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Spiritual Practices


The Bahá'í Faith

by Anne Furlong

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The Bahá'í Faith is a world religion, whose purpose is to unite the peoples of the world
in the common cause of carrying forward an ever-advancing civilization. The scriptures of all the world's religions have promised a future when peace and harmony will be established on earth. Bahá'ís believe that Bahá'u'lláh is the Promised One of all the religions, whose teachings will enable humanity to build this promised world.


Bahá'u'lláh, born in 1817 in Iran, is the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith. Two aspects of his life are exceptional: the suffering he endured, and the influence of his writings on people's hearts and minds. Born into a noble family, he dedicated his youth to helping the oppressed, the sick and the poor. In his early 20's, Bahá'u'lláh began to preach the Message of God for this day. He was bitterly persecuted, cast into prison, and sent into exile. During the 40 years of his exile and persecution, and for over a century since, his writings, teachings and spirit have changed the lives of millions of people.

The Teachings of the Bahá'í Faith

The teachings, beliefs and practices of the Bahá'í Faith all revolve around unity.

The first "unity" that Bahá'u'lláh teaches is the unity of God. Bahá'ís believe that there is one God, Who has created humanity out of love for us. From the beginning of creation, God made a covenant with humanity. According to this covenant, God never leaves humanity without guidance. From time to time, humanity turns away from God, forgetting His teachings; then God sends His Messengers for humanity's salvation. To listen to them is to listen to God.

Second, Bahá'u'lláh teaches the unity of humanity. Although individuals differ physically, emotionally, and psychologically, we all belong to the one race, the one human family. Bahá'ís are dedicated to the advancement of the unity of the human family, and to overcoming the barriers between people - colour, nationality, culture, religion and sex. The third central teaching of the Bahá'í Faith is the unity of religion. Bahá'u'lláh teaches that the purpose of religion is "to liberate the children of men from the darkness of ignorance", "to ensure the peace and tranquillity" of humanity, and to provide the means by which these can be established. All the world's religions have been given to humanity by God at times when human beings set their faces against God. Religion leads humanity back to God. Bahá'ís say that the various religions are one, but they do not mean that the creeds are the same. Instead, they believe that the world's great religions are expressions of a single, unfolding Divine plan.

The purpose of this plan is to enable the human soul - "a sign of God, a heavenly gem" - to reach the source of its happiness. This journey begins in this life; but the spirit is eternal, and continues to progress after the death of the body. Each soul is noble from birth, and throughout life prepares for the world to come by developing its unique capacities and virtues. The spirit that has walked in the ways of God will be gathered to the glory of the Beloved One, and becomes a source of creative power and inspiration for the advancement of humanity.

The Bahá'í Community

There are over 7 million Bahá'ís in virtually every country and territory in the world, and from every major cultural and ethnic group. All these Bahá'ís share a common set of beliefs, which flow from the central teachings of unity. Some of the most important are the independent investigation of the truth, the equality of women and men, and the harmony of science and religion. Bahá'ís must entirely avoid alcohol, gambling, non-medicinal use of drugs, and backbiting. They pray in the morning and evening, and read the Bahá'í scriptures. Bahá'ís are expected to maintain the highest personal standards of trustworthiness, honesty, kindliness, and justice.

There are no Bahá'í churches. Instead, the members of the local community gather for community worship at the beginning of each Bahá'í month. They pray, and read from the scriptures of the Bahá'í Faith; they consult on the community's affairs; and then socialize over refreshments.

During the last month of the Bahá'í year, Bahá'ís from the age of 15 to 70 neither eat nor drink between sun-up and sun-down. This 19-day fast ends on March 21, the first day of spring.

A distinctive characteristic of the Bahá'í Faith is the complete absence of clergy. The affairs of the community are administered by elected bodies called Spiritual Assemblies. These are elected at the local and national levels every year by a free vote, without nominations or campaigning, among all the believers. The international governing body of the Bahá'í Faith is called the Universal House of Justice, located in Haifa, Israel; it is elected every 5 years. Decisions are reached through consultation, a unique method of decision-making that promotes unity and the discovery of truth. The institutions of the Bahá'í Faith, individuals and families, all make decisions in this way.

The family, as the basic unit of society, is held in the highest regard by Bahá'ís. Bahá'u'lláh encourages people to marry, and to have children. Sexual relations are considered the gift of God for the creation of children, and for the expression of love between husband and wife. Children are deeply loved, and the education of children, particularly girls, receives the highest priority.

The Spirit of God

Above all, Bahá'ís cherish the nobility of the human spirit and reverence the beauty of God's creation; they see the Spirit of God in all the religions of the world, and they trust in God's promises. Love of God and love of His creation are one and the same, expressed in service to all humanity.

Anne Furlong is a member of the Baha'í Faith and lives in Prince Edward Island. To learn more the Bahá'í Community of Prince Edward Island call 566-3707, 1-800-433-3284 (toll-free), or visit www.bahai.org.

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