Saw this quote on a listserv… it neatly sums up my feelings about the perception some people have of religion these days. Religion is not the same thing as imitation or superstition.

Imitation destroys the foundation of religion, extinguishes the spirituality of the human world, transforms heavenly illumination into darkness and deprives man of the knowledge of God. It is the cause of the victory of materialism and infidelity over religion; it is the denial of Divinity and the law of revelation; it refuses Prophethood and rejects the Kingdom of God. When materialists subject imitations to the intellectual analysis of reason, they find them to be mere superstitions; therefore, they deny religion.

‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 161

3 thoughts on “imitation

  1. Imitation. Could this be why there has been so little effect of religion in the world, despite thousands of denominations of all kinds for thousands of years – because there has been, for the most part, but mere imitation of others rather than a conscious, genuine and authentic integration of Divine Teachings into the daily lives of believers? Not because any of the religions were wrong, but because we have failed to rise to the occasion when it presented itself. Perhaps we must become ‘knowers’, rather than believers?

    Maya Angelou has been quoted by Oprah Winfrey many times, “When we know better, we do better.” My parents had to say to me many times, “Susie, you know better than that,” but did I? When we know better – really ‘know’ better, we do do better! Perhaps we must seek harder to know better. Maybe we only ‘think’ we know, when what we think we know is mistaken! The Dalai Lama says this is the most dangerous form of ignorance.

    May God have mercy on us, it takes alot of awareness and conscious intention to recognize the opportunity in each moment to overcome old, unconscious patterns of behavior and respond with new choices that better reflect our spiritual nature; to hold ourselves and the situation up to the Light to see what it really is, in order to respond correctly (according to God’s Will instead of our own). We might even imitate someone else’s ‘belief’ about God’s Will, sometimes leading ourselves and others to unnecessary suffering and death.

    Goodness is inherent in each of us, but we must struggle with self in order to reveal our highest potential. Every time we choose kindness instead of cruelty, forgiveness instead of resentments and grudges, patience instead of impulsivity, we release our highest potential – these attributes of God – into this dark world of human being.

    Baha’u’llah, the Father of ‘Abdu’l-Baha Whose quote is the subject of this discussion, said: “It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action.” The operative words for victory over self are ‘insight’, ‘understanding’, and ‘strive’. To the extent that we have insight into ourselves and others, recognizing the opportunity in a moment; understanding the purpose of life (to know and love God, to acquire virtues, to promote the oneness of humanity, and to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization) and striving to act in accordance with our highest potential; we are no longer pretenders but practice members! May God assist us in the struggle over self.

  2. thanks for your insights on this quote soulfulady (Susie?)
    I like how you used the word “choose”: choose kindness over cruelty, choose patience over impulsivity. I also like how you refer to awareness and consciousness. To stay aware and to stay conscious is sometimes a challenge; material cycles and rhythms easily hypnotize and bind us to the dust, and if we make careless choices, we forget our spiritual nature and lose track of ourselves. “True loss is for him whose days have been spent in utter ignorance of his self,” said Baha’u’llah. We must struggle to be vigilant against this propensity of ours to forget our own nature and to become so caught up with the changes and chances of this world.

    Returning to what I referred to in opening this post, it’s frustrating to hear people badmouth religion, given that religion has been the fundamental driving force behind the process of civilization since time immemorial. But at the same time, that religious people should fall victim to the aforementioned “forgetfulness” and sink into the depths of mere imitation, that their enlightened discourse should devolve into vain and empty speech is even more frustrating.

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