What Are the Core Baha’i Beliefs?

This is the second of the questions from a curious soul that my Local Spiritual Assembly asked me to answer. His second question was: What are Baha’i’s core beliefs?

First, Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah, an Arabic name meaning the Glory of God, is the most recent in a succession of divine prophets and teachers that goes back into prehistory. Think of such spiritual educators as Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, to name a few.  

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Baha’u’llah wrote of these teachers: 

… He [God] hath manifested unto men the Day Stars of His divine guidance, the Symbols of His divine unity, and hath ordained the knowledge of these sanctified Beings to be identical with the knowledge of His own Self. Whoso recognizeth Them hath recognized God. Whoso hearkeneth unto Their call, hath hearkened unto the voice of God, and whoso testifieth to the truth of Their revelation, hath testified to the truth of God Himself …. Every one of them is the Way of God that connecteth this world with the realms above ….  They are the Manifestations of God amidst men, the evidences of His Truth, and the signs of His glory.

At the heart of Baha’i belief, then, is the acceptance of Baha’u’llah as the latest of these ”Manifestations of God,” which some religious traditions refer to by different titles such as Avatar, Buddha, Christ, Messiah, or Prophet.

Baha’u’llah was once asked to sum up his teachings in one word, and that word was unity. Specifically, Baha’is believe in the unity of humankind. All of the Baha’i teachings, whether given for the individual or society as whole, are focused on that reality. For example, Baha’u’llah taught that:

  • there is one God Who has spoken, as the Bible notes, ”at sundry times and in divers manners” to the peoples of the world, which means … 
  • there is one religion revealed progressively throughout history through a series of divine teachers. Human beings may think of them as “different” religions, but to the prophets and messengers who bring them, they are part of one unfolding Faith.
  • there is one human race. The differences between us are to be appreciated, not feared or despised. The Baha’i byword is unity through diversity.
  • every soul must independently investigate reality, therefore …
  • education must be universal, and we must adopt a universal auxiliary language so we can communicate no matter what our native tongue.
  • science and religion are in harmony; if it seems they are not, we have failed to understand one or both.
  • women and men are equal and must have equal opportunity to reach their full potential.
  • we must strive to abolish all forms of prejudice, including racial, national, political, gender, social and economic.
  • economic and social problems require spiritual solutions.

That principle of the independent investigation of reality inherently depends upon self-knowledge and justice. Baha’u’llah wrote, in a volume called The Hidden Words, that: 

The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor.

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This global attention to justice and knowledge is necessary if we are to follow through on a directive that Baha’u’llah gave in answer to questions asked of Him by a Zoroastrian scholar: 

The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.

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