The Baha’i teachings say that all the messengers of God are essentially one.
Krishna was a messenger of God. His book is called the Bhagavad-Gita. Krishna was the king of Dwaraka–the small gate; he was the gate of the knowledge of God for his age. Yet he was rejected by the people of his time, for the Gita says: “The deluded despise me clad in human body, not knowing my higher nature as Lord of all existence.” – IX-11 Gita, p. 139. But Krishna established his Faith and brought about a new civilization. For future guidance the Gita says: “Whenever there is a decline of righteousness … then I send forth myself … I come into being from age to age.” – Chapter IV, Verses 7-8.
Buddha was a messenger of God. He established Buddhism about 2500 years ago. His teachings are known as the Gospels of Buddha. Born a prince, Buddha became the Enlightened One. He did not want people to fight each other in the name of God, so he united people under his rightful leadership. The Buddha revealed to his followers:
I am not the first Buddha who came upon the earth nor shall the last. In due time another Buddha will arise in the world … a master of angels and morals … His disciples will number many thousands while mine number many hundreds. – Gospel of Buddha, pp. 217-218.
The Buddhists look forward to the promised Fifth Buddha, the Maitreya, or the Amitabha (boundless light) as he is variously known.
Zoroaster was a messenger of God. He revealed the Zoroastrian Faith nearly 3000 years ago. His book is called the Avesta. He used the symbol of fire as the giver of light and the heat of love; today Zoroastrian houses of worship are referred to as “Fire Temples.” It is said that Zoroaster was opposed in his divine work, and that he was stabbed in the back while praying. Yet the Persian people became a mighty civilization under his influence. Today the Zoroastrians, or Parsis, anticipate the coming of the promised Shah Bahram Varjavand, who will cleanse and unite the world.
Moses was a messenger of God. He founded the Jewish Faith some 3300 years ago; his book is the Torah, the first part of what is now known by Christians as the Old Testament. As commanded by God, Moses raised up a slave people, trained them and caused them to become the world’s leaders at that time. He spoke of Abraham who went before him, and told in veiled language of himself and three messengers who would follow him in time: “The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from Mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands Saints.” – Deuteronomy 33:2.
Today the Jews await the coming of the Lord of Hosts.
Jesus Christ was a messenger of God. He established Christianity 2000 years ago; his book is called the Gospel, a part of the New Testament. Christ, which is a title meaning “Anointed One,” taught that he was the Way, the Truth and the Light. He knew he would be killed for this new revelation, and that one of his few disciples would turn against him, yet he gave the message entrusted to him by God, and so was crucified. Jesus said he had many things he could not tell the people then, but that the Spirit of Truth would tell them later. Today the Christians look forward to the second coming.
Muhammad was a messenger of God. He revealed the Faith of Islam over 1300 years ago; his book is called the Qur’an. Muhammad was rejected by the fierce tribal people of his time, and had to flee from his home town of Mecca when his enemies tried to kill him and all his followers. Yet in just ten short years he was able to overcome and train these wild tribesmen so that they became the cultural leaders of the world in that subsequent age. Muhammad foretold that the religion of God which had come down from heaven through him would go back to God after the passing of a thousand years. Today, Muslims look for the return of the Spirit (Christ), or of the Imam Husayn.
The Bab, meaning “the Gate,” proclaimed his message less than two centuries ago. He had eighteen disciples, most of whom were killed by the enemies of his new Faith. The Bab himself, after a six-year ministry—much of which was spent in prison—was publicly executed. But he promised the appearance of “He Whom God shall make manifest” after the lapse of a few years.
Baha’u’llah, meaning the “Glory of God,” publicly announced in 1863 that he was the Promised One. In his many wonderful writings he explained how each of the messengers of God taught the one religion of God to various peoples at different times in accordance with their capacity to understand. For teaching that there is one God, one religion and one humanity, Baha’u’llah endured many hardships and long years in prison. He bore chains around his neck in order to free us, and the generations to come, from the chains of prejudice, bigotry and enmity.
Two Kinds of Religious Truth
Baha’is believe that two kinds of religious truth exist: essential spiritual truth, and temporary social constructs and laws. The latter may include things like laws of conduct, diet, institutions, ceremonies, and other various social necessities. These may change dramatically over time. Essential spiritual truth, however, does not change:
The religion of God has two aspects in this world. The spiritual (the real) and the formal (the outward). The formal side changes, as man changes from age to age. The spiritual side which is the Truth, never changes. The Prophets and Manifestations of God bring always the same teaching; at first men cling to the Truth but after a time they disfigure it. The Truth is distorted by man-made outward forms and material laws. The veil of substance and worldliness is drawn across the reality of Truth. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, pp. 56-57.
So the messengers of God restore the essential truth, once again releasing a pure divine message to humanity. Simultaneously, the new messenger eliminates redundant or corrupt social structures and creates a new social organization that supports the knowledge, the education and the improvement of humanity.
In the Baha’i Faith, the followers of all religions have come together and have become united, joined in one common belief and one global community that honors the progressive revelation of all the prophets.