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The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.
How do I become Baha’i?

My Two Baha’i Communities

Badi Shams | May 4, 2024

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Badi Shams | May 4, 2024

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

As a Baha’i, I put a lot of energy into my Baha’i community’s activities. Also, I am very involved with the community at large, which creates a conflict within me.

Have you ever had an inner dilemma like this? Do you have one group of friends you love and another group you also love, but the two groups don’t often meet?

My continued involvement in the larger community has gone on for years — but still, I haven’t figured out a solution to my unsettled feelings that I’m falling short as a Baha’i. Lately, I’ve been trying to simplify this dilemma in order to fully grasp it. 

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I suppose it all comes down to how we define each other. After all, who is a Baha’i, a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or an atheist? What about those who do not believe in or belong to any organized religion? 

Recently, after reading a quotation from the Baha’i teachings from a talk Abdu’l-Baha gave in London, the light came on, and a realization hit me. I realized I have two Baha’i communities and not just one:

It makes no difference whether you have ever heard of Baha’u’llah or not … the man who lives the life according to the Teachings of Baha’u’llah is already a Baha’i. On the other hand a man may call himself a Baha’i for fifty years and if he does not live the life he is not a Baha’i.

The Baha’i teachings recognize that it does not matter what you call yourself; your actions speak. This applies to people of all religions and ideologies, emphasizing the actions and not the followers’ claims.

This new realization helped free me, and I experienced a joy I had not felt for a long time. The sense of loneliness of living in a small Baha’i community was transformed into a vision of myself as part of a huge community in which I worked and volunteered, meeting so many beautiful souls endeavoring for the betterment of the world. 

This realization changed my entire view of what community means to me. 

I now feel that I belong to a bigger community — which includes thousands of people with whom I share a common cause, who are a vital part of my life and have become my extended family members.

My newfound freedom inspired me to write this essay to remind myself of the remedy for dealing with loneliness. The great killer in the world, attacking the souls of millions, is loneliness. Your family, the Baha’i teachings assure us, is the entire human race. Go out, meet them, and forget your loneliness.

Am I an optimist who ignores the realities all around him, realities like the world is falling apart and misery is all around, in which poverty, wars, conflicts, and the spread of misinformation take hope away from millions? I don’t think so. My optimistic view comes from reading the Baha’i writings, with Baha’u’llah’s promise of the inevitable oneness of humanity, which will solve our problems and ensure a bright future: 

The utterance of God is a lamp, whose light is these words: 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. He Who is the Daystar of Truth beareth Me witness! So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth. The One true God, He Who knoweth all things, Himself testifieth to the truth of these words. Exert yourselves that ye may attain this transcendent and most sublime station, the station that can insure the protection and security of all mankind. This goal excelleth every other goal, and this aspiration is the monarch of all aspirations.

When religion is just a label or an inheritance, it is taken lightly and accepted without investigation or thought. When followers of different religions identify with a sense of pride that they belong to a faith and are ready to kill or be killed, they are ignorant of the fundamental principles of their Faith as written in their Holy Books.

I try never to fall into those categories — my Faith reminds me of the essence of being a Baha’i. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:

… “Baha’i” is not just a name but a truth. Every child must be trained in the things of the spirit, so that he may embody all the virtues and become a source of glory to the Cause of God. Otherwise, the mere word “Baha’i”, if it yield no fruit, will come to nothing. 

These wise passages have joyfully helped me realize now that I have two Baha’i communities. One is my life in the context of my Faith through meetings, celebrations, study, and prayer. My “other” Baha’i community is one that lives and exemplifies the spiritual teachings of the Baha’i Faith — and of all Faiths, since all religions, in essence, have the same message of love, oneness, and service to others. 

RELATED: How Service to Others Expands the Heart

This awareness has encouraged me to perceive like-minded friends, colleagues, and neighbors who live a Baha’i life as my fellow Baha’is. What a blessing to belong to two communities that may look different on the surface but are the same in the spirit.

When crises engulf the world, when hope for the future diminishes, the Baha’i writings remind us of the oneness of religion — and that just naming one’s Faith without following its teachings makes a meaningless and false claim. Humanity is one family created by the same God of all religions, no matter what name God is called. 

Our human family awaits your involvement, to connect and build a bright future. The future of humanity rests upon us, and if we can face all the challenges with love, cooperation, and unity, we can learn to see all religions as one and humanity as one diverse family.

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