What Does Being a Baha’i Really Mean?

What Does Being a Baha’i Really Mean?

A friend of mine, when he’s asked about his religion, usually says “Well, I’m trying to be a Baha’i.”

I love his answer, because that’s how I understand what being a Baha’i really means—it means we’re trying.

We are trying to follow the teachings and laws of Baha’u’llah, who we believe is the messenger of God for this age and time. His teachings are powerful, beautiful and voluminous, composed in over a hundred books and tablets, and thousands of letters. He established successorship and an administration for his Faith after his passing, which all Baha’is respect and honor. He left a democratically-elected system for ordering the affairs of society, which Baha’is all work towards, believing it will be fully established in the years and decades ahead. He wrote:

Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power. To this beareth witness that which the Pen of Revelation hath revealed. Meditate upon this, O men of insight! – Baha’u’llah, The Most Holy Book, p. 21.

We live in a time, Baha’is believe, when this new message from our Creator has begun to revolutionize the world. It’s a lot to take in, overwhelming in its scope and foresightedness, majestic in its outlines, seemingly daunting in its global accomplishments.

Yet with his appearance, the Baha’i teachings say, Baha’u’llah breathed a new life of energy and freshness over all of creation:

Through the movement of Our Pen of Glory We have, at the bidding of the Omnipotent Ordainer, breathed a new life into every human frame, and instilled into every word a fresh potency. All created things proclaim the evidences of this worldwide regeneration. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 84.

A new life is, in this age, stirring within all the peoples of the earth; and yet none hath discovered its cause or perceived its motive … – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 195.

He Who is the Unconditioned is come, in the clouds of light, that He may quicken all created things with the breezes of His Name, the Most Merciful, and unify the world, and gather all men around this Table which hath been sent down from heaven. – Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 46.

If you accept the power of God, you know that all things are possible according to His will. In this day, the Baha’i teachings say, it is the will of God that humankind be unified as one family.

That will take work—and work accomplished is joyful work, with small positive movements forward adding up to larger collective achievements. As individuals we do our parts by trying to live in accordance with Baha’u’llah’s teachings, which bring us not only a sense of achievement and the growth of our souls, but also bring joy and happiness:

As to spiritual happiness, this is the true basis of the life of man, for life is created for happiness, not for sorrow; for pleasure, not for grief. Happiness is life; sorrow is death. Spiritual happiness is life eternal. This is a light which is not followed by darkness. This is an honour which is not followed by shame. This is a life that is not followed by death. This is an existence that is not followed by annihilation. This great blessing and precious gift is obtained by man only through the guidance of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Divine Art of Living, p. 18.

On an individual level, Baha’u’llah called upon us to be happy and to perfect living spiritual virtues within each of us. This will have the most impact on those around us—and around them:

In brief, let each one of you be as a lamp shining forth with the light of the virtues of the world of humanity. … Be illumined, be spiritual, be divine, be glorious, be quickened of God, be a Baha’i. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 453.

Baha’is don’t change the world alone. We work with like-minded groups and organizations, governments and others to promote education and community development the world over. We work in inclusive community-building efforts to eliminate the extremes of wealth and poverty, bring social justice, and provide service to others. We care about our environment and eliminating violence and warfare. We treat others with respect and equality, accept all people into our fold, and are patient with ourselves and others.

We try to get the word out about Baha’u’llah’s solutions to the ills affecting humanity. We, like many others, wish that all wars would stop and the means of war be greatly curtailed and eventually eliminated. We are sympathetic to the needs of billions of people and children who live without clothing, food and shelter, and we believe that applying Baha’u’llah’s remedies will bring about a way to end human suffering.

I could go on. The point is that Baha’is are active where they live in the lives and events of their communities, trying by the force of example and by sharing universal values to effect responses and acknowledgements that the human race cannot keep going in the same direction. Drastic changes are necessary in the hearts, thoughts and actions of all, especially those in leadership, especially now.

This could be an age of cooperation of all peoples and nations, of mutual fidelity and trustworthiness, of mutual protection and helpfulness.

That is our hope. That is our goal.