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When people ask me what I believe, and find out that I'm a Baha'i, they usually ask a few other questions:
Who are the Baha'is?
What do Baha'is believe?
What does it mean to be a Baha'i?
Reading articles like this one on BahaiTeachings.org, you might already have ideas about the answers to some of these questions. This website offers a vast array of articles on topics ranging from history to teachings to the arts. Featuring writers from a variety of backgrounds, providing insight into different aspects of the Baha'i Faith, and appreciating the unique and diverse viewpoints of each writer, this website is, to me, a microcosm of what it means to be a Baha'i.
In a nutshell, Baha'is are diverse. Just like the variegation we see in the world of nature, Baha'is come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They exist in every culture, profession, and ethnicity. Baha'is speak many different languages. Baha'is are men and women, young and old, from every background. Millions of Baha'is, who live in every region of the globe, make up the worldwide Baha'i community.
So who are the Baha’is?
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. - Abdu'l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 106.
To be a Baha'i simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood. – Abdu’l-Baha, quoted in J. E. Esslemont’s Baha'u'llah and the New Era, p. 71.
In other words, Baha'is believe in loving everyone, being of service to humankind, and working toward world peace. In a talk he gave in Denver, Colorado in 1912, Abdu'l-Baha clarified even further:
A man may be a Baha'i in name only. If he is a Baha'i in reality, his deeds and actions will be decisive proofs of it. What are the requirements? Love for mankind, sincerity toward all, reflecting the oneness of the world of humanity, philanthropy, becoming enkindled with the fire of the love of God, attainment to the knowledge of God and that which is conducive to human welfare. – The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 107.
Baha’is believe in following through on the lofty goals identified in these writings. I continually strive to emulate the virtues of kindness, compassion, sincerity, love, and respect. I keep learning and reading and working toward world peace.
From a song I learned as a youth, I realized that what it means to be a Baha'i can be summarized in a simple, yet profoundly beautiful way—Baha'is believe in the three onenesses: God is one, man is one, and all the religions are one. So, what does this oneness thing mean?
The first oneness refers to the monotheistic Baha'i belief that only one God created all of humanity.
The second oneness involves the unity of mankind. Baha'is believe in unity in diversity; although we are all humans, we have diverse talents, appearances, and personalities. God created us all and we are all equal, yet we are also loved and appreciated for our individual uniqueness.
The final oneness refers to the Baha'i teaching of one unfolding religion sent to us by our one loving Creator. Baha’is believe that God has revealed his teachings to humanity, and will continue to reveal them to us, via progressive revelation. His teachings have been brought to us through various prophets throughout time—for example, Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Muhammad, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, the Bab, and Baha'u'llah. Baha'is believe that all of these prophets and messengers brought us the same basic message.
In the chorus of that song about oneness, I learned a very powerful message. That message gives us the basic prescription for today's global issues:
God is One, man is one,
And all the religions agree.
When everyone learns the three onenesses,
We'll have world unity.
-A Baha'i Sing-Along Songbook, p.4
If you'd like to learn more about the Baha'i Faith, please feel free to choose a method that makes you comfortable. Perhaps you enjoy reading the many articles on this website; or reading a Baha'i book; or you would like to visit a Baha'i Temple, where everyone is welcome. Maybe you work with a Baha'i and would like to talk with her more about it over coffee. Perhaps you’d like to go to a Baha'i study class or fireside (an introductory discussion) to explore and ask your questions.
Whatever method you choose, I hope you enjoy learning about the Baha'i Faith and reading its poetic and spiritually renewing writings, and that you, as Baha’u’llah wrote, "discover all of the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths."