Papers delivered at the ‘Irfán Colloquium Session #24 (English)

Louhelen Bahá'í School: Michigan USA

October 8–12, 1999.

'Abdu'l-Bahá's Explanation of the Teachings of Baha'u'llah: Tablets and Talks Translated into English (1911-1920)     edit

by Peter Terry

For the past three generations, many of the Western adherents of the Bahá'í Faith have first encountered the teachings of this religion in introductory pamphlets that listed twelve Bahá'í principles. This study examines the actual sources of the Bahá'í principles included on those lists — the Tablets and talks of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, which had been translated into English and published in "Star of the West," The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Paris Talks, 'Abdu'l-Bahá on Divine Philosophy and 'Abdu'l-Bahá in London. In fourteen sources, 'Abdu'l-Bahá enumerated Bahá'í principles as He explained them, and in no case were there twelve principles in any list; the numbers vary from three to thirteen. In twelve other sources, 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not enumerate principles, but discussed the teachings in a particular order, and the order of these presentations has been compared with the numbered lists. All together, thirty-eight Bahá'í teachings were discussed in these Tablets and talks. Each one of these teachings will be described along with its ranking in relation to the other teachings, in number/order of presentation, and in frequency of reference. This is by no means a comprehensive or conclusive study of the subject, but it is shared here to suggest a revision of the now-traditional reduction of the Bahá'í teachings to lists of twelve, and also as an assistance to those who would wish to be fully informed of the principles that 'Abdu'l-Bahá regarded as best suited to attract the minds and hearts of the people of the West and, through them, humanity at large.

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Alwah-i-Ra'ís (Tablets Addressed to the Ottoman Prime Minister)     edit

by Iskandar Hai

A brief historical background of the revelation of these Tablets, Súrih-i-Ra'ís and Lawh-i-Ra'ís, and their addressees will be followed by the topical analysis of their contents. Ra'ís, which means the head, president or ruler, refers to the Prime Minister of the , Ottoman Empire (the head of the government administration) who after the Sultan ('Abdu'l-'Azíz) was the highest ranking position in the Ottoman Empire.

Súrih-i-Ra'ís is in Arabic and was revealed on the way from Edirne to 'Akká. It was revealed in honor of Haj Muhammad Ismá'ílí-Kashání, surnamed Zabih or Anis, but it is addressed to 'Ali Pasha, the Prime Minister. This Tablet contains references to the hardship and persecution suffered by Bahá'u'lláh, the conspiracy of 'Alí Páshá with the Iranian government authorities, and the purpose and greatness of and prophecies about the future of the Faith, particularly the advent of the kings and rulers who will promote the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh.

The other Tablet, revealed in Persian in 'Akká, also was addressed to 'Ali Pasha. This Tablet presents the fury and rage and consequently the vengeance of the Divine Source against those who rise against His Cause and, in particular, 'Ali Pasha. It has a reproachful tone. It also contains other points about the transient and mortal nature of this life, calling on the people of the world to hearken to the call of Bahá'u'lláh, and shows Bahá'u'lláh's willingness and pride in accepting the sufferings.

Book of Revelation Revealed in Glory, The: A Summary of Glorious Revelation     edit

by William John Ridgers

The presently titled "The Book of Revelation Revealed in Glory" interprets the Book of Revelation through a Bahá'í lens in the tradition of Ruth Moffett's Keys to the Book of Revelation and Robert Riggs' The Apocalypse Unsealed, and writings of Sears, Motlagh, Sours, and Tai-Seale. Its main revealed source of symbols is Bahá'u'lláh's Book of Certitude, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Some Answered Questions and Shoghi Effendi's God Passes By provide most of its specific verse interpretations of some 26% of Revelation's 393 verses at last search.

This Bahá'í-inspired reading applies millennialist historicism and its year-day principle to interpret the Book of Revelation's prophesy of Christianity, Islam, and the Bahá'í Faith from 96 A.D. onwards. It follows the history of the progressive Faith of God over the last 1,900 years and in Jesus' native Middle East. As the last book of the New Testament it joins Christianity with Islam and the Bahá'í Faiths, as the Koran's Surat Yusuf linked Islam with the Bábí Faith in its way.

Islam and the Bahá'í Faith both teach that prophecies have multiple meanings. Nonetheless, this particular interpretation has a format that commits writer and reader to a single best interpretation. This appears on each right page opposite a serious translation of the Greek on each left facing page. The recto page interprets every verse against the matching verso original, and provides a unique perspective of reading. The timing, meaning the verb tenses, is set to the present end of the twentieth century.

Most important, I submit specific problems of presentation for discussion in requesting critical input. Evidently the Book of Revelation's message is meant for Christians who learn it in church and hear it in the Messiah. Therefore, while seeking Bahá'í readership, my prime pursuit is the wider goal of Christian readership. This millennial timing is good, when even Armageddon, surprisingly, seems almost over.

Either way, how much Bahá'í matter to write remains the core presentation issue. How much Bahá'í material should explicitly appear in the introductory Prologue or concluding Epilogue, in the title and names for Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb, and in even the book title? Should ultimately two versions, one Bahá'í, one Christian, exist? Specifically, should the Greek "arnion" translate as Lamb or as Ram, and "thura" as Door or as Gate? Each version of each is legitimate, yet one speaks louder to Christians and the other is heard better by Bahá'ís. Are Glory of God and Faith of Glory adequate, since the basic Arabic-appearing Bahá'í words, in today's sensitive geopolitical climate, will likely hurt potential Christian readership in the USA? Hopefully question time can address these tricky presentation problems.

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Chronological Issues in the Lawh-i-Hikmat of Bahá'u'lláh, Some     edit

by Peter Terry

Lawh-i-Hikmat (Tablet of Wisdom) was written by Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akká and addressed to Mulla Muhammad-'Alí (Nabíl-i-Qa'iní), a former mujtahid in the Ithna 'Ashari sect of Shi'i Islam and a distinguished Bahá'í scholar and teacher. In this Tablet, Bahá'u'lláh elaborates His teachings on many themes, including the origins and development of "hikmat-i-iláhí" (divine philosophy), discussing a number of philosophers, including the Father of Philosophy (Idris/Hermes), Balinus (Apollonius of Tyana), Empedocles, Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Pliny. This paper will seek to discover some of the antecedents to the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh regarding the association of Empedocles with King David and Pythagoras with King Solomon, as well as to discuss the interpretation that 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave to this distinctive chronology. In doing so, mention will be made of some of the historical accounts that parallel Bahá'u'lláh's identification of Hebrew prophets with Greek philosophers, including those written by various Jewish, Christian and Muslim authors. Aspects of the prophetic chronology advanced by the Báb in "Dalá'il-i-Sab'ih" (Seven Proofs) and "Bayán-i-farsi" (Persian Bayan) will be introduced and a comparison will be made of Bahá'u'lláh's distinctive chronology with the reasoned judgements of various Western historians. In conclusion, it will be suggested that Bahá'í historians critically re-examine the conclusions that most Western historians have reached with regard to the dating of events and persons in the entirety of pre-Alexandrian history.

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

by Albert K. Cheung

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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Concept of Sacred Justice in Hebrew Eschatology, The     edit

by Gary Selchert

While Bahá'í students of prophecy have paid considerable attention to Biblical references to "Glory" as a motif in end-of-the-age imagery, they have devoted noticeably less printed space to discussions of references to "Justice" and "Judgment." Often the relationship between the Bible and the Bahá'í teachings has been depicted preeminently as a contrast between Christian concern with the salvation of the individual soul and the Bahá'í program to transform the social order of the planet. Admittedly this schema is in accordance with Shoghi Effendi's comments on the role of Christianity in the progress of religion. Reducing the relationship solely to this dimension of comparison however does not fully account for the range and scope of social prescriptions strewn throughout the Bible, and especially prominent in the ancient Hebrew scriptures. Centuries before Jesus, Peter and Paul, the social order of the Israelite tribes was legislated, adjudicated, and enforced in accordance with the Covenant and Law of Moses. While not world-embracing in its vision, the Mosaic order is certainly our original example of a divine standard of justice. The notion of justice as a divinely ordained pattern of social organization does not begin with Bahá'u'lláh.

That justice is one of the central organizing concepts of Bahá'u'lláh's order is clear from even a cursory examination of Bahá'í introductory material and stands out as a dominant theme in most in-depth studies of Bahá'í social doctrine. It is therefore all the more startling that Bahá'ís isolate ourselves from the common universe of western theological discourse by generally ignoring the truth that justice, understood as an aspect of obedience to God's will, is a fundamental organizing principle which pervades the Hebrew scriptures. As such, in order to clarify the relationship between the Bible and the Baha'i vision of World Order, it is essential first to understand the multifaceted Hebrew concept of Mishpat, most typically rendered al "Justice" in newer translations, but usually translated as "judgment" in the King James Version. Mishpat also appears as "plan," "order." "custom," "rule," "standards,' and "specifications," depending on the context and the translation. This principle is well known to Old Testament scholars, and has a determining role in the formation of social ethics both for Jews and for progressive Christians. Justice as a focal point of religion is not news to them. Christians thoroughly familiar with the Bible and holding to a liberal, rather than literal, interpretation need not become Bahá'ís in order to find religious sentiments of peace, tolerance, justice, equality, and charity.

So lest we claim modern originality for ancient ideas, and before we can proclaim with assurance exactly what original and constructive contributions Bahá'u'lláh has made to the planetary discussion, and which of those original ideas can be implemented only within the context of a the Covenant-bound Bahá'í community, we must know with clarity what has been said and done in times past.

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Content and Context in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas     edit

by Habib Riazati

The divine laws and ordinances could be studied from various angles and by using different approaches. Such studies may cover interrelationships (of the laws), comparison (with specific religion, a number of religions, civic laws, or cultural practices), historical and/or chronological background, developmental processes in their revelation and in their application, content analysis, categorization, justification, socio-cultural settings, impacts on various aspects of individual and societal life, institution building powers, creative and/or prophetic nature, and so on.

In this presentation the relationship of content and context as they apply to the laws and ordinances will be discussed. Subjects such as the universality of the Message of the Manifestations of God and their organic nature and gradual development, both within a religion and throughout history, will be considered. Finally, the cohesive aspect of the revelation coupled with various needs of mankind as a function of Time and Space will be presented. The main objective will be to clarify the mutual impacts of content and context in comprehension, appreciation and implementation of the laws and ordinances under specific prevailing conditions.

Doctrine of the Most Great Infallibility of the Manifestation of God, The     edit

by Sohrab Kourosh

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, as cited by the beloved Guardian in God Passes By, is that "[it] enunciates the doctrine of the 'Most Great Infallibility' of the Manifestation of God; asserts this infallibility to be the inherent and exclusive right of the Prophet."

This enunciation found in paragraph 47 of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas states: "He Who is the Dawning-Place of God's cause hath no partner in the Most Great Infallibility. He it is Who, in the kingdom of creation, is the Manifestation of 'He doeth whatsoever He willeth.' God hath reserved this distinction unto His own Self, and ordained for none a share in so sublime and transcendent a station. This is the Decree of God, concealed ere now within the veil of impenetrable mystery."

A review of the writings of the Central Figures of the Bahá'í Faith demonstrates that no single concept, principle idea, or teaching of the Faith has been designated as a "doctrine" except for the "Most Great Infallibility" of the Manifestation of God. Webster's New International Dictionary, among other meanings, defines "doctrine" as: a principle of faith: tenet, dogma, syn: refer to authoritative teaching accepted by a body of believers or adherents; authoritative teaching or ruling laid down or promulgated as true and unquestionable.

From the explanations and definition of infallibility given by Bahá'u'lláh in the passage quoted above and in the Tablet of Ishraqat, and by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Some Answered Questions, it becomes clear that a very close or even identical relation exists between this doctrine and two other basic principles of the Faith:
  1. The station of the Manifestation of God "Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation."

  2. The Divine Origin or the revelatory nature of the Bahá'í teachings.

  3. Adherence to these principles results in acceptance of other claims or enunciations that are made in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas or other writings, such as:
    1. The infallibility and inerrancy of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as the "infallible balance" and "The Most Great Testimony" by which the validity of every proof hath been established.

    2. That Bahá'u'lláh did not learn His knowledge from other people, but had innate and divine knowledge. As revealer of the Sacred Books of the past, His interpretation of the meanings of the statements of those books is standard.

    3. As Divine Physician, He prescribed the Divine remedy for the ills of the world.

    4. The exalted station of the Author of the Faith, His reality, and His mind are not accessible to other beings and the human mind cannot comprehend the mind of the Manifestation.

    5. The Most Great Infallibility, or "essential infallibility," belongs exclusively to the Manifestation of God, but other holy beings can receive and acquire "conferred infallibility"; this is the infallibility that is conferred on them by the Manifestation of God.
These concepts have far-reaching implications and effects, especially the Doctrine of the Most Great Infallibility of the Manifestation of God, that is knowingly or unknowingly being challenged almost on a daily basis by some individuals.

Although Bahá'ís are allowed to formulate their own personal interpretations and understandings from the sacred text, "In presenting their personal ideas, individuals are cautioned not to discard the authority of the revealed words, [and] not to deny or contend with the authoritative interpretation."

Regarding the Most Great Infallibility of the Manifestation of God, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas further states that: "This is the Decree of God, concealed ere now within the veil of impenetrable mystery. We have disclosed it in this Revelation, and have thereby rent asunder the veils of such as have failed to recognize that which the Book of God set forth and who were numbered with the heedless." This is indicative of the fact that the believers of the previous dispensations were not ready for this important Doctrine, and, interestingly enough, some of the contemporary people also failed to recognize it, and, therefore, "were numbered with the heedless." Regarding the Most Great Infallibility of the Manifestation of God, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas further states that: "This is the Decree of God, concealed ere now within the veil of impenetrable mystery. We have disclosed it in this Revelation, and have thereby rent asunder the veils of such as have failed to recognize that which the Book of God set forth and who were numbered with the heedless." This is indicative of the fact that the believers of the previous dispensations were not ready for this important Doctrine, and, interestingly enough, some of the contemporary people also failed to recognize it, and, therefore, "were numbered with the heedless."

Journey Through The Four Valleys, A     edit

by Ghasem Bayat

One of the writings of the Blessed Beauty revealed during the Baghdad era was the epistle known as The Four Valleys. In a brief examination of this book we will comment on its composition, form, principal message, and the teachings it enshrines, and focus on some of its features that distinguish it from Islamic mystic writings.

This epistle, which dates prior to the Blessed Beauty's formal proclamation of His message, was addressed to the leader of the Qádiríyyih sect (a Sufi Order), Shaykh 'Abdu'r-Rahmán of Karkuk, a city of Iraqi Kurdistan. This unique epistle forms a part of a category of scriptures known as the attractive writings, which includes The Hidden Words, The Book of Certitude, The Essence (Gems) of Mysteries, The Ode of Varqá'íyyih, and The Seven Valleys. This epistle, which has a similar form to The Seven Valleys, was revealed in a masterful style, with eloquent composition and in extreme brevity, in apparent conformity to the traditions, beliefs and the language common amongst the Sufís. Thus it makes full use of the poetry, stories, and traditions common in the mystic writings of Attar, Mawlaví, Láhíjí and others. Yet this epistle stands apart from all mystic writings in its purpose, message, and the meanings intended for the parables, stories, and poems quoted in the book.

One of the distinguishing features of this epistle, reviewed in this short article, is that its words are not those of the advice of a mystic, guiding the wayfarers in their quest to be united with God. In this epistle, the Ancient Beauty sets out the object of the spiritual quest of man to be the recognition of His station and obedience to His laws. Therefore it is His voice that addresses mankind, calling them to His presence. This reconciles the hopes and aspirations of the faithful of all religions for the coming of their respective Promised One with those of the mystics' goals. As such, all allegories, stories, poems, and traditions quoted in the book relate to Him and direct one's attention to Him; hence, they take a different and a more direct meaning contrary to those intended in mystical writings.

In addition, the four valleys in the context of this epistle do not imply a method for systematic efforts on behalf of the believers to spiritual progression as might be understood from The Seven Valleys or the writings of the mystics. This epistle contains a general invitation to all believers, in whatever stage of spiritual awareness they may be, to recognize one of His stations relevant to them. Thus it contains advice and guidance to all at whatever stage they may be. The believers are classed in four groups, namely, those that are focused on Self, Wisdom, Love, and Spirit. All are given divine assistance to recognize four of the manifold stations of the Manifestation of God, which are His Self, His Wisdom, His Love and His Spirit. These stages in man's spiritual consciousness and the manifold stations of God's Manifestation's are beautifully explained and elucidated in this epistle, using allegories pertaining to holy places and to philosophical arguments. So everyone is given a share of this spiritual bounty according to his or her capacity.

Finally, this epistle confirms that all these manifold stations of God's Manifestation are all valid and true, and sufficient for each man's spiritual salvation relative to each person's station. The message that spiritual truth is relative and not absolute is reiterated here, thus eliminating another excuse for those who seek arguments and conflicts when faced with differences in perspectives and beliefs.

An in-depth study of this epistle will give the seeker a full measure of the spiritual bounties of God's Revelation.

Journey Through The Seven Valleys, A     edit

by Ghasem Bayat

This epistle of the Blessed Beauty was addressed to Shaykh Múhyi'd-Dín, the judge of Khániqayn, a town northeast of Baghdad near the Iranian border, and was revealed during the Baghdad era circa 1862 A.D. It is in the language of the Sufís and in accordance to their customs and traditions. It forms a part of a category of scriptures known as the attractive writings, which includes The Hidden Words, The Book of Certitude, The Essence (Gems) of Mysteries, The Ode of Varqá'íyyih, and The Four Valleys.

The Manifestations of God throughout the ages have introduced mankind to Their Messages gradually. Furthermore, these Messages have been tailored according to the exigencies of time and environment, the customs, the traditions, the language and the common understanding of the people for whom they were intended. These two unalterable principles have remained the singular approach of the messengers of old, and the way Their Divine Messages were communicated. Thus the first principle covers the method of teaching and the second the form the words of these Luminaries assume. The vast ocean of the Revelation of the Cause of God in this age demonstrates the application of these principles.

We will take a short journey through this exciting epistle, briefly demonstrating these principles and its teaching content. The full measure of its spiritual delight will be for those who embark on an in-depth study of the epistle.

Although this epistle is revealed in an eloquent language and is composed in a masterful style, with beauty and brevity, its poems, traditions, words of wisdom, and stories can be traced throughout the mystic writings of Attar, Mawlaví, Láhíjí and others. These subject matters deal superficially with the description and the titles of various stages of mystic journeys as well as with the process and the prerequisites that a wayfarer must go through.

This epistle, though bearing a superficial resemblance in form, composition, and apparent content to Islamic mystic writings, stands apart in its purpose, meanings, and claims. Some of its distinctive features that form the subject matter for this essay on The Seven Valleys are as follows:

First, the Islamic mystic writings are the words of mystics who guide seekers in their spiritual quest to progress towards the goal of becoming one with God. The Seven Valleys, on the other hand, are the words of the Divine, proclaiming His manifestation in the Kingdom of man, calling the believers to His Divine Presence. This message is lucid on occasion and is, at others, wrapped in allegories and symbolic terms, and yet it is unmistakably clear when taken as a whole in this book. The object of the ancient quest of the mystics in becoming one with God is changed at a stroke to that of the recognition of God's Mouthpiece and His Manifestation for the age. This unites the Object of the hopes and expectations of the faithful throughout the ages with those of the mystics in the Person of God's Manifestation.

Second, it seems that this book has an apparent similarity with Islamic mystic writings, such as their form, stories, traditions, poems, descriptions and titles of each stage of the mystics' quests, but this is not so. An in-depth study of this epistle reveals that the context and the intended meaning of every tradition, poem and story quoted by the Blessed Beauty is to point to His Person and to His Revelation. Thus, the above resemblance also remains superficial, as each story and poem and tradition is given a new meaning and purpose.

Last, but not least, the entire writings of Bahá'u'lláh, irrespective of the time of their Revelation, language, and form of composition, are in harmony of purpose and all contain elements of the Teachings of the Faith. This epistle also contains the seeds and the essence of a great number of the Teachings of the Faith quoted in various degrees of clarity. In this article we will quote some examples of the Teachings that were elucidated in greater detail in the subsequent writings of the Blessed Beauty.

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"Openness" of Differing Perspectives in Buddhist and Bahá'í Metaphysics, The     edit

by Dann May

Bahá'í theology incorporates a number of important doctrines regarding other religious traditions. Among these doctrines are the claims that the world's religions originate from the same ultimate source, that they are similar in propounding the same essential teachings, laws, and moral principles, and that the differences between religions are due to varying historical, cultural and linguistic factors. While these doctrines regarding the world's religions work quite well when applied to the theistic religious traditions of the West (i.e., Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Bahá'í), they run into serious difficulties when applied to many of the Eastern religious traditions, especially the so-called non-theistic traditions (i.e., Buddhism, Jainism, and the Chinese religions). This is especially true when such ideas are applied to the Buddhist tradition. Not only is Buddhism explicitly non-theistic, some would even say, atheistic, its doctrines of anatta ("no soul," or "no self'), sunyata ("emptiness," or "openness"), nirvana, rebirth, karma, and its decidedly process ontology, seem completely incompatible with Bahá'í theology. Some Buddhists have even argued that the Bahá'í doctrine of the unity of religion greatly misrepresents the Buddhist teachings. To date, previous Bahá'í approaches to these doctrines and issues have been not only inadequate philosophically, they are often the cause of ill-feelings and contention between Buddhists and Bahá'ís, as recent internet discussions have revealed.

My presentation will outline the beginnings of an alternative Bahá'í approach to these important Buddhist doctrines. This approach will draw on recent works on the Buddhist concept of sunyata, general sources in philosophy of religion, as well as diverse sources within the Buddhist and Bahá'í traditions. Since a major source of contention centers around the uncritically accepted theism of most Bahá'í discussions, I will begin with a general critique of theism followed by a brief discussion of apophatic theology. The Bahá'í and Buddhist views of ultimate reality will then be set within a perspectival framework that considers all views of ultimate reality as laden with mytho-poetic language that is ultimately "empty." The Bahá'í concept of the soul will also be subject to a type of apophatic theology, and then it, together with the Buddhist doctrine of anatta, will be set within a perspectival framework. Drawing on the thought of John Hick, I will argue that the conflicting truth claims of the Buddhist and Bahá'í faiths result from what Buddhists call avyakata ("undetermined questions")-claims about the nature of reality that are unable to be determined, that are formulated in a mytho-poetic language that does little more that "point" in the general direction of the "great mysteries" of the universe. Lastly, I will demonstrate that the Bahá'í principle of the unity of religion is not uniquely Western nor Bahá'í, but rather, has its parallels in various Asian traditions, including a number of Buddhist traditions.

Overview of the Tablets Revealed in the Early 'Akká Period, An     edit

by Iraj Ayman

Among the published books and tablets revealed by Bahá'u'lláh about forty-seven could be documented that belong to the early 'Akká period. Thirty of them have specific titles or designations and the other seventeen lack such designations.

In addition to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Questions and Answers, the rest may be classified into the following categories: Tablets addressed to the Kings and Rulers (seven Tablets), those addressed to Zoroastrians (three Tablets), those addressed to Christians or related to Christianity (two or three Tablets), Tribulations and Sufferings (about five Tablets), as well as a number of Tablets dealing with specific subjects such as philosophy, medicine, unity, proofs, vision (dream), and Beirut. There are important and famous Tablets as well, such as Lawh-i-Maqsud, Lawh-i-Qina', and Lawh-i-Ridvanu'l Adl.

The above Tablets, their designations, and the varieties of their categorization and classification will be briefly presented and discussed.

Tablets with Mystical and Philosophical Themes     edit

by Muin Afnani

Tablet of Hikmat (Wisdom)

This Tablet is arguably the most important philosophical Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh. In the early centuries of Islam, in particular during the Abbasid dynasty, many works of famous Greek philosophers were translated into Arabic and Islamic scholars studied these texts. Gradually, Islamic philosophers developed their own version of philosophy along with specific terminologies and concepts. In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh addresses a number of such concepts and terms. For instance, Bahá'u'lláh explains the concept of creation using terminology of Islamic philosophers. In addition to philosophical issues, this Tablet contains many other important concepts such as the station of a human being, moral values, spiritual teachings, the concept of moderation, and so on. The recipient of this Tablet was the peerless scholar and teacher of the Faith, Aqa Muhammad-i-Qa'iní, known as Nabíl-i-Akbar, upon whom 'Abdu'l-Bahá conferred the station Hand of the Cause after his passing. This Tablet is entirely in Arabic.

Tablet of Ru'ya (Vision)

This Tablet was revealed in the early period of 'Akká, in 1873, on the occasion of the anniversary of the birth of the Báb. In this Tablet, similar to His other mystical writings such as Tablet of Maiden of Heaven, Ode of Varqá'íyyih, and Bahá'u'lláh's Mathnavi (poetry), Bahá'u'lláh describes His encounter with the Maiden of Heaven (Húrí). This Tablet is replete with mystical terminology, allegories, and poetic words and phrases which Bahá'u'lláh has used to draw a beautiful mystical vision before our eyes. Húrí laments at the tribulations of the Blessed Beauty and invites Him to leave this physical world and ascend to the realms above. Similar to some of His other mystical Tablets, here Bahá'u'lláh uses the concept of hair in a fascinating and mystical way. This Tablet is entirely in Arabic.

Tablet of Burhán (Proof)

This Tablet was revealed shortly after the martyrdoms of the King and the Beloved of the Martyrs. It is. addressed to Shaykh Muhammad-Báqir, stigmatized by Bahá'u'lláh as the Wolf; he was the cleric who issued the death sentence of these two illustrious servants of Bahá'u'lláh. In very strong language Bahá'u'lláh addresses the Wolf and his associate, Mir Muhammad-Husayn, another cleric who led the Friday prayer in mosque and addressed by Bahá'u'lláh as the She-Serpent, warning them of the consequences of their actions. Yet, the Blessed Beauty counsels them and invites them to take lessons from the fates of Sultán 'Abdu'l-'Azíz of the Ottoman Empire and Napoleon III, who refused the summons of God. This Tablet is entirely in Arabic.

Tablet of Haykal (Temple)

This is one of the most fascinating writings of Bahá'u'lláh in which He addresses the Temple, which is none other than His own Person. In a mystical tone Bahá'u'lláh addresses the limbs of the Temple, explaining the function and purpose of each and describing the glory and majesty with which the Temple is endowed. He also describes in a mystical language the secrets of the letters which compose the word Haykal. This is a long Tablet comprising a range of concepts such as Bahá'u'lláh's station, the new (spiritual) race of human beings to be created under the influence and education of the Word of God, His conversation with the Maiden of Heaven, the potentialities of the Word of God, the significance and advancement of science, the activities of the of the covenant breakers, reference to the next manifestation of God, and so on. This Tablet is entirely in Arabic.