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“What’s the main goal of the world’s Baha’is?” a man sitting next to me on a plane asked. Curious about the Baha’i teachings, he had asked questions throughout our flight. Now, our plane had landed.
I only had a minute to answer him before the plane’s passengers walked up the jet bridge into the terminal and went our separate ways. He seemed thoughtful, kind, and genuinely interested, not someone just passing our time together in the air with idle conversation. I could tell by the sincere way he asked the question that he truly wanted to know more.
So I stumbled through a not-very-articulate answer of my own making – I think I said something about global peace and security, the unity of the world’s peoples, and a new spiritual light rising from Baha’u’llah’s teachings.
Later, I felt disappointed in myself. I should have given him a better, more concise and coherent answer. Yes, the Baha’i revelation, so vast and encompassing, resists simple summarization – but as a Baha’i who has known, studied, written about and loved my Faith for more than half a century, shouldn’t I be able to answer a general question like his in a better way?
When I got home I searched for an answer to his question in the Baha’i writings. I felt sure that somewhere I would likely find a beautifully spoken or written reply from the central figures of the Baha’i Faith: the Bab, its herald and predecessor; Baha’u’llah, its prophet and founder; and Abdu’l-Baha, its exemplar.
After all, I knew, those three figures – two of them divine prophets and messengers, and the third a man unique in the annals of all religious history, the son of a prophet and his Faith’s first believer – combined to produce an enormous and unprecedented outpouring of wisdom, truth, and spiritual power:
- The Bab’s six-year revelation began in 1844, and ended when he was executed by a government firing squad in 1850.
- Baha’u’llah’s new religion began in 1863, and ended when he passed away in 1892, constituting 29 years of continuous revelation.
- Abdu’l-Baha, named as the leader of the Baha’i Faith by his father Baha’u’llah, occupied that position for another 29 years, from 1892 until his passing in 1921.
If you add them together, those periods of revelatory power amount to a truly astonishing tenure – a total of 64 years revealing the teachings of the world’s newest major religion.
With Baha’u’llah’s writings alone amounting to over a hundred volumes, it would take much more than a lifetime to read and absorb everything these three central figures said and wrote. The amount of insight and knowledge contained in the Baha’i teachings truly staggers the mind.
After some diligent searching through the extensive corpus of the Baha’i teachings, I finally found an answer to my new friend’s question. It comes from Abdu’l-Baha’s writings, delivered in a single sentence so succinct and so thoroughly comprehensive that it stunned me when I first read it:
The aim of the Baha’is is to raise aloft the banner of the world’s Great Peace, to eradicate the foundations of war and conflict throughout all regions, to gather together all the divers nations and peoples beneath the single-hued Tabernacle of God, and to eliminate prejudice — whether racial, national, religious, sectarian, or political — from the face of the earth, so that all countries may become as one country, all races as one race, and all nations as one nation.
I realized, after reading this beautiful passage multiple times, that I would need to commit it to memory, so the next time someone asked me to briefly tell them about the Baha’i teachings, I could quote directly from the Baha’i writings rather than relying on my own inadequate description.
Also, this potent passage reminded me why I’m a Baha’i – to eradicate the foundations of war, gather all humanity together, and eliminate all prejudice, so everyone on Earth can finally achieve human oneness.