Bahai News - The Baha'i Faith
The Baha'i Faith
Crossroads Story by Jerry Abejo, 09/16/97
"I found that there was a point at which I wanted to test my world
view," said Guyot, 31, "throw out the idea that all there is was
just scientific materialism."
It was at that point in his life when he became a member of the
Baha'i faith, after being associated with both the Buddhist and
Quaker faiths. Becoming a member of the Baha'i faith was just another
step in Dan's life journey.
FACTS AND FIGURES
The Baha'i faith is the second most widespread religion in the
world, according to a 1992 demographic. Its 5 million worldwide members
represent over 2,100 ethnic and racial groups, according to Baha'i
Only about 40 members of the Baha'i community live in the
Champaign-Urbana area, excluding the 13 students that attend the
University, Guyot said.
According to Baha'i literature, the faith was officially founded
in 1844 in Persia by Bab, a young Persian merchant. Bab served to
foretell the coming of a greater prophet, who is known as
Baha'u'llah is considered to be the latest in a succession of
divine messengers sent by God. His teachings make up the core of the
Baha'i religion. Among these teachings is the central belief that
there is only one God, but humans can not comprehend His existence.
Practicing Baha'is say a central Baha'i belief is that
humankind, despite its thousands of religious sects and ethnicities, is
united as one human race.
In this respect, the Baha'i faith is similar to the Universalist
faith. The faiths are different, however, in that the Baha'i claim to
be a new, independent religion whereas the Universalist faith developed
from different Christian denominations, Guyot said.
According to Andrew Brook, graduate student and a Baha'i since
birth, "To say that people are fundamentally the same is a spiritual
statement. I think there's a uniqueness in every individual but every
individual is created by the same God."
Brook, 22, said he believes that steps toward world unification have
already taken place, citing the development of a more united Europe as
an example. But he said he doesn't believe that everyone has to be
Baha'i in order for world unification to take place. Brook said he
believes that major steps toward world unification will take place in
his lifetime but that he also believes a strong society lies in a
Guyot said he also believes that world unification is an achievable
goal, equating this in terms of a Calculus analogy.
"When you try to find the area under a curve, you get at it
through successive approximations," Guyot said, "you keep getting
closer and closer and closer until you're so close it doesn't
PRACTICING THE FAITH
Guyot said practice of the Baha'i faith depends on the individual.
There is no clergy, no formal initiation ceremonies, and no sacraments,
according to Baha'i literature.
Guyot describes it this way: "It's a do-it-yourself religion in
that you're on your own when you're meditating, when you're
praying, but there are very specific guidelines."
Carlton Mills, a local Baha'i, said the Baha'i do have
religious services, held at Houses of Worship, the nearest of which is
located in Wilmette, IL.
Services are very simple, consisting mostly of readings from the
Baha'i Writings as well as readings from other holy texts such as the
Bible or the Koran, Mills said.
Baha'i communities also gather every 19 days to pray and to
meditate with other Baha'is, Guyot said. This gathering, called the
Feast, is also a time for local members to socialize, bringing the local
Baha'i community closer together.
Mills, 55, is currently working on a YMCA Communiversity course about
the Baha'i faith for fall 1997. For Mills, worship involves prayer
and reading the Baha'i Writings as well as thinking and meditating.
In his everyday life, Mills practices the Baha'i teachings "By
being friendly, trying to be helpful, looking for ways to make life a
little easier for people around (him)."
THE BASIC PHILOSOPHY
"You try to learn to look at people with the sin-covering eye,"
Mills said. "You try to look at the good qualities in people,
ignoring the negative." Mills admits, however, that this is a very
hard goal for him to achieve.
As for the state of division and racism on this campus, Brook said,
"U of I is a very diverse campus but it's also a very racially
segregated campus. It's not racially segregated as it was 50 years
ago in terms of that there were laws forbidding people to integrate, but
a kind of voluntary segregation, I think is based on distrust or
One of the ways the Urbana-Champaign Baha'i community is working
to promote local unity is through a program called Study Circles.
Sponsored along with the YWCA and the Wesley United Methodist Church,
Study Circles works to initiate dialogue between people with different
racial backgrounds in a non-hostile manner, Guyot said.
The Baha'i speak of a progression or a journey, both in terms of
humanity coming together and in terms of the spiritual journey of the
"I'm on a journey," Guyot said. "I've been on a journey
since the day I was born and the Baha'i faith is an important part of
my journey now since age 29."
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