Essential understandings of the Faith

Jan 2012
The House of Justice is confident that the principles herein presented will enable the friends to benefit from diverse contributions resulting from exploration of the manifold implications of Bahá'u’lláh's vast Revelation, while remaining impervious to the efforts of those few who, whether in an explicit or veiled manner, attempt to divert the Bahá’í community from essential understandings of the Faith.
- The Universal House of Justice, 14 November 2005, to all National Spiritual Assemblies

I saw a discussion in this forum calling attention to the possibility that there might be some Baha'is who account themselves as superior in knowledge and elevated in position, or who pretend to be the most distinguished of all, causing or threatening to cause injustice, division, contention and schism.

If there are such people in the Faith, I don't think it would do any service to the Faith for us to occupy ourselves with who they are, or what they might be doing wrong, even if we saw some of them posting in this forum, other than possibly reporting it to an institution. What I see the House of Justice advising, repeatedly, to protect the Faith and its members from such influences, is to deepen ourselves in the Covenant. In my understanding, that means each of us deepening her own understanding of the Covenant, through prayer, meditation, study and service.

In the message cited above, in relation to people who "have been led to assail, in their inflammatory writings, the tenets of the Cause of God;" and people who adopt various means to "impose personal views or an ideological agenda on the Bahá’í community" or seek to "foist a self-assumed authority upon the thought and behaviour of the mass of believers;" the House of Justice says it is confident that the principles it presents there will enable us to benefit from a diversity of views, without being diverted from essential understandings.

In addition to studying that message, I thought it might help to investigate together what some of those essential understandings might be. I'm not proposing that we try to agree on a list. I'm proposing that we each try to give examples of what we see as essential understandings of the Faith. Anyone who has read much of what I was posting recently might guess that my first example will be about people learning to love and trust Baha'u'llah.

"Our mission is to seize and possess the hearts of men."
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 211)

"Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty."
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 20)
Jan 2012
I posted this in another thread, in another context, but it seems to me to be relevant here also, because Abdu'l-Baha says it sums up the teachings for the Dispensation of Baha.

Act in accordance with the counsels of the Lord: that is, rise up in such wise, and with such qualities, as to endow the body of this world with a living soul, and to bring this young child, humanity, to the stage of adulthood. So far as ye are able, ignite a candle of love in every meeting, and with tenderness rejoice and cheer ye every heart. Care for the stranger as for one of your own; show to alien souls the same loving kindness ye bestow upon your faithful friends. Should any come to blows with you, seek to be friends with him; should any stab you to the heart, be ye a healing salve unto his sores; should any taunt and mock at you, meet him with love. Should any heap his blame upon you, praise ye him; should he offer you a deadly poison, give him the choicest honey in exchange; and should he threaten your life, grant him a remedy that will heal him evermore. Should he be pain itself, be ye his medicine; should he be thorns, be ye his roses and sweet herbs. Perchance such ways and words from you will make this darksome world turn bright at last; will make this dusty earth turn heavenly, this devilish prison place become a royal palace of the Lord -- so that war and strife will pass and be no more, and love and trust will pitch their tents on the summits of the world. Such is the essence of God's admonitions; such in sum are the teachings for the Dispensation of Baha.

(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 34)
Oct 2011
Dear Jim, I like very much some of the things you say here.

But people have to understand the only learned in the Baha'i faith are in reality, The Bab, Baha'u'llah, Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. All other people of knowledge I feel would agree, if they did not it would show their complete lack of knowledge.
All individuals in the Baha'i faith are considered equal, only God, judges further.

If a person has a concern about any thing he or she has the right to take the considered problem to their local Spiritual assembly for consultation, realizing that when the problem is presented to the LSA, that is then out of their hands, they should accept the ruling of the LSA, or if they wish they can appeal in the correct manner.
Love and peace to you
Jan 2012
Thank you, Bill.

Another essential understanding I see is the role and functions of houses of justice, which we are currently calling spiritual assemblies.

Shoghi Effendi said that as he looked into the future, he hoped to see the friends at all times, in every land, and of every shade of thought and character,
- voluntarily and joyously rallying round their local and in particular their national centers of activity.
- upholding and promoting their interests with
-- complete unanimity and contentment.
-- perfect understanding, genuine enthusiasm, and sustained vigor.
He said that was the one joy and yearning of his life, and that
- it is the fountainhead from which all future blessings will flow
- the broad foundation upon which the security of the Divine Edifice must ultimately rest.
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Jan 2012
role-play: Castaway
Jim, I don't get it. I've searched all over the place, and I can't find a list of essential understandings anywhere. I've tried other terms too, like "fundamental verities," without finding any list. In fact, I saw a quote somewhere saying that we shouldn't even try to make such a list.

Best wishes,
Jan 2012
Castaway, I know. I saw a quote like that too. My idea is not to make a list for us all to cling to. That might take us all the way to the worst kind of fundamentalism that some of our detractors see in us. I'm just asking for examples of what some of those essential understandings might be. I imagine if we made lists, they would all look different. I just thought that looking for possible examples might help us be more impervious to people trying to divert us from them, as the House of Justice says some people are trying to do.
Feb 2013
United States
I think Abdu'l-Baha covers the "essentials" here pretty well:

"The cornerstone of the religion of God is the acquisition of divine perfections and the sharing in His manifold bestowals. The essential purpose of faith and belief is to ennoble the inner being of man with the outpourings of grace from on high. If this be not attained, it is, indeed, deprivation. It is the realization of this deprivation that is the true eternal fire. "

Another way to put it is:

"Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant." - Baha'u'llah
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Mar 2013
Edwardsville, Illinois, USA
I absolutely agree that the most fundamental verity of the cause is that it is that it renews this outpouring of grace that is the source of true life for mankind.

Of course there are many other truths that spring from that, that we are spiritual beings, that the way we deal with material things should support our spiritual growth and that of others, and develop virtues. That there is one God, one humanity and one religion. This is the eternal Faith of God, it is what all the Prophets foretold.

-jcc (John)
Aug 2010
New Zealand mainly
I know of two different kinds of lists of fundamentals:

The Faith which this order serves, safeguards and promotes, is, it should be noted in this connection, essentially supernatural, supranational, entirely non-political, non-partisan, and diametrically opposed to any policy or school of thought that seeks to exalt any particular race, class or nation. It is free from any form of ecclesiasticism, has neither priesthood nor rituals, and is supported exclusively by voluntary contributions made by its avowed adherents. Though loyal to their respective governments, though imbued with the love of their own country, and anxious to promote, at all times, its best interests, the followers of the Bahá'í Faith, nevertheless, viewing mankind as one entity, and profoundly attached to its vital interests, will not hesitate to subordinate every particular interest, be it personal, regional or national, to the over-riding interests of the generality of mankind, knowing full well that in a world of interdependent peoples and nations the advantage of the part is best to be reached by the advantage of the whole, and that no lasting result can be achieved by any of the component parts if the general interests of the entity itself are neglected.

(Shoghi Effendi, Summary Statement - 1947, Special UN Committee on Palestine)
REGARDING the very delicate and complex question of ascertaining the qualifications of a true believer, I cannot in this connection emphasize too strongly the supreme necessity for the exercise of the utmost discretion, caution, and tact, whether it be in deciding for ourselves as to who may be regarded a true believer or in disclosing to the outside world such considerations as may serve as a basis for such a decision. I would only venture to state very briefly and as adequately as present circumstances permit, the principal factors that must be taken into consideration before deciding whether a person may be regarded a true believer or not. Full recognition of the station of the Forerunner, the Author, and the True Exemplar of the Bahá'í Cause, as set forth in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Testament; unreserved acceptance of, and submission to, whatsoever has been revealed by their Pen; loyal and steadfast adherence to every clause of our Beloved's sacred Will; and close association with the spirit as well as the form of the present-day Bahá'í administration throughout the world - these I conceive to be the fundamental and primary considerations that must be fairly, discreetly, and thoughtfully ascertained before reaching such a vital decision. Any attempt at further analysis and elucidation will, I fear, land us in barren discussions and even grave controversies that would prove not only futile but even detrimental to the best interests of a growing Cause.
(Principles of Bahai Administration, p. 5)
The second of these is a list of headings: the actual content of "the station of the Forerunner" for example, is given in "the Dispensation of Baha'u'llah" by Shoghi Effendi, which sets out the "fundamental verities" (The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 98) of the Faith. The subsection on the Bab begins at page 118 (but do not skip the verities regarding progressive revelation and Baha'u'llah outlined in the previous 20 pages!), the section on Abdu'l-Baha on page 128, and so on.
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Sep 2010
Normanton, Far North West Queensland
The Constitution of the Universal House of Justice is applicable to this post - Link - The Constitution of the Universal House of Justice

I would like to add this quote from the Constitution of the Universal House of Justice as to the "standards set forth by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Cause of God".

"In the conduct of the administrative affairs of the Faith, in the enactment of the legislation necessary to supplement the laws of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the members of the Universal House of Justice, it should be borne in mind, are not, as Bahá'u'lláh's utterances clearly imply, responsible to those whom they represent, nor are they allowed to be governed by the feelings, the general opinion, and even the convictions of the mass of the faithful, or of those who directly elect them. They are to follow, in a prayerful attitude, the dictates and promptings of their conscience. They may, indeed they must, acquaint themselves with the conditions prevailing among the community, must weigh dispassionately in their minds the merits of any case presented for their consideration, but must reserve for themselves the right of an unfettered decision. `God will verily inspire them with whatsoever He willeth', is Bahá'u'lláh's incontrovertible assurance. They, and not the body of those who either directly or indirectly elect them, have thus been made the recipients of the divine guidance which is at once the life-blood and ultimate safeguard of this Revelation".

Regards Tony