A generalised view of religion and a short overview of the Baha’i Faith
Background: Religion is to do with belief. What we believe, individually, or as a society influences the shape our lives. Historically speaking belief is at the heart of all the religions of the world. These religions continues to dominate our lives in so far as how we view the world, the language we use, what we eat, how we marry, how we are buried, what calendar we use are all to do with our religion or the religious background of the country in which we live. Basically there are two major world religious traditions: Semitic and Arian.
The Semitic tradition includes all the Jewish. Christian and Muslim faiths .The
Arian tradition includes the Zoroastrian, Hindu and Buddhist faiths.
Is there anything in common between these different faiths?
It depends how you frame the question so the answer is yes and no. Yes in so far as all these religions encourage the faithful to believe in a higher reality and to behave in positive ways towards each other. They also believe that all people have souls which will continue to exist independently of the body. No in so far as they all have different rituals, laws, ways of organisation and live in different kinds of communities.
So is there a problem here?
Yes. At the heart of all these traditions is the idea that each of them is ‘right’ and all the other religions/sects are wrong.
So does this mean that religious people will ever remain in conflict with one another, arguing about who is right?
Maybe, but there is something else which is common to all these faiths: They all believe that their founders will return and establish the true religion, make the world a beautiful place and /or destroy the world and take all the true believers to heaven.
If this is true, does it means the religious people will always disagree with each other till the end of time?
Well maybe, but maybe not! Bahai’s don’t think so.
So who or what are the Baha’is?
The world wide Baha’i community are inspired by he life and teachings and grace of Bahau’u’llah who lived throughout most of the nineteenth centaury
What do the Baha’is believe:
They believe in many things but the big one is this: Each religion is a child of a spiritual event (the life inspiration and teaching of particular insightful and charismatic soul) and that the spiritual event which all the different religions expect; the return of their respective founders, is not a number of desperate spiritual events, but one massive common spiritual event which fulfils the spiritual expectations of all these religions.
What does this mean?
This means that the coming of the Messiah for the Jews is also the coming of Christ for the Christians , which is also be the coming of the Kalki Avatar for the Hindus, which is also coming of the Shar Braham for the Zoroastrians, the return of the Buddha of compassion for the Buddhists and the Mahdi for the Moslems.
Is there anything more?
Yes and it’s the big one! Bahai’s believe that this spiritual event has already happened. They say that in the person, life, inspiration, teachings and laws of Baha’u’llah all spiritual and theological expectations of the old religions have been fulfilled. Bahai’s say that we are already livening in the dawn of the new age, a new cycle of human growth. They say that the forces of this new cycle of growth is destined to bring the peoples of the world together into an ever more complex and glorious unity which will culminate in a beautiful world spiritual civilisation.
If this is so, how come everything seems to be so awful and getting worse?
Bahai’s say that the new age is expressed in different ways: At a general level it is seen in the explosion of insights and understandings which drive the amazing discoveries of science and the extraordinary range of technological achievements.. These new ways of understanding and thinking are literally breaking down all the old religious , social and political systems. Cahos confusion and breakdown are the necessary conditions which we need to move though before we can collectively learn new forms of wise ways of living and being. So things must get worse until we learn wise living!
So anti intuitively Bahai’s say that everything which is happening in the human world at the moment is in reality enabling human kind to learn and realise its new potential and new ways of living, in relation to each other, and with the planet on which we live.
So who was Baha’u’llah?
Bahai’s say that at a spiritual level the new Age is most perfectly articulated in the inspirational wrings of Bahau’u’llah, and in the life of his son Abdul Baha. Baha’u’llah was a most wonderful charismatic and inspired Persian soul. The central focus of all his insights was on the theme of unity and its many dimensions: Devine, mystical, social, and political.
For the last 20 years of his life he was held as prisoner of conscience in the prison city of Acca, then Palestine and now Israel. It is here where his tomb is found. For Bahai’s it is the holyest spot on the planet and a place of pilgrimage. His Eldest son Abdul Baha, maintained the unity of his fathers faith and gave practical expression to his fathers inspiration. He developed his fathers teachings into a religion of universal love and lived a beautiful life which exemplified service to all, irrespective of class religions creed or colour. He exemplified his fathers ideals.
So what are the teachings?
Baha’u’llah’s teachings are both simple and complex.: He taught The unity of God, the inner and unfolding unity of all religions, and the essential oneness of all human kind. He taught that men and women are two wings of one human bird. He taught that truth is relative, and that the highest individual human achievement is to independently discover or realise one highest truth. . He taught that sciences and religion are two descriptions of one reality. He championed democracy, he forbade any form of religious violence. He said that the grace of God had made the people of the world clean . (Unclean is a big divisive theological concept in past religions) He taught that the world will come to understand its unity and celebrate its diversity.
. He prophesised a time when all human war would cease,. He claimed that his most Holy Book, the book of Laws is the seed of a civilisation which, over generations will purify humanity and grow the shape a great world civilisation founded on universal justice. This civilisation which will be beautiful in all its aspects. Its establishment will fulfil the many past visions which have prophesised that one day the earth will learn to live at peace and become heavenly.
How does all this translate in practical terms?:
The followers of Baha’u’llah are very positive about the future and what it holds. They are very inclusive in their thinking. They build communities at a local, national and at a world level which express universal love and world justice. They build an administrative system which reflects and supports these values. They invite all to join this community of communities. The ideas is not a denial but a fulfilment of the past. The ultimate aim is to enable all to realise their own exquisite nature, express their fullest potential and ever appreciate and live in harmony with the exquisite beauty of our planet
So what’s the future?
Well that’s up to all of us!! The Baha’i path contains an inclusive vision, a spiritual practice and a practical mechanisms to enable a harmonious one world community and civilisation establish itself. We are what we believe, so if enough of us believe and become informed by this wonderful vision and this brilliant practice, we will help grow this vision and make ourselves and this planet ever more wonderful. According to Baha’is its all going to happen any way. The big question is this: Who wants to help make it happens?????