Monday 7 February 2000
'Unity in diversity is most fascinating aspect of Bahai'
MUMBAI: ``It is the principle of unity in diversity that fascinates me most about the Bahai faith and when it works, it is exciting to be a part of it,'' says Paula Drewek, a professor of humanities and religious sciences in the Macomb Community College at Michigan, doing a cross-culture study of two diverse Bahai communities-- India and Canada. Ms Drewek was in the city recently.
Having started her research eight years ago, she believes that though there are diverse cultures in the world, a harmonious and a workable human community can still be created. ``And that's the Bahai principle,'' she adds.
The pragmatic reason for selecting India for this comparative study with Canada was that people here could converse in English. ``Secondly, I wanted to pick up a culture that was very different from the West, and India fit the bill on both counts,'' she says.
Her study is an interesting blend of findings that are peculiar to each culture. The common factor shared by the two communities is their vision of the future, which is also found in the sacred writings of the Bahai, she notes, adding that the values and beliefs of both were also similar to a great extent.
But, while the Canadian community reflected rational thinking, individualism and well developed understanding abilities, the Indian counterparts were more obedient and showed a greater degree of focus and devotion. ``They work with various perspectives, which is not essentially rational,'' she says. Moreover, the Indian Bahai community showed more respect for parents.
But, unlike Canada, India is a land of several religions that coexist. Thus, shades of other religions were visible in the Indian Bahais, as Ms Drewek says, ``Yes, there were residues of the previous faiths of people, and some Bahais were not willing to let go of those beliefs.'' This was another difference that she came across during her study.
Ms Drewek has been following the Bahai faith ever since her teenage years, and holds that her study is not a move to promote the faith. ``I just want to serve the faith and write about it with enough information and understanding,'' she adds. To garner adequate information, she has travelled across the country and met a cross-section of people, to analyse their growth pattern and their community lives.
According to her, this faith helps an individual grow to his or her fullest capacity. Equality of genders and living life on spiritual values are also emphasised in the teachings of the Bahai faith. However, the main principle of the faith is that material growth should be balanced with spiritual progress, the latter being more important. The teachings also advocate unity between cultures and religions.
India fascinates her and her third visit to the country was yet another interesting journey. A professor of religious studies, Ms Drewek was always attracted by Indian religions. ``But, the actual practice of religion that I witnessed here, disillusioned me as it was more mechanical than heartfelt. The practice lacks the power to illumine the spirit,'' she says.
Ms Drewek plans to keep visiting the country as she believes that her visits here teach her a lesson of love and hospitality.
©Copyright 2000, The Times of India