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The Baha'i Faith and Work
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The Baha'i Faith and Work


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  • 1. What we’ll be coveringA Baha’i approach to workChoosing and mapping a careerBaha’i principles at workFurthering the Faith
  • 2. In most of contemporary thinking, the concept of work has been largely reduced to that of gainful employment aimed at acquiring the means for the consumption of available goods. The system is circular: acquisition and consumption resulting in the maintenance and expansion of the production of goods and, in consequence, in supporting paid employment. Taken individually, all of these activities are essential to the well-being of society. The inadequacy of the overall conception, however, can be read in both the apathy that social commentators discern among large numbers of the employed in every land and the demoralization of the growing armies of the unemployed. Not surprisingly, therefore, there is increasing recognition that the world is in urgent need of a new ‘work ethic’.The Prosperity Of Humankind, A statement prepared by the Baháí International Communitys Office of Public Information.
  • 3. What’s the point of working?Earn a living?Lots of Money?Power and fame?Pursue a craft?To do a good job?To provide a service?Contribute to society?
  • 4. Earn a Living O MY SERVANT!The best of men are they that earn a livelihood by their calling and spend upon themselves and upon their kindred for the love of God, the Lord of all worlds.The Hidden Words of Baháulláh
  • 5. Lots of MoneyI desire distinction for you. The Baháís must be distinguished from others of humanity. But this distinction must not depend upon wealth — that they should become more affluent than other people. I do not desire for you financial distinction. It is not an ordinary distinction I desire; not scientific, commercial, industrial distinction. For you I desire spiritual distinction — that is, you must become eminent and distinguished in morals. In the love of God you must become distinguished from all else. You must become distinguished for loving humanity, for unity and accord, for love and justice. In brief, you must become distinguished in all the virtues of the human world — for faithfulness and sincerity, for justice and fidelity, for firmness and steadfastness, for philanthropic deeds and service to the human world, for love toward every human being, for unity and accord with all people, for removing prejudices and promoting international peace… Abdul-Bahá, "The Promulgation of Universal Peace"
  • 6. Lots of Money Wealth is praiseworthy in the highest degree, if it is acquired by an individuals own efforts and the grace of God, in commerce, agriculture, art and industry, and if it be expended for philanthropic purposes. Above all, if a judicious and resourceful individual should initiate measures which would universally enrich the masses of the people, there could be no undertaking greater than this, and it would rank in the sight of God as the supreme achievement, for such a benefactor would supply the needs and insure the comfort and well-being of a great multitude. Wealth is most commendable, provided the entire population is wealthy. If, however, a few have inordinate riches while the rest are impoverished, and no fruit or benefit accrues from that wealth, then it is only a liability to its possessor. If, on the other hand, it is expended for the promotion of knowledge, the founding of elementary and other schools, the encouragement of art and industry, the training of orphans and the poor - in brief, if it is dedicated to the welfare of society - its possessor will stand out before God and man as the most excellent of stand out before God and man as the most excellent of all who live on earth and will be accounted as one of the people of paradise.`Abdul-Baha: Secret of Divine Civilization
  • 7. Power and FameIndeed, man is noble, inasmuch as each one is a repository of the sign of God. Nevertheless, to regard oneself as superior in knowledge, learning or virtue, or to exalt oneself or seek preference, is a grievous transgression. Bahaullah --quoted in Messages of the Universal House of Justice p.376Encourage the children from their earliest years to master every kind of learning, and make them eager to become skilled in every art — the aim being that through the favouring grace of God, the heart of each one may become even as a mirror disclosing the secrets of the universe, penetrating the innermost reality of all things; and that each may earn world-wide fame in all branches of knowledge, science and the arts.Abdul-Bahá, from a Tablet-translated from the PersianHumility exalteth man to the heaven of glory and power, whilst pride abaseth him to the depths of wretchedness and degradation.Bahaullah -- Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
  • 8. Money, Power and Fame"Mans merit lieth in service and virtue and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches... Dissipate not the wealth of your precious lives in the pursuit of evil and corrupt affection, nor let your endeavours be spent in promoting your personal interest.”Tablet of Wisdom - Tablets of Baháulláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas
  • 9. Pursue a Craft It behoveth the craftsmen of the world at each moment to offer a thousand tokens of gratitude at the Sacred Threshold, and to exert their highest endeavour and diligently pursue their professions so that their efforts may produce that which will manifest the greatest beauty and perfection before the eyes of all men.Selections from the Writings of `Abdul-Bahá
  • 10. To do a good job In the Baháí Cause arts, sciences and all crafts are counted as worship. The man who makes a piece of notepaper to the best of his ability, conscientiously, concentrating all his forces on perfecting it, is giving praise to God.`Abdul-Bahá – Paris Talks
  • 11. To provide a serviceBriefly, all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity. 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, is giving praise.`Abdul-Bahá – Paris Talks
  • 12. Contribute to Society All men have been created to carry forward an ever- advancing civilization. Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh Central to your role in the present day is to give new vigor to the concept of service – being devoted to high ideals far removed from purely selfish interests, oriented to advancement of society, and committed to the welfare of humanityMessage from the Universal House of Justice
  • 13. A coherent life• Baha’i life, Social life, Work life …• How can we keep these coherent?• Average person will change career several times and change path within careers as well
  • 14. A coherent career• Does it incorporate your values?• Does it give you flexibility for activities?• Can it further the Faith?• Can you bring a unique perspective as a Baha’i?• Does it benefit mankind? Is it worth doing?
  • 15. Incorporating Values• What kinds of careers might inherently incorporate Baha’i values?• What if your career doesn’t seem to naturally incorporate Baha’i values?
  • 16. Baha’i activity• Can a job help you participate in other Baha’i activities? • Work hours • Time off • Location
  • 17. Can it further the Faith?• Professional skills• Contacts• Leadership• Resources
  • 18. A Unique PerspectiveThere are spiritual principles, or what some call humanvalues, by which solutions can be found for every socialproblem. Any well-intentioned group can in a general sensedevise practical solutions to its problems, but good intentionsand practical knowledge are usually not enough. The essentialmerit of spiritual principle is that it not only presents aperspective which harmonizes with that which is immanent inhuman nature, it also induces an attitude, a dynamic, a will,an aspiration, which facilitate the discovery andimplementation of practical measures.The Promise of World Peace – Universal House of Justice
  • 19. Benefitting MankindLet them share in every new and rare and wondrous craftand art. Bring them up to work and strive, and accustomthem to hardship. Teach them to dedicate their lives tomatters of great import, and inspire them to undertakestudies that will benefit mankind.Selections from the Writings of `Abdul-Bahá
  • 20. Applying Baha’i Principles• Pertinent Principles and Tests• Office life• Choices and situations• Conduct• Excellence• Priority• Training and Mentoring• Wages and Salaries
  • 21. Pertinent Principles• No prejudice• Truthfulness and Honesty• Kindness• Unity• No backbiting and gossip• Justice• Non-involvement in partisan politics• Use of the arts and media• … LOTS!
  • 22. On Tests and TrialsWe must always look ahead and seek to accomplish in the future what we may have failed to do in the past. Failures, tests, and trials, if we use them correctly, can become the means of purifying our spirit, strengthening our characters, and enable us to rise to greater heights of service. From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi-- Lights of Guidance p.601
  • 23. Office Life• Gossip• Cliques and groups• Peer Pressure• Backroom decisions and office politics
  • 24. Choices and Situations• Common but dishonest Business Practices• Work that doesn’t agree with your beliefs• Choosing on social value not just financial gain
  • 25. Choices and SituationsCommerce is as a heaven, whose sun istrustworthiness and whose moon is truthfulness.The most precious of all things in the estimation ofHim Who is the Sovereign Truth istrustworthiness: thus hath it been recorded in thesacred Scroll of God. Entreat ye the one true Godto enable all mankind to attain to this most nobleand lofty station.Baháulláh, From a Tablet - translated from the Persian and Arabic
  • 26. Choices and Situations "I who am your example have been a merchant by profession. It behoves you in all your transactions to follow in My way. You must neither defraud your neighbour nor allow him to defraud you. Such was the way of your Master. The shrewdest and ablest of men were unable to deceive Him, nor did He on His part choose to act ungenerously towards the meanest and most helpless of creatures."the Báb cited in The Dawn-Breakers: Nabils Narrative of the Early Days of the Baháí Revelation
  • 27. ConductSay: Beware, O people of Bahá, lest ye walk in theways of them whose words differ from their deeds.Strive that ye may be enabled to manifest to thepeoples of the earth the signs of God, and to mirrorforth His commandments. Let your acts be a guideunto all mankind, for the professions of most men,be they high or low, differ from their conduct.Gleanings from the Writings of Baháulláh
  • 28. ConductSuch a rectitude of conduct must manifestitself, with ever-increasing potency ... inthe business dealings of all its members, intheir domestic lives, in all manner ofemployment, and in any service they may,in the future, render their government orpeople.Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice
  • 29. ConductSiyyid‘Alí-Muhammad (known as the Báb) joined in business with His uncle when He was 15 years old, and shortly after moved to the port town of Búshihr. At a very early age, He took over the complete management of the trading-house in Búshihr.His scrupulous attention to detail and His undeviating fairness in transactions became widely known in the region. Once, a man who sold some goods to Him was astonished to find, when he received his money, that it was more than could be obtained at current prices. The man wanted to return part of the money. But the Báb told him that it was only fair and just that he should be given that amount, because his goods would bring in exactly that much if they had been offered for sale when the market was at its best. Adapted from The Báb by H.M. Balyuzi
  • 30. Excellence Exert every effort to acquire the various branches of knowledge and true understanding. Strain every nerve to achieve both material and spiritual accomplishments. Abdul-Bahá, from a Tablet-translated from the PersianAs for what the Supreme Pen hath previously set down, the reason is that in every art and skill, God loveth the highest perfection. Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations
  • 31. Priority One of the most important instructions of Bahá’u’lláh in regard to the economic question is that all must engage in useful work. There must be no drones in the social hive, no able- bodied parasites on society. He says:—It is enjoined on every one of you to engage in some occupation—some art, trade or the like. We have made this—your occupation—identical with the worship of God, the True One. Reflect, O people, upon the Mercy of God and upon His Favors, then thank Him in the mornings and evenings… …How much of the energy employed in the business world of today is expended simply in canceling and neutralizing the efforts of other people—in useless strife and competition! And how much in ways that are still more injurious! Were all to work, and were all work, whether of brain or hand, of a nature profitable to mankind, as Bahá’u’lláh commands, then the supplies of everything necessary for a healthy, comfortable and noble life would amply suffice for all. There need be no slums, no starvation, no destitution, no industrial slavery, no health-destroying drudgery.Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era by J. E. Esslemont
  • 32. Training and Mentoring It is not desirable that a man be left without knowledge or skills, for he is then but a barren tree. Then, so much as capacity and capability allow, ye needs must deck the tree of being with fruits such as knowledge, wisdom, spiritual perception and eloquent speech.Bahá’u’lláh
  • 33. Wages and SalariesShoghi Effendi elucidates the distributive implications of this teaching, writing that "wages should be unequal…and [men] should receive wages that correspond to their varying capacities and resources.” The Baháí system does not, to use economic jargon, sever the wage-productivity link. Neo-classical theories of distribution emphasize that efficiency, and thus welfare, is maximized when wages are equated with the marginal productivity of labour. That is, a wage earner should be paid an amount equal to the additional contribution he will make to an enterprise. Therefore, wages in the Baháí system are earned. … The severing of the ties between productivity and labour generally occur because the market does not embody complete and perfect information, or simply because people deliberately usurp its functioning.Put simply, there are many examples of exploitation in the world; whether it is a senior executive exploiting corporate shareholders or a local landowner exploiting peasants. To refer to the passage quoted above: "When we see poverty allowed to reach a condition of starvation it is a sure sign that somewhere we shall find tyranny." The Baháí Faith and economics: a review and synthesis by Bryan Graham
  • 34. Furthering the Faith• Organizational Skills• Professional Skills• Using Business as a Vehicle• Using Contacts and Networks
  • 35. Furthering the FaithIn some instances Bahá’ís of a particular profession have cometogether in special conferences or organized themselves into anassociation for this purpose. This also allows them to support oneanother as Bahá’ís and to take advantage of their professional statusto promote the interests of the Faith. Current examples ofprofessional associations of this type are the Bahá’í Justice Societyand the Bahá’í Medical Association, both in the United States.Special encouragement should therefore be given to believers ofunusual capacity to consecrate their abilities to the service of theCause through the unique contribution they can make to this rapidlydeveloping field of Bahá’íendeavour.18 April 1989 on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly
  • 36. Organizational SkillsThe eagerness of the friends to serve, often carries them away, and they forget that a sound sense of business management is also much needed, if we are to harbour our resources and accomplish all our goals. ShoghiEffendi, The Light of Divine Guidance
  • 37. Organizational SkillsHigh aims and pure motives, however laudable inthemselves, will surely not suffice if unsupportedby measures that are practicable and methods thatare sound. Wealth of sentiment, abundance ofgoodwill and effort, will prove of little avail if weshould fail to exercise discrimination and restraintand neglect to direct their flow along the mostprofitable channels.Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration
  • 38. Professional Skills• How could you use the skills you develop as a professional to help the Faith? • Organizational skills • Financial skills • Media skills • Craftsmanship • Event organization • …
  • 39. Professional Skills…the Cause needs now, and will ever increasingly need, souls of great ability who can bring it before the public at large, administer its ever-growing affairs, and contribute to its advancement in every field.ShoghiEffendi, Unfolding Destiny
  • 40. Business as a Vehicle• Provides flexibility• Using resources to drive projects / services in line with the Faith’s goals
  • 41. Contacts and Networks• Media contacts• Contacts for use on projects• General networking
  • 42. The End!