Gautama Buddha was born a prince in Northern India around the year 563 B.C. He claimed to have been Enlightened (become a Buddha), and to be one of a series of Buddhas revealing teachings to humanity over many thousands of years.
The Bahá'í Faith was founded by Bahá'u'lláh, Who was born into a noble family in Persia in 1817. Bahá'ís recognise Him as the Fifth Buddha, the "Buddha of Universal Fellowship", for Whom mankind has been waiting.
Gautama Buddha promised repeatedly that after a long period of time, another Buddha would arise:
"I am not the first Buddha Who came upon this earth, nor shall I be the last. In due time, another Buddha will arise in the world, a Holy One, a supremely enlightened One ... knowing the universe, an Incomparable Leader of men... He will reveal to you the same eternal truths which I have taught you. He will preach to you His religion, glorious in its origin, glorious at the climax and glorious at the goal ... He will proclaim a religious life, wholly perfect and pure, such as I now proclaim. His disciples will number many thousands, while mine number many hundreds." (Digha-nikaya, IV.26)
When asked how Buddhists would recognize this new Teacher, the Buddha replied:
He will be known as Maitreya, which means He Whose name is kindness."
The other title for the Buddha-to-come was Amitabha (or Amida), which means "The Glory of the Infinite".
The blessed child born in Persia in 1817 was given the name Husayn, which means "kindness", but later adopted the spiritual title of Bahá'u'lláh, ("The Glory of God" or "The Glory of the Infinite").
The Unknowable Essence
Speaking of the Creator, the "First Cause", the Buddhist Scriptures say:
O disciples, there is a non-born, a non-produced, non-created and a non-formed. If there were not, O disciples, a non-born, a non-produced, a non-created and a non-formed, there would be no issue for the born, the produced, the created, the formed." (Udana, v.81)
Bahá'u'lláh described God in this way:
The birds of men's hearts, however high they soar, can never hope to attain the heights of His unknowable Essence. It is He Who hath called into being the whole of creation, Who hath caused every created thing to spring forth at His behest ... Far be it from His glory that human pen or tongue should hint at His mystery, or that human heart conceive His Essence."
In one of His books, "The Seven Valleys", Bahá'u'lláh described the seventh valley as "true poverty and absolute nothingness". This, the ultimate goal of life, is explained as "the dying from self and the living in God."
The Basic Truths
Although the basic truths taught by Gautama Buddha remain the same, they are expanded and made more explicit, in accordance with the needs of this age. The Buddha taught The Middle Way, between materialism and extreme asceticism. This approached is reaffirmed by Bahá'u'lláh:
"In all matters moderation is desirable. If a thing is carried to excess, it will prove a source of evil."
The Buddha presented the Noble Eightfold Path as a guide to living. As promised by the Buddha, Bahá'u'lláh taught these same noble ideals. Below are some examples of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings under the individual headings of the Eightfold Path:
"Man should know his own self, and know those things which lead to loftiness or baseness, to shame or to honour..."
"He is my true follower who, if he come to a valley of pure gold will pass straight through it aloof as a cloud, and will neither turn back, nor pause."
"Verily I say, the tongue is for mentioning what is good, defile it not with unseemly talk."
"They that follow their lusts and corrupt inclinations have erred and dissipated their efforts. They indeed are of the lost."
"It is made incumbent on every one of you to engage in some one occupation, such as arts, trades, and the like. We have made this -- your occupation -- identical with the worship of God, the True One."
"All efforts and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity."
"The station of absolute self-surrender transcendeth, and will ever remain exalted above every other station."
"The meditative faculty is akin to the mirror; if you put it before earthly objects it will reflect them? But if you turn the mirror of your spirits heavenwards? the virtues of the Kingdom will be obtained."
Bahá'u'lláh taught the idea of progressive revelation. The Founders of the religions of the world, in every age, reaffirm the universal spiritual truths, but also reveal new teachings appropriate to the conditions of the time:
"Every Prophet Whom the almighty and peerless Creator hath purposed to send to the peoples of the earth hath been entrusted with a Message, and charged to act in a manner that would best meet the requirements of the age in which He appeared."Bahá'ís believe that the new Teaching (Dharma) specifically for this age is the recognition of the oneness of religion and the oneness of mankind.
Bahá'u'lláh introduced teachings designed to bring about this universal fellowship.
These teachings include:
- Equality of women with men.
- Independent investigation of truth.
- Elimination of poverty.
- Relinquishing prejudice of all kinds.
- A world federation.
- A society based on spiritual values.
These teachings will bring about the Golden Age of mankind, prophesied by the Buddha as "the world system of the Lord Amitabha", the "Pure Land". The Bahá'í writings describe it like this:
"The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between nations, and by the will of God the Most Great Peace shall come; the world will be seen as a new world, and all men will live as brothers."
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