|Kitáb-i-Aqdas · Kitáb-i-Íqán |
Index of Bahá'í Articles|
The Bahá'í teachings represent a considerable number of theological, social, and spiritual ideas that were established in the Bahá'í Faith by its Central Figures. These, combined with the authentic teachings of several past religions, including Islam and Christianity, are regarded by Bahá'ís as teachings revealed by God.
- 1 Summary
- 2 Unity
- 3 Progressive revelation
- 4 Social principles
- 5 Covenant
- 6 Mystical teachings
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 Additional reading
Shoghi Effendi, the appointed head of the religion from 1921-1957, wrote the following summary of what he considered to be the distinguishing principles of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings, which, he said, together with the laws and ordinances of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas constitute the bed-rock of the Bahá'í Faith:
The independent search after truth, unfettered by superstition or tradition; the oneness of the entire human race, the pivotal principle and fundamental doctrine of the Faith; the basic unity of all religions; the condemnation of all forms of prejudice, whether religious, racial, class or national; the harmony which must exist between religion and science; the equality of men and women, the two wings on which the bird of human kind is able to soar; the introduction of compulsory education; the adoption of a universal auxiliary language; the abolition of the extremes of wealth and poverty; the institution of a world tribunal for the adjudication of disputes between nations; the exaltation of work, performed in the spirit of service, to the rank of worship; the glorification of justice as the ruling principle in human society, and of religion as a bulwark for the protection of all peoples and nations; and the establishment of a permanent and universal peace as the supreme goal of all mankind—these stand out as the essential elements [which Bahá'u'lláh proclaimed].
Three core assertions of the Bahá'í Faith, sometimes termed the "three onenesses", are central in the teachings of the religion. They are the Oneness of God, the Oneness of Religion and the Oneness of Humanity. They are also referred to as the unity of God, unity of religion, and unity of mankind. The Bahá'í writings state that there is a single, all powerful god, revealing his message through a series of divine messengers or educators, regarding them as one progressively revealed religion, to one single humanity, who all possess a rational soul and only differ according to colour and culture. This idea is fundamental not only to explaining Bahá'í beliefs, but explaining the attitude Bahá'ís have towards other religions, which they regard as divinely inspired. The acceptance of every race and culture in the world has brought Bahá'í demographics an incredible diversity, becoming the second most widespread faith in the world, and translating its literature into over 800 languages.
The oneness of God
Bahá'ís believe that there is one supernatural being, God, who has created all the creatures and forces in the universe; God is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfect; and that although people have different concepts of God and God's nature, and call God by different names, (Allah, Dios, Tao, etc.) everyone is speaking of the same one being.
The Bahá'í teachings state that God is too great for humans to fully understand or to create an image of God. Even the titles that Bahá'ís attribute to God such as the All-Powerful, and the All-Loving are derived from limited human experiences of power, love, or justice. Bahá'u'lláh teaches that knowledge of God is limited to those attributes and qualities which are perceptible to us, and thus direct knowledge of God is not possible. Furthermore, Bahá'u'lláh states that the knowledge of the attributes of God is revealed to humanity through the messengers sent to humanity.
As our knowledge of things, even of created and limited things, is knowledge of their qualities and not of their essence, how is it possible to comprehend in its essence the Divine Reality, which is unlimited? ... Knowing God, therefore, means the comprehension and the knowledge of His attributes, and not of His Reality. This knowledge of the attributes is also proportioned to the capacity and power of man; it is not absolute.
At the same time the Bahá'í teachings talk about a personal god, conscious of his creation, and "not an unconscious and undetermined force." Shoghi Effendi also notes that being a personal god does not mean that God has a human or physical form.
The Bahá'í teachings state that one can get closer to God through prayer, meditation, study of the holy writings, and service.
The oneness of humanity
The Bahá'í writings teach that there is but one humanity and all people are equal in the sight of God. The Bahá'í Faith emphasizes the unity of humanity transcending all divisions of race, nation, gender, caste, and social class, while celebrating its diversity. `Abdu'l-Bahá states that the unification of mankind has now become "the paramount issue and question in the religious and political conditions of the world." The Bahá'í writings affirm the biological, political, and spiritual unity of mankind. Bahá'u'lláh wrote:
Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship.
Regarding biological unity the Bahá'í writings state that differences between various races, nations, and ethnic groups are either superficial (e.g. skin color) or the result of differences in background or "education". A basic Bahá'í teaching is "the elimination of all forms of prejudice," which refers to not only the elimination of racial prejudice but also that of other forms of prejudice such as gender discrimination.
The Bahá'í writings also proclaim a glorious future Golden Age in which the whole earth is united under a world federal government. Bahá'ís state that while ethnic and cultural diversity will continue to exist, humanity's first allegiance will be with the human race rather than any subsidiary group such as race, nation, or ethnic group. There will be an end not only to war, but even to inter-group rivalry.
While the Bahá'í writings talk about the unity of the world and its peoples, unity is not equated to uniformity, but instead the Bahá'í writings affirm the value of cultural, national and individual diversity through the principle of "Unity in diversity," which states that while recognizing the unity of mankind, cultural diversity should be celebrated. Unity in diversity is commonly described in the Bahá'í writings through the analogy of flowers of one garden, where the different colours of the flowers add to the beauty of the garden.
It [the Faith] does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnic origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world... Its watchword is unity in diversity...
The oneness of religion
The Bahá'í teachings state that there is but one religion which is progressively revealed by God, through prophets/messengers, to mankind as humanity matures and its capacity to understand also grows. The outward differences in the religions, the Bahá'í writings state, are due to the exigencies of the time and place the religion was revealed. Bahá'u'lláh claimed to be the most recent, but not the last, in a series of divine educators which include Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, and others.
The Bahá'í writings state that the essential nature of the messengers is twofold: they are at once human and divine. They are divine in that they all come from the same god and expound his teachings, and thus they can be seen in the same light, but at the same times they are separate individuals known by different names, who fulfill definite missions and are entrusted with particular revelations. Bahá'u'lláh in many places states that denying any of the messengers of God is equivalent to denying all of them, and God himself. In other references `Abdu'l-Bahá said that a Bahá’í will choose death over denial of any of the great prophets, whether Moses, Muhammad or Christ. Regarding the relationships of these educators, which Bahá'ís refer to as Manifestations of God Bahá'u'lláh writes:
God hath ordained the knowledge of these sanctified Beings to be identical with the knowledge of His own Self. Whoso recognizeth them hath recognized God. Whoso hearkeneth to their call, hath hearkened to the Voice of God, and whoso testifieth to the truth of their Revelation, hath testified to the truth of God Himself. Whoso turneth away from them, hath turned away from God, and whoso disbelieveth in them, hath disbelieved in God . . . They are the Manifestations of God amidst men, the evidences of His Truth, and the signs of His glory.
- Main article: Progressive revelation
A core teaching of the Bahá'í Faith asserts that religion has been revealed from the same god progressively through different prophets/messengers, who at different times throughout history and in different locations are sent to provide the teachings of God. In this way Bahá'ís see that all true religions have the same spiritual foundation, but the social teachings meant for a past age are seen as being superseded by the most recent, and therefore the most relevant, revelation. Bahá'u'lláh used an analogy of the world as the human body, and revelation as a robe of "justice and wisdom".
Whenever this robe hath fulfilled its purpose, the Almighty will assuredly renew it. For every age requireth a fresh measure of the light of God. Every Divine Revelation hath been sent down in a manner that befitted the circumstances of the age in which it hath appeared.
In a separate letter, Bahá'u'lláh was asked several questions about the nature of differences in religions, God's messengers, and religious laws. His response was a reference to progressive revelation:
The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.
Revelation is also never ceasing, according to the Bahá'í writings. This is contrary to many other belief systems which believe in a finality of their prophet. Bahá'u'lláh mentioned in the Kitáb-i-Íqán that God will renew the "City of God" about every thousand years, and specifically mentioned that any person claiming a revelation from God before the passing of one thousand years, "such a man is assuredly a lying impostor".
Religion as a school
Humanity is likened to a child that grows and needs training at various stages. Religion, therefore, is likened to a school, where the pupil (humanity) goes through various courses and various grades. Arithmetic, for example, is taught before algebra; algebra before geometry; geometry before trigonometry; and so on. It would be unreasonable for a teacher who may know calculus to attempt to teach it to a student who did not know basic arithmetic and mathematical symbols. This is not a lack within the teacher, but rather a limit to the current capacity of the student.
Similarly, religion is the ongoing education of humanity. The earliest forms of religion are seen, in many of the Bahá'í writings, to be like early school. Concepts which may have been appropriate at an earlier time, then, might be quite inaccurate when one has sufficient context. Bahá'ís would not say that these earlier beliefs were wrong, since they were sufficient to the capacity of humanity at the time.
These views allow Bahá'ís to resolve many of the apparent conflicts between the differing theologies and cosmologies of the world. Each different religion may have had truth explained differently according to the needs of the recipients of the teaching. The proper attitude, the Bahá'í Faith teaches, would then be to accept the next messenger of God, in the same manner as a graduate would accept the next grade. When Bahá'ís are criticized for accepting the validity of many religions whose beliefs cannot be reconciled, they will often refer to this analogy in defense of the belief.
|From The Báb|
Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
|From Shoghi Effendi|
The following are some principles frequently listed as a quick summary of the Bahá'í teachings. They are derived from transcripts of speeches given by `Abdu'l-Bahá during his tour of Europe and North America in 1912.
Equality of women and men
The Bahá'í Faith affirms gender equality; that men and women are equal. The equality of the sexes is seen as Bahá'ís as a spiritual and moral standard that is essential for the unification of the planet and the unfoldment of world order, and in the importance of implementing the principle in individual, family, and community life. Although men and women are equal in the Bahá'í Faith, this equality does not imply sameness. Men and women are seen as having different strength and abilities that enable them to better fill different roles. Thus there are certain teachings that give preference to men in some limited circumstances and some that give preference to women.
Harmony of religion and science
The harmony of science and religion is a central tenet of the Bahá'í teachings. The principle states that that truth is one, and therefore true science and true religion must be in harmony, thus rejecting the view that science and religion are in conflict. `Abdu'l-Bahá asserted that science without religion leads to materialism, and religion without science leads to superstition; he also affirmed that reasoning powers are required to understand the truths of religion. Shoghi Effendi described science and religion as "the two most potent forces in human life."
Universal compulsory education
The theme of education in the Bahá'í Faith is given quite prominent emphasis. Its literature gives a principle of universal, or compulsory education, which is identified as one of key principles alongside monotheism and the unity of humanity. The Bahá'í teachings focus on promoting a moral and spiritual education, in addition to the arts, trades, sciences and professions. The emphasis on education is a means for social and national improvement. Since all Bahá'ís have the duty to do work that is useful to humanity, Bahá'í education is meant to prepare Bahá'ís to perform such work. Some of this principle is show in organized Bahá'í schools as well as decentralized Bahá'í study circles.
Universal auxiliary language
Auxiliary language in the Bahá'í Faith focuses on a particular teaching; that the world should adopt an international auxiliary language, and everyone should have to learn only one or two languages. The aim of this teachings is that the adoption of an international auxiliary language will improve communication, and foster unity among peoples and nations.
Independent investigation of truth
Bahá'u'lláh taught that each human being must acquire knowledge through their processes, and not blindly believe or follow others blindly, and he made it a fundamental obligation. He stated that since Truth is one, that when a person independently investigates they lead to the same truth and help lead to the oneness of humanity. The teaching was regularly included in the list of principles of the Bahá'í Faith that `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke about during his tour of Europe and North America in 1912.
Elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty
The Bahá'í Faith teaches that every human being has the right to a reasonable level of personal welfare. While it allows anyone to live in luxury and the greatest comfort, it is taught that a poor person should be able to have all the necessaries of life. According to the principle of Bahá’u’lláh, one man should not live in excess while another has no possible means of existence. Bahá'u'lláh clearly affirms the importance of work as a means of securing material welfare in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. The Bahá'í teachings are also filled in the subject of charity, voluntary giving to the fund, volunteer services, Huqúqu'lláh, and trustworthiness in business or while providing services or goods.
Bahá'u'lláh described a greater covenant between God and mankind. He also described a lesser covenant between each Messenger and the people of the time. The lesser covenant concerns the recognition of the Messenger, acceptance and application of his teachings and laws, and especially in the case of the Bahá'í Faith, obedience to the line of authority that stemmed from Bahá'u'lláh.
The purpose of human life, say Bahá'ís, is spiritual growth. This is conceived almost as an organic process, like the development of a fetus, and continues after death. Neither a physical Heaven or Hell are present in the Bahá'í Faith. The Bahá'í teachings present "Heaven" and "Hell" to be states of spiritual nearness or remoteness to God, and that life continues in an afterlife through which the soul may progress infinitely through ever-more-exalted spiritual realms, eventually coming to stand before the Presence of God. The Bahá'í faith teaches that this process continues on in the spiritual afterlife, and not through a series of births and re-births as in reincarnation.
Bahá'ís believe that while God's essence can never be fully fathomed, he can be understood through his "names and attributes." These are sometimes referred to as gems, and include such qualities as compassion, justice, knowledge, and wisdom. Education (especially of a spiritual nature) reveals the divine gems which God has placed within our souls.
Bahá'u'lláh's Hidden Words, The Seven Valleys, and The Four Valleys are common mystical texts. Bahá'í spirituality tends to consist of textual study, prayer, and recitation. Monasticism is forbidden, and Bahá'ís attempt to ground their spirituality in ordinary daily life. Performing useful work with a spirit of service, for example, is not only required but considered a form of worship.
The Bahá'í Faith does not teach of angels in the traditional sense of the Abrahamic religions or the Eastern sense of Devas. Instead, this angelic state is represented as a heightened spiritual state of development.
And now, inasmuch as these holy beings have sanctified themselves from every human limitation, have become endowed with the attributes of the spiritual, and have been adorned with the noble traits of the blessed, they therefore have been designated as "angels." Such is the meaning of these verses, every word of which hath been expounded by the aid of the most lucid texts, the most convincing arguments, and the best established evidences.
- Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 281
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- From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, April 21, 1939. published in Hornby, Helen (Ed.), ed (1983). Lights of Guidance: A Bahá'í Reference File. Bahá'í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India. ISBN 81-85091-46-3.
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- Gleanings, pg. 81.
- Gleanings, pg 116.
- The Kitáb-i-Íqán, pg. 199.
- The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, gr. 37.
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- The Bahá'í Faith and economics
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