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Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on the subject of the "struggle for survival"

Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2000


From: Kevenbrown@aol.com
Subject: translation of Tablet on "struggle for survival"

Dear Iskander,
Thank you very much for finding the source of that important Tablet by 'Abdu'l-Baha. I have a
copy of Khitabát, and have done a provisional translation which I share below. I would be
grateful for any suggestions to improve my translation. I think this Tablet illuminates a very
important aspect of 'Abdu'l-Baha's response to Darwinism, which is his teaching that "struggle
for survival," far from being innate to human nature, is really an erroneous notion, or at least a
notion characterizing humanity's adolescence, which is due to be replaced by the more exalted
concept of "cooperation for survival."
Gratefully yours, Keven

Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on the subject of the "struggle for survival"


(from Khitabát, pp. 711-713; provisional translation by Keven Brown.)

O honored society [for the advancement] of humanity! All mankind should be grateful on
account of your noble purpose and lofty intentions. All should be thankful and well-pleased that
you are selflessly engaged in such a high endeavor, which is the cause of universal peace
amongst mankind, inasmuch as the peace and tranquility of the entire creation depends upon
improving the character of man; and the greatest means for training man to possess praiseworthy
characteristics is noble aspirations and the expansion of the mind.

Humanity must be invited to partake of this mighty gift. Observe that the primary principle
adhered to by every individual of the human species is to attract benefit to himself and to avoid
injury. His aim is to secure his own tranquility and happiness. This is his sole desire in life, and
he strives to distinguish himself from all others through the ease, wealth, and fame he has
obtained. This is the goal of every individual of the human species.

But, in truth, this is a base, dangerous, and inferior notion. If man advances a little in his thinking
and his aspirations become nobler, he will realize that he should strive to benefit his whole
family and to protect it from harm, for he perceives that by bringing comfort and affluence to the
whole family, his own felicity and prosperity will increase.
Should his thinking expand even more and his aspirations grow in depth, he will realize that he
should endeavor to bring blessings to the children of his country and nation and to guard them
from injury. Although this aspiration and thought are for his own sake and that of his family, all
the children of the nation will benefit therefrom. But this aspiration will become the cause of
injury to other nations, for he then exerts the utmost effort to bring all the advantages of the
human world to his own nation and the blessings of the earth to his own family, singling them
out for the universal felicity of humankind. He imagines that the more other nations and
neighboring countries decline, the more his own country and nation will advance, until by this
means it surpasses and dominates the other nations in power, wealth, and influence.

However, a divine human being and a heavenly individual is sanctified from these limitations,
and the expansion of his mind and the loftiness of his aspirations are in the utmost degree of
perfection.
The compass of his thinking is so vast that he recognizes in the gain of all mankind the basis of
the prosperity of every individual member of his species. He considers the injury of any nation or
state to be the same as injury to his own nation and state, indeed, the same as injury to his own
family and to his own self. Therefore, he strives with heart and soul as much as possible to bring
prosperity and blessings to the entire human race and to protect all nations from harm. He

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endeavors to promote the exaltation, illumination, and felicity of all peoples, and makes no
distinctions among them, for he regards humanity as a single family and considers all nations to
be the members of that family.
Indeed, he sees the entire human social body as one individual and perceives each one of the
nations to be one of the organs of that body.

Man must raise his aspiration to this degree so that he may serve the cause of establishing
universal virtues and become the cause of the glory of humankind. At present the state of the
world is the opposite of this. All the nations are thinking of how to advance their own interests
while working against the best interests of other nations. They desire their own personal
advantage while seeking to undermine affairs in other countries. They call this the "struggle for
survival" (tanázu'-i baqá), and assert that it is innate to human nature. But this is a grievous error;
nay, there is no error greater than this. Gracious God! Even in the animal kingdom cooperation
and mutual assistance for survival are observed among some species, especially in the case of
danger to the whole group. One day I was beside a small stream and noticed some young
grasshoppers which had not yet developed wings seeking to cross to the other side in order to
obtain food. To accomplish their goal, these wingless grasshoppers rushed forward into the water
and vied with each other to form a bridge across the stream while the remaining grasshoppers
crossed over on top of them. The grasshoppers were able to pass from one side of the stream to
the other, but those insects which had formed the bridge in the water perished. Reflect how this
incident illustrates cooperation for survival, not struggle for survival.

Insofar as animals display such noble sentiments, how much more should man, who is the
noblest of creatures; and how much more fitting it is in particular that, in view of the divine
teachings and heavenly ordinances, man should be obliged to attain this excellence. In the
estimation of God distinctions of race, divisions of borders, favoring one people over another,
and all individual limitations are unworthy and rejected.
All the prophets of God were sent down and all the sacred books were revealed for the purpose
of assisting man to achieve this heavenly grace and this divine virtue.
All the divine teachings can be summarized as this: that these thoughts singling out advantages
to one group may be banished from our midst, that human character may be improved, that
equality and fellowship may be established amongst all mankind, until every individual is ready
to sacrifice himself for the sake of his fellowman.
This is the divine foundation. This is the law come down from heaven. Such a firm foundation
cannot be impregnated into human consciousness save by one universal and all-pervasive power,
for every other power is helpless except for the power of the Holy Spirit. The outpourings of the
Holy Spirit are such that they can transform man, imbuing him with all the virtues, bestowing
upon him the second birth, baptizing him with the fire of the love of God, which is love for all
created things, and quickening him with the water of eternal life, and the Holy Spirit itself. The
philosophers of old had the strongest resolve to improve human morals and strove to the utmost
in this regard, but at most they succeeded in refining their own characters, not the virtues of all
mankind. Refer to history and you will find that this is clear and evident.

But the power of the Holy Spirit brings forth the universal virtues with which man is potentially
endowed, illuminates the human world, bestows true exaltation, and trains all people. Thus, the
well-wishers of the world must endeavor to attract by this attractive power the confirmations of
the Holy Spirit. My hope is that the members of this honored society dedicated to the welfare of
humanity, like a mirror, may acquire illumination from the Sun of Reality, and become the cause
of training mankind to acquire virtues. I pray that my utmost esteem be acceptable to that
eminent organization. - -- *

"biophilia" (the latter being a deep, inborn human affinity for nature)