by Roger Mock
For the Baha’i faith God exists as the Ultimate Reality and this universe came about as a movement of love within that Ultimate Reality. It is beyond the ability of finite human minds to conceptualize the infinite reality that is God. Therefore any concepts that humans form of God are only partial truths that are really just reflections of their own minds, the way that an individual human nature sees reality. Although the essence of God is in that sense unknowable for us, the Baha’i ‘s teach that it is the attributes of God, such as love, wisdom, and mercy that are knowable.
Founded in the mid-19th century in Iran, the Baha’i faith holds a great reverence for the great spiritual masters, sacred figures who perfectly embody all of the attributes of God and who they refer to as the “Manifestations of God.” They are the founders of the world religions — such figures as the Zoroaster, Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and the Baha’i’s own prophet, Baha’u’llah.
For Christians, this is echoed in the words of Jesus, spoken to his disciple Phillip in the Gospel of John, “Am I with you so long a time, and you have not known Me, Philip? If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”
In the Lotus Sutra of Buddhism these words are attributed to the Buddha:
“I am the Tathagata, The Most Honored among men; I appear in the world
like unto this great cloud, to pour enrichment on all parched living beings,
to free them from their misery, to attain the joy of peace, joy of the present world, and joy of Nirvana.”
For the Baha’i’s, these statements do not conflict. It’s not,
“I am the Great Messenger. Listen to me.”
“Uhh, pardon me, big fella, but I am the Great Messenger!”
“How dare you! You want a piece of me??”
Bartender: “Hey guys, can you take this outside?”
Would that we could all be as egalitarian in our religious views as the Baha’i’s. For them, each Messenger is seen as a Mirror of the Divine and any one of them can even be seen as a return of the previous figure. (They believe there is a Messenger given for each age of humanity.)
Big Spiritual Heavyweights aside, each of us in our own way acts as a mirror of the Divine whenever we take on and give expression to those Divine attributes – when we reach out in love, when we become, in the words of St. Francis of Assisi, instruments of peace: offering hope in place of despair, pardon in place of injury, or joy where there is sorrow. In my view, that is the way we come to know the unknowable, through the practice of compassion.