"What are some of the basics things one should know about the Baha'i Faith?"
by Greg Kagira-Watson
· Since the beginning of the history of the Baha'i Faith there have been no preachers or priests (no ecclesiastics or clergy)—no sacerdotal order. Although some members are respected as "learned" individuals, they have no authority to tell anyone else what to do. All individuals are equal.
· There are no single individuals who have any authority in the community. (All decisions are made through group consultation.)
· No one who is not a Baha'i can contribute money to the Baha'i funds. There is never a plate passed around at Baha'i meetings. No one is ever put on the spot and contributions are completely voluntary and confidential. Community members are not required to make pledges. This is a very old policy—since the beginning history of the Faith. For example, when the Baha'i House of Worship was being built in just outside Chicago (beginning in 1912) Andrew Carnegie wanted to donate $1 million dollars. The Baha'is would not accept it. As a result of our small numbers, it took 60 years to complete the structure! Anonymous donations that are received by the Baha'is are given away to charities since it is a Baha'i law not to take outside money. In contrast, Baha'is give money to relief victims (from disasters, etc.) and to other charities—both privately and through our administrative institutions.
SOME CENTRAL PRINCIPLES OR TEACHINGS (expressed in my own words, from my understanding):
QUOTES that exemplify or exhort some of these CENTRAL TEACHINGS:
"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. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory." (Baha'u'llah: Hidden Words, p: 68)
"O contending peoples and kindreds of the
earth! Set your faces towards unity, and let the radiance of its light shine
upon you. Gather ye together, and for the sake of God resolve to root out
whatever is the source of contention amongst you. Then will the effulgence of
the world's great Luminary envelop the whole earth, and its inhabitants become
the citizens of one city, and the occupants of one and the same throne. This
wronged One hath, ever since the early days of His life, cherished none other
desire but this, and will continue to entertain no wish except this wish.
There can be no doubt whatever that the peoples of the world, of whatever race
or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the
subjects of one God. The difference between the ordinances under which
they abide should be attributed to the varying requirements and exigencies of
the age in which they were revealed. All of them, except a few which are the
outcome of human perversity, were ordained of God, and are a reflection of His
Will and Purpose. Arise and, armed with the power of faith, shatter to pieces
the gods of your vain imaginings, the sowers of dissension amongst you. Cleave
unto that which draweth you together and uniteth you. This, verily, is the
most exalted Word which the Mother Book hath sent down and revealed unto you.
To this beareth witness the Tongue of Grandeur from His habitation of glory." (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p.
"...Cause us, then, to be so steadfast in our love towards Thee that we will turn to none except Thee, and will be reckoned amongst them that are brought nigh to Thee, and acknowledge Thee as One Who is exalted above every comparison and is holy beyond all likeness, and will lift up our voices amongst Thy servants and cry aloud that He is the one God, the Incomparable, the Ever-Abiding, the Most Powerful, the All-Glorious, the All-Wise." (Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, p. 37)
"The Purpose of the one true God, exalted be His glory, in revealing Himself unto men is to lay bare those gems that lie hidden within the mine of their true and inmost selves. That the divers communions of the earth, and the manifold systems of religious belief, should never be allowed to foster the feelings of animosity among men, is, in this Day, of the essence of the Faith of God and His Religion. These principles and laws, these firmly-established and mighty systems, have proceeded from one Source, and are the rays of one Light. That they differ one from another is to be attributed to the varying requirements of the ages in which they were promulgated." (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 287)
"The purpose of God in creating man hath been, and will ever be, to enable him to know his Creator and to attain His Presence. To this most excellent aim, this supreme objective, all the heavenly Books and the divinely-revealed and weighty Scriptures unequivocally bear witness. Whoso hath recognized the Day Spring of Divine guidance and entered His holy court hath drawn nigh unto God and attained His Presence, a Presence which is the real Paradise, and of which the loftiest mansions of heaven are but a symbol." (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 70)
"And now, concerning thy question regarding the creation of man. Know thou that all men have been created in the nature made by God, the Guardian, the Self-Subsisting. Unto each one hath been prescribed a pre-ordained measure, as decreed in God's mighty and guarded Tablets. All that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition. Your own acts testify to this truth...." (Gleanings..., 149)
"The purpose underlying the revelation of every heavenly Book, nay, of every divinely-revealed verse, is to endue all men with righteousness and understanding, so that peace and tranquillity may be firmly established amongst them. Whatsoever instilleth assurance into the hearts of men, whatsoever exalteth their station or promoteth their contentment, is acceptable in the sight of God. How lofty is the station which man, if he but choose to fulfill his high destiny, can attain! To what depths of degradation he can sink, depths which the meanest of creatures have never reached! Seize, O friends, the chance which this Day offereth you, and deprive not yourselves of the liberal effusions of His grace. I beseech God that He may graciously enable every one of you to adorn himself, in this blessed Day, with the ornament of pure and holy deeds. He, verily, doeth whatsoever He willeth." (Gleanings..., p. 206)
"The purpose of the one true
God in manifesting Himself is to summon all mankind to truthfulness and
sincerity, to piety and trustworthiness, to resignation and submissiveness to
the Will of God, to forbearance and kindliness, to uprightness and wisdom. His
object is to array every man with the mantle of a saintly character, and to
adorn him with the ornament of holy and goodly deeds." (Baha'u'llah,
Gleanings..., p. 299)
"Occupy thyself, during these fleeting days of thy life, with such deeds as will diffuse the fragrance of Divine good pleasure, and will be adorned with the ornament of His acceptance..." (Baha'u'llah, ESW, p. 76)
"O SON OF DUST!
Verily I say unto thee: Of all men the most negligent is he that disputeth idly and seeketh to advance himself over his brother. Say, O brethren! Let deeds, not words, be your adorning." (Baha'u'llah, The Persian Hidden Words)
"The essence of faith is fewness of words and abundance of deeds; he whose words exceed his deeds, know verily his death is better than his life."
(Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 156)
"O SON OF BEING!
Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it." (Baha'u'llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)
"Beseech ye the one true
God to grant that ye may taste the savor of such deeds as are performed in His
path, and partake of the sweetness of such humility and submissiveness as are
shown for His sake. Forget your own selves, and turn your eyes towards your
neighbor. Bend your energies to whatever may foster the education of men.
Nothing is, or can ever be, hidden from God. If ye follow in His way, His
incalculable and imperishable blessings will be showered upon you. This is the
luminous Tablet, whose verses have streamed from the moving Pen of Him Who is
the Lord of all worlds. Ponder it in your hearts, and be ye of them that
observe its precepts." (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p.
"Set before thine eyes God's unerring Balance and, as one standing in His Presence, weigh in that Balance thine actions every day, every moment of thy life. Bring thyself to account ere thou art summoned to a reckoning, on the Day when no man shall have strength to stand for fear of God, the Day when the hearts of the heedless ones shall be made to tremble...." (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 236)
"Night hath succeeded day, and day hath succeeded night, and the hours and moments of your lives have come and gone, and yet none of you hath, for one instant, consented to detach himself from that which perisheth. Bestir yourselves, that the brief moments that are still yours may not be dissipated and lost. Even as the swiftness of lightning your days shall pass, and your bodies shall be laid to rest beneath a canopy of dust. What can ye then achieve? How can ye atone for your past failure?" (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 320)
My brother! When a true seeker determineth to take the step of search in the
path leading unto the knowledge of the Ancient of Days, he must, before all
else, cleanse his heart, which is the seat of the revelation of the inner
mysteries of God, from the obscuring dust of all acquired knowledge, and the
allusions of the embodiments of satanic fancy. He must purge his breast, which
is the sanctuary of the abiding love of the Beloved, of every defilement, and
sanctify his soul from all that pertaineth to water and clay, from all shadowy
and ephemeral attachments. He must so cleanse his heart that no remnant of
either love or hate may linger therein, lest that love blindly incline him to
error, or that hate repel him away from the truth. Even as thou dost witness
in this Day how most of the people, because of such love and hate, are bereft
of the immortal Face, have strayed far from the Embodiments of the Divine
mysteries, and, shepherdless, are roaming through the wilderness of oblivion
That seeker must, at all times, put his trust in God, must renounce the peoples of the earth, must detach himself from the world of dust, and cleave unto Him Who is the Lord of Lords. He must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vain-glory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endureth a century.
That seeker should, also, regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul. He should be content with little, and be freed from all inordinate desire. He should treasure the companionship of them that have renounced the world, and regard avoidance of boastful and worldly people a precious benefit. At the dawn of every day he should commune with God, and, with all his soul, persevere in the quest of his Beloved. He should consume every wayward thought with the flame of His loving mention, and, with the swiftness of lightning, pass by all else save Him. He should succor the dispossessed, and never withhold his favor from the destitute. He should show kindness to animals, how much more unto his fellow-man, to him who is endowed with the power of utterance. He should not hesitate to offer up his life for his Beloved, nor allow the censure of the people to turn him away from the Truth. He should not wish for others that which he doth not wish for himself, nor promise that which he doth not fulfil. With all his heart he should avoid fellowship with evil-doers, and pray for the remission of their sins. He should forgive the sinful, and never despise his low estate, for none knoweth what his own end shall be. How often hath a sinner attained, at the hour of death, to the essence of faith, and, quaffing the immortal draught, hath taken his flight unto the Concourse on high! And how often hath a devout believer, at the hour of his soul's ascension, been so changed as to fall into the nethermost fire!
Our purpose in revealing these convincing and weighty utterances is to impress upon the seeker that he should regard all else beside God as transient, and count all things save Him, Who is the Object of all adoration, as utter nothingness.
These are among the attributes of the exalted, and constitute the hall-mark of the spiritually-minded. They have already been mentioned in connection with the requirements of the wayfarers that tread the path of Positive Knowledge. When the detached wayfarer and sincere seeker hath fulfilled these essential conditions, then and only then can he be called a true seeker. Whensoever he hath fulfilled the conditions implied in the verse: "Whoso maketh efforts for Us," he shall enjoy the blessings conferred by the words: "In Our Ways shall We assuredly guide him."
Only when the lamp of search, of earnest striving, of longing desire, of passionate devotion, of fervid love, of rapture, and ecstasy, is kindled within the seeker's heart, and the breeze of His loving-kindness is wafted upon his soul, will the darkness of error be dispelled, the mists of doubts and misgivings be dissipated, and the lights of knowledge and certitude envelop his being. At that hour will the Mystic Herald, bearing the joyful tidings of the Spirit, shine forth from the City of God resplendent as the morn, and, through the trumpet-blast of knowledge, will awaken the heart, the soul, and the spirit from the slumber of heedlessness. Then will the manifold favors and outpouring grace of the holy and everlasting Spirit confer such new life upon the seeker that he will find himself endowed with a new eye, a new ear, a new heart, and a new mind. He will contemplate the manifest signs of the universe, and will penetrate the hidden mysteries of the soul. Gazing with the eye of God, he will perceive within every atom a door that leadeth him to the stations of absolute certitude. He will discover in all things the mysteries of Divine Revelation, and the evidences of an everlasting Manifestation. (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 263)
"Baha'u'llah taught the Oneness of humanity; that is to say, all the children of men are under the mercy of the Great God. They are the sons of one God; they are trained by God. He has placed the crown of humanity on the head of every one of the servants of God. Therefore all nations and peoples must consider themselves brethren. They are all descendants from Adam. They are the branches, leaves, flowers and fruits of One Tree. They are pearls from one shell. But the children of men are in need of education and civilization, and they require to be polished, till they become bright and shining." ..."As the East and the West are illumined by one sun, so all races, nations, and creeds shall be seen as the servants of the One God. The whole earth is one home, and all peoples, did they but know it, are bathed in the oneness of God's mercy. God created all. He gives sustenance to all. He guides and trains all under the shadow of his bounty. We must follow the example God Himself gives us, and do away with all disputations and quarrels." (Abdu'l-Baha in London)
"Inasmuch as our God is one God and the creator of all mankind, He provides for and protects all. We acknowledge him as a God of kindness, justice and mercy. Why then should we, His children and followers, war and fight, bringing sorrow and grief into the hearts of each other? God is loving and merciful. His intention in religion has ever been the bond of unity and affinity between humankind." (Abdu'l-Baha)
"The fatherhood of God, His loving-kindness and beneficence are apparent to all. In His mercy he provides fully and amply for His creatures and if any soul sins He does not suspend His bounty. All created things are visible manifestations of His fatherhood, mercy and heavenly bestowals. Human brotherhood is likewise as clear and evident as the sun, for all are servants of one God, belong to one humankind, inhabit the same globe, are sheltered beneath the overshadowing dome of heaven and submerged in the sea of divine mercy. Human brotherhood and dependence exist because mutual helpfulness and cooperation are the two necessary principles underlying human welfare. This is the physical relationship of mankind. There is another brotherhood, the spiritual, which is higher, holier and superior to all others. It is heavenly; it emanates from the breaths of the Holy Spirit and the effulgence of merciful attributes; it is founded upon spiritual susceptibilities. This brotherhood is established by the Manifestations of the Holy One." (Abdu'l-Baha)
"God is one; the effulgence of God is one; and humanity constitutes the servants of that one God. God is kind to all. He creates and provides for all; and all are under His care and protection. The Sun of Truth, the Word of God shines upon all mankind; the divine cloud pours down its precious rain; the gentle zephyrs of His mercy blow and all humanity is submerged in the ocean of His eternal justice and loving-kindness." (Abdu'l-Baha)
Recommended Site URLs :
Who was Baha'u'llah?
http://. . . ./Baha.htm
Bulgarian Baha'is home page
Stephen Hawking, scientist extraordinaire
http://. . . . /hawking.html
Who was Abdu'l-Baha?
http://. . . . Abdu'l-Baha.html
Baha'u'llah's tablets to the kings & rulers
http://. . . ./kings.html
The promise of world peace
http://. . . ./GreatPeace.html
Baha'i views on science
http://. . . . ./science.html
Tributes from leaders of thought
More on the Universal House of Justice:
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