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A General Introduction to the Baha'i Faith (by J. Lane)


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This is not an official representation of the Baha'i Faith, but a representation of the understanding of one individual Baha'i.

I threw this powerpoint on here in an attempt to be able to share it with some colleagues. There were some formatting issues after it was uploaded so I didn't end up sharing this version. I never thought that other people would view it, and completely forgot about this site. This morning I got an e-mail saying I had 100 views, and was completely flabbergasted. Since people are finding this useful I'll try and upload the powerpoint again after having made some formatting changes so the text doesn't drop off, etc.
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A General Introduction to the Baha'i Faith (by J. Lane)

  1. 1. The Baha’i Faith
  2. 2. The Baha‘i faith is the most recent independent world religion. The Baha'i Faith has between 6 and 8 million believers worldwide. The Baha'i Faith is the second most geographically widespread religion in the world.
  3. 3. Baha‘is believe that the most recent Manifestation of God is Baha’u’llah, and they follow His teachings.
  4. 4. Baha‘is Believe In: The Oneness of God The Oneness of Religion The Oneness of Humanity
  5. 5. The Manifestation of God
  6. 6. To Baha‘is, the Manifestation of God is a term that refers to the Divine Teachers: those Great Spiritual Leaders who reveal the Word of God to humanity.
  7. 7. These are some of the Manifestations of God referred to by Baha‘u‘llah: Adam Abraham Moses Krishna Buddha Zoroaster Christ Muhammad It is also understood that there were many Manifestations who have not been specifically mentioned by Baha‘u‘llah in His Writings, in particular, the founders of the oral traditions in North and South America, and Australia. Examples of these Manifestations may be The Peacemaker, White Buffalo Calf Woman, Quetzalcoatl, and The Rainbow Serpent.
  8. 8. According to Baha‘u‘llah, the continual appearance of the Manifestations of God on earth fulfills God‘s Covenant with mankind. This covenant is illustrated in the story of Noah and the flood, in which a rainbow appears signifying God‘s promise to Noah and his descendants that He will never again send a flood. Baha‘is understand the Covenant to be God‘s promise to send spiritual guidance and training to humanity, furthering our process of maturity, and enabling us to grow in understanding our innermost reality.
  9. 9. This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future. -Baha’u’llah
  10. 10. Baha‘is believe that the clearest understanding of God comes to humanity through His Manifestations: ―[God] hath ordained the knowledge of these sanctified Beings to be identical with the knowledge of His own Self… They are the Manifestations of God amidst men, the evidences of His Truth, and the signs of His glory.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah, Gleanings
  11. 11. However, God remains an unknowable Essence, and the Manifestation of God is not, in fact, God incarnate: All the Prophets of God and their chosen Ones, all the divines, the sages, and the wise of every generation, unanimously recognize their inability to attain unto the comprehension of that Quintessence of all truth, and confess their incapacity to grasp Him, Who is the inmost Reality of all things. -Baha‘u‘llah, The Book of Certitude ―We find God only through the Intermediary of His Prophet. We see the Perfection of God in His Prophets … God is never flesh, but mirrored in the attributes of His Prophets, we see His Divine characteristics and perfections.‖
-Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance
  12. 12. A useful analogy: If one gazes at the sun, one can truly say, ―This is the sun, I am in direct contact with the sun, I can feel its heat, though I cannot bear to even look into its light because it is the sun‖ and this would be quite true in meaning, whereas in fact it is not true because all we experience of the sun is through its rays which reach us so far from their source, albeit with such power that we say we are in contact with the sun. Suppose we ask this visible orb, this globe of rays, ―Are you the sun?‖, it could truthfully reply, ―I am the sun‖ because it is the perfect conveyor, the perfect vehicle of the sun‘s light and heat. But it could equally truthfully say, ―No, I am not the sun at all, the sun is millions of miles away, fixed in its place, and you can never know it for you and it are incompatible, but through me, its rays, you know the sun, therefore, to you I am the sun.‖ -Ruhiyyih Khanum, from The
  13. 13. As the perfect reflection of God‘s attributes (or qualities), the Manifestations of God have a singular and exalted station. ―These Tabernacles of holiness, these primal Mirrors which reflect the light of unfading glory, are but expressions of Him Who is the Invisible of the Invisibles. By the revelation of these gems of divine virtue all the names and attributes of God, such as knowledge and power, sovereignty and dominion, mercy and wisdom, glory, bounty and grace, are made manifest. …. And were they to say: ‗We are the servants of God,‘ this also is a manifest and indisputable fact. For they have been made manifest in the uttermost state of servitude, a servitude the like of which no man can possibly attain.” -Baha‘u‘llah, The Book of Certitude
  14. 14. The Manifestations of God have always been severely persecuted by those who did not wish to give up human power, and beloved by those that recognized their Truth and Beauty. An early Baha'i told this story about the reaction of some government officials when they saw Baha‘u‘llah for the first time. There are similar stories about each and every Manifestation of God: ―As soon as He arrived, they arose spontaneously and, although it was not their way, they bowed. Lost in bewilderment and filled with wonder, they remained standing. Their hearts were enamored of His peerless and beauteous countenance. Baha‘u‘llah went to them and spoke words of loving kindness… Bewildered and perplexed, the officer asked, ‗Who was this distinguished personage? Is He the Holy Spirit or the King of Kings?‘‖ -From Stories of Baha‘u‘llah, by Barnes
  15. 15. Baha‘is believe that all the Manifestations of God are imbued with the same Spirit and bring the same spiritual Truth: ―Know thou assuredly that the essence of all the Prophets of God is one and the same. Their unity is absolute. God, the Creator, saith: There is no distinction whatsoever among the Bearers of My Message. They all have but one purpose; their secret is the same secret. To prefer one in honor to another, to exalt certain ones above the rest, is in no wise to be permitted. Every true Prophet hath regarded His Message as fundamentally the same as the Revelation of every other Prophet gone before Him.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah, Gleanings
  16. 16. And yet the Manifestations are also unique: ―… each Manifestation of God hath a distinct individuality, a definitely prescribed mission, a predestined Revelation… Each one of them is known by a different name, is characterized by a special attribute, fulfills a definite Mission, and is entrusted with a particular Revelation.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah, The Book of Certitude
  17. 17. How can these Manifestations be the same and yet different? It is not that the same individual soul is born again into different physical bodies. The Manifestations of God all have different personalities, ―...and separate individual realities. Their oneness lies in the fact that Each manifested and revealed the qualities and attributes of God to the same degree: the spirit of God which dwelled within any one of Them was identical to that which dwelled in the others.‖ -quote from
  18. 18. And how can the ―same revelation‖ also be a ―particular‖ revelation? Through the process of Progressive Revelation
  19. 19. Progressive Revelation refers to Baha‘u‘llah‘s teaching that all the religions are one. Religions differ simply because they must meet the needs of the people they have been revealed to. If one sees humanity as constantly growing and maturing, similar to the development of the human being from childhood to adulthood, than our ability to understand our world and ourselves has never been in a fixed state, and will constantly continue to advance. Therefore, different laws and teachings are needed at different times, depending on the ever-developing capacity of humanity. The manifestations of God are aware of these changing needs, and reveal what is appropriate for the age in which they appear.
  20. 20. To understand Progressive Revelation this simple analogy is often used: Just as foundational concepts in math and science become more and more advanced throughout our years of schooling, the Religion of God is revealed to humanity in a progressive manner, so that it never exceeds the capacity of human understanding at the time at which it is given. The teachers of different grades in school all have the same training, but their teaching methods have to be adapted to meet the needs of their students. In this way the Manifestations of God bring the same spiritual Truth in each revelation, but the language and the social teachings are different in order to suit the time in which they
  21. 21. Another common analogy is to liken the Religion of God to the chapters in a book: Each chapter is different and builds on the one that comes before it in order to convey the story in its entirety. Each chapter tells the same story, but not each chapter is the same. No chapter is better than another, but there is a progression to the story.
  22. 22. Baha‘is see each successive revelation as having the capacity to illuminate some of the symbolic meaning of the one that came before. The religions of the past also provide the foundation on which the religions of the present have been erected. Therefore, Baha‘is are encouraged to study the other revelations as much as possible so as to come to as comprehensive an understanding of the One Religion of God as possible.
  23. 23. This is not to say that the Baha'i faith is syncretic. Syncretism involves the practice of blending multiple religious belief systems into a new practice. Baha‘u‘llah revealed an entirely new world religion founded on thousands of passages of scripture written directly by him, and laid out an administrative structure specifically suited to meet the needs of the world community in the modern age. There are distinct social teachings and laws. The Baha'i Faith is capable of standing alone as a religious system, but in light of Baha‘u‘llah‘s teachings of unity and cooperation, Baha‘is strive to understand and respect their long spiritual heritage.
  24. 24. The Human Being
  25. 25. In the Baha'i writings, Man (as in mankind, which is inclusive of women) is described as being inherently noble: ―From among all created things He hath singled out for His special favor the pure, the gem-like reality of man, and invested it with a unique capacity of knowing Him and of reflecting the greatness of His glory.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah, Gleanings
  26. 26. The Baha'i writings state that humanity was created out of God‘s love for us: ―O Son of Man! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah, The Hidden Words
  27. 27. And out of all of God‘s creation, only Man has been endowed with the latent potential to express all of God‘s attributes: ―… Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is a direct evidence of the revelation within it of the attributes and names of God, inasmuch as within every atom are enshrined the signs that bear eloquent testimony to the revelation of that most great Light. Methinks, but for the potency of that revelation, no being could ever exist. How resplendent the luminaries of knowledge that shine in an atom, and how vast the oceans of wisdom that surge within a drop! To a supreme degree is this true of man, who, among all created things, hath been invested with the robe of such gifts, and hath been singled out for the glory of such distinction. For in him are potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God to a degree that no other created being hath excelled or surpassed. All these names and attributes are applicable to him. Even as He hath said: ‗Man is My mystery, and I am his mystery.‘‖ -Baha‘u‘llah, The Book of Certitude
  28. 28. Therefore, the ultimate purpose of human life is to develop those latent attributes through the assistance and guidance we receive from the Manifestations of God: O My Servant! Thou art even as a finely tempered sword concealed in the darkness of its sheath and its value hidden from the artificer‘s knowledge. Wherefore come forth from the sheath of self and desire that thy worth may be made resplendent and manifest unto all the world. O My Friend! Thou art the day-star of the heavens of My holiness, let not the defilement of the world eclipse thy splendor. Rend asunder the veil of heedlessness, that from behind the clouds thou mayest emerge resplendent and array all things with the apparel of life. -Baha‘u‘llah, The Hidden Words
  29. 29. The attributes of God can also be understood as virtues, or spiritual qualities. • Loving• Charity • Joyfulness kindness • Confidence • Awe • Patience • Unity • Service • Humility • Mercy • Generosity • Compassion • Perseveranc • Creativity • Strength e • Mindfulness • Wisdom • Forgiveness • Gratitude • Understandin g • Hope For a comprehensive list visit • Detachment • Beauty
  30. 30. It is understood that the human spirit will never be able to express these attributes in the same way that God, or the Manifestation of God, are able to. Rather, we strive for our human (and wonderfully imperfect) best.
  31. 31. In the effort to manifest these latent attributes, Baha‘is are encouraged to develop a virtuous character: ―The light of a good character surpasseth the light of the sun and the radiance thereof.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah, Book of Laws ―Honesty, virtue, wisdom, and a saintly character redound to the exaltation of man, while dishonesty, imposture, ignorance, and hypocrisy lead to his abasement… Man‘s distinction lieth not in ornaments or wealth, but rather in virtuous behavior and true understanding.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah, Book of Laws ―Beware, O people of Baha, lest ye walk in the ways of them whose words differ from their deeds.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah, Gleanings
  32. 32. The Purpose of Religion
  33. 33. Baha‘u‘llah wrote that the purpose of religion is twofold: to educate humanity about their spiritual reality, and to provide a framework for the evolution and unity of mankind. ―The religion of God and His divine law are the most potent instruments and the surest of all means for the dawning of the light of unity amongst men. The progress of the world, the development of nations, the tranquility of peoples, and the peace of all who dwell on earth are among the principles and ordinances of God. Religion bestoweth upon man the most precious of all gifts, offereth the cup of prosperity, imparteth eternal life, and showereth imperishable benefits upon mankind.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah, The Tablet of Splendours
  34. 34. Religions are revealed in order to uplift mankind, and not to be a source of discord or contention. ―The purpose of all the divine religions is the establishment of the bonds of love and fellowship among men, and the heavenly phenomena of the revealed Word of God are intended to be a source of knowledge and illumination to humanity. So long as man persists in his adherence to ancestral forms and imitation of obsolete ceremonials, denying higher revelations of the divine light in the world, strife and contention will destroy the purpose of religion and make love and fellowship impossible. Each of the holy Manifestations announced the glad tidings of His successor, and each One confirmed the message of His predecessor. Therefore, inasmuch as They were agreed and united in purpose and teaching, it is incumbent upon Their followers to be likewise unified in love and spiritual fellowship. In no other way will discord and alienation disappear and the oneness of the world of humanity be established.‖ -Abdu‘l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace
  35. 35. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship… So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.” -Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
  36. 36. Baha‘u‘llah
  37. 37. Baha‘u‘llah means ―The Glory of God‖. Baha‘u‘llah was born in 1817 to Persian nobility. It is said that His family‘s ancestry could be traced back to Abraham through Abraham‘s wife Keturah. His given name was Mirza Husayn Ali, but Baha‘u‘llah is His title as a Manifestation of God.
  38. 38. As the child of nobility, Baha‘u‘llah had a privileged upbringing. From an early age, however, He was perceived to be a gifted and compassionate child. In His youth He was recognized by the religious authorities as having an innate spiritual understanding. After the death of His father, Baha‘u‘llah was offered a career as a high-ranking government minister, but he declined the position. Instead, He devoted his time and family wealth to a range of philanthropies, and by the 1840‘s He had begun to be called the ―Father of the Poor‖.
  39. 39. The Báb In 1844 a young man in Shiraz, Persia announced that the Promised Day had arrived, and that He was the return of the Twelfth Imam of Shi‘a Islam, and the forerunner to an even greater Manifestation of God who would succeed Him and usher in the age of universal peace and justice. This young man titled himself ―The Gate‖. His claim was denounced as apostasy by the Islamic clergy. He and His community of followers, which grew rapidly in response to The Bab‘s spiritual beauty and the power of his message, were violently persecuted.
  40. 40. Baha‘u‘llah received some of the writings of this new religion, and quickly became The Bab‘s foremost supporter. Baha‘u‘llah recognized that the message of The Bab was of Divine origin, and stated that, ―these soulstirring words are endowed with the same regenerating power,‖ of the revelations of the past. In response to His claim The Bab was put under house arrest, and then into prison. When His faith continued to grow thousands of His followers were brutally killed.
  41. 41. Only five years after His declaration The Bab was executed by the government. The Muslim clergy were determined to stamp out this new faith, and so they arranged to have The Bab publically shot by an entire regiment of 750 soldiers. However, instead of undermining His Faith, The Bab‘s execution attracted even more adherents, and great sympathy and interest from the European press. The persecution of the Babis (the followers of The Bab) continued with even more vehemence, and in 1852 Baha‘u‘llah was imprisoned with some of His fellow believers in the worst dungeon known to the Persian Empire. This prison was known as the Black Pit, and was notorious for for being foul, filthy,
  42. 42. Baha‘u‘llah stayed in this prison for four months, and it was during this time that He received the message of His spiritual mission, not unlike the appearance of the Burning Bush to Moses, informing Him that He was the Promised One that the Bab foretold. Baha‘u‘llah later wrote about His experience: ―One night, in a dream, these exalted words were heard on every side: ―Verily, We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself and by Thy Pen. Grieve Thou not for that which hath befallen Thee, neither be Thou afraid, for Thou art in safety. Erelong will God raise up the treasures of the earth—men who will aid Thee through Thyself and through Thy Name, wherewith God hath revived the hearts of such as have recognized Him… During the days I lay in the prison of Ṭihrán, though the galling weight of the chains and the stench-filled air allowed Me but little sleep, still in those infrequent moments of slumber I felt as if something flowed from the crown of My head over My breast, even as a mighty torrent that precipitateth itself upon the earth from the summit of a lofty mountain. Every limb of My body would, as a result, be set afire. At such moments My tongue recited what no man could bear to hear… I was but a man like others, asleep on My couch, when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-
  43. 43. The prison of Akka, where Baha‘u‘llah and his family were imprisoned for five years In 1863 Baha‘u‘llah announced His mission to a small group of His fellow Babis, and within a few years His station had been recognized by the generality of His fellow believers. Consequently the Babi faith became the Baha'i faith, and Baha‘u‘llah the center of a new world religion. For 40 years Baha‘u‘llah and His family were subject to exile, imprisonment and persecution. His followers continued to grow in number – responding to His message of the dawning of a new revelation that would usher in an age of unity, peace, and justice.
  44. 44. The story of the life of Baha‘u‘llah and His family is both tragic and triumphant. He carried a heavy burden of suffering throughout His life, and yet His sacrifice was lovingly made in order to uplift mankind. Baha‘u‘llah had this to say about His imprisonment: ―The Ancient Beauty hath consented to be bound with chains that mankind may be released from its bondage, and hath accepted to be made a prisoner within this most mighty Stronghold that the whole world may attain unto true liberty. He hath drained to its dregs the cup of sorrow, that all the peoples of the earth may attain unto abiding joy, and be filled with gladness. This is of the mercy of your Lord, the Compassionate, the Most Merciful. We have accepted to be abased, O believers in the Unity of God, that ye may be exalted, and have suffered manifold afflictions, that ye might prosper and flourish.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah, Gleanings
  45. 45. It is important to note that even though there are two photographs of Baha‘u‘llah, His image is considered to be precious and not for casual display. The photographs themselves are only viewed by Baha‘is on pilgrimage. In addition, the Baha'i writings state that artistic representations or portrayals of Manifestations of God should not be made.
  46. 46. Other Central Figures in the Baha'i Faith
  47. 47. Abdu‘l-Baha Abdu‘l-Baha was the eldest son of Baha‘u‘llah and shared in His Father‘s suffering. As a young man He took as His title Abdu‘l-Baha, which means the ―Servant of Baha‖, and true to His name, Abdu‘l-Baha was the dedicated supporter of His father, as well as His closest companion. As an adult, Abdu‘l-Baha lived his life in service to Baha‘u‘llah‘s Faith and its followers, functioning as His father‘s deputy. His compassion and loving-kindness made him beloved wherever He lived or visited, and there are countless stories about his devotion to the poor and the sick. He was also greatly respected for his spiritual understanding.
  48. 48. In Baha‘u‘llah‘s Will and Testament He designated Abdu‘lBaha the Head of the Baha'i Faith, and the authorized interpreter of the spiritual meaning of Baha‘u‘llah‘s Writings. This marks a departure from all previous religions as the Baha'i community was left with a clearly authenticated leader and interpreter. This provision ensured the unity of the Baha'i community after the death of the Manifestation.
  49. 49. Abdu‘l-Baha worked tirelessly for the rest of His life to promote Baha‘u‘llah‘s teachings, and to organize the Baha'i community in accordance with Baha‘u‘llah‘s will. Shoghi Effendi wrote that, ―without `Abdu'l-Bahá, the enormous creative power of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation could not have been transmitted to humanity, nor its import fully comprehended. He elucidated the teachings of His Father's Faith, amplified its doctrines, and delineated the central features of its administrative institutions. He was the unerring guide and architect of a rapidly expanding Bahá'í community. In addition, Bahá'u'lláh vested in `Abdu'l-Bahá "the virtues of perfection in personal and social behavior, that humanity may have an enduring model to emulate." In 1909 Abdu‘l-Baha was freed from imprisonment and, despite His advanced age, spent two years touring Europe and North America meeting with the young Baha‘i communities, and giving talks on the teachings of the Baha'i Faith.
  50. 50. Abdu‘l-Baha wrote this about His name and station: ―My name is `Abdu'l-Bahá [literally, Servant of Baha]. My qualification is `Abdu'l-Bahá. My reality is `Abdu'lBahá. My praise is `Abdu'l-Bahá… and servitude to all the human race my perpetual religion... No name, no title, no mention, no commendation have I, nor will ever have, except `Abdu'l-Bahá. This is my longing. This is my greatest yearning. This is my eternal life. This is my everlasting glory.‖ -Tablets of Abdu‘l-Baha
  51. 51. He also said this of His time in prison with His Father: ―I myself was in prison forty years—one year alone would have been impossible to bear—nobody survived that imprisonment more than a year! But, thank God, during all those forty years I was supremely happy! Every day, on waking, it was like hearing good tidings, and every night infinite joy was mine. Spirituality was my comfort, and turning to God was my greatest joy.‖ -Paris Talks ―I was happy in imprisonment. I was in the utmost elation because I was not a criminal. They had imprisoned me in the path of God. Every time I thought of this, that I was a prisoner in the pathway of God, the utmost elation overcame me… I was happy that—praise be to God!—I was a prisoner in the Cause of God, that my life was not wasted, that it was spent in the divine service.‖ -Promulgation of Universal Peace
  52. 52. There are many pictures of Abdu‘l-Baha, and very often Baha‘is will display His picture in their homes.
  53. 53. Abdu‘l-Baha passed away in 1921 in Haifa. Eventually a shrine will be built in honor of His station, and until then He is buried in the Shrine of the Bab. His loss was severely lamented by those who knew Him as He was unlike any other: ―…there was something indescribable in His personality that impressed profoundly all who came into His presence. The dome-like head, the patriarchal beard, the eyes that seemed to have looked beyond the reach of time and sense, the soft yet clearly penetrating voice, the translucent humility, the never failing love,--but above all, the sense of power mingled with gentleness that invested His whole being with a rare majesty of spiritual exaltation that both set Him apart, and yet brought Him near to the lowliest soul,--it was all this, and much more that can never be defined, that have left with His many ... friends, memories that are ineffaceable and unspeakably precious.‖ -An
  54. 54. Shoghi Effendi Shoghi Effendi was the eldest grandchild of Abdu‘lBaha. From an early age he had a particularly close relationship with his Grandfather, from whom he received a great deal of his spiritual training. Shoghi Effendi grew up watching Abdu‘l-Baha suffer under the attacks against the Baha'i Faith, and was himself often the target of those who tried to undermine the success of Baha‘u‘llah‘s religion. Shoghi Effendi received an excellent undergraduate and graduate education in Beirut and at Oxford, and dedicated his studies to mastering the English language so that he could translate the letters of Abdu‘l-Baha and serve as His secretary.
  55. 55. At the age of 25, when Shoghi Effendi was still at Oxford, he was devastated by the passing of Abdu‘l-Baha. Returning home he was shocked to learn that in His Will, his Grandfather had appointed him the ―Guardian‖ of the Baha'i Faith, serving as the Head of the Baha'i community and the second, and last, authorized interpreter of Baha‘u‘llah‘s works. Shoghi Effendi knew all to well what this position would mean: "I know it is a road of suffering; I have to tread this road till the end; everything has to be done with suffering‖. -The Priceless Pearl
  56. 56. In fact, within three months of taking on the responsibilities of the Guardianship, Shoghi Effendi was so overcome by his grief over the loss of Abdu‘lBaha and the burden of the attacks against the Baha'i community that he became ill and was forced to retreat to the Swiss Alps, which for him had always been a place of beauty and spiritual solace. He spent eight months living very simply in Switzerland while he wrestled with his capacity to carry out this great responsibility. While he was away his great-aunt, the heroic sister of Abdu‘l-Baha single-handedly took on the responsibility of sustaining and organizing the Baha'i community, though it was such a heavy burden.
  57. 57. Shoghi Effendi later said this of his Aunt, Bahiyyih Khanum: ―From the beginning of her life, from her very childhood, she tasted sorrow's cup; she drank down the afflictions and calamities of the earliest years of the great Cause of God… she learned the bitterness of destitution and want… In the heaven of severance, she shone like the Morning Star, fair and bright… After the ascension of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to the realm of the All-Glorious, [She] enfolded me, helpless as I was, in the embrace of her love, and with incomparable pity and tenderness, persuaded, guided, and urged me on to the requirements of servitude. The very elements of this frail being were leavened with her love, refreshed by her companionship, sustained by her eternal spirit. Never for a moment will her kindnesses, her favours, pass from my memory…‖
  58. 58. Upon his return Shoghi Effendi took up the challenge of the Guardianship, and spent the rest of his life in service to Baha‘u‘llah‘s religion. Throughout his life he protected the Baha'i Faith from those that would destroy or corrupt it; he supported and nurtured the now world-wide Baha'i community; he acted as the authoritative interpreter and expounder of the Baha'i writings; he beautified the Baha'i shrines and holy places by personally designing gardens and beautiful monuments; and he began to organize the administrative body of the Baha'i Faith into structure which Baha‘u‘llah had intended. He died at the age of 60 in London, England and is buried there.
  59. 59. Shoghi Effendi as a young man
  60. 60. Current Baha‘i Administration
  61. 61. There is no clergy in the Baha'i Faith. Baha‘u‘llah made it the responsibility of each individual to pursue their spiritual education. Accordingly, there is no hierarchy within the Baha'i community, and no individual believer has spiritual authority over another. The Baha'i writings state that when the vast majority of people were illiterate a priesthood was necessary, but that now education is a universal right and responsibility. As a result the individual Baha'i is asked to take ownership of developing their own knowledge and spiritual growth, as well as fostering a personal relationship with God.
  62. 62. In fact, one of the great principles of the Baha'i Faith is The Independent Investigation of Truth, wherein each individual acquires knowledge with their ―own eyes and not through the eyes of others‖. Baha‘u‘llah ―Another new principle revealed by… Baha‘u‘llah is the injunction to investigate truth; that is to say, no man should blindly follow his ancestors and forefathers. Nay, each must see with his own eyes, hear with his own ears, and investigate the truth himself in order that he may follow the truth instead of blind acquiescence and imitation of ancestral beliefs.‖ -Abdu‘l-Baha
  63. 63. Democratic Elections Since there is no clergy the Baha'i faith is organized democratically. Elections are made through secret ballot, and nominations or canvasing are strictly forbidden. In fact, Baha‘is are admonished not to discuss who they vote for with another person. The decision-making process is one of prayer and meditation, with the criteria of one‘s selection founded on the character and understanding of the eligible individuals.
  64. 64. The administrative body at the local level is called the Local Spiritual Assembly If there are enough adult Baha‘is in a town, the community will elect nine individuals to serve on this Assembly. The role of the Assembly is to: -support the local community -facilitate the organization of events and observances -counsel individual Baha‘is if specific issues arise -solemnize Baha'i marriages
  65. 65. The organizational body at the national level is called The National Spiritual Assembly The National Spiritual Assembly is also formed of nine individuals. These individuals are democratically elected by (regionally elected) representatives. The NSA supports and oversees the affairs of the national Baha'i community.
  66. 66. Shoghi Effendi outlined a high administrative standard for these Assemblies: ―Let us also remember that at the very root of the Cause lies the principle of the undoubted right of the individual to self-expression, his freedom to declare his conscience and set forth his views… Let us also bear in mind that the keynote of the Cause of God is not dictatorial authority but humble fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation. Nothing short of the spirit of a true Bahá‘í can hope to reconcile the principles of mercy and justice, of freedom and submission, of the sanctity of the right of the individual and of self-surrender, of vigilance, discretion and prudence on the one hand, and fellowship, candor, and courage on the other.‖ -Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i Administration
  67. 67. The global administrative body is The Universal House of Justice The Universal House of Justice is elected by the members of the National Spiritual Assemblies. It is also made up on nine individuals. Baha‘u‘llah specified that the Universal House of Justice was to be the supreme legislative body of the Baha'i community. This means that while the UHJ cannot interpret the Writings of the Baha'i Faith or change any of the revealed laws or principles, they do have the authority to legislate on issues that are not specifically addressed in the sacred texts.
  68. 68. Baha‘u‘llah stated that each age has its own problems, and that these emerging issues will need to be addressed by the UHJ. He also stated that the rulings of the Universal House of Justice would be protected from error: ―…each day there is a new problem and for every problem an expedient solution, such affairs should be referred to the Ministers of the House of Justice that they may act according to the needs and requirements of the time. They...are the recipients of divine inspiration from the unseen kingdom.‖ Abdu‘l-Baha also wrote: ―That which this body, whether unanimously or by a majority doth carry, that is verily the truth and the purpose of God Himself.‖
  69. 69. Consultation The decision making process within the Baha'i Faith is founded on consultation. The process of consultation was carefully outlined by Abdu‘l-Baha, and consists of these elements: -A condition of love and harmony that is mindful of the absolute unity of the participants. -Reliance on God -A courteous, dignified, careful and moderate expression of one‘s views -Detachment from one‘s own opinion, so as to not be stubborn or insistent. -The free expression of opinion, and a respect for divergent thoughts. -If a consensus cannot be reached, the majority of voices prevail, and all must voluntarily submit to the majority decision. Abdu‘l-Baha explains that it is absolutely necessary for all participants to submit to the majority because if a decision happens to be wrong, the consequences of that decision will be recognized much more quickly if all the participants are working together, and the problem can be remedied quickly and with clarity. If some do not act in accord with the decision of the majority, it will obscure the source of the problem and will slow the remedial process considerably.
  70. 70. Baha‘i Scripture
  71. 71. The Writings of The Bab and Baha‘u‘llah are considered by Baha‘is to be divine revelation. Baha‘u‘llah wrote thousands of compositions, often in his own hand. Baha‘u‘llah wrote in many styles, sometimes using simple language, but often in a highly mystical and poetic manner. It is helpful to note that in His writings, Baha‘u‘llah speaks as God‘s Servant, expressing His devotion and unconditioned submission to God, and as the mouthpiece of God, addressing humanity with unconditioned authority.
  72. 72. The writings of Abdu‘l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi are considered authoritative in that they each had the authority to interpret the spiritual meaning of Baha‘u‘llah‘s writings. However, according to Shoghi Effendi, only the writings of the Bab, Baha‘u‘llah, and Abdu‘l-Baha are considered Baha'i scripture.
  73. 73. Authenticity is of primary importance in the Baha'i Faith. Unless authentication can be categorically proved, the text is not considered authoritative. Similarly, notes taken by those who heard the sayings of the Baha'i central figures are also not considered authoritative. These unauthenticated texts can still be used by the Baha‘is, but no scriptural authority is given to them.
  74. 74. Some Central Texts of Baha'i Scripture: The Kitab-i-Aqdas (All of the following are Baha‘u‘llah‘s writings) Translated, this title means The Book of Laws. This book is also referred to as The Most Holy Book, and as such has foremost importance in the Baha‘i canon. The Kitab-i-Iqan This title means The Book of Certitude. This is often considered the primary theological work within Baha'i scripture. The Hidden Words This is a collection of short passages. Baha‘u‘llah stated that within this relatively small book was contained the basic essence of spiritual Truth. Abdu‘l-Baha said that ―The Hidden Words is a treasury of divine mysteries. When thou ponderest its contents, the doors of the mysteries will open.‖ Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah A compilation of selected writings by Baha‘u‘llah. This book was compiled by Shoghi Effendi. The compilation is separated into sections, each of which specifically address a theological issue, including the Manifestation of God, the nature of the human soul, the revelation of Baha‘u‘llah, and the spiritual meaning of life.
  75. 75. Social Teachings
  76. 76. The Oneness of Humanity ―O contending peoples and kindreds of the earth! Set your faces towards unity, and let the radiance of its light shine upon you. Gather ye together, and for the sake of God resolve to root out whatever is the source of contention amongst you…. There can be no doubt whatever that the peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah, Gleanings ―All men are the leaves and fruit of one same tree… they all have the same origin. The same rain has fallen upon them all, the same warm sun makes them grow, they are all refreshed by the same breeze… the whole of humanity is enveloped by the Mercy and Grace of God. As the Holy Writings tell us: All men are equal before God.‖ -Abdu‘l-Baha, Paris Talks
  77. 77. The world is but one country, and mankind its citizens. -Baha’u’llah
  78. 78. Unity In Diversity ―Should any one contend that true and enduring unity can in no wise be realized in this world, inasmuch as its people widely differ in their manners and habits, their tastes, their temperament and character, their thoughts and their views, to this we make reply that differences are of two kinds; the one is the cause of destruction, as exemplified by the spirit of contention and strife which animates mutually conflicting and antagonistic peoples and nations, whilst the other is the sign of diversity, the symbol and the secret of perfection, and the revealer of the bounties of the Allglorious.‖ – Abdu‘l-Baha
  79. 79. Baha'i communities can be found all over the planet
  80. 80. The Baha'i community honors its diversity and celebrates the cultural heritage of humanity Snapshots of different Baha'i events from all over the world.
  81. 81. The Elimination of All Forms of Prejudice Prejudice is the product of separation and division, and as such is the antithesis of unity. In His writings Baha‘u‘llah calls on humanity to rid itself of personal prejudices: ―Close your eyes to racial differences, and welcome all with the light of oneness.‖ -From The Advent of Divine Justice Abdu‘l-Baha placed great emphasis on this issue: ―Beware of prejudice; light is good in whatsoever lamp it is burning. A rose is beautiful in whatever garden it may bloom. A star has the same radiance if it shines from the east or the west… We must banish prejudice. Religious, patriotic, racial prejudices must disappear, for they are the destroyers of human society. We must become the cause of the unity of the human race.‖
  82. 82. “O Children of Men! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. It is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet… that by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest.” -Baha’u’llah
  83. 83. Harmony of Science and Religion ―God has endowed man with intelligence and reason whereby he is required to determine the verity of questions and propositions. 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.‖ -Abdu‘l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith ―Religion and science are the two wings upon which man‘s intelligence can soar into heights, with which the human soul can progress… Should a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the despairing slough of materialism.‖
  84. 84. Elimination of Extremes of Wealth and Poverty ―…the disease which afflicts the body politic is lack of love and absence of altruism…‖ -Abdu‘l-Baha The Baha'i Writings assert that while the true solutions to economic problems are individual spiritual perception and transformation, nations also must strive for the economic security of all their citizens. Baha‘u‘llah stated that economic injustice is a moral evil: ―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.‖
  85. 85. Equality of Men and Women In the Baha'i Writings God is seen as being without gender and similarly the human soul is also considered genderless. Therefore, gender and sexuality are understood as belonging to the physical world and having no bearing on our spiritual reality. However, it does become useful to explore gender as a reflection of the ―Masculine‖ and ―Feminine‖ attributes of God. It is understood that life arises out of the interplay between the masculine and feminine qualities, and that as a general rule men and women express those complementary qualities. The Baha'i writings repeatedly assert that men and women are absolutely equal: that each is capable of reflecting all the attributes of God in equal measure.
  86. 86. ―Know thou, O handmaid, that in the sight of Bahá, women are accounted the same as men, and God hath created all humankind in His own image, and after His own likeness. That is, men and women alike are the revealers of His names and attributes, and from the spiritual viewpoint there is no difference between them.‖ -Abdu‘l-Baha, Selections From the Writings of Abdu‘l-Baha ―What, then, constitutes the inequality between man and woman? Both are human. In powers and function each is the complement of the other. At most it is this: that woman has been denied the opportunities which man has so long enjoyed, especially the privilege of education.... And let it be known once more that until woman and man recognize and realize equality, social and political progress here or anywhere will not be possible. For the world of humanity consists of two parts or members: one is woman; the other is man. Until these two members are equal in strength, the oneness of humanity cannot be established, and the happiness and felicity of mankind will not be a reality. God willing, this is to be so.‖ -Abdu‘l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace
  87. 87. However, women are exempt from certain situations: ―In the Dispensation of Bahá‘u‘lláh, women are advancing side by side with men. There is no area or instance where they will lag behind: they have equal rights with men, and will enter, in the future, into all branches of the administration of society. Such will be their elevation that, in every area of endeavour, they will occupy the highest levels in the human world… But there are certain matters, the participation in which is not worthy of women. For example, at the time when the community is taking up vigorous defensive measures against the attack of foes, the women are exempt from military engagements…under such a circumstance defense is necessary, but it is the duty of men to organize and execute such defensive measures and not the women—because their hearts are tender and they cannot endure the sight of the horror of carnage, even if it is for the sake of defense. From such and similar undertakings the women are exempt…‖ -Abdu‘l-Baha, Paris Talks
  88. 88. In the Baha'i Faith, women can, and do, work as equals with men in every area of worship, service and administration – except for one. The only institution on which a woman cannot serve is the Universal House of Justice. This is, perhaps, one of the exemptions Abdu‘l-Baha referred to. While we don‘t yet understand why women cannot serve on this institution, Baha‘is are assured that this ruling in no way compromises the principles of the absolute equality of women and men, and that its purpose will be as clear as day in the future. ―The House of Justice, however, according to the explicit text of the Law of God, is confined to men; this for a wisdom of the Lord God's which will ere long be made manifest as clearly as the sun at high noon.‖ -Abdu‘l-Baha
  89. 89. Miscellaneous Subjects
  90. 90. The Baha'i Faith and Other Religions proceeded from the Since Baha‘is believe that all religions have same Source there is no justification for Baha‘is to have religious intolerance. Belief in the principle of the oneness of humanity requires Baha‘is to approach their fellow man with respect and acceptance: ―Indeed, human beings have a tendency to view their own beliefs as right, and all others as wrong… The Baha'i- writings admonish humankind to abandon such intolerant attitudes and replace them with mutual respect and forbearance.‖ -from Eliminating Religious Intolerance ―It is incumbent upon every man, in this Day, to hold fast unto whatsoever will promote the interests, and exalt the station, of all nations and just governments. Through each and every one of the verses which the Pen of the Most High hath revealed, the doors of love and unity have been unlocked and flung open to the face of men. We have erewhile declared — and Our Word is the truth — ‗Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of
  91. 91. ―Teaching‖ Baha‘is see it as their duty (and their privilege) to share their spiritual understanding with those who might be interested. Baha‘is believe that Baha‘u‘llah is the Manifestation of God for the present day, and that His religion offers spiritual solutions to the current problems that face individuals and society at large. There is absolutely no practice of coerced conversion or proselytizing, but Baha‘is will often seek opportunities to tell others about the Baha'i Faith. When Baha'is teach the Faith to others they are asked by the Writings to do so with respect and detachment, understanding that there are as many spiritual paths as there are feet to walk them. ―The friends should be engaged in educating the souls and should become instruments in aiding the world of humanity to acquire spiritual joy and fragrance.‖ –Shoghi Effendi ―To find these receptive souls and teach them, with tact and understanding, is the duty and privilege of every single Bahá'í.‖ -Shoghi Effendi
  92. 92. Mystical Practice and Formal Religion Through prayer, meditation, and the pursuit of spiritual development, Baha‘is are called on to have a mystical life that illuminates the religious structure of the Baha'i Faith. ―The Bahá'í Faith, like all other Divine Religions, is thus fundamentally mystic in character. Its chief goal is the development of the individual and society, through the acquisition of spiritual virtues and powers. It is the soul of man which first has to be fed. And this spiritual nourishment prayer can best provide. Laws and institutions, as viewed by Bahá'u'lláh, can become really effective only when our inner spiritual life has been perfected and transformed. Otherwise religion will degenerate into mere organization, and become a dead thing.‖ -Shoghi Effendi ―The need is very great, everywhere in the world, in and outside the [Bahá'í] Faith, for a true spiritual awareness to pervade and motivate people's lives. No amount of administrative procedure or adherence to rules can take the place of this soul-characteristic, this spirituality which is the essence of man.‖ -Shoghi Effendi
  93. 93. Heaven The Baha'i writings state that the worlds of God are infinite in number, and that the human soul continues to progress through the worlds of God until it reaches the presence of God. "Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving-kindness and bounty.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah, Gleanings
  94. 94. Baha‘u‘llah‘s writings explain that, different from our physical world, the world beyond this one is spiritual and something we cannot yet conceive of. And just as an unborn child develops arms and feet inside the womb, in the next world we will greatly depend on the spiritual qualities that we develop here. ―That world beyond is a world of sanctity and radiance; therefore, it is necessary that in this world he should acquire these divine attributes. In that world there is need of spirituality, faith, assurance, the knowledge and love of God. These he must attain in this world so that after his ascension from the earthly to the heavenly Kingdom he shall find all that is needful in that eternal life ready for him. That divine world is manifestly a world of lights; therefore, man has need of illumination here. That is a world of love; the love of God is essential. It is a world of perfections; virtues, or perfections, must be acquired.‖ -Abdu‘lBaha ―The world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah, Gleanings
  95. 95. Hell? The Baha'i writings state that Hell is not a place, but rather a state of being. Hell is seen as the pain that results from remoteness from God, just as Heaven is the state of progress towards God. ―…there is no greater torture than being veiled from God, and no more severe punishment than sensual vices, dark qualities, lowness of nature, engrossment in carnal desires. When they are delivered through the light of faith from the darkness of these vices, and become illuminated with the radiance of the sun of reality, and ennobled with all the virtues, they esteem this the greatest reward, and they know it to be the true paradise.‖ -Abdu‘l-Baha, Some Answered Questions
  96. 96. The Baha'i Faith and the Natural World The Baha'i writings have an attitude of reverence for the natural world. Baha‘is understand that it is in their best interest to work in harmony with the earth, and to find a responsible and sustainable way living. ―The civilization, so often vaunted by the learned exponents of arts and sciences, will, if allowed to overleap the bounds of moderation, bring great evil upon men… If carried to excess, civilization will prove as prolific a source of evil as it had been of goodness when kept within the restraints of moderation. Meditate on this... -Baha‘u‘llah, Gleanings
  97. 97. The Baha'i Writings also speak of the natural world as a vehicle for understanding spiritual reality and God. ―There are two Books: one is the Book of creation and the other is the written Book. The written Book consisteth of the heavenly Books which are revealed to the Prophets of God and have issued forth from the lips of His Manifestations. The Book of creation is the preserved Tablet and the outspread Roll of existence. The Book of creation is in accord with the written Book… When thou readest the written Book thou wilt become aware of the mysteries of God, but when thou gazest at the Book of creation thou wilt observe the signs, symbols, realities and reflections of the hidden mysteries of the bounties of [God].‖
  98. 98. Shoghi Effendi stated that Man and Nature are deeply connected: ―We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.‖
  99. 99. Art in all forms is encouraged… ―By the power of the Holy Spirit, working through his soul, man is able to perceive the Divine reality of things. All great works of art and science are witnesses to this power of the Spirit.‖ -Abdu‘l-Baha, Paris Talks ―In accordance with the Divine Teachings, the acquisition of sciences and the perfection of arts is considered as acts of worship. If a man engages with all his power in the acquisition of a science or in the perfection of an art, it is as if he has been worshipping God in the churches and temples.‖ -Abdu‘l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith ‗Canticle‘ (1954) by Mark Toby, a Baha'i abstract expressionist painter.
  100. 100. In the Baha'i Faith there are prohibitions against alcohol and drugs, as they ―stupefy‖ the mind and cause ―torpor of the soul‖. ―Become ye intoxicated with the wine of the love of God, and not with that which deadeneth your minds…‖ ― The one diminisheth the intelligence of man, the other increaseth it. The one leadeth to perdition, the other bestoweth life‖. -Baha‘u‘llah ―Alcohol consumeth the mind and causeth man to commit acts of absurdity, but [drugs] freeze the spirit, petrify the soul, waste the body and leave man frustrated and lost.‖ -Abdu‘l-Baha ―Intellect and the faculty of comprehension are God‘s gifts whereby man is distinguished from other animals. Will a wise man want to lose this Light in the darkness of intoxication? No by God… He will, rather, do that which will develop his powers of intelligence and understanding, and not increase his negligence, heedlessness and decline.‖ -Abdu‘l-Baha
  101. 101. However, perhaps the most strongly prohibited act of all in the Baha'i writings is backbiting The Baha'i writings make it very clear that Baha‘is should make every effort to avoid faultfinding and slander. ―O Son of Man! Breath not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah ―Never to allow ourselves to speak one unkind word about another, even though that other be our enemy.‖ Abdu‘l-Baha ―The worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting, more especially when it emanates from the tongues of the believers of God. If some means were devised so that the doors of backbiting could be shut eternally, and each one of the believers of God unsealed his lips in praise of others… the hearts [would be]
  102. 102. Homosexuality This is a deeply complicated issue, and as its discussion has significant impact on the human heart, this topic will not be discussed in small snippets of information. Rather, the reader is directed to this website for a comprehensive representation of this subject: The approach to homosexuality in the Baha'i writings cannot be summed up in a few sentences, so it is important to read as much as possible, particularly the essays at the end of the section written by individual Baha‘is. However it is important to note that: -The essence of Baha‘u‘llah‘s teachings is love and compassion, and none of God‘s creatures are exempt from this right. -Baha‘is seek to eliminate ALL forms of prejudice. -Baha‘is do not seek to impose their beliefs or practices on
  103. 103. Power It may be useful to note that, as in all spiritual faiths, the Baha'i Writings define power as the ability to move the hearts of man through attraction, rather than controlling others through force or aggressive persuasion. ―They who are the beloved of God, in whatever place they gather and whomsoever they may meet, must evince, in their attitude towards God, and in the manner of their celebration of His praise and glory, such humility and submissiveness that every atom of the dust beneath their feet may attest the depth of their devotion. The conversation carried by these holy souls should be informed with such power that these same atoms of dust will be thrilled by its influence.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah Though it is the natural tendency of human beings to seek the ―power‖ of forceful influence, many steps have been taken within Baha‘u‘llah‘s religion in order to prevent ―power-grabbing‖, such as the private election process, and the lack of clergy. Administrative positions carry no spiritual authority, and are accepted with an attitude of service and humility.
  104. 104. Community Activities
  105. 105. Gathering in Tuvalu Baha'i communities have numerous ongoing activities. Some events are regular and structured by the Baha'i calendar. Other events are planned at the discretion of the community according to its needs.
  106. 106. The Baha'i year is broken into nineteen months of nineteen days, and each month is named for an attribute of God. The Baha'i calendar is solar, and begins on the spring equinox. Depending on the year, there are 4 or 5 days that do not fit into a month. These days comprise the Festival of Ayyam-i-Ha and are designated ―days out of time‖. This is a celebratory time within the community, characterized by acts of service to others, and commemorates God‘s transcendence above His attributes (i.e. His Unknowable Essence).
  107. 107. Feast At the beginning of each month the local community comes together for ―Feast‖, a gathering that consists of devotions (the reading of prayers and scripture), consultation about community affairs, and socialization. The purpose of Feast is to maintain the unity of the community, address its needs, and to be an opportunity for community worship. Unless a Baha'i community is large enough to own a Baha'i Centre, Feast is usually held an the home of one of the community members.
  108. 108. Other Baha'i events that are determined by the Baha'i calendar are: -Holy Day observances such as the Birth of Baha‘u‘llah and the Martyrdom of the Bab. -The Baha'i New Year -Ayyam-i-Ha -The Fasting period (in the spring Baha'is fast for nineteen days between sunrise and sunset) -Community Elections
  109. 109. Community events that are not determined by the Baha‘i calendar are: -Regular Devotional Gatherings -Study Groups (where scripture is studied, Baha'i or otherwise) -Informational gatherings for those interested in learning about the Baha'i Faith (called Firesides) -Children‘s spiritual education classes -Youth activities -Artistic events -Social events -Service activities
  110. 110. No Congregational Prayer Prayer in the Baha'i community is an individual act. There is only one congregational prayer in the Baha'i writings, and that is the Prayer for the Dead. Therefore, at Baha'i community gatherings an individual person does not pray on behalf of everyone else. Individual Baha'is may read prayers within a group, and others may share in the moment or the meaning of the words, but the act of praying is an individual initiative.
  111. 111. Baha'i Symbols
  112. 112. The Greatest Name
  113. 113. Ya Baha‘u‘l-Abha ―O Glory of Glories‖ Baha‘u‘llah identified ―The All-Glorious‖ as the greatest name (or attribute) of God. ―O Glory of Glories‖ is an invocation of Baha‘u‘llah‘s name, and speaks to His station as a Manifestation of God. The preceding symbol is this invocation written in calligraphic form, and is often positioned in a place of respect in the home of a Baha‘i. Baha‘is also use a version of the Greatest Name as a greeting. This version is spoken as Allah‘u‘Abha, which means ―God, the MostGlorious‖.
  114. 114. -The ringstone symbol was designed by Abdu‘lBaha, and is found on Baha'i rings and other jewelry. It is a stylized form of the word ―Baha‖ with two five-pointed stars on either side, representing The Bab and Baha‘u‘llah. The three horizontal lines represent God, The Manifestation of God, and the world of creation (from top to bottom), and the vertical line represents the Holy Spirit. -The five pointed star was the symbol of the Babi Faith, and is also technically the symbol of the Baha'i Faith (however now it is more common to use the nine pointed star). The five pointed star traditionally represents the human temple The Bab‘s writings written in (the the form of a five-pointed body). star.
  115. 115. -The nine-pointed star is one of the most commonly used symbols of the Baha'i Faith. For Baha‘is the number nine represents the number of perfection and greatest possible unity (being the highest single digit number). The nine-pointed star also represents the unity of the 9 major world religions.
  116. 116. Baha'i Worship
  117. 117. Prayer Prayer and meditation are a fundamental elements of Baha'is spiritual life. Abdu‘l-Baha explained that prayer is ―conversation with God‖. Shoghi Effendi wrote that, ―the core of religious faith is that mystic feeling that unites man with God. This state of spiritual communion can be brought about and maintained by means of meditation and prayer. And this is the reason why Bahá'u'lláh has so much stressed the importance of worship. It is not sufficient for a believer to merely accept and observe the teachings. He should, in addition, cultivate the sense of spirituality, which he can acquire chiefly by the means of prayer. The Bahá'í Faith, like all other Divine religions, is thus fundamentally mystic in character. Its chief goal is the development of the individual and society, through the acquisition of spiritual virtues and powers. It is the soul of man
  118. 118. Together, The Bab, Baha‘u‘llah, and Abdu‘l-Baha wrote hundreds of prayers, and most often these are the prayers that Baha‘is will use for personal praying and for group devotions. Baha‘is can also use their own language to pray when they feel the need to speak from the heart. As Abdu‘lBaha said, prayer is ―conversation with God,‖ and therefore can be quite informal. It may also be helpful to note that very often Baha'i prayers are ended with praise for God by the naming His attributes. This is an expression of devotion, but the naming of these attributes also gives Baha‘is the opportunity to identify the qualities of God and to examine how these attributes can be expressed in their own lives. To read some of the prayers of the Baha'i Faith visit:
  119. 119. O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand. Thou art my Guide and my Refuge. I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life. God! Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself. I dedicate myself to Thee, O Lord. -Abdu’l-Baha
  120. 120. Obligatory Prayer Baha‘is also have a practice of obligatory prayer. There is a choice of three: a short, a medium, and a long. The short obligatory prayer is said once a day between noon and sunset. The medium obligatory prayer is said three times in a day, at morning, noon, and night. The long obligatory prayer is said once at any time during the day. Baha‘is are only required to say one of the prayers in a given day, and when saying these prayers the individual turns to face the Shrine of Baha‘u‘llah in Israel.
  121. 121. ―As for obligatory prayer, it hath been sent down by the Pen of the Most High in such wise that it setteth ablaze the hearts and captivateth the souls and minds of men.‖ -Baha‘u‘llah ―Obligatory prayers and supplications are the very water of life. They are the cause of existence, of the refinement of souls, and of their attainment to the utmost joy. Exercise the greatest care in this regard, and encourage others to recite the Obligatory Prayers and supplications.‖ -Abdu‘l-Baha
  122. 122. The Short Obligatory Prayer: 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. -Baha’u’llah
  123. 123. Meditation In the Baha'i Writings prayer and meditation go hand in hand. Some Baha‘is consider meditation the practice of deepening on the Sacred Writings. Meditation can also be the careful and prayerful consideration of a personal issue in order to come to a course of action. First and foremost, meditation is the practice of being receptive to the divine spirit. Shoghi Effendi writes, ―It is not sufficient to pray diligently for guidance, but this prayer must be followed by meditation as to the best methods of action and then action itself… because prayers can only be answered through action and if someone‘s action is wrong, God can use that method of showing the pathway which is right.‖
  124. 124. ―The meditative faculty is akin to the mirror; if you put it before earthly objects it will reflect them. Therefore if the spirit of man is contemplating earthly subjects he will be informed of these. But if you turn the mirror of your spirits heavenwards, the heavenly constellations and the rays of the Sun of Reality will be reflected in your hearts, and the virtues of the Kingdom will be obtained.‖ Abdu‘l-Baha, Paris Talks ―The inspiration received through meditation is of a nature that one cannot measure or determine. God can inspire into our minds things that we had no previous knowledge of, if He desires to do so.‖ -Shoghi Effendi
  125. 125. Baha'i Houses of Worship
  126. 126. A Baha'i house of worship is a place of prayer and meditation and is open to people of all faiths. The architecture is often chosen to reflect the culture in which the House of Worship has been erected, but they all have nine sides and a central dome, which is meant to symbolize the unity and diversity of the human race. There are currently seven Houses of Worship around the world, one on each (habitable) continent, and there are currently plans to build local houses of the Chicago House of A pillar from worship within the larger Baha'i Worship. It shows the symbols of the major world faiths, signifying the unity of communities. religion.
  127. 127. Wilmette, USA
  128. 128. Panama City, Panama
  129. 129. Frankfurt, Germany
  130. 130. Kampala, Uganda
  131. 131. New Delhi, India
  132. 132. An Areal View of the Indian House of Worship
  133. 133. Sydney, Australia
  134. 134. Samoa
  135. 135. Temple currently being built in Santiago, Chile
  136. 136. Baha’i Holy Places
  137. 137. The Baha'i holy sites currently accessible to Baha‘is are in Israel. Mount Carmel in Haifa was chosen by Baha‘u‘llah as the resting place for the body of The Bab. He directed Abdu‘l-Baha to build a shrine there in honor of The Bab‘s station as a Manifestation of God and as the forerunner of Baha‘u‘llah.
  138. 138. These are views of the Shrine of The Bab on Mt. Carmel. Nineteen terraces have been shaped into the mountain, each adorned with gardens and fountains. The terraces are often referred to as the hanging gardens of Haifa.
  139. 139. The global administrative centre is also located on Mt. Carmel The Archives Building The buildings of the International Teaching Centre, The Seat of the Universal House of Justice and the Centre for the Study of the Texts. The Seat of the Universal House of Justice
  140. 140. After 27 years of exile and imprisonment, Baha‘u‘llah, though still a prisoner, was finally allowed to live outside of the prison city of Akka (due to respect and admiration from local government officials). Abdu‘l-Baha arranged to rent a large home in the surrounding countryside. This property was named Bahji, and it was here Baha‘u‘llah spent the last 13 years of his life. He passed away in 1892 and was buried in a simple room in one of the adjoining buildings, which is now designated as His shrine. The shrine of Baha‘u‘llah is considered the foremost holy place for Baha‘is, and is the direction to which Baha‘is turn to pray.
  141. 141. The house, gardens, and the Shrine of Baha‘u‘llah at Bahji
  142. 142. There are two other significant holy places but they are located in Iraq and Iran where Baha‘is are still heavily persecuted. These two properties are the house of Baha‘u‘llah in Bagdad, and the house of the Bab in Shiraz. In the future visiting these two houses will be part of Baha'i pilgrimage.
  143. 143. In 1922 the House of Baha‘u‘llah was confiscated by the Shi‘ih authorities and has yet to be returned to the Baha‘is. The house of the Bab has been destroyed twice. It was first destroyed by those hostile to the Baha‘is 1955 and was subsequently rebuilt. More recently it was destroyed during the Islamic Revolution (1979), and later a mosque was built on the site. The House of the Bab Rebuilt Present Day
  144. 144. Helpful Tips
  145. 145. • How to pronounce ―Baha'i‖: baa high (emphasis on the second syllable) • How to pronounce ―Baha‘u‘llah‖: baa ha oo la (emphasis on the second syllable) • It is generally not polite to refer to the Baha'i religion as Bahaism, or to Baha‘is as Bahaists. These terms are not used within the Baha'i community. Baha'i means ―follower of Baha‖. • At a Baha'i devotional meeting or community event it is polite to wear modest clothing and to observe silence while prayers or scripture are being read.
  146. 146. Further Reading Baha‘i International Website – Comprehensive overview of the Baha'i Faith – Baha'i Writings – Baha'i Prayers – The Life of Baha‘u‘llah – Photos Depicting the Life of Baha‘u‘llah –
  147. 147. Sources • • • • • • • • • • • • Understanding the Baha'i Faith by Wendi Moomen The Priceless Pearl by Ruhiyyih Khanum Refreshed and Renewed by Robert Atkinson The Life of Shoghi Effendi by Danesh The Guardian The Baha'i Faith by Perkins and Hainsworth Eliminating Religious Intolerance from