BAHÁ'Í TEACHINGS

 

Some of the basic principles of the Baha'i Faith are:

 

"The Earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens"

"So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth."

-- Bahá'u'lláh

 

The Oneness of Humanity

"O CHILDREN OF MEN!

Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since we have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest."

-- Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh

Bahá'u'lláh, like Abraham, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad and the other Divine Messengers who preceded Him, tapped the deepest roots of human motivation opening up new realms of moral, intellectual, and cultural achievement. "Noble have I created thee," is the Divine assurance, "Rise then unto that for which thou wast created." He states that "the purpose for which mortal men have...stepped into the realm of being, is that they may work for the betterment of the world and live together in concord and harmony."

 

The Independent Investigation of Truth

"Furthermore, know ye that God has created in man the power of reason, whereby man is enabled to investigate reality. God has not intended man to imitate blindly his fathers and ancestors. He has endowed him with mind, or the faculty of reasoning, by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth, and that which he finds real and true, he must accept."

-- ĎAbdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 291.

 

The Common Foundation of all Religions

Bahá'í's view religion as a progressive, evolutionary process which needs to be updated as humanity evolves mentally, socially, and spiritually. Every so often a new Prophet is sent to humanity to update religion to the current needs of mankind. These Prophets bring essentially the same spiritual message to mankind; in a form that meets the needs of the people of Their time. Bahá'í's believe that Bahá'u'lláh has brought an updated message for mankind today.

"There is no distinction whatsoever among the Bearers of My Message. They all have but one purpose; their secret is the same secret. To prefer one in honor to another, to exalt certain ones above the rest, is in no wise to be permitted. Every True Prophet hath regarded His Message as fundamentally the same as the Revelation of every other Prophet gone before Him... The measure of the revelation of the Prophets of God in this world, however, must differ. Each and every one of them hath been the Bearer of a distinct Message, and hath been commissioned to reveal Himself through specific acts. It is for this reason that they appear to vary in their greatness...
It is clear and evident, therefore, that any apparent variation in the intensity of their light is not inherent in the light itself, but should rather be attributed to the varying receptivity of an ever-changing world. Every Prophet Whom the Almighty and Peerless Creator hath purposed to send to the peoples of the earth hath been entrusted with a Message, and charged to act in a manner that would best meet the requirements of the age in which He appeared."

--Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pp.78-9.

 

The Essential Harmony of Science and Religion

A major source of conflict and disunity in the world today is the widespread opinion that there is some basic opposition between science and religion, that scientific truth contradicts religion on some points, and that one must choose between being a religious person, a believer in God, or a scientist, a follower of reason.

The Bahá'í teachings stress the fundamental harmony of science and religion. This view derives from the belief that truth (or reality) is one. For if truth is indeed one, it is not possible for something to be scientifically false and religiously true.

'Abdu'l-Bahá affirmed that religion and science are, in fact, complementary:

"Religion and science are the two wings upon which man's intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone!" -- ĎAbdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p.143.

 

The Equality of Women and Men

Since its inception nearly one hundred and fifty years ago, the Bahá'í Faith has taught the equality of the sexes. Indeed, the Bahá'í Faith is the only independent world religion whose Founder has stated unequivocally that women and men are equal. In accordance with this teaching, the worldwide Bahá'í community has been at the forefront of the movement to advance the rights of women for more than a century. And the Bahá'í approach, which advocates full equality and a firm sense of partnership between women and men, is increasingly recognized as being on the cutting edge of women's issues worldwide.

Bahá'ís understand, for example, that the values which women bring to human interaction are necessary to the proper functioning and advancement of modern society, and that qualities that have formerly been associated with the feminine sides of our natures--such as compassion, nurturing, cooperation and empathy--will be increasingly important in creating a peaceful, just, and sustainable world civilization.

"Women and men have been and will always be equal in the sight of God," said Bahá'u'lláh.

"The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged prerequisites of peace. The denial of such equality perpetrates an injustice against one half of the world's population and promotes in men harmful attitudes and habits that are carried from the family to the workplace, to political life, and ultimately to international relations. There are no grounds, moral, practical, or biological, upon which such denial can be justified. Only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavor will the moral and psychological climate be created in which international peace can emerge." The Universal House of Justice

 

The Elimination of Prejudice of All Kinds

Prejudice--whether based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or class--is a baneful heritage that must be overcome if humanity is to create a peaceful and just global society.

"...again, as to religious, racial, national and political bias: all these prejudices strike at the very root of human life; one and all they beget bloodshed, and the ruination of the world. So long as these prejudices survive, there will be continuous and fearsome wars."

-- Selections from the Writings of ĎAbdu'l-Bahá, p.249.

 

Universal Compulsory Education

The acquisition of "knowledge," Bahá'u'lláh says, serves as "wings" for humanity's "ascent," and thus "is incumbent upon everyone." Knowledge plays a central role in human life and society: It is the process of generating and applying knowledge that lies at the heart of civilization. The advancement of society flows from it.

"Unto every father hath been enjoined the instruction of his son and daughter in the art of reading and writing and in all that hath been laid down in the Holy Tablet. He that putteth away that which is commanded unto him, the Trustees of the House of Justice are then to recover from him that which is required for their instruction, if he be wealthy, and if not the matter devolveth upon the House of Justice. Verily, have We made it a shelter for the poor and needy. He that bringeth up his son or the son of another, it is as though he hath brought up a son of Mine; upon him rest My Glory, My Loving-Kindness, My Mercy, that have compassed the world."

-- Bahá'u'lláh, Tablet of Ishraqat (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh , p.128).

 

A Spiritual Solution of the Economic Problems

The Voluntary Elimination of Extremes of Wealth and Poverty

A satisfactory solution to the world's present economic crisis lies in a profound change of heart and mind which only religion can produce. From the Bahá'í perspective, the prevailing materialistic assumptions about economic development reflect a profound error of conception about human nature itself. ĎAbdu'l-Bahá wrote that "The fundamentals of the whole economic condition are divine in nature and are associated with the world of the heart and spirit..." "The disease which afflicts the body politic is lack of love and absence of altruism..."

Bahá'u'lláh asserted that economic injustice is a moral evil and as such is condemned by God.

"We see amongst us men who are overburdened with riches on the one hand, and on the other those unfortunate ones who starve with nothing; those who possess several stately palaces, and those who have not where to lay their head. Some we find with numerous courses of costly and dainty food; whilst others can scarce find sufficient crusts to keep them alive. Whilst some are clothed in velvets, furs and fine linen, others have insufficient, poor and thin garments with which to protect them from the cold. This condition of affairs is wrong and must be remedied. Now the remedy must be carefully undertaken."

-- ĎAbdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p.151.

 

A Universal Auxiliary Language

All people could be taught two languages. One the language of their birth or country and the other a universal one, so that anywhere that person traveled in the world, they could converse freely among the populace. Thusly cultural distinctions could be preserved while eliminating the division and mistrust fostered by communication handicaps.

"It behoveth the sovereigns of the world -- may God assist them -- or the ministers of the earth to take counsel together and to adopt one of the existing languages or a new one to be taught to children in schools throughout the world, and likewise one script. Thus the whole earth will come to be regarded as one country."

-- Bahá'u'lláh, Tablet of Bisharat (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 22.)

 

Religious Tolerance

"He (Bahá'u'lláh) sets forth a new principle for this day in the announcement that religion must be the cause of unity, harmony and agreement among mankind. If it be the cause of discord and hostility, if it leads to separation and creates conflict, the absence of religion would be preferable in the world."

--ĎAbdu'l-Bahá, Baha'i World Faith, p. 247.

"All these divisions we see on all sides, all these disputes and opposition, are caused because men cling to ritual and outward observances, and forget the simple, underlying truth. It is the outward practices of religion that are so different, and it is they that cause disputes and enmity -- while the reality is always the same, and one. The Reality is the Truth, and truth has no division. Truth is God's guidance, it is the light of the world, it is love, it is mercy. These attributes of truth are also human virtues inspired by the Holy Spirit."

--ĎAbdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp. 120-1.

 

How Bahá'ís View Other Religions

When Bahá'ís say that the various religions are one, they do not mean that the various religious creeds and organizations are the same. Rather, they believe that there is only one religion and all of the Messengers of God have progressively revealed its nature. Together, the world's great religions are expressions of a single unfolding Divine plan, "the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future."

People from all of the major religious backgrounds have found that the promises and expectations of their own beliefs are fulfilled in the Bahá'í Faith. Bahá'ís from Native American, African and other indigenous backgrounds, similarly, find in the Bahá'í teachings fulfillment of prophetic visions.

 

Universal Peace Upheld by a World Government

A World Commonwealth of Nations

"The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world's Great Peace amongst men. Such a peace demandeth that the Great Powers should resolve, for the sake of the tranquillity of the peoples of the earth, to be fully reconciled among themselves. Should any king take up arms against another, all should unitedly arise and prevent him. If this be done, the nations of the world will no longer require any armaments, except for the purpose of preserving the security of their realms and of maintaining internal order within their territories." -- Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 249.

 

The Promise of World Peace

"The Great Peace towards which people of goodwill throughout the centuries have inclined their hearts...is now at long last within the reach of the nations. For the first time in history it is possible for everyone to view the entire planet, with all its myriad diversified peoples, in one perspective. World peace is not only possible but inevitable. It is the next stage in the evolution of this planet--in the words of one great thinker, "the planetization of mankind."

The human race, as a distinct, organic unit, has passed through evolutionary stages of infancy and childhood in the lives of its individual members, and is now in the culminating period of its turbulent adolescence approaching its long-awaited coming of age....

The time has come when those who preach the dogmas of materialism, whether of the east or the west, whether of capitalism or socialism, must give account of the moral stewardship they have presumed to exercise. Where is the "new world" promised by these ideologies? Where is the international peace to whose ideals they proclaim their devotion? Where are the breakthroughs into new realms of cultural achievement produced by the aggrandizement of this race, of that nation or of that particular class? Why is the vast majority of the world 's peoples sinking ever deeper into hunger when wealth on a scale undreamed of by the Pharaohs, the Caesars, or even the imperialist powers of the nineteenth century is at the disposal of the present arbiters of human affairs?...

Clearly, a common remedial effort is urgently required. It is primarily a matter of attitude. Will humanity continue in its waywardness, holding to outworn concepts and unworkable assumptions? Or will its leaders, regardless of ideology, step forth and, with a resolute will, consult together in a united search for appropriate solutions?...

...in essence, peace stems from an inner state supported by a spiritual or moral attitude, and it is chiefly in evoking this attitude that the possibility of enduring solutions can be found....

World order can be founded only on an unshakeable consciousness of the oneness of mankind, a spiritual truth which all the human sciences confirm. Anthropology, physiology, psychology, recognize only one human species, albeit infinitely varied in the secondary aspects of life. Recognition of this truth requires the abandonment of prejudice of every kind--race, class, color, creed, nation, sex, degree of material civilization, everything which enables people to consider themselves superior to others....

--THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

 

"Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching," he wrote in 1936. "Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life."

-- Shoghi Effendi

 

He, She or It?

Like previous Messengers of God, Bahá'u'lláh used the masculine pronoun when referring to the Creator. To have done anything else would have violated all conventions of Arabic--the principal language in which Bahá'u'lláh wrote.

Bahá'u'lláh stated explicitly, however, that God is beyond any comparison to human form or gender. Accordingly, the issue of whether to refer to God as "He," "She," or "It" does not arise in Bahá'í discussions.

 

Peaceful Consultation as a Means for Resolving Differences

In the Baha'i Faith, difference of opinion is not squelched, in fact it is encouraged.

"The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions."

Selections from the Writings of ĎAbdu'l-Bahá, p.87.

However, differences of opinion can be expressed in a way that doesn't humiliate another human being. The Baha'i principle of consultation requires that an individual be detached from his or her opinions and always be open to the truth, from whomever or wherever it comes.

"They must then proceed with the utmost devotion, courtesy, dignity, care and moderation to express their views. They must in every manner search out the truth and not insist upon their own opinion, for stubbornness and persistence in one's views will lead ultimately to discord and wrangling and the truth will remain hidden. The honored members (of the consulting body) must with all freedom express their own thoughts, and it is in no wise permissible for one to belittle the thought of another, nay, he must with moderation set forth the truth..."

-- Selections from the Writings of ĎAbdu'l-Bahá, p.88.

 

To Be A Bahá'í is to:

"Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowfull, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stanger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown in the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the host of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humanity."

-- Bahá'u'lláh