Individet

Individet

Individet

Every individual is a member of the human family and makes a contribution to the life of society. The individual takes initiative, seizes opportunities, forms friendships and builds relationships, joins with others in common service, and acts on decisions.

And the honour and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good,”1 wrote ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

In order to act effectively during the present period of transition in human history, individuals must, above all, be imbued with a strong sense of purpose that impels them both to pursue their own spiritual and intellectual growth and to contribute to the transformation of society. These are fundamentally inseparable dimensions of a single process, for the standards and behaviours of individuals shape their environment and, in turn, are moulded by social structures and processes.

On a personal level, the sense of purpose is expressed by developing—in service to humanity—the vast potentialities with which we have been endowed by God. These potentialities include the virtues and qualities latent in all human beings, and the talents and characteristics which are particular to each individual. Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “The Purpose of the one true God, exalted be His glory, in revealing Himself unto men is to lay bare those gems that lie hidden within the mine of their true and inmost selves.”2

In the context of the transformation of society, our purpose is to help carry forward an ever-advancing civilization, devoting our energy and abilities to promote the welfare of the human race. “Think ye at all times of rendering some service to every member of the human race…” said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “Be ye sincerely kind, not in appearance only…Let him do some good to every person whose path he crosseth, and be of some benefit to him. Let him improve the character of each and all, and reorient the minds of men.3

We pursue this two-fold moral purpose propelled by the conviction we are members of one human family. This enables us to feel as one part in an organic whole and frees us from the bigotry, prejudice, fanaticism, and superstition that can cripple collective action and frustrate positive impulses towards change.

The standard that Bahá’u’lláh envisages for the individual who can effectively play his or her part in actively assisting society to achieve lasting material and spiritual prosperity is high indeed. Yet perfection is not a requirement; what is required of us is a sincere daily effort to move towards this high standard. We are asked to tread a common path of service—supporting each other and advancing together, with sufficient humility to value the contribution of each person and avoid the pitfalls of self-righteousness.

Samfunnet

Samfunnet

Samfunnet

Human beings were not created to live alone but, rather, to belong to communities. Collaboration with others is vital to our well-being and progress. “Some animals are isolated and lead a separate existence away from their kind,” said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “But this is impossible for man. In his life and being cooperation and association are essential. Through association and meeting we find happiness and development, individual and collective.”1

Communities can, of course, emerge out of various kinds of association, for example, the inhabitants of a village or neighbourhood, the followers of a religion, those associated with the life of an educational establishment, or the members of a profession. 

In any given community, the culture it promotes, the attitudes it fosters, and the patterns of thought and behaviour it cultivates, are largely defined by its members’ collective sense of purpose. When that purpose is to contribute to the betterment of society, the community becomes a setting in which powers are multiplied in unified action, where individual will and collective volition are blended, and where the spirit of enterprise is reinforced by a realization of the need for concerted action and a commitment to the common good. 

The supreme need of humanity is cooperation and reciprocity,” said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “The stronger the ties of fellowship and solidarity amongst men, the greater will be the power of constructiveness and accomplishment in all the planes of human activity.”2 In the same way that the human being is more than the sum of the individual cells which comprise its body, so too the powers of a unified community far exceed the combined powers of its individual members.

Bahá’ís live and work in tens of thousands of localities in every continent of the globe, and viewed together they can be said to represent the diversity of the entire human race. Wherever they reside, Bahá’í families and friends engage in efforts to apply Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings to the material and spiritual progress of their communities. In a mode characterized by a willingness to learn, they strive to contribute to a process of community building in which acts of worship and efforts to promote the common good are woven together. Everyone willing to participate in this process is welcome. Its purpose, after all, is to help raise the capacity of more and more people to take charge of their spiritual, social, and intellectual development so that they come to see themselves as active agents of both their own and their communities’ progress, rather than passive spectators of events beyond their control.

Institusjonene

Institusjonene

Institusjonene

For society to function at a higher level than that of a mere assemblage of individuals, institutions are required to give structure to its collective endeavours, to promote unity of vision and action among its members, to allocate resources equitably, and in general to administer its affairs. Parliaments, courts, universities, artistic establishments, and non-governmental organizations are among the many institutions that play an important part in shaping the life of communities throughout the world.

As humanity approaches its collective maturity, the need for a new understanding of the relationships between the individual, the community, and the institutions of society becomes ever more pressing. The interdependence of these three protagonists in the advancement of civilization has to be recognized and old paradigms of conflict in which, for example, institutions demand submission while individuals clamour for freedom, need to be replaced with more profound conceptions of the complementary roles to be played by each in building a better world.

To accept that the individual, the community, and the institutions of society are the protagonists of civilization building, and to act accordingly, opens up great possibilities for human happiness. It allows for the creation of environments in which the exercise of power over others is replaced by endeavour to release the true powers of the human spirit—powers of love, of justice, of unified action.

The Bahá’í community is organized through local, national, continental, and international institutions whose purpose is to channel energies into patterns of action that promote the betterment of society. Service to the needs and wellbeing of the community is the principle that is to govern the functioning of all Bahá’í institutions; indeed, to a large extent, it defines their very identity. The relationship between the individual and institutions is a reciprocal one. Bahá’ís strive to carry out institutions’ plans with loyalty and enthusiasm. Institutions, in turn, come to view their function as one of channelling and directing the burgeoning talents, abilities, and collective energies within the community.