BAHAI-LIBRARY.NET - English

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Basic Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh

E-mail Print

Baha'i Basics: Principles & Practices from Bahai.us

Bahá'u'lláh taught that there is one God whose successive revelations of His will to humanity have been the chief civilizing force in history. The agents of this process have been the Divine Messengers whom people have seen chiefly as the founders of separate religious systems but whose common purpose has been to bring the human race to spiritual and moral maturity.

Humanity is now coming of age. It is this that makes possible the unification of the human family and the building of a peaceful, global society. Among the principles which the Bahá'í Faith promotes as vital to the achievement of this goal are:

 

  • The abandonment of all forms of prejudice

    B
    aha'u'llah gave special attention to the problem of prejudice. At the heart of His message is a call for mutual understanding and fellowship among nations, cultures, and peoples. There is, Bahá'u'lláh insists, only one human race. Assertions that a particular group of people is in some way superior to the rest of humanity are without foundation. Prejudice--whether based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or class--is a baneful heritage that must be overcome if humanity is to create a peaceful and just global society.


  • Assurance to women of full equality of opportunity with men

    "The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged prerequisites of peace. The denial of such equality perpetrates an injustice against one half of the world's population and promotes in men harmful attitudes and habits that are carried from the family to the workplace, to political life, and ultimately to international relations.
    There are no grounds, moral, practical, or biological, upon which such denial can be justified. Only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavor will the moral and psychological climate be created in which international peace can emerge."


  • Recognition of the unity and relativity of religious truth

    The principle of the unity of religion is at the center of Bahá'í teachings. Bahá'u'lláh states that humanity is engaged in a collective growth process quite similar to the growth process of an individual: just as a person begins life as a helpless infant and attains maturity in successive stages, so humankind began its collective social life in a primitive state, gradually attaining maturity. In the case of the individual, it is clear that his or her development takes place as a result of the education he or she receives from parents, teachers, and society in general. But what is the motive force in humankind's collective evolution?

    The answer the Bahá'í Faith provides to this question is "revealed religion." In one of His major works, the Kitab-i-Iqan (the Book of Certitude), Bahá'u'lláh explained that God, the Creator, has intervened and will continue to intervene in human history by means of chosen Messengers. These Messengers, Whom Bahá'u'lláh called "Manifestations of God" are principally the Founders of the major revealed religions, such as Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus, Muhammad, and so forth. It is the spirit released by the coming of these Manifestations, together with the influence of Their teachings and the social systems established by Their laws and precepts, that enable humankind to progress in its collective evolution. Simply put: the Manifestations of God are the chief educators of humanity. With regard to the various religious systems that have appeared in human history, Bahá'u'lláh has said:

    These principles and laws, these firmly-established and mighty systems, have proceeded from one Source and are the rays of one Light. That they differ one from another is to be attributed to the varying requirements of the ages in which they were promulgated.

    Thus the principle of the unity of religion means that all of the great religious Founders--the Manifestations--have come from God, and that all of the religious systems established by Them are part of a single divine plan directed by God.

  • The elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth

    The unity of humankind foreseen by Bahá'u'lláh is unity based on justice. One of the most striking examples of injustice in the world today is the grave imbalance in economic and material conditions. A relatively small percentage of humankind has immense wealth, while the majority of the world's population lives in dire poverty and misery. This imbalance exists both within nations and between nations. Moreover, the gap that separates rich and poor continues to widen, which indicates that existing economic systems are incapable of restoring a just balance.

    A satisfactory solution to the world's present economic crisis lies in a profound change of heart and mind which only religion can produce. From the Bahá'í perspective, the prevailing materialistic assumptions about economic development reflect a profound error of conception about human nature itself. `Abdu'l-Bahá wrote that "The fundamentals of the whole economic condition are divine in nature and are associated with the world of the heart and spirit..." "The disease which afflicts the body politic is lack of love and absence of altruism..."

    Bahá'u'lláh asserted that economic injustice is a moral evil and as such is condemned by God. In particular, Bahá'u'lláh warned:

    O YE RICH ONES ON EARTH!

    The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be not intent only on your own ease.

    O CHILDREN OF DUST!

    Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor, lest heedlessness lead them into the path of destruction, and deprive them of the Tree of Wealth.

  • The realization of universal education

    The acquisition of "knowledge," Bahá'u'lláh says, serves as "wings" for humanity's "ascent," and thus "is incumbent upon everyone." Knowledge plays a central role in human life and society: It is the process of generating and applying knowledge that lies at the heart of civilization. The advancement of society flows from it. In light of this teaching, the Universal House of Justice, in a 1985 statement on peace addressed to the peoples of the world, made the following declaration:

    "The cause of universal education, which has already enlisted in its service an army of dedicated people from every faith and nation, deserves the utmost support that the governments of the world can lend it. For ignorance is indisputably the principal reason for the decline and fall of peoples and the perpetuation of prejudice. No nation can achieve success unless education is accorded all its citizens. Lack of resources limits the ability of many nations to fulfil this necessity, imposing a certain ordering of priorities. The decision-making agencies involved would do well to consider giving first priority to the education of women and girls, since it is through educated mothers that the benefits of knowledge can be most effectively and rapidly diffused throughout society. In keeping with the requirements of the times, consideration should also be given to teaching the concept of world citizenship as part of the standard education of every child."

  • The responsibility of each person to independently search for truth

    Baha'u'llah emphasizes the fundamental obligation of human beings to acquire knowledge with their "own eyes and not through the eyes of others." One of the main sources of conflict in the world today is the fact that many people blindly and uncritically follow various traditions, movements, and opinions. God has given each human being a mind and the capacity to differentiate truth from falsehood. If individuals fail to use their reasoning capacities and choose instead to accept without question certain opinions and ideas, either out of admiration for or fear of those who hold them, then they are neglecting their basic moral responsibility as human beings. Moreover, when people act in this way, they often become attached to some particular opinion or tradition and thus intolerant of those who do not share it. Such attachments can, in turn, lead to conflict. History has witnessed conflict and even bloodshed over slight alterations in religious practice, or a minor change in the interpretation of doctrine. Personal search for truth enables the individual to know why he or she adheres to a given ideology or doctrine.

    Bahá'ís believe that, as there is only one reality, all people will gradually discover its different facets and will ultimately come to common understanding and unity, provided they sincerely seek after truth. In this connection, 'Abdu'l-Bahá said:

    Being one, truth cannot be divided, and the differences that appear to exist among the many nations only result from their attachment to prejudice. If only men would search out truth, they would find themselves united.

    And further:

    The fact that we imagine ourselves to be right and everybody else wrong is the greatest of all obstacles in the path towards unity, and unity is necessary if we would reach truth, for truth is one.
  • The establishment of a global commonwealth of nations

    The imperative of establishing and perpetuating the general peace of humankind is a central component of Bahá'í teachings. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, Bahá'u'lláh called upon the world's rulers to reconcile their differences and to "lay the foundations of the world's Great Peace." He proclaimed that"The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens." In doing so, He outlined a number of steps that would lead to permanent stability in international relations. At the heart of His vision was a set of new social structures based on participation and consultation among the world's peoples. These new institutional mechanisms would eliminate conflicts of interest and thereby reduce the potential for disunity at all levels of society. A number of international institutions were envisaged: a world legislature with genuine representation and authority, an international court having final jurisdiction in all disputes between nations, and an international executive empowered to carry out the decisions of these legislative and judicial bodies.


  • Recognition that true religion is in harmony with reason and the pursuit of scientific knowledge

    A major source of conflict and disunity in the world today is the widespread opinion that there is some basic opposition between science and religion, that scientific truth contradicts religion on some points, and that one must choose between being a religious person, a believer in God, or a scientist, a follower of reason.

    The Bahá'í teachings stress the fundamental harmony of science and religion. This view derives from the belief that truth (or reality) is one. For if truth is indeed one, it is not possible for something to be scientifically false and religiously true. 'Abdu'l-Bahá expressed forcefully this idea in the following passage:

    If religious beliefs and opinions are found contrary to the standards of science, they are mere superstitions and imaginations; for the antithesis of knowledge is ignorance, and the child of ignorance is superstition. Unquestionably there must be agreement between true religion and science. If a question be found contrary to reason, faith and belief in it are impossible, and there is no outcome but wavering and vacillation.

    Bahá'u'lláh affirmed that man's intelligence and reasoning powers are a gift from God: "This gift giveth man the power to discern the truth in all things, leadeth him to that which is right, and helpeth him to discover the secrets of creation." Science results from our systematic use of these God-given powers. The truths of science are thus discovered truths. The truths of prophetic religion are revealed truths, i.e., truths which God has shown to us without our having to discover them for ourselves. Bahá'ís consider that it is the same unique God who is both the Author of revelation and the Creator of the reality which science investigates, and hence there can be no contradiction between the two.

  •