Bahai News - The Baha'i Faith

The Baha'i Faith

Crossroads Story by Jerry Abejo, 09/16/97
Page 12

"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 literature.

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.

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.

GLOBAL UNITY

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 diverse society.

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 matter anymore."

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 dislike."

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 individual.

"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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