Tag Archives Baha’i Faith

My Thoughts on the Concept of Sin in the Baha’i Faith

When it comes to religion, one of the first things that may spring to many people’s minds is the concept of sin; as when hearing about anything resembling rules, the mind can very naturally turn to the logistics of breaking them. However, while the concept of divine law is relatively ubiquitous among religions the specifics vary to different degrees and I’d like to begin this article by offering a Baha’i perspective of divine law and morality.

Then I’d like to briefly explore the concept of sin, not through a meticulous survey of what is described as a sin in the Baha’i Writings, but through a broader consideration of the concept itself. It should be noted that except for the direct quotations of Abdu’l-Baha and Baha’u’llah, the text of this article is only my own interpretations and the reader should insert an “in my opinion” after any statement made.  Continue reading

Who Were the Letters of the Living?

The Letters of the Living is the title given by the Bab to His first 18 followers. The Bab was a merchant from Shiraz, Persia. His name was Siyyid Ali-Muhammad Shirazi, but He is known to the world as the Bab, which means “the Gate” in Arabic, and Baha’is believe that He was the symbolic gate between past ages of prophecy and a new age of fulfilment for humanity. When the Bab was 25, He proclaimed to be both a new Prophet, and the herald to “Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest”, Baha’u’llah. Continue reading

Filming the Opening of the Baha’i Temple in Colombia: An Interview with Laura and Kyle

The film team for the dedication of the Baha'i House of Worship in Norte del Cauca, Colombia. From left to right are Kyle Schmalenberg, Nabil Sami Silva, Laura Friedmann, Raul Cavalcanti Spinassé, and Naim Sadeghian.

Like all Baha’i Blog team members, Laura Friedmann and Kyle Schmalenberg wear many hats and serve their communities in a variety of capacities. Owing to their wealth of media experience, they were invited, along with a few others, to document the opening of the House of Worship in Norte del Cauca, Colombia. You may remember this short film about the preparations that were made, this video of the opening ceremony, or this aerial footage of the gorgeous Temple.

Kyle and Laura shared some of their experiences and impressions about working on this project and we thought you’d be as uplifted by the conversation as we were!  Continue reading

14 Books About the Baha’i Faith and Christianity

As many friends of Baha’is around the world prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and in the spirit of celebrating the divine origin of Christianity, we thought we’d share a short list of books about Christianity and the Baha’i Faith. The list includes titles written by Abdu’l-Baha and by early Baha’is as well as some fresh off the printing press; you’ll find books about the fulfilment of prophecy, and books that examine the Sacred Writings of both faiths.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but we hope it gives you a glimpse of some of the titles out there on this subject. Continue reading

Is the Baha’i Faith a “Religion”?

Perhaps you are like me. Perhaps there have been times when you have been asked what the Baha’i Faith is and the minute the word “religion” leaves your lips, your listener becomes apprehensive. Perhaps they reply that religion is an opiate for the masses, that it is an outdated fiction that does not meet the needs of today, that it is the cause of unnecessary bloodshed and war, that religion breeds intolerance for people of other religions, or that faith in something greater than ourselves shouldn’t be organized and administered. In honour of World Religion Day, I thought I’d explore what “religion” means in the context of the Baha’i Writings. Continue reading

Oneness of Religion? Just Look at the Mess!

Outwardly, the Baha’i notion of the oneness of religion is the furthest thing from the present babel of creeds competing to win the hearts and minds of mankind. It would be folly to deny that the belief systems and religious observances today represent a discordant cornucopia of theologies and rites.

Outward observance and formal theology is one thing. The actual living faith of billions from different religious backgrounds is an entirely different thing. The latter is usually far less defined and often has a lot in common across cultures and faith traditions. In my travels I’ve become completely sold to the notion that ordinary believers the world over, irrespective of faith tradition, have much more in common than theologians and so-called scholars. Intuitively these sincere ordinary folks possess a pure idea of the Divine.  Continue reading

Religion. What is it Good For?

Religion has produced some of the greatest achievements of humanity but this fact is often obscured today as people and the media focus on the horrors resulting from its power.

By now we should all know that if people want to use religion as a method to get their own way, they have an ominous weapon.

Religion taps the very source of motivation because it has to do with the absolute and the eternal, so if somebody or a group successfully manipulates it for negative ends they can achieve their aims with the help of followers whose morale is sky high.

Down the centuries there have been many wars and atrocities because of this manipulation of religious feeling and allegiance. When that happens, religion becomes a counterfeit version of the real thing. Continue reading

A Brief Look at Buddhism and the Baha’i Faith

Once upon a time, during my wide-eyed twenties, I did my Baha’i Year of Service in the tropical island of Sri Lanka. Not only was it the first exposure this Persian-Finnish cross-breed had to the serenity and beauty of golden beaches and swaying palm trees, but it was there when I first realized that Buddha and Baha’u’llah spoke the same language. And no, I don’t mean Pali and Persian.

It is all too easy to pinpoint the obvious differences between the modern practices of Buddhism and the Baha’i Faith. But it isn’t all that difficult to draw profound parallels either. After all, Abdu’l-Baha described the Buddha as “the cause of the illumination of the world of humanity”, and for the Baha’is, Buddha was nothing less than an earlier Messenger of God — a notion that will not be quite as easily swallowed by your average Buddhist monk.

Yet it turns out that one can even draw parallels between the lives of these two Manifestations of God. Both the Buddha and Baha’u’llah came from families of nobility, and were guaranteed positions of wealth and power in the societies in which They lived, but Both forfeited the ‘good life’ in order to be among the poor and to share with others Their higher calling.

But there’s more. No two bodies of scripture emphasize detachment from the impermanent as much as the Pali Canon (an ancient collection of suttas or ‘discourses’ attributed to the Buddha) and the Writings of Baha’u’llah.

Thus shall ye think of this fleeting world; a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream. – The Buddha Gautama, Diamond Sutta

Live then the days of thy life, that are less than a fleeting moment, with thy mind stainless, thy heart unsullied, thy thoughts pure, and thy nature sanctified… – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words

The Four Noble truths of Buddhism are simple yet profound. In a nutshell, they state that the cessation of suffering (dukkha) is the ultimate goal of human existence, and detachment from transient things is the only way to attain it. The attainment of complete detachment from selfish attachment is called ‘nirvana’ — a term that is frequently likened to a state of bliss and happiness which the freedom from attachments gives rise to.

Luminous is this mind, brightly shining, and it is free of the attachments that visit it. This the noble follower of the way really understands. – The Buddha, Anguttara Nikaya

The fourth noble truth is unique. For it is in fact an eight-step path of eight virtues — such as right thinking, right speech and right action — the disciplined observance of that which is instrumental to attaining nirvana. The similarities to the Message of Baha’u’llah are striking.

Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah

The Baha’i Faith, of course, suggests there is no way to become detached from the impermanent unless there is something permanent and eternal to put our trust on instead. But in fact the famous Udana passage in the Pali scriptures also states the same thing. This passage is a favourite among theists who wish to demonstrate that Buddhism may also have had a monotheistic origin, as indeed Abdu’l-Baha unequivocally affirms.

There is, O monks, an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. Were there not, O monks, this Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, there would be no escape from the world of the born, originated, created, formed. Since, O monks, there is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, therefore is there an escape from the born, originated, created, formed. What is dependant, that also moves; what is independent does not move. – The Buddha, Udana 8:3

Yet the fact remains that Buddhism, in its current ‘official’ forms, is non-theistic. It regards the existence of God or gods as irrelevant to the achievement of its central goal. ‘Non-theism’ is not to be confused with ‘atheism’. According to most current forms of Buddhism, a Buddhist is free to believe in God, or to disbelieve, if one or the other helps him on his path to reduce suffering in the world. Again, this is not entirely unlike the Baha’i Writings in which it is written:

If religion becomes the cause of enmity and bloodshed, then irreligion is to be preferred. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace

Furthermore, as in the Baha’i Faith, a significant level of religious tolerance is apparent in Buddhism. Although one could perhaps qualify the Buddhist brand of religious tolerance as a kind of a “cool tolerance” as opposed to a more active and world-embracing tolerance prompted by Baha’u’llah. The latter brand involves a commandment, from God none other, to consort with all religions with friendliness, to establish their essential unity, and to regard them all as absolutely necessary historical revelations of the same world-civilizing Truth. Yet, despite its non-theism, traditional day-to-day Buddhism in the rural areas of most Buddhist-majority countries continues to be palpably theistic in character. Villagers across South-East Asia and South Asia treat Buddha, Himself, as a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering being in much the same way as the so-called Abrahamic religions regard God.

So I ended up bringing much more back home with me from Sri Lanka than vibrant-coloured batiks and a mouth numbed by the hottest curries known to man. Owing to our shared principles of tolerance and rational examination of all truth-claims, I discovered how easy it was, as a Baha’i, to find a common language of constructive dialogue with Buddhists well-versed in their own scripture. Indeed, in the present global turmoil, I cannot think of more natural partners in the promotion of interfaith harmony than Buddhists and Baha’is. Yes, what a privilege it is to have such elder brothers.

Put away all hindrances, let your mind full of love pervade one quarter of the world, and so too the second quarter, and so the third, and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world, above, below, around and everywhere, altogether continue to pervade with love-filled thought, abounding, sublime, beyond measure, free from hatred and ill-will. – The Buddha, adapted from the Digha Nikaya

6 Reasons to Steer Clear of Partisan Politics

In the United States, the conclusion of the summer Olympics also means we’re fast approaching another presidential election. In fact, the way various elections are staggered, we’re never more than a few months away from an election of some kind. Perhaps in your country, you too are blessed to have the freedom to elect your governmental leaders. It’s a precious and hard-won human right that the whole world is destined to exercise.

Democracy is a core value of Baha’i life. The way in which we govern our own affairs is deeply democratic. We elect our leaders from the bottom of the administrative order to the very top. But we do it all without campaigning. We don’t put our own names or those of others up for election, and likewise we don’t engage in negative self-campaigning to remove ourselves from consideration. Baha’is simply and prayerfully vote for a slate of people they believe will best serve the community, and, in the case of Spiritual Assemblies, the nine top vote-getters are elected. Continue reading