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The Baha’i teachings bring humanity three primary spiritual principles – the unity of the Creator, the unity of humanity, and the essential unity and harmony of all religions.
In a speech he gave in Boston in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha – the son and successor of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith – summarized those three principles this way:
… it is our duty in this radiant century to investigate the essentials of divine religion, seek the realities underlying the oneness of the world of humanity and discover the source of fellowship and agreement which will unite mankind in the heavenly bond of love.
Baha’is believe in only one Creator – even though the followers of various faith traditions call that Creator by different names and worship in different ways. The Baha’i writings say that we all owe our existence to the same God, an infinite and unknowable Supreme Being. Regardless of the name we call the Creator, there is only one God.
One Human Family
Baha’is believe that all people are one, part of the entire human family. Perhaps the most profound and challenging of all Baha’i teachings, this principle involves the need for a new human identity. All the old barriers that have divided people from one another – the lesser identities of race, culture, language, nationality, caste, rank, class, gender, religion, and so forth – Baha’is believe we must regard as secondary in the larger quest for unity among all people.
The Baha’i teachings pivot around this principle of the oneness of humanity. No mere expression of sentiment, nor just some pious or naïve hope for a happy future, the implications of the Baha’i principle of the oneness of humanity go very deep. They ask that we all, actively and in the present, accept everyone in the world as members of the same human family, that we seek world peace through world law, that we abandon prejudices of all kinds, and that we work always for the benefit of the whole human race. Humanity has never faced a greater opportunity or more profound task than accepting and acting on this spiritual principle.
The Unity of all Religions
Baha’is believe that all of the world’s great Faiths come from God. For many people, this simple principle challenges what they have always believed about religion – that they are in competition with one another.
For Baha’is, there is no such thing as only one true religion. All religions teach deep spiritual truths. Baha’is accept the divine origins of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the world’s Indigenous belief systems, and all of the other great Faiths. Baha’is revere the sacred scriptures of these faith traditions as holy and inspired. Baha’is believe that the spiritual practices of all religions – their traditions of prayer, meditation, service, and sacrifice – lead us to growth and enlightenment.
Ultimately, Baha’is understand that there are many paths to the one true God.
Where Religions Differ – and Where they Agree
Most importantly, Baha’is believe that all of the great world Faiths were sent sequentially and progressively by God, at different times and to different places, with teachings tailored to the needs of the people who lived in those times and places. All of the world’s religions have brought these teachings for the spiritual and moral guidance of the individual; and promulgated their social teachings to carry forward an advancing civilization.
Baha’is believe that the spiritual teachings of all Faiths have an enormous amount in common – all of them teach us to love, to be kind and generous, to pray and to reflect on our lives. Each of the world’s religious traditions share the teachings of mercy, compassion, generosity, trustworthiness, honesty, truthfulness, charity, and so forth.
Naturally, of course, all religions differ according to the needs of the society and the time in which they appeared. But these differences exist in the non-essential areas of language, ritual, clothing, teachings about food, social customs, etc. Those outward differences should not blind us to the deeper spiritual unity to be found among all religions. All of the messengers and prophets of God appeared in the world for the education of humanity: to develop our souls to maturity, to confer spiritual truths, to exalt moral principles, and to quicken the conscience of humankind. The Baha’i teachings accept them all equally.
The Teachings of Baha’u’llah
These three primary ideas, and many more, all come from the founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, who Baha’is regard as the most recent in the long line of prophets who brought us divinely-inspired guidance. Accordingly, the Baha’i Faith is not just a collection of philosophical principles or an attempt to combine or conflate religions. The Baha’i community is not just a group of well-meaning people.
Baha’is are followers of Baha’u’llah, who brought an entirely new worldwide Faith to humanity. This means that Baha’is believe the Creator has given the world a new divine messenger to guide humanity in this modern age. Baha’u’llah [pronounced: bah-HA o-LAH] stands at the center of Baha’i belief. Baha’is believe that this new divine teacher, this manifestation of God, the successor to the founders of the great Faiths, has brought us a new set of spiritual tools that will allow us to construct a new world based on the principles of unity – the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity.
In this series of essays, we’ll learn more about the teachings, the principles, and the history of Baha’u’llah’s Faith. Please follow along in this series as we outline and explain the powerful and profound spiritual revitalization Baha’u’llah’s new Faith has brought to the world.
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