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June 5, 2011

Question: Does life have a meaning and if so, what purpose do humans serve?

 Finding meaning in life is a sacred duty for each human being to discover, but no one else can perform this duty for us. We must all find this meaning through an independent and personal search for truth. It is inconceivable to imagine that our Creator-God would have fashioned humans without ascribing meaning and purpose to creation.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the son and successor of Bahá’u’lláh, and the interpreter of his teachings said: “The reflection of the divine perfections appears in the reality of man, so he is the representative of God, the messenger of God. If man did not exist, the universe would be without result, for the object of existence is the appearance of the perfections of God” (Some Answered Questions, p. 196).

Human beings stand at the apex of creation. While they have badly managed the stewardship of the earth—witness the environmental crisis — without humans, there would be none to reflect God’s glory. For a Bahá’í, the human reflection of the divine attributes should serve the education and unity of mankind.

Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, revealed: “Having created the world and all that liveth and moveth therein, He, through the direct operation of His unconstrained and sovereign Will, chose to confer upon man the unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him — a capacity that must needs be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary purpose underlying the whole of creation ...” (Gleanings, p. 64). Thus, knowing and loving God constitute the meaning of life. These primary purposes include, of course, the love of one’s neighbour, and today in our global village, love for all humanity, irrespective of race, creed, class, tribe or nationality. To these primary purposes, a Bahá’í would add that the meaning of life is gained through service to humanity.

Acts of service can be performed only through the exercise of the virtues which are the main ingredients of a praiseworthy character: “The fruits of the tree of man have ever been and are goodly deeds and a praiseworthy character. Withhold not these fruits from the heedless.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 25).
- Jack McLean
Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen June 5, 2011
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