Bahai Faith Scholar Mrs Gandhi
The Bahai faith does not believe in any religious leader, priests or ministers. All people who follow the faith are equal. All followers are required to engage with the faith and its teachings in the way they see best. Administratively leaders are elected democratically but these are to manage the organization. Mrs Gandhi had been practicing the faith for almost two decades.
I met Mrs Gandhi on Mar 28, 2019 at the Lotus Temple administrative block. This is my conversation with her.
What is one core principle that unites all the followers of your faith (either the faith as a whole or this particular sect of the faith)?
Mrs Gandhi said, the Bahai faith believes in the unity of religion, people and God. The Baha'i faith believes that there are no differences between people, Gods, and religions and thus believes in the oneness of religion. It believes that the differences that exist in the world have been created by man. Mrs Gandhi explained to me that the Bahai Faith believes that people are like flowers in a garden and in the same manner that flowers of different types and colours bring beauty to gardens people of all different types that exist in the world are equal and beautiful. They do not believe in distinctions made between people as when cut, we all bleed the same blood. The Bahai faith believes in serving people and living with peace, love, and harmony.
How did you decide to begin your study of Baha'i religion?
Mrs Gandhi told me that she was brought up in a traditional South Indian household and followed the Hindu Religion as a child. She admitted that she simply did so due to the wishes of her parents but never felt truly connected to the faith and its rituals and traditions. She recounted a day in 2001 when she saw religious books that her husband had brought home with the Arabic language which made her think that her husband was becoming a Muslim. This was the first time she encountered the Bahai faith, she realised that her husband had decided to become a Bahai.
When she read about the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh' that preached unity, harmony, oneness, and love, she felt a true connection with the Prophet and decided to become a Bahai. That is when her study of religion began.
What was your first experience (experience of a union with God)?
Mrs Gandhi’s first experience with the prophet of the Bahai faith (Bahá'u'lláh) was a major reason for her connection with the teachings with the Bahai faith. She recounted that the night she first understood the Bahai faith Bahá'u'lláh appeared in her dreams and told her that she must follow his teachings and find a path to reach him. This led to a lifelong connection.
What objects are employed during religious ceremonies and what is the significance of each?
Mrs Gandhi told me the Bahai faith does not believe in idol worship, rituals and do not have a religious leader who preaches the teachings of the prophet. The Bahai faith believes that every individual must find their own truth and follow the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh written in the books he wrote. They believe that prayer is a ladder to reach God and it is ‘food for the soul’. Prayer is seen as a way to have a conversation with God. Mrs Gandhi told me that Bahais follow the teachings of their prophet and attempt to find God without using idols or believing in rituals and ceremonies.
What is the purpose of life?
In Mrs Gandhi's words, the Bahai’s believe that one must lead a life of peace, harmony, and unity. The purpose of life is to serve people. The Bahai faith believes in providing things to the needy instead of presenting food to idols of God who cannot eat. The Bahai faith preaches that we must be patient in all circumstances and trust in God. We must also love everyone and do only good things in the span of our lifetime. He reminds his followers to pray before they sleep and remember their good and bad actions, followers must also ask for forgiveness from God for their sinful deeds and strive to live a purer life in the future. The Baha'i faith preaches honesty and love and stresses the importance of prayer as a way to unite with God.
What is your view on death and what comes after it?
Mrs Gandhi said, Bahá'u'lláh preaches that although a body perishes the soul progresses till eternity. The Baha'i faith believes that we are born from mud and we must return to the mud we are born from. An honest and pure soul reaches eternity faster than a soul that is impure and sinful. Death is viewed as a mystery and it is believed that people who are born into the world must taste the ‘cup of death’ and only those who have done so can understand the mystery of death. He also preached that only the purest of souls have the ability to remember and understand their role and position in the previous life of the soul and death is simply a phase of preparation for the next life of the soul.
What are some essential daily activities of practitioners of your religion?
The Bahai faith has several prayers written by their prophet Bahá'u'lláh in their religious texts that include prayers for situations that followers carry out. It is a faith that prohibits smoking and drinking of alcohol. Mrs Gandhi explained to us that Bahá'u'lláh doesn’t enforce the prohibition of consumption of meat but believes that human teeth are not made to eat meat. He believes that when people realise this they will voluntarily stop eating meat to protect themselves. Bahá'u'lláh believes in the importance of his followers understanding their prayers rather than simply doing what is written in a text. He preaches the importance of education as an essential part of one’s life and stresses the harmony of science and religion that must go hand in hand. Followers must meditate and pray in order to reach god. Bahá'u'lláh says that backbiting is a sinful deed that brings impurity into one’s soul and drags a person down thus he preaches that we must never backbite in order to have a pure soul.
Do you think younger people are less religious? Can you comment on why this is so?
Mrs Gandhi explained that she does not believe that younger people are less religious. She believes that the younger generation’s minds are more developed towards questioning things rather than blindly following instructions. The Bahai faith believes that the parents are the first teachers who must nurture their children and make them understand the religion rather than simply follow it. It believes in allowing generations to progress and ask questions and parents and teachers must be calm and consult with their children to help make them grow with their faith.
Why is there evil in the world?
It remains a mystery that is only known by our ancestors. There must be some good and some bad in the world however Mrs Gandhi believes that the reason will only be known to us when God wants us to understand the reason. When our time comes, God will teach us the reason for evil’s existence in the world.