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Religion Library: Baha'i

Principles of Moral Thought and Action

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The Baha'i scriptures give specific guidance for pursuing the above spiritual qualities. This guidance includes following the laws given by Baha'u'llah (for example, the obligation to pray and fast); investigating reality for oneself; keeping to a path of moderation (avoiding for example, monasticism and asceticism); controlling one's base passions; and creating united, just communities that can foster spiritual development. God holds humans morally responsible for their actions and for the path that they choose for themselves. God is, however, just and allows for all of the circumstances of an individual's life.

Most important in considering the whole area of ethics is the statement of Baha'u'llah that the "essence of faith" consists in "fewness of words and abundance of deeds"; thus the emphasis in the Baha'i teachings is on correct action (rather than correct beliefs). How should one live one's life? By what values should society function? 'Abdu'l-Baha is regarded as the embodiment of these qualities and Baha'is look to him as a role model and guide. Since Baha'u'llah taught that the following of this spiritual guidance is the pathway most conducive to human happiness, Baha'is are instructed to follow it not reluctantly as a "mere code of laws" but rather with joy and contentment. Of course, the above list of spiritual qualities to be acquired by human beings appears to be a formidable challenge. The expectation in the Baha'i scriptures is, however, that people should try to make progress a little at a time.

Opening Passages of the Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book) by Baha'u'llah

They whom God hath endued with insight will readily recognize that the precepts laid down by God constitute the highest means for the maintenance of order in the world and the security of its peoples. He that turneth away from them is accounted among the abject and foolish. We, verily, have commanded you to refuse the dictates of your evil passions and corrupt desires, and not to transgress the bounds which the Pen of the Most High hath fixed, for these are the breath of life unto all created things . . .

O ye peoples of the world! Know assuredly that My commandments are the lamps of My loving providence among My servants, and the keys of My mercy for My creatures. Thus hath it been sent down from the heaven of the Will of your Lord, the Lord of Revelation . . .

The Tongue of My power hath, from the heaven of My omnipotent glory, addressed to My creation these words: "Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty."

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!

Study Questions:
     1.    What achieves happiness for human beings according to the Baha'i teachings?
     2.    What is the standard for morality according to the Baha'i teachings?
     3.    The Baha’i teachings do not lay down detailed instructions for what human beings should do; what do they do instead?
     4.    List and describe some of the virtues that human beings are urged to acquire?
     5.    How do the Baha'i teachings suggest that individuals should pursue spiritual development?


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