Baha'i Faith and Far Eastern Religions

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schecterc1

Baha'i Faith and Far Eastern Religions

Postby schecterc1 » Sun Feb 19, 2006 8:12 am

Does anyone know the Baha'i perspective on religions such as Taoism, Shintoism and Confucianism? What do Baha'u'llah, Abdu'l-Baha and the Guardian say about polytheism? Can anyone recommend some literature? Any help is much obliged!

R

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Mon Feb 20, 2006 5:56 am

Of possible interest to you I think might be this compilation: http://bahai-library.com/compilations/b ... ishna.html

As to Taoism, we only have the following (to my knowledge):

"Regarding Lao-Tse: The Baha'is do not consider him a prophet, or even a secondary prophet or messenger, unlike Buddha or Zoroaster, both of whom were divinely-appointed and fully independent Manifestations of God."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, November 10, 1939)


This doesn't preclude him, I would say, from being somewhat inspired, as his descriptions of the unknowability of "The Way", the potential power of peacefulness, and so on could certainly be looked on favorably by Baha'is. However, Lao Zi's (or Lao Tse, depending on the spelling system) statements can really be interpreted in different ways--either positive or negative. For example, one might agree that the learned is often the fool, and the seeming fool often learned, but if it is understood as referring to anti-authority, anti-seriousness, anti- respect for true learning, etc., we certainly can't agree with it.

As far as Confucianism, our Writings describe him as a great moral reformer who wished to restore ancient virtue. He is highly praised in a number of places by 'Abdu'l-Baha, though he is not seen as a perfect Manifestation of God (Confucius himself disclaimed himself to be as such). We might see him as drawing his inspiration from a more ancient "Manifestation of God" Who had perhaps graced the land of China, but we are not certain of this (beyond perhaps Bahá'u'lláh's statement that "the peoples of the world of whatever race or religion derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source").

After doing a search of this site, i see I had already posted a reply to this exact topic, so here it is!

brettz9 wrote:It is possible that pagan religions were originally inspired by a Prophet (such as Sabaeanism which our Writings explicitly accept as an originally monotheistic Faith from God), but as with Sabaeaneism, were later corrupted (in this case, into star worship). Actually, our Writings refer in several instances to followers of previous even traditionally recognized monotheistic Faiths as joining partners with God in their added dogmas and failure to recognize the next Messenger(s) and practice in accordance with His Spirit.

However, as our other thread has discussed, the consumer culture in which we now live has led many to the desperate point of deifying nature--something which while we reject, we also see the truth behind the desire to live in harmony with our environment and recognize the signs of God in all things. There is a compilation called "Conservation of Earth's resources", which despite the title, is a broad compilation of relevance and I think of great potential interest to those from such backgrounds.

Another aspect which may be of relevance to those from some pagan backgrounds is the feminine and divine, something which is covered in some depth at http://bahai-library.com/?file=uhj_anci ... igion.html


However, I think I need to clarify that despite the possible original inspiration of religions such as Shintoism (I know little about the latter myself), there is no doubt that a Baha'i must unequivocally believe in the Oneness of God. It should be stated, though, that God is, as 'Abdu'l-Baha says, sanctified about singleness let alone multiplicity. There are actually many important and interesting meanings in our Writings given to this term (of "oneness of God") if you're interested to discuss them or study the references.

And again, not only avoid polytheists may make the mistake of joining partners with God--monotheists who fall short in their belief or actions can also do this.

take care,
Brett

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Postby Guest » Wed Feb 22, 2006 12:50 am

There is an important question of historicity to consider. Some religious founders, such as Jesus or Muhammad, obviously existed as historical figures. Laozi by contrast is likely to never have existed--or if we want to say that he did exist, we must then decide which aspect of the Laozi myth we think should be identified with the name. (Do we mean by "Laozi" some person who was the teacher of Confucius? The author of the Daodejing? etc.)

Unfortunately for the Baha'is, Krishna, Abraham, and Moses are also primarily figures of mythology rather than history. Historians debate whether they existed, and if they did, what this could possibly mean. It's a bit like declaring that Santa Claus existed as a historical figure (which he did), but lacked reindeer and elves.

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Postby brettz9 » Wed Feb 22, 2006 12:36 pm

Yes, good point about Laozi...I was referring to "him" in the sense of author of the Daodejing...

As far as Krishna, Abraham, and Moses being "primarily figures of mythology", I don't see how this is unfortunate for Bahá'ís.

The Universal House of Justice states, for example:

"It can, therefore, be confidently stated that the teachings of the Faith name Krishna as a Manifestation of God. In light, however, of the other statements of the Guardian, in which he stresses the paucity of our information about the beginnings of Hinduism, we should be cautious not to assert the historical accuracy of specific stories related about Krishna. A similar case where allegorical statements and legends surround the figure of a known Manifestation of God is that of Adam."

(On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, at http://bahai-library.com/?file=uhj_kris ... -asma.html )


As far as Abraham and Moses, while our Writings do speak of the divine inspiration of the Bible, they state that the Bible is not wholly authentic.

I also have a little less faith in the ability of historians to determine that someone did not exist. Going back to prehistory is anyways a very sketchy enterprise, so it is pretty silly (and even obnoxious) for people to gain self-importance for themselves by confidently asserting things without any real proof which are obviously going to offend the millions of people who have drawn inspiration from the results of the lives and teachings of such individuals, however obscured the details surrounding their lives might be. In my eyes, the positive results in these people's lives are often a much greater proof for Their Reality than someone who publishes their own book in early 21st century Western academia just to get attention, money, a rise out of people, or whatever else they are seeking, and whose existence future generations will probably have an even harder time verifying (if they even care to do so)!

As long as people feel confident enough to believe in the proofs buttressing the legitimacy of a particular Manifestation of God, they are going to take Their word over some matter over the words of a spectacle-spangled scholar (e.g., for Baha'is, this might include accounts about Abraham or Moses in the Qur'an, whose authenticity Baha'is do accept--while excepting (as it is the custom of scholars to accept in other types of literature) for the possibility of allegory in the narration of certain stories).

best wishes,
Brett

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Postby Guest » Thu Feb 23, 2006 5:51 am

One difficulty with identifying "Laozi" as the author of the Daodejing, is that this text is probably the result of a long process of composition, with multiple authors. Would all of the people involved then be the "prophet Laozi"?

I fail to grasp what Baha'is mean to say when they claim that "Krishna" or "Adam" existed as historical characters. For example, if we assert that "Adam" existed, but wasn't the first man on earth, and didn't eat the forbidden fruit, then why would we call him "Adam"? (I assume that wasn't really his name!)

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Postby Guest » Thu Feb 23, 2006 8:27 pm

One difficulty with identifying "Laozi" as the author of the Daodejing, is that this text is probably the result of a long process of composition, with multiple authors. Would all of the people involved then be the "prophet Laozi"?


When I said I was referring to "him" as the author of the Daodejing, I didn't mean to necessarily imply that it was written by him or by only one person or whatever. I should have been more clear, but I was referring simply to my comments about the Daodejing having some possible compatibilities with Baha'i belief.

Again, Baha'is don't believe him to be a prophet of any kind anyways, so it is irrelevant in this case.

I fail to grasp what Baha'is mean to say when they claim that "Krishna" or "Adam" existed as historical characters. For example, if we assert that "Adam" existed, but wasn't the first man on earth, and didn't eat the forbidden fruit, then why would we call him "Adam"? (I assume that wasn't really his name!)


Quite often myths have a basis in truth, so it should not be too surprising someone with these names (or titles) existed at one point, even from an agnostic's point of view.

There do seem to be, from what I can tell, two uses of "Adam" in the Baha'i Writings. One, as a Manifestation of God (as He is also seen by Muslims in this role) Who came approximately 6000 years ago, and the other as the founder of the human race (e.g., statements of 'Abdu'l-Baha that all races are descended from "Adam"). And, as far as we know, the latter use at least may simply be a figurative use of a name. I say they may be different from each other since the Baha'i Writings admit that the earth's existence was much, much longer than 6000 years old (and explain the creation story figuratively), I can only imagine that the creation of man--as evolution is admitted--would be the same (see also below).

As far as the significance of these figures (beyond that they have inspired and are respected by large portions of humanity), the Baha'i Writings assert that many such stories of the Bible have a deeper spiritual meaning, and it has been now finally through Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation that their deeper meaning is capably of reasonably (and movingly) being explained.

The story of Adam and Eve has multiple meanings. One authoritative account is in Chapter 30 of Some Answered Chapters. Another descriptive account, whose status as authoritative or not has not yet been given, is given here.

best wishes,
Brett

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Postby Hasan » Thu Feb 23, 2006 10:52 pm

guest wrote:I fail to grasp what Baha'is mean to say when they claim that "Krishna" or "Adam" existed as historical characters. For example, if we assert that "Adam" existed, but wasn't the first man on earth, and didn't eat the forbidden fruit, then why would we call him "Adam"? (I assume that wasn't really his name!)




Hi guest,

The historians cannot even assert that Abraham existed, but according to the Bible and other post-Bible Books such as the Qu’ran and Babí-Bahá’í Texts, many biblical figures have at least traditional existence.

I think the history of Adam reflects the creation of human being, and also the nature and history of the Manifestation Adam. In the Bible, we see Adam had three children: Cain, Abel and Set. Set had many generations to Enoch, to Noah, to Abraham and then to all Israel’s Prophetic root. Krishna and Buddha seems to me descended from Japhet son of Noah, but I don't have scriptural proofs.

Genealogy here: http://bahai-library.com/?file=gonzales_genealogy_shoghieffendi


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