Mercy, Spirituality, and the Golden Rule

Baha’u’llah identified one most important human need in all of his books and writings: unity. He said to all humanity: “Ye are all the leaves of one tree and the drops of one ocean.”  

This core Baha’i teaching takes a step beyond the Golden Rule. That law, found in all the major religions, teaches us to treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves. But the primary principles of the Baha’i Faith call us to a higher understanding – that we are all part of one unified reality, like the individual cells in all living things. When we harm others, we harm ourselves.  

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Baha’u’llah extended and expanded the Golden Rule, asking each human being to focus on mercy towards others. In one of his tablets, he wrote:

O son of man! If thine eyes be turned towards mercy, forsake the things that profit thee and cleave unto that which will profit mankind. And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself.

In fact, Baha’u’llah compared the human race to the human body. If one part of the body is afflicted, for example, it can threaten the entire organism. This awareness links unity and peace with justice. In the words of Baha’u’llah: “The light of men is Justice. Quench it not with the contrary winds of oppression and tyranny. The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men.

While Baha’u’llah’s teachings exalt the appearance of justice in the world, and while Baha’is everywhere work for justice, in this passage we get a sense of what justice can accomplish. We also get a sense of its true purpose – to remove the barriers of oppression, tyranny and hatred; to cause boundaries and borders to fade away; to bring us together as one world and one people. 

This beautiful, glorious ideal – a unified world that instills justice and eliminates prejudice – invokes the great vision of the poets and the prophets throughout time. Baha’is see this vision as not just some pipe dream or empty promise – they see it as a reality, as something we can accomplish, as the inevitable outcome of the centuries of progressive religious revelation humanity has been given by God.

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But despite the beauty of the Baha’i teachings, during the last years of his life Baha’u’llah remained a prisoner, under house arrest, in the prison-city of Akka, in a remote area of northern Palestine, his followers frightened and scattered and his writings mostly unpublished. These hard circumstances made it appear that his message would certainly go unheard, with a combination of government oppression and religious fanaticism trying to silence him, and a merciless, genocidal policy of death or imprisonment perpetrated on the entire Baha’i community.  

But very suddenly, even miraculously, all that would change.

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