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Like the bee gathering honey from the different flowers, the wise person accepts the essence of the different scriptures and sees only the good in all religions. – Mahatma Gandhi

If we thought of the world’s religions as flowers in Earth’s global garden, and the teachings of the world’s religions as the essence (or nectar) of those flowers, then we might imagine ourselves as honey bees. Humanity’s quest for the meaning of life and spirituality is analogous to the honey bee’s search for nectar; humanity gathers tspiritual nourishment from the teachings of the world’s religions.

We can learn a lot from the honey bee, who happily gathers its nourishment from a large variety of flowers and doesn’t destroy, harm, or ridicule any flowers. It shows no prejudice toward one flower over another. In other words, the honey bee accepts the essence of each flower regardless of color, shape, type, or name.

Baha'i-Gardens

Baha’i Gardens and Shrine of the Bab in Haifa, Israel

If each flower symbolizes a religion, the essence of each flower could represent not only the teachings, but the underlying message of that religion. Baha’is believe that the fundamental message of all great Faiths is the unity of life: God is one, man is one, and all religions agree. Baha’is believe that one God loves and guides us, just as one sun warms our planet. God created all people, whether male or female, Asian or African, Scottish or Sioux; and God progressively reveals to humanity the secrets of the spiritual universe through his prophets or messengers, whether Jesus or Buddha, Moses or Baha’u’llah.

The Dalai Lama once said, “I believe all religions pursue the same goals, that of cultivating human goodness and bringing happiness to all human beings. Though the means may appear different, the ends are the same.”

“He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye,” Buddha said.

Our distinctions–such as religions, races, or genders–can be likened to the diverse colors, shapes, and sizes of the Earth’s flowers–whether they’re red or pink; lavender-scented or rose-scented; short or tall; thick or thin. Despite these physical differences, they’re all still flowers. In much the same way, we’re all just humans underneath our varying characteristics of height, weight, race, gender, color and beliefs.

In one of my favorite passages from the Baha’i writings, Abdu’l-Baha likens our differences to the flowers in a garden:

Consider the flowers of a garden. Though differing in kind, color, form and shape, yet, inasmuch as they are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm and addeth unto their beauty. How unpleasing to the eye if all the flowers and plants, the leaves and blossoms, the fruit, the branches and the trees of that garden were all of the same shape and color! Diversity of hues, form and shape enricheth and adorneth the garden, and heighteneth the effect thereof. – Abdu’l-Baha quoted by Shoghi Effendi in The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 42.

Can you imagine if all of the flowers, plants, and trees of our world only had one color? Without the stunningly beautiful variations of color and hue in nature, Earth’s scenery would be very boring indeed. Likewise, if no differences appeared amidst humanity, the world’s people would lose their diversity, their uniqueness and their appealing variety. Our variations of race, size, shape, and form make us unique–and bring diversity, charm, and beauty to our earthly abode.

Baha’is believe that the same principle of unity in diversity applies to the world’s major religions, too:

The holy Manifestations who have been the Sources or Founders of the various religious systems were united and agreed in purpose and teaching. Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, the Bab and Baha’u’llah are one in spirit and reality. – The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 197

Perhaps the disagreements and prejudices about racial differences and between various religious traditions might seem more trivial and unnecessary if we apply the analogy of the honey bee by accepting the essence, the underlying unity, and the basic good inherent in humanity, and in all of the world’s great Faiths.

Don’t let our differences in beliefs and religions, races and ethnicities, sizes and shapes prevent us from realizing our essential, shared humanity. We each live on the same planet and partake of light from the same sun, all the while nourished by the same resources from the Earth. If we truly believe we’re one people and one planet, we’ll discover that there’s a beautiful unity in our diversity.

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