Belief in The Manifestation
“The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Day spring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws.” (Gleanings, p. 330)
Baha’is believe the first responsibility of every human being is acceptance of and belief in God’s Manifestation for the day in which we live.
Observance of Baha’i Laws
“It behooveth every one who reacheth this sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable.” (Gleanings pp. 331)
Our responsibility does not stop with recognition of the Manifestation. The Baha’i teachings and laws are a spiritual foundation for daily living. Just as we must follow the laws of cleanliness, appropriate diet, and exercise to maintain our physical health and well-being, Baha’is believe we must follow the laws and ordinances of God’s Manifestation to develop and maintain our spiritual health and well- being. These religious laws provide remedies for the ills of society as well as standards of personal conduct designed to strengthen human relations and deepen our spiritual understanding.
Teaching the Faith
“The essence of Faith is fewness of words and abundance of deeds; he whose words exceed his deeds, know verily his death is better than his life.” (Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 156)
Baha’is teach their Faith primarily through the example of their lives. Baha’is also hold informal gatherings called “firesides” for the purpose of teaching and discussion of the Faith. Baha’is may inform the public of the existence of the Faith by publicizing their activities, occasionally advertising, and making Baha’i literature available to inquirers. Although teaching the Faith is one of the most important Baha’i laws, Baha’is may not proselytize, or try to force their beliefs on others.
Prayer and Fasting
“The law of prayer hath constituted a fundamental element of the Revelation of all the prophets of God – a law the form and the manner of which hath been adapted to the varying requirements of every age.” (Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 39)
“Prayer and fasting is the cause of awakening and mindfulness. ..” (Baha’i World Faith, p. 368)
Private prayer is a daily obligation for all Baha’is. Baha’is believe that prayer is central to our spiritual lives because it causes a connection with God. Congregational reading of prayers is not practiced by Baha’is although prayers are often read aloud by individuals at Baha’i gatherings. Baha’u’llah and His son, Abdu’l-Baha, wrote many prayers which have been collected and are recited by the believers.
The Baha’i Fast is a time of spiritual rejuvenation in preparation for the Baha’i New Year. Fasting occurs during the nineteen days immediately preceding the vernal equinox (March 21 or 22). During the Fast, Baha’is do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset each day. The Fast is also a time of spiritual “feasting” when Baha’is often choose to focus on prayer, meditation, study of Baha’i writings and other activities which help to renew and enrich their spiritual lives.
Marriage and Divorce
Baha’i marriage requires the consent of all living natural parents. The ceremony itself is very simple, consisting of the exchange of a marriage vow by the couple, witnessed by at least two other people. If Baha’is choose to divorce, they must first observe a “year of patience” during which time they separate, but attempt to resolve their problems. If in that year their differences are not resolved, then the divorce becomes final.
Drugs and Alcohol
There is an absolute prohibition in Baha’i teachings against the use of alcohol or drugs except under the express direction of a qualified physician. Baha’u’llah explains that the rational mind is the principal link between our physical and spiritual selves. Anything which disturbs the balance of the mind interferes with that link, and our spiritual aspect is diminished accordingly.
Baha’i Community Life
One way for people to begin building a better world is to learn how to work together as a group. Functioning as a community is one of the hallmarks of Baha’i activity. Baha’is strive to become “one soul in many bodies . . . a group of cooperative servants whose only leader is God.” Community takes on an added dimension in this context. People in Baha’i communities learn to care for each other and strive to make deep spiritual commitments to each other . Should differences arise within the community, the Baha’i process of consultation is used to solve problems and resolve conflicts.
Becoming a Baha’i
To be a Baha’i a person must recognize Baha’u’llah as the Manifestation of God for this age and truly believe in the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. Any person who reaches the age of fifteen and accepts Baha’u’llah and the Baha’i teachings may choose to become a Baha’i.
Baha’i Consultation is the tool used for reaching harmony and unanimity in decision making in Baha’i communities. Baha’is believe that most problems are more easily solved by groups than by individuals. The first step in consultation is to ascertain the pertinent facts. Next, the spiritual principals which apply to the situation are identified. Then, through discussion and prayer, a cooperative and harmonious decision is reached.
In the Baha’i consultation process, people are taught to present their ideas to the group for consideration, but not to hold fast to their own opinions. The goal is to achieve a spirit of cooperative and harmonious decision-making. The ultimate decision may be a new idea bearing little resemblance to the original separate opinions of the people participating. The final outcome is often greater than the sum of the parts. Individual opinions and personalities do not prevail, and good, non-partisan, decisions are made. This process diminishes any dominance of personalities and strengthens the sense of community.