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Do the Eastern, non-Abrahamic religions – Buddhism and Hinduism, in particular – also tell of the “end times” when humanity will be brought together, and a new heaven and earth revealed? Yes, they do.
Let’s begin with Hinduism, which discusses the coming together of humanity within the context of cyclical ages. We are now, most Hindus believe, in the Kali age, a time of darkness and immorality. According to Hindu prophecy, this age will be brought to an end by the appearance of a savior or avatar named Kalki, a title meaning “Destroyer of Filth or Sin.” Kalki, according to the Hindu prophecies, will bring people together and establish righteousness and law on Earth.
This well-known passage from the Fourth Discourse of The Bhagavad Gita discusses the periodic and cyclical reappearance of avatars like Krishna:
Whenever there is decay of righteousness … and there is exaltation of unrighteousness, then I Myself come forth … for the destruction of evildoers, for the sake of firmly establishing righteousness, I am born from age to age.
You’ll find a similar theme presented in the Puranas, the voluminous collection of Hindu scripture discussing creation, practices, genealogies, and prophecies. This particular sample comes from Vishnu Purana 4.24:
When the practices taught by the Vedas [the four principle Hindu Scriptures] and the institutes of law shall nearly have ceased, and the close of the Kali age shall be nigh, a portion of that divine being who exists of his own spiritual nature in the character of Brahma [the Creator], and who is the beginning and the end, and who comprehends all things, shall descend upon the earth. He will be born as Kalki in the family of an eminent brahmin of Sambhala village [a mythical kingdom in inner Asia], endowed with the eight superhuman faculties. By his irresistible might he will destroy all the barbarians and thieves, and all whose minds are devoted to iniquity. He will then re-establish righteousness upon earth; and the minds of those who live at the end of the Kali age shall be awakened and shall be as pellucid as crystal. The men who are thus changed by virtue of that peculiar time shall be as the seeds of human beings and shall give birth to a race who shall follow the laws of the Krita age, the Age of Purity.
The Vedas teach that when obedience to Hindu practice and law has nearly ceased, when the old stars of heavenly guidance are no longer effectual, then, a Promised One will appear and a new cycle will begin.
When will that happen? Baha’is believe that new revelatory cycle has already begun, initiated by the appearance of Baha’u’llah, the most recent messenger of God:
The Revelation proclaimed by Baha’u’llah, His followers believe, is divine in origin, all-embracing in scope, broad in its outlook, scientific in its method, humanitarian in its principles and dynamic in the influence it exerts on the hearts and minds of men. The mission of the Founder of their Faith, they conceive it to be to proclaim that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is continuous and progressive, that the Founders of all past religions, though different in the non-essential aspects of their teachings, “abide in the same Tabernacle, soar in the same heaven, are seated upon the same throne, utter the same speech and proclaim the same Faith.” – Shoghi Effendi, Summary Statement – The World Religion.
The advent of Baha’u’llah, and the establishment of the world-embracing Baha’i Faith, fulfills these Hindu prophecies. The Avatar that Hindus await is not just for them – his sovereignty is to be established over the whole Earth and the righteousness he brings is for all.
Another Hindu Purana also stresses the world-embracing character of the promised advent and the spiritual transformation of the world at the end time. The Brahma-Vaivarta says:
O Ganges, the whole planet will become a pilgrimage sight by the presence of My devotees, even though it had been sinful. – Krsna-Janma-Khandam, Chapter 129:55.
It will be the same in the case of pilgrimage sights and the whole world. Those intelligent worshipers of My mantra [devotional words] who partake of My remnants [remaining devotees] will purify everything. – Ibid., 129:57.
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Thus, Hindus await a worldwide transformation, initiated by an Avatar who brings the whole of humanity together for judgment, in a time much like our own. Shoghi Effendi, writing in his book God Passes By, clearly and cogently characterized that worldwide transformation:
… the Revelation identified with Baha’u’llah abrogates unconditionally all the Dispensations gone before it, upholds uncompromisingly the eternal verities they enshrine, recognizes firmly and absolutely the Divine origin of their Authors, preserves inviolate the sanctity of their authentic Scriptures, disclaims any intention of lowering the status of their Founders or of abating the spiritual ideals they inculcate, clarifies and correlates their functions, reaffirms their common, their unchangeable and fundamental purpose, reconciles their seemingly divergent claims and doctrines, readily and gratefully recognizes their respective contributions to the gradual unfoldment of one Divine Revelation, unhesitatingly acknowledges itself to be but one link in the chain of continually progressive Revelations, supplements their teachings with such laws and ordinances as conform to the imperative needs, and are dictated by the growing receptivity, of a fast evolving and constantly changing society, and proclaims its readiness and ability to fuse and incorporate the contending sects and factions into which they have fallen into a universal Fellowship, functioning within the framework, and in accordance with the precepts, of a divinely conceived, a world-unifying, a world-redeeming Order.
[Note: Because of a publishing error, this article was not included in its series in the correct order. We have now corrected the numbering so those who wish to read the entire series in sequence can do so. BahaiTeachings.org apologizes for the error.]