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The Baha’i teachings say that humanity’s bedrock spiritual principles are universal and eternal:
Each of the divine religions embodies two kinds of ordinances. The first is those which concern spiritual susceptibilities, the development of moral principles and the quickening of the conscience of man. These are essential or fundamental, one and the same in all religions, changeless and eternal – reality not subject to transformation. Abraham heralded this reality, Moses promulgated it, and Jesus Christ established it in the world of mankind. All the divine Prophets and Messengers were the instruments and channels of this same eternal, essential truth. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace
For example: the Golden Rule, that ancient epigraph which states that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us, is found among the sayings of all the messengers of God. Baha’u’llah in this age reminded us:
O Son of Being! Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it. – The Hidden Words
Each time one of these divine messengers appears, they remind us of the spiritual nature of our true existence and prescribe attitudes of mind and action conducive to our spiritual growth.
As with the process of progressive revelation, the spiritual teachings are likewise progressive, and our understanding of them expands with the appearance of each new messenger. These universal spiritual teachings are the threads which connect the shared fabric of all the world’s religions. Spiritual guidance is universal to all times and places. Like the messengers of the past, Baha’u’llah reiterates and augments these eternal spiritual verities in his writings by reminding us that:
Thine eye is My trust, suffer not the dust of vain desires to becloud its lustre. Thine ear is a sign of My Bounty, let not the tumult of unseemly motives turn it away from My Word that encompasseth all creation. Thine heart is My treasury, allow not the treacherous hand of self to rob thee of the pearls which I have treasured therein. Thine hand is a symbol of My loving-kindness, hinder it not from holding fast unto My guarded and hidden Tablets … Unasked, I have showered upon thee My grace. Unpetitioned, I have fulfilled thy wish. In spite of thy undeserving, I have singled thee out for My richest, My incalculable favours … – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah
The followers of Baha’u’llah have several obligations which promote the individual’s spiritual growth and development. In addition to daily prayer and reading from the Baha’i writings each morning and evening, Baha’is fast from sunrise to sunset, abstaining from both food and drink once a year during a nineteen-day fasting period. This spiritual obligation begins at the age of fifteen and continues until the age of seventy.
Spiritual teachings provide insight into the inner realities and help to educate the soul of the individual, but these represent only one part of the guidance given by each messenger of God. Their social teachings address the outer realities and assist in the education of society. These social teachings often change with the coming of each new messenger, who maintains and re-asserts some of the previous laws while changing or abrogating others, replacing them with new guidance that suits the developmental and social needs of the time.
The style and form of these spiritual and social teachings have varied from age to age, but the message remains the same, always delivered to humanity by the prophets and messengers, those day stars of God’s divine guidance. At one time the people of the world tried to respond with compliant and unquestioning obedience to the teachings given to them by Moses in the Ten Commandments, whereas in this day and age Baha’is are given guidance in the form of injunctions which are often accompanied by an authoritative explanation or exegesis provided by the messenger himself:
The door of the knowledge of the Ancient Being hath ever been, and will continue for ever to be, closed in the face of men. No man’s understanding shall ever gain access unto His holy court. As a token of His mercy, however, and as a proof of His loving-kindness, He hath manifested unto men the Day Stars of His divine guidance, the Symbols of His divine unity, and hath ordained the knowledge of these sanctified Beings to be identical with the knowledge of His own Self. Whoso recognizeth them hath recognized God. Whoso hearkeneth to their call, hath hearkened to the Voice of God, and whoso testifieth to the truth of their Revelation, hath testified to the truth of God Himself. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah