The Bahá'i Approach to Other Religions:
The Example of Buddhism

By Moojan Momen

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #14
Bahá'í Centre: Manchester, England
July 4–6, 1997
(see list of papers from #14)

published in Bahá'í Faith and the World's Religions, pages ?-?
© 2005, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    In this paper, we examine the way that the Bahá'i scriptures approach other religions. We look at the way that Bahá'u'llah and `Abdu'l-Bahá approach the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions and extrapolate from that the general principles that could then be applied to other religions. We try to analyse and systematise this approach so that we can then apply it to a religion that is little dealt with in the Bahá'i scriptures, Buddhism. We find that the Bahá'i Faith acknowledges the station of the founders of other religions. It accepts the texts of their holy books as being inspired and as providing true guidance for spiritual development. Where the Bahá'i approach to the scriptures of another religion may differ from that of the adherents themselves is in the interpretation of the scriptures. We derive a series of principles that underlie the Bahá'i hermeneutics of the scriptures of other religions. Where these relate to theological and metaphysical doctrines, the principles would appear to be: that we should strive to discover the single truth underlying the appearance of contradictions and variance in religious discourse; that the Ultimate Reality is beyond all descriptions and beyond the ability of human beings to establish any direct relationship with it, any appearance of such a descriptions or relationship is a misinterpretation and applies to a lower level of reality; that religious language is metaphorical and allegorical in nature and therefore where it appears to be describing physical phenomena and events, it is often, in fact, referring to spiritual realities and events; that religious language is often typological and the description of one significant person in religious history may also relate to others who are typologically similar but appear in other dispensations. A similar approach applies to the Bahá'i approach to the prophecies of other religion: the application of metaphorical, allegorical and typological interpretations.

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