Common Teachings in Chinese Culture and the Bahá'í Faith:
From Material Civilization to Spiritual Civilization

By Albert K. Cheung

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #24
Louhelen Bahá'í School: Michigan, USA
October 8–12, 1999
(see list of papers from #24)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 1, pages 37-52
© 2000, ‘Irfán Colloquia

republished in Bahá'í­ Faith and the World's Religions,
© 2005, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    The Chinese culture is one of the oldest civilizations with five thousand years of history. The Bahá'í Faith is the youngest independent world religion of just 155 years. These two civilizations, from different places and times, have many teachings in common. Both the Bahá'í Faith and the Chinese culture speak to the process of transforming from material civilization to spiritual civilization. Indeed, the history of humankind demonstrates this process of spiritual transformation at various stages in our search of meanings in life among family, tribes, nations, and finally in a global community. The reality of our common human experience is that we are spiritual beings going through the journey of a physical life on Earth. Yet, the majority of people are still struggling with the physical journey with very little regard to their own spiritual well-being. Meanwhile, our world is now living through a global transition to a spiritual age, which will gather together all people from every nation into one human family.

    Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892), the Prophet Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, brings the divine teachings for the spiritualization of the whole planet and proclaims, "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens." The Bahá'í Faith promotes world peace and the unity of humankind in a global culture. 'Abdu'l-Bahá (1844-1921), one of the three Central Figures of the Bahá'í Faith, speaks of the Chinese people as "most simple hearted and truth-seeking" and of China as "the country of the future."

    Therefore, the Chinese culture and the Bahá'í Faith are relevant and need the utmost cooperation and mutual understanding. This paper is a simple attempt to show the unity in the major teachings of both. There are social teachings, such as: 1) the Great Unity (world peace); 2) unity of the human family; 3) service to others; 4) moral education; 5) extended family values. These social teachings are based on fundamental spiritual teachings, such as 6) the investigation of truth; 7) the Highest Reality (God); 8) the common foundation of religions; 9) harmony in Nature; 10) the purpose of tests and suffering; and 11) moderation in all things.

    In the future, the Chinese culture will make major contributions to the emerging global civilization. Now, after long isolation, the Chinese are willing to look outside for meanings, for directions and transformations in a "global village." They are ready to join the world to build the "Great Unity" as inscribed in their classics. In just 150 years, the Bahá'í Faith has grown from a small movement in the Middle East to the second-most widespread of the independent world religions, established in more than 250 countries and territories. The international Bahá'í community embraces people from more than 2,100 ethnic, racial, and tribal groups. The Bahá'í teachings of "unity in diversity" can provide the universal framework for the Chinese to participate fully in the global community.

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