BAHA'I FAITH

The Bahá’í Religion





History
            The nineteenth century was a period of intense religious fervor throughout the world.  A time when all the religions of the earth were expecting the appearance of their Promised One.  The Hindus were expecting the Tenth Avatar.  Buddhists were awaiting the appearance of the Fifth Buddha.  Zoroastrians awaited the coming of the World Renovator.  The Jews expected the Messiah.  Muslims anticipated the Day of God, when some said the Mahdi and Christ would both appear.  And Christians all over the world expected Christ’s return.
            They had good reasons to expect Him at that time. Christ had said the time of the end would come when the gospel was “…preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations …” (Matthew 24:14).  This was realized in the mid 1800’s when several areas in South America and Africa were evangelized through the efforts of the Gideons and various other Bible Societies and missionaries.

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But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment.  And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council.  And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:22)


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Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. (Matthew 19:21)


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When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.  And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 8:10-13)


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O Emigrants!
The tongue I have designed for the mention of Me, defile it not with detraction.  If the fire of self overcome you, remember your own faults and not the faults of My creatures, inasmuch as every one of you knoweth his own self better than he knoweth others.  (Bahá'u'lláh)


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O Son of Passion!
Cleanse thyself from the defilement of riches and in perfect peace advance into the realm of poverty; that from the well-spring of detachment thou mayest quaff the wine of immortal life.  (Bahá'u'lláh)


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O My Friends!
Call ye to mind that covenant ye have entered into with Me upon Mount Paran, situate within the hallowed precincts of Zama.  I have taken to witness the concourse on high and the dwellers in the city of eternity, yet now none do I find faithful unto the covenant.  Of a certainty pride and rebellion have effaced it from the hearts, in such wise that no trace thereof remaineth.  Yet knowing this, I waited and disclosed it not.  (Bahá'u'lláh)


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O Companion of My Throne!
Hear no evil, and see no evil, abase not thyself, neither sigh and weep.  Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee, and magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great; and wish not the abasement of anyone, that thine own abasement be not exposed.  Live then the days of thy life, that are less than a fleeting moment, with thy mind stainless, they heart unsullied, thy thoughts pure, and thy nature sanctified, so that, free and content, thou mayest put away this mortal frame, and repair unto the mystic paradise and abide in the eternal kingdom for evermore.  (Baha'u'llah)


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            Christ had also said He would return when the time of the Gentiles was fulfilled.  In 1844 the Ottomans wrote the Edict of Toleration granting the Jews, who had been exiled since 70 AD, entrance into the Holy City.  In so doing they ended a period of over 1700 years when Jerusalem was “…trodden down of the Gentiles…” (Luke 21:24).
            Christ also told His followers to watch for the “…the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the Prophet”
(Matthew 24: 3-15) as a sign of His coming.  So religious leaders reasoned that since the Book of Daniel (9:25-27) accurately prophesied the time of Christ’s first coming, it could also provide the basis for calculating the time of His Second Coming.  And using the year 457 BC as a starting point, (the year of the edict to rebuild Jerusalem as recorded in the Book of Ezra), they calculated the year of His return at around 1843-1846.
            In 1844 The Báb (“Gate” or “Door”) proclaimed that He was the forerunner for the Promised One.  Like John the Baptist, He heralded the coming of One greater than Himself and prepared the way for Bahá’u’lláh (“Glory of God”) who, in 1863, proclaimed He was the Promised One of all ages.  This is how the Bahá’í Religion was born.



Some of Our Beliefs

Progressive Revelation
      and the Oneness of Religion

            Bahá’ís believe that God has sent Messengers continually throughout history since the dawn of mankind.  We believe that the term “end times” does not refer to the end of the physical world but to the end of a cycle of human history.
            Throughout history, God’s revelation has been progressive and in accordance with man’s level of understanding.  Thus we see that Noah’s religion involved building altars and offering burnt sacrifices – a form of worship suitable to the primitive society of His time.  During the time of Moses, however, man had progressed further, so God gave man a set of laws suitable to the society of that time; a law which would not only enhance man’s spirituality, but would advance his civilization as well.  And by the time of Christ, man had reached an even higher level of development.  Consequently, Christ’s message was not one of detailed instruction, as was Moses’ revelation, but one that engaged man’s intellect through abstract thought.  But because Christ’s message appeared to be very different than that of Moses, many could not accept that it came from the same source, so the children of Israel remained within the confines of Mosaic Law and the Revelation of Christ was then perceived as a new religion. “No man also having drunk old wine straitway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better”
(Luke 5:39).
            Every time a Manifestation of God appears upon the earth, He eliminates some of the social laws of God’s religion and leaves new laws that are more suitable to the society of His time.  For example, Christ abrogated Levitical Law – the laws governing divorce and criminal and civil justice.  “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time … But I say unto you… ” (Matthew 5:22, 27, 38).  However, the spiritual Truth remained the same – love God and love your neighbor.  The same spiritual Truth is common to all world religions.  It is only the social laws of the particular religion that varies.  Therefore, its outer expression may create the illusion of dissimilarity when, in fact, it is the same, never-changing Truth of God.
“And he that sat upon the throne said,
Behold, I make all things new.”
(Rev. 21:5).

We are currently at the close of the Adamic cycle – the cycle of human history that began with Adam – and at the beginning of the Bahá’í Era.

The Prophets and the Holy Ghost
            Bahá’ís believe in the Unity of the Messengers or Manifestations of God.  That is, these Messengers are all chosen by God to renew His religion.  The power and authority to do so is conferred upon Them through the Holy Ghost.  It is the Holy Ghost that returns throughout history and not the personality.  So we see that Elijah Himself did not return, as the Jews had expected Him to, but it was John the Baptist who came with the same mission and in the spirit of Elijah.
And his disciples asked him, saying,
Why then say the scribes that Elias
must first come?  And Jesus answered
and said unto them, Elias truly shall first
come, and restore all things.
But I say unto you, That Elias
is come already, and they knew him not,
but have done unto him whatsoever
they listed….  Then the disciples
understood that he spake unto them
of John the Baptist.
 
(Matthew 17:10-13)

            Likewise, it was not the person of Christ who returned at the time of the end, but the Holy Ghost in another human frame.  Bahá'ís believe Bahá'u'lláh is the One of Whom Christ said: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.  (John 16:13)
            Hence, Bahá'ís make no distinction between these Messengers of God.  They are all chosen by God to renew His religion, and they are all endowed with the same Holy Spirit.  Therefore, they are the same Spirit of Truth that appears on the earth every thousand years or so.

The Purpose of Life
            The embryo passes through numerous phases of growth in the womb of its mother.  In so doing, it acquires the human form needed in this life – arms, legs, vital organs, sight, hearing, etc.  If the growth of the fetus is stunted in any way – if it fails to attain one or more of these instruments – the child will be handicapped in this life.  Hence, the life of the fetus is a mere preparation for this one.  Likewise, this life is a mere preparation for the next.  This is where we acquire spiritual qualities – the faculties we will need in the spiritual realm.  Should we fail to do so, we will be born handicapped into the next life.
            The vehicle by which we attain these spiritual qualities (honesty, love, humility, etc.) is worship.  Hence the purpose of life is to know and love God. “…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”
 (Matthew 22:37).

Heaven and Hell
            Bahá'ís believe that heaven and hell are not places to which the spirit passes when one abandons this earthly frame, but rather spiritual conditions that can be achieved both in this life and in the next.  That is, heaven is the condition of nearness to God; the more we progress along spiritual lines, the closer we get to God and the more peace of mind and contentment we experience.  Conversely, the more we fail to seize our opportunities to advance along spiritual lines, and instead focus on material desires, the more distant we get from God and the more negativity we experience.  Therefore, hell is a distance from God so great that one suffers a spiritual death, consumed by anger, fear, resentment, envy and so on.
            Satan, the Deceiver, is synonymous with the human ego; it is the quality of man that causes him to withdraw from the Light of the spirit and succumb instead to worldly desires.  Nevertheless, the ego is God-given and therefore is good and beneficial to man.  It can cause us to experience fear, resentment, and anger when faced with adversity.  However, it is when we are consumed with these passions that we, most fervently, seek God’s salvation and therefore draw nearer to Him.  Of course, we can also choose to succumb to the anger, envy, etc. and experience the pains of hell instead.  Therefore, attaining nearness to God (heaven) or suffering a spiritual death (hell) is neither reward or punishment, but a direct consequence of the choices we make.
O Son of Man!
If adversity befall thee not in My path,
how canst thou walk in the ways of them
that are content with My pleasure?
If trials afflict thee not in thy longing
to meet Me, how wilt thou attain the
light in thy love for My beauty?
           
.....Bahá'u'lláh




Principles of the Bahá'í Faith

            Bahá'u'lláh emphasized several principles that Bahá'ís must strive to achieve.  They serve as guides for the spiritual life of both the individual believer and the Bahá'í community as a whole:

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        The oneness of humanity
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        The equality of men and women
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        The elimination of prejudice
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        The elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty
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        The independent investigation for Truth
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        Universal education
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        Religious tolerance
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        The harmony of science and religion
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        A world commonwealth of nations
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        A universal auxiliary language





Practices and Traditions

Prayer and Fasting
            Bahá'ís engage in prayer and meditation at least three times a day.  They also read from the Writings at least twice a day.  Bahá'u'lláh also urges His followers to reflect upon their deeds at the close of each day:
O Son of Being!
Bring thyself to account each day
ere thou art summoned to a reckoning;
for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee
and thou shalt be called to give account
for thy deeds.
    
.....Baha'u'llah

            Prayer is considered a personal interaction between the believer and God and is, therefore, done in private.  Bahá'ís do not engage in congregational prayer although, at gatherings, it is customary for individuals to recite some of the prayers that Bahá'u'lláh was heard to utter during His lifetime.
But when thou doest alms,
let not thy left hand know
what thy right hand doeth:
That thine alms may be in secret:
and thy Father which seeth in secret
himself shall reward thee openly.

       (Matthew 6: 3-4)

            The Bahá'í calendar is comprised of solar months. There are nineteen months of nineteen days each, plus four Intercalary days to a year.  Bahá'ís fast in the last month of the Bahá'í calendar which coincides with March 2 through March 20 of the Gregorian calendar.

Nineteen Day Feasts and Other Gatherings
            Bahá'ís begin every month with a Feast, a time when the community comes together in fellowship and worship.  There are also other gatherings that Bahá'ís generally include in their monthly activities.  A Fireside Chat is usually held at sometime during the month as well.  People of other faiths are welcome at these gatherings and are encouraged to ask any questions they may have about the faith.  In addition to these gatherings there are many other Bahá'í activities that foster fellowship and unity within the Bahá'í community itself and in the greater society.
            For example, in the year 2000 Bahá'ís of diverse cultures and ethnicities jogged across the United States and Canada to promote racial unity.  It was called the "Spirit Run".

Teaching the Faith
            Proselytizing is forbidden in the Bahá'í Faith.  We are urged to wait for a listening ear and to refrain from imposing our ideas on others.  We are to attract people through our example as opposed to mere words.
“...Whosso ariseth among you to teach
the Cause of his Lord, let him, before all else,
teach his own self, that his speech may attract
the hearts of them that hear him...
Take heed, O people, lest ye be of them
that give good counsel to others
but forget to follow it themselves...”
         
.....Bahá'u'lláh




Links to some Bahá'í Sites

The Baha'i Faith in America

The Directory of Baha'i Communities

The Golden Rule; the continuum of one changeless single standard

A profile of the Baha'i Faith
and it's worldwide community, in many languages


Christianity from a Baha'i Perspective

The Baha'i Holy Land:
Over 200 photographs; explanations and history
of the Bahá'í Holy Places in Israel


The Power of Race Unity

The "Time" Prophecies

More Time Prophecies




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this page authored by Carmen Reyes (a.k.a. Hope1844)