude becomes clear, or at least clearer than was possible without this new, yet eternally old, definition of Man. For Servitude, to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, was-is-the Path, the only possible Path to that Greatness. And this, I believe, is just the greatness to which Jesus referred, the greatness of true Manhood. One of the distinguishing marks of the revelation of Bahá’u’lláh is His practical explanation of Jesus’ Words and the inclusion of their obedience in His theophany. “The humility of servitude” to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was His “Brilliant diadem and glorious crown.” Why? Certainly not because He wished to be honored and glorified above others. That would be far from humility. No! Only because He thus, and thus only, could show others the Path to Greatness.
(Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, p. 204)
The truth, however, is that the Bahá’í community has no leaders as such and those who are elected or appointed to administrative office are expected to be servants of the Cause, manifesting self-effacement, humility and detachment from the things of this world. An inherent characteristic of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh is that it does not harbour egotistical personalities. Its watchword is the servitude exemplified by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, whose supplication to God was to give Him ‘to drink from the chalice of selflessness’ and to make Him as ‘dust’ in the pathway of the loved ones of God.
(Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 293)
One of the inestimable privileges which Bahá’u’lláh has conferred upon His followers is that He has summoned them to serve His Cause. In older Dispensations, the Cause of God was usually administered by a few, the religious leaders or clergy. The rest of the people did not have the same opportunity. But in this Dispensation every human being who recognizes the station of Bahá’u’lláh and is enlisted in His Faith, whether young or old, learned or unlettered, rich or poor, can render services to the Cause of God. In many of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh urges the believers to arise and promote the Faith of God. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas too there are several references to this. There is no limit to serving the Cause. One need not be educated or have influence and standing in society to serve. Often it is the simple people of the world, sometimes illiterate, who rise to great heights of service in the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh.
(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 3, p. 395-396)
Service to the sons and the daughters of the Kingdom is the diadem of everlasting glory with which ye have crowned your heads, the garment of eternal sovereignty with which ye have adorned your bodies, and the throne of majesty and grandeur of heaven upon which ye sat.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 533)
Speaking broadly, there are three possible basic relations between men: Strife, Cooperation and Service.
Whether these relations are demonstrated in the fields of home life; commerce; education; government, or anywhere else, these three motivating impulses may be seen. Usually all three of them are present, each striving for supremacy, though often quite unconsciously. Sometimes only one or two are active. Take the average home life for example. There we find, let us say, a father, a mother, three or four children and a housemaid. There is strife always to be found, even in the most idealistic home. Not an outward strife always,
though differences do often arise, but always an inner commotion due to the necessary effort towards
unity. Then, of course there is cooperation for this is the basis of any family life, without which it would disintegrate rapidly. Finally we see service typified by the housemaid, but active in every member in varying degrees. Let us imagine that rare article: a perfect maid servant, a purely hypothetical character, admittedly, but admirable for the purpose of illustration. She is efficient, cooks the most delectable dishes; she is good natured, always cheerful and happy; she is obedient, never asserts herself, never contradicts; she is wise with a homely common sense which penetrates to the heart of a problem, whether it relates to the “master’s” fondness for coffee of a certain strength, the “mistress’ “ liking for breakfast in bed combined with an early engagement at a committee meeting, or little Johnnie’s embarrassment over a raid on the pantry resulting in tummy-agony which must be hidden from mother. This wisdom may even be so far embracing that it involves a study of the current news and market reports so that father and mother unconsciously talk things over with her when a club paper is to be prepared or a large purchase made. I have sometimes amused myself with picturing the daily life of such a family. Is there any question which one of its members would be the ruling power? Which the greatest, the most indispensable one of its members? Can one not imagine the consternation in that household if “Bridget” or “Mary” should announce a severing of connection? Take another illustration: A corner grocery which has for its motto-and lives up to it every instant-"Service
First.” Service before profit; service before clockwatching; service before any personal consideration
whatever. After all, preposterous as such an hypothetical grocery store may be, that is just what a food store should be. Does not the comfort, even in isolated cases perhaps, the very life of the community it serves depend upon it? If the desire for profit overbalances, the result is debased and unhealthy food. The law has stringent penalties for such infraction, but such laws would be unnecessary if the spirit of true service ruled. But our imaginary-our utterly preposterous ideal store IS ruled by that spirit. No self-sacrifice is too great for its owner and employees to insure that perfect service is rendered with its only objective the health, happiness and welfare of its community. Can one not easily picture the inevitable result? That store would be the Ruler of that community. Its fame would spread over the land; its business would prosper beyond any imaginings; its owner and managers might be consulted by statesmen. It would be GREAT. But let us allow our imaginations further rioting. Let us suppose that in addition to this spirit of service the proprietor was possessed of a wisdom and love based upon the Sermon on the Mount. The mere suggestion of such a possibility is sufficient. Such a man would come to be possessed of a Power rivaling and surpassing that of a king. If the reader is not by this time so bored by this fantastic picture that he throws the book down in disgust, let him in imagination apply this principle to the field of education, in which teachers, students, principals, et al, are motivated by a like spirit; to the field of general commerce; of government, of international relations. Would not the happiness, prosperity, efficiency and general welfare of the race be immeasurably advanced? But the important thing to observe is that this picture involves the appearance on this planet of a type of man
quite new in world experience. But let it be also noted that while such a man is new in actual experience he is
not new in the picturings of such men as Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Such
men have always held these ideals before mankind. But in the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, and in the life and example of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, these ideals are for the first time brought to the forefront and made the basis of a New World Order. Man is called today to the attainment of that station to which he was destined from the “Beginning which has no beginning.” In the very Words of Bahá’u’lláh: “We have created whomsoever is in the heaven and upon the earth after the nature of God. And he who advanceth to this Face (His Revelation) will appear in the condition wherein he was created.” This, then, is why ‘Abdu’l-Bahá so exalted the station
of Servitude. This is why He intimated that man accepting any station lower than this, any putting of self before service to others, qualifies himself as of the animal, the bestial nature, and places himself outside the pale of real manhood. It is because the definition of Man is altered. That which has been hinted in the past as a possible goal is now a requisite. Man’s dreams, his highest dreams, must now be realized. And the path to that realization is the path of Service; its Goal the attainment to the station of pure Servitude.
(Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, p. 204-208)
The delicate balance between the claims of the Cause of God and the claims of one’s profession is an intensely personal matter which can only be resolved eventually in the heart and soul of each individual. Many Bahá’ís have become, and are, distinguished in their professions and at the same time have rendered and are rendering great services to the Cause and it is obviously possible to achieve distinction in one’s profession and calling and to serve the Cause of God at the same time. The House of Justice realizes, however, that circumstances can conspire, at critical times in the fortunes of the Faith, to require individuals to make the heart-searching decision of sacrificing one’s own prospects for the apparent good of the Cause. Here again, the history of the Cause provides many examples of believers who have willingly foregone promotion in, or even the continued practice of, their professions in order to meet the needs of the Faith. As in all difficult decisions facing individual believers, the God-given process of consultation is available to them, and every individual may consult either one of the institutions of the Faith or an individual officer, such as a Counsellor or Board member, or even one or two friends of his own choosing. Even then, however, the eventual decisions rests with the individual himself.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 31-32)
The friends should devote themselves to the service of the Cause, study the requirements of the Plan in all parts of the world, consider where the needs are great and where they can best render this service in light of their own personal possibilities, and then, as an outcome of consultation, prayer and much thought, devote themselves wholeheartedly to the advancement of the Word of God.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1996 Jan 31, Not Living in Los Angeles)
The grace of God hath chosen thee and distinguished thee for His love, that thou mayest thank Him a thousand times in every moment. Because of this bounty, you must choose to serve the maid-servants of the Merciful.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 507-508)
The liberty that profiteth you is to be found nowhere except in complete servitude unto God, the Eternal Truth. Whoso hath tasted of its sweetness will refuse to barter it for all the dominion of earth and heaven.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 335)
"The time has come for the friends...to think not as to how they should serve the Cause, but how the Cause should be served.” We might well continue to this day to ponder these words. What are its needs, what its direction, what its goals?
(Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 73)
There can be no greater bounty in this life than serving the Cause, provided one’s motive is pure. If service is rendered in the hope of securing fame, influence and other personal gains in this world or even in the next, then such a service becomes a great burden on the soul. It fills one’s life with sadness and frustration and as Bahá’u’lláh has declared in His Writings, it will not be pleasing to God, for nothing but pure deeds and pure motives can be acceptable in His sight.
(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 3, p. 395)
This is not servitude but sovereignty, and this is not service but chieftainship and greatness! This is the garment of everlasting glory with which thou hast clothed thyself, and this is the rose of eternal exaltation with which thou hast adorned thy head. It is said in the New Testament: “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” In short, thou shouldst thank God a hundred-thousand times for having been confirmed and strengthened in obtaining such a great gift! Know thou the value thereof and consider that its price is highly appraised.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 510)
This is worship: to serve mankind and to minister to the needs of the people. Service is prayer. A physician ministering to the sick, gently, tenderly, free from prejudice and believing in the solidarity of the human race, he is giving praise.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 177)
Thou wast created for My sake; occupy Thyself therefore with My praise amidst My servants. This is that which hath been ordained for Thee in the Preserved Tablet.
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 25-26)
To be continually giving out for the good of our fellows undeterred by the fear of poverty and reliant on the unfailing bounty of the Source of all wealth and all good – that is the secret of right living.
(Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian: 32).
Verily, I hope from God that ye may become my associates in servitude to His Holy Threshold and my partners at the entrance of the Door of His Oneness; so that ye may equally serve in His great vineyard. Then thank ye your Lord, for He hath favored you with this manifest success. By God, the true One! this cannot be equaled either by the dominion of the world or by the gift of ruling over all regions with pomp, glory and power!
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 274)
Wert thou to consider this world, and realize how fleeting are the things that pertain unto it, thou wouldst choose to tread no path except the path of service to the Cause of thy Lord. None would have the power to deter thee from celebrating His praise, though all men should arise to oppose thee.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 314)
When his life is oriented towards service to Bahá’u’lláh, and when every conscious act is performed within this frame of reference, he will not fail to achieve the true purpose of his life.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1988 Jun 05, Detailed Legislation on Moral Issues)
You must always do your best to behave spiritually, not physically, so that everyone who meets you will know that your intention is to do good to mankind and your aim to serve the world of humanity. Whatever you do, let the people know you are doing it for good, not only to earn you own living. By doing thus you will be able to serve every city to which you go.
(The Diary of Juliet Thompson)
You should not neglect your health, but consider it the means which enables you to serve. It—the body—is like a horse which carries the personality and spirit, and as such should be well cared for so it can do its work! You should certainly safeguard your nerves, and force yourself to take time, and not only for prayer meditation, but for real rest and relaxation.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 296)