The Baha’i teachings say that all of the great monotheistic world religions are one – that they come from the same Source and teach humanity the same essential message. This progressive oneness, Baha’is believe, includes Hinduism, an ancient family of religions originating on the Indian sub-continent.
Hindus are often classified into different groups depending on the objects of their devotion, practices, and the scriptures emphasized, begging the question of if Hinduism is a single religion. Westerners too have a variety of different ideas about God and his attributes at any point in time. When Westerners choose to become a Jesuit as opposed to a Franciscan or a Baptist as opposed to a Presbyterian, they still accept other forms of Christian religion as legitimate expressions — even though these different forms emphasize different aspects or methods in Christianity. Hindus do the same. They choose a form of religion comfortable to them yet give homage to the rest as different expressions of the universal God. Thus, the different braches of Hinduism, emphasizing different aspects of God, are united as a single Hindu family.
To be sure there are representations of many gods in Hinduism, but is it fair to speak of modern Hinduism as polytheistic? The Hindu God Brahman of the Vedas is, like the God of the Semitic religions, depicted as high above us. The Vedas say: “Brahman is He Whom speech cannot express, and from Whom the mind, unable to reach Him, comes away baffled.” And yet the Hindu scriptures say He is in the heart of all, essentially no different than the monotheistic God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Thou art the fire, Thou art the sun, Thou art the air, Thou art the moon, thou art the starry firmament, thou art Brahman Supreme: Thou art the waters — thou, The creator of all
A Christian or a Sufi mystic could easily have written this passage. Yet, even the Upanishads make a distinction between God and His universe. As the continuation of the same verse makes plain, while God creates changing things, He remains the same. The verses read:
Filled with Brahman are the things we see; Filled with Brahman are the things we see not; From out of Brahman floweth all that is; From Brahman all yet is he still the same.
Is this pantheism? A Hindu scholar writes:
There is, properly speaking, whatever appearances may sometimes suggest to the contrary, no pantheism in India. The Hindu sees God as the ultimate energy in and behind all creation, but never, either in ancient or in modern times, as identical with it. – Swami Prabhavananda, The Spiritual Heritage of India, p. 33.
Baha’is believe in one Supreme Being, and reject polytheism and the worship of multiple gods. The Baha’i teachings recognize the monotheistic foundations of Hinduism and its high moral injunctions. We also revere Krishna—the Hindu Avatar whose ministry has the most historical evidence.
Blessed souls — whether Moses, Jesus, Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, Confucius or Muhammad — were the cause of the illumination of the world of humanity. How can we deny such irrefutable proof? How can we be blind to such light? – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 346.
A belief in one divine organizing agency that seeks to educate and refine human character and enable social growth forms the common foundations of all great religions. The Hindu emphasis on prayer and meditation, on the search within to find the Beloved, the passionate desire for liberation from the bondage of the material world, and the attempt to live the right way according to a universal order (dharma) have succeeded in producing millions of good and noble people among the world’s Hindus.
The kindness and gentility of the Hindus, the brilliant analytical minds of many of their scholars, their scriptures of overwhelming beauty are all gifts which the Hindu culture brings to the family of religions and nations. It is a gift we cannot do without.