Many books have been written about the new Baha’i ethics, but let’s see if it’s even remotely reasonable to try to summarize some of them here in a short essay.
Impossible? Probably. After all, the Baha’i Faith, a new global religion that has spread to every part of the world and every human culture, contains literally hundreds of volumes of teachings direct from its founder Baha’u’llah and his son Abdu’l-Baha.
So with that unattainable goal of summarizing them in mind, here’s a short list of five fundamental Baha’i ethics—a selection of the underlying moral teachings of Baha’u’llah’s Faith he has asked all humanity to follow:
1. The Oneness of Humanity
The Baha’i Cause teaches, as its primary principle, the oneness of humanity. Baha’u’llah said:
These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family …. Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind …. – The Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, p. viii.
This new Baha’i ethic asks every human being to consider themselves a member of one human family:
… the Cause of Baha’u’llah will bring about the oneness of mankind, and the tabernacle of unity will be upraised on the heights of the world, and the banners of the universality of all humankind will be unfurled on the peaks of the earth. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 101.
Cleanse ye your eyes, so that ye behold no man as different from yourselves. See ye no strangers; rather see all men as friends, for love and unity come hard when ye fix your gaze on otherness. And in this new and wondrous age, the Holy Writings say that we must be at one with every people; that we must see neither harshness nor injustice, neither malevolence, nor hostility, nor hate, but rather turn our eyes toward the heaven of ancient glory. For each of the creatures is a sign of God, and it was by the grace of the Lord and His power that each did step into the world; therefore they are not strangers, but in the family; not aliens, but friends, and to be treated as such. – Ibid., p. 23.
Every great Faith teaches love. The Baha’i teachings renew, widen and expand that foundational moral teaching:
There is a Spirit that is mind and life, light and truth, and vast spaces. He contains all works and desires and perfumes and all tastes. He enfolds the whole universe, and in silence is loving to all. – The Hindu Upanishads.
Love is the beginning and end of the Torah. – The Hebrew Torah.
Through love of man, through service and through truth raise thou our souls into the realms of light. -The Zoroastrian Gathas.
He that loveth not, knoweth not God. For God is love. – The Buddhist Dhammapada
God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. – The Christian New Testament
Cling, all, to the strong rope of Love Divine–Love for each other, and of the One God—and do not think of separation ever. – The Islamic Qur’an
Love is heaven’s kindly light, the Holy Spirit’s eternal breath that vivifieth the human soul. Love is the cause of God’s revelation unto man, the vital bond inherent, in accordance with the divine creation, in the realities of things. Love is the one means that ensureth true felicity both in this world and the next. Love is the light that guideth in darkness, the living link that uniteth God with man, that assureth the progress of every illumined soul. Love is the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the divers elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 27.
The Baha’i Faith emphasizes kindness, asking each human being to be infinitely kind:
Abdu’l-Baha tells us: “To be silent concerning the faults of others, to pray for them, and to help them, through kindness, to correct their faults. To look always at the good and not at the bad. If a man has ten good qualities and one bad one, to look at the ten and forget the one; and if a man has ten bad qualities and one good one, to look at the one and forget the ten. Never to allow ourselves to speak one unkind word about another, even though that other be our enemy.” – Abdu’l-Baha, quoted in Dr. J.E. Esslemont’s Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 82.
Put into practice the Teaching of Baha’u’llah, that of kindness to all nations. Do not be content with showing friendship in words alone, let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 16.
The Baha’i teachings encourage each one of us to be humble, to forget the demands of the self, and to focus on our own imperfections rather than anyone else’s:
Let us put aside all thoughts of self; let us close our eyes to all on earth, let us neither make known our sufferings nor complain of our wrongs. Rather let us become oblivious of our own selves, and drinking down the wine of heavenly grace, let us cry out our joy, and lose ourselves in the beauty of the All-Glorious. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 236.
It is my hope that you may consider this matter, that you may search out your own imperfections and not think of the imperfections of anybody else. Strive with all your power to be free from imperfections. Heedless souls are always seeking faults in others. What can the hypocrite know of others’ faults when he is blind to his own? … As long as a man does not find his own faults, he can never become perfect. Nothing is more fruitful for man than the knowledge of his own shortcomings. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244.
The Baha’i teachings prioritize peace, both in the heart of every human being and across the entire world of humanity:
Work for the day of Universal Peace. Strive always that you may be united. Kindness and love in the path of service must be your means. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 121.
… war is darkness upon darkness while peace is heavenly light; war is the destroyer of the edifice of mankind while peace is the everlasting life of the world of humanity; war is like a devouring wolf while peace is like the angels of heaven; war is the struggle for existence while peace is mutual aid and co-operation among the peoples of the world and the cause of the good-pleasure of the True One in the heavenly realm.
There is not one soul whose conscience does not testify that in this day there is no more important matter in the world than that of universal peace. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 296.