Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What is a Baha'i?

What is a Baha’i?
Stated simply a Baha’i is one who believes that Bahá’u’lláh was the latest messenger or Manifestation of God.
Baha’is understand that God has given us laws and guidance to improve our life. These laws are a great gift from God.
In the Baha’i Faith there is no clergy and no rituals. Obedience to the laws is left up to the individual. Only if disobedience is directly harming the Faith will the administration step in to correct the situation.
Central Figures and chain of authority:
Unity is the most important principle of the Baha’i Faith. Bahá’u’lláh has initiated laws to prevent the Baha’i Faith from splitting into sects. Whenever differences arise, there is an authority that can settle the question. Individual thinking and initiative is encouraged. The administration only becomes involved when someone insists that their way is the only way or if they try to undermine the authority of the administration.
The Báb
The Báb is a title meaning the gate. He founded an independent religion. His main purpose was to prepare the way for Bahá’u’lláh.
Bahá’u’lláh, The Glory of God
The Báb and Bahá’u’lláh are often referred to as the Twin Manifestations. They each brought a revelation direct from God.
Bahá’u’lláh says:
The essence of belief in Divine unity consisteth in regarding Him Who is the Manifestation of God and Him Who is the invisible, the inaccessible, the unknowable Essence as one and the same. By this is meant that whatever pertaineth to the former, all His acts and doings, whatever He ordaineth or forbiddeth, should be considered, in all their aspects, and under all circumstances, and without any reservation, as identical with the Will of God Himself. This is the loftiest station to which a true believer in the unity of God can ever hope to attain. Blessed is the man that reacheth this station, and is of them that are steadfast in their belief.
               (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 166)
Baha’is believe that all the Manifestations of God brought the authoritative Revelation of God. It is as though God is directly talking to us through His Manifestations. When His followers adhere to the principles set down by any of the Manifestations, there can be no disagreement. Differences occur only when man introduces his own ideas and undermines the Religion of God.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá says;
The third teaching of Bahá'u'lláh is that religion must be the source of fellowship, the cause of unity and the nearness of God to man. If it rouses hatred and strife, it is evident that absence of religion is preferable and an irreligious man better than one who professes it. According to the divine Will and intention religion should be the cause of love and agreement, a bond to unify all mankind, for it is a message of peace and goodwill to man from God.
         (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 181)

Bahá’u’lláh appointed His Son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as the Center of His covenant and the One to which all should turn when He ascended from this earthly plain. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was the only one authorized to interpret the Words of His Father. Thus the unity of the Cause of God was assured.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá appointed His grandson, Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian of the Faith. He was the authority to which all Baha’is turned when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left this earthly plain.
Bahá’u’lláh also laid out the plans for the Universal House of Justice to be elected by the Baha’is when the Cause of God had grown enough to support it. In 1963 the first Universal House of Justice was elected. It is now the authority to which all Baha’i turn and its guidance is considered infallible.
There are also Local Spiritual Assemblies and National Spiritual Assemblies that will one day be known as Local Houses of Justice and National Houses of Justice. Although not considered infallible these institutions are to be obeyed. Again, Unity is the key word. We are told that obedience, even if in error is better than disobedience. Since all is in unity the wrong will be made right and the error will be corrected. However disobedience would lead to disunity and would lead to a thousand wrongs even if the one being disobedient was in the right.
A constant flow of guidance comes from all levels of our administration. It is in the form of love and guidance to help us adhere to the principles laid down by Bahá’u’lláh. We must remember that love and unity are the most important and all measures are used to avoid or remove estrangement. All mankind are considered the members of one family, the flowers of one garden, and the fruits of one tree. The Baha’i see diversity of thought, culture, social standing, and race as a beautiful thing that adds to the colour and structure of our garden. A garden with flowers that were all the same kind and same colour would be monotonous. By using various forms and colours we add charm and beauty to the garden. Differences are celebrated, not avoided. But all the differences contribute to a unified whole that makes up the family of mankind. It is like parts of a body. We may think the brain is important, but if the body was all brain it could not function. The body needs a heart, lungs, feet, hands and many other parts to function properly. When all these parts work together as a unified whole, the body excels.
If you would like to know more about Bahá’u’lláh, His teachings or any other aspect of the Baha’i Faith I would be most happy to discuss them with you. My knowledge is not one hundred percent so many times we will need to learn together. There are many resources available through internet, books and Study Circles. There are also devotional gatherings that you could attend, or you can host one of your own. There are many Baha’i who like to do home visits and would love an opportunity to visit with you and answer any questions you may have. For more information email me at george@sowingpeace.ca . I will do my best to put you in touch with Baha'is in your area. You can also check out http://www.sowingpeace.ca/links.html for links to some great resources.
If you now agree that Bahá’u’lláh is the messenger of God for this day, then you are welcome to join us. There is a short registration process just so we can keep track of you and be sure to send you news and invite you to events for the Baha’i. For instance, every 19 days the Baha’i community holds a Feast were the members of the community can consult with the Local Spiritual Assembly, make recommendations and receive guidance. As a member of the Baha’i Community you would be expected to participate in any way you feel comfortable.
Don’t worry if you feel you don’t know enough. None of us do. We are all learning together. That is why your input would be most valuable to us. It is like each of us has a piece of the puzzle and together we can complete it.
Since we have no clergy, each Baha’i is expected to teach the Faith. Again, don’t worry if you feel you don’t know enough. We are assured of the guidance of the Divine Concourse if we make the effort, plus you can call on other Baha’is to help. Teaching in the Baha’i Faith is different from the way teaching is usually perceived. In the Baha’i Faith we don’t have teachers who are considered learned while their students are considered ignorant. It is more like we are all students and we are all teachers. All of us have something to offer and all of us have something to learn. When we teach the Faith to others it is one of the greatest ways we can learn for ourselves. Of course we also need to study the writings on our own so we can answer questions. In fact we are expected to read something from the writings of the Baha’i Faith twice a day. Bahá’u’lláh says;
Intone, O My servant, the verses of God that have been received by thee, as intoned by them who have drawn nigh unto Him, that the sweetness of thy melody may kindle thine own soul, and attract the hearts of all men. Whoso reciteth, in the privacy of his chamber, the verses revealed by God, the scattering angels of the Almighty shall scatter abroad the fragrance of the words uttered by his mouth, and shall cause the heart of every righteous man to throb. Though he may, at first, remain unaware of its effect, yet the virtue of the grace vouchsafed unto him must needs sooner or later exercise its influence upon his soul. Thus have the mysteries of the Revelation of God been decreed by virtue of the Will of Him Who is the Source of power and wisdom.
        (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 295)
When we read the verses of God aloud, even though it is in the privacy of our own room, it will have a far reaching effect and will affect our own souls.
Also Baha’is are required to pray every day.
There are three obligatory prayers. We can choose any one of the three. They can be found in many of the Baha’i Prayer Books.
The short obligatory prayer, if chosen, is to be said once a day between Noon and Sunset. When we wish to recite this prayer we perform our ablutions, (the washing of our hands and face) and turn to the Qiblih, (the resting spot of Bahá’u’lláh which from Canada is to the East) and we say:
I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth.
There is none other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.
In order to enrol in the Baha'i Community we just need to get a little information from you.  The enrolments process may be slightly different in different parts of the world, so if you email me george@sowingpeace.ca I will do my best to put you in touch with Baha'is in your area if you don't know any already. Feel free also to email me if you have any questions or suggestions.  You may also post a comment on this blog.