God

The Bahá'í belief in one God means that the universe and all creatures and forces within it have been created by a single supernatural Being. This Being, Whom we call God, has absolute control over His creation (omnipotence) as well as perfect and complete knowledge of it (omniscience). Although we may have different concepts of God's nature, although we may pray to Him in different languages and call Him by different names--Allah or Yahweh, God or Brahma--nevertheless, we are speaking about the same unique Being. Extolling God's act of creation, Bahá'u'lláh said:

All-praise to the unity of God, and all-honor to Him, the sovereign Lord, the incomparable and all-glorious Ruler of the universe, Who, out of utter nothingness, hath created the reality of all things, Who, from naught, hath brought into being the most refined and subtle elements of His creation, and Who, rescuing His creatures from the abasement of remoteness and the perils of ultimate extinction, hath received them into His kingdom of incorruptible glory. Nothing short of His all-encompassing grace, His all-pervading mercy, could have possibly achieved it.

Bahá'u'lláh taught that God is too great and too subtle a Being for the finite human mind ever to understand Him adequately or to construct an accurate image of Him:

How wondrous is the unity of the Living, the Ever-Abiding God--a unity which is exalted above all limitations, that transcendeth the comprehension of all created things.... How lofty hath been His incorruptible Essence, how completely independent of the knowledge of all created things, and how immensely exalted will it remain above the praise of all the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth!

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The Manifestations of God

The Bahá'í teachings hold that the motive force in all human development is the coming of the Manifestations or Prophets of God. There can be little disagreement that human history is strongly influenced by the Founders of the world's great religions. The powerful impact on civilization of Jesus Christ, Buddha, Moses, or Muhammad is seen not only in the cultural forms and value systems which arise from Their works and teachings, but is also reflected in the effects that the example of Their lives has on humankind. Even those who have not been believers or followers have nevertheless acknowledged the profound influence of these figures on individuals and on humanity's collective life.

The realization of the extraordinary impact on human history of the Founders of the major religions naturally leads to the philosphical question of their exact nature. This is one of the most controversial of all questions in the philosophy of religion, and many different answers have been given. On the one hand, the religious Founders have been viewed as human philosophers or great thinkers who have perhaps gone further or studied more profoundly than other philosophers of their age. On the other hand, They have been declared to be God or the incarnation of God. There have also been a multitude of theories that fall somewhere between these two extremes.

It is thus not surprising that the Bahá'í writings deal extensively with this subject, which lies so close to the heart of religion. One of Bahá'u'lláh's major works, the Kitab-i-qan, (Book of Certitude), sets out in some detail the Bahá'í concept of the nature of the Manifestations of God.

According to Bahá'u'lláh , all of the Manifestations of God have the same metaphysical nature and the same spiritual stature. There is absolute equality among Them. No one of Them is superior to another. Speaking of the Manifestations, He wrote:

"These sanctified Mirrors, these Day Springs of ancient glory, are, one and all, the Exponents on earth of Him Who is the central Orb of the universe, its Essence and ultimate Purpose. From Him proceed their knowledge and power; from Him is derived their sovereignty. The beauty of their countenance is but a reflection of His image, and their revelation a sign of His deathless glory. They are the Treasuries of Divine knowledge, and the Repositories of celestial wisdom. Through them is transmitted a grace that is infinite, and by them is revealed the Light that can never fade.... 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."1

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1 Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 47

Progressive revelation

As diverse as they are, all the great religions come from the same Source and are the successive chapters of one religion from God. Bahá’u’lláh describes this as ‘the changeless Faith of God’ and the Bahá’í sacred texts refer to this succession of religious revelation from God as ‘progressive revelation’.

God may be beyond our reach, but the Manifestations come to us from time to time. They live among us, give us guidance, and fill us with the energy we need to progress both materially and spiritually.

"I testify before God that each one of these Manifestations hath been sent down through the operation of the Divine Will and Purpose, that each hath been the bearer of a specific Message, that each hath been entrusted with a divinely-revealed Book and been commissioned to unravel the mysteries of a mighty Tablet."2

2 Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 74 - 75

Bahá’u'lláh – Manifestation of God for today

Bahá’u'lláh speaks about the special nature of the era in which we live:

“This is the Day in which God’s most excellent favours have been poured out upon men, the Day in which His most mighty grace hath been infused into all created things. It is incumbent upon all the peoples of the world to reconcile their differences, and, with perfect unity and peace, abide beneath the shadow of the Tree of His care and loving-kindness."

Bahá’u’lláh is the Manifestation of God for this Day, a figure whose coming has been promised in scriptures and traditions down the ages. He says:

“The Revelation which, from time immemorial, hath been acclaimed as the Purpose and Promise of all the Prophets of God, and the most cherished Desire of His Messengers, hath now, by virtue of the pervasive Will of the Almighty and at His irresistible bidding, been revealed unto men. The advent of such a Revelation hath been heralded in all the sacred Scriptures."

The Life of Baha'u'llah - a photographic narrative

Basic teachings

Bahá’u’lláh characterises this time in history as the age of human maturity. It is the time when humankind can and will be united and build a peaceful, global society. Certain major principles must be translated into living reality if we are to advance civilisation.

the abandonment of all forms of prejudice
equality between men and women
recognition of the unity and relativity of religious truth
the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth
the realization of universal education
the responsibility of each person to independently search for truth
recognition that true religion is in harmony with reason and the pursuit of scientific knowledge

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Bahá’í way of life

The purpose of the Bahá’í way of life is to develop one’s God-given talents and capacities for one’s own spiritual well-being and in service to humankind.

Outwardly Bahá’ís live in ways that may not appear to be much different from their neighbours and friends. Inwardly, though, Bahá’ís strive for moral and spiritual growth through daily prayer and meditation, and study of the Bahá’í scriptures. Bahá’ís also observe a day-time fast for 19 days ending at sunset on 20 March.

An important element of the collective life of the community is the non-adversarial decision-making practice known as consultation. In addition to building consensus, consultation is an arena for personal spiritual development, demanding as it does patience, openness and forbearance on the part of those consulting.

The Bahá’í Faith has its own calendar, beginning at Naw-Rúz, the Bahá’í New Year, on 21 March. The centrepiece of Bahá’í community life is the Nineteen Day Feast Held once every 19 days, the Feast is the local community's regular worship gathering -- and more.

Open to Baha'i adults and children, the Feast promotes and sustains the unity of the local Bahá'í community. It always contains three elements: spiritual devotion, administrative consultation, and social fellowship. As such, it combines religious worship with grassroots governance and social enjoyment.

For Bahá’ís the life-long process of spiritual growth finds its highest expression in service to humanity. Whether in terms of spiritual practice, moral behaviour, social activism or community participation, Bahá'ís seek to continually improve themselves and the world around them.

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