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Religion B


Baha’ism  began in Persia during the 19th century as a Shi'ite offshoot of Islam called babism. It was so named after the bab its leader Sayyid Ali Mohammed. But it was Mirza Ali Husayn Nuri known as Baha Allah or Baha’u’llah who properly founded Baha’ism after the bab had been executed.  Although originally a Shi'ite offshoot Baha’ism is now far more universal and humanitarian.  The main message of the Baha’i is the oneness of all religions, humanity and God. Baha’u’llah taught that religion is the foundation of love and unity and the cause of oneness.  Although there is Central Administration from Haifa in Israel which gives rise to a semi-hierarchical organization, believers meet together informally for devotions and have no unique or absolute scripture no public rituals and no priests.


"Rely not on the teacher/person, but on the teaching.

Rely not on the words of the teaching but on the spirit of the word.

Rely not on theory, but on experience.

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.

Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.

Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumored by many.

Do not believe in anything because it is written in your religious books.

Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.

But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."

(The Buddha, Kalama Sutra)


The Buddha - or "enlightened one." was formerly named Siddharta Gautama before his enlightenment.   He was an Indian prince, who lived an affluent and sheltered life until, according to tradition, one day he ventured outside his palace and saw respectively an old man, a sick man, a poor man, and a corpse. He could not understand how sickness, old age and death could happen to people and so, distressed at the suffering in the world, Gautama left his family to seek enlightenment through asceticism. He studied under other wandering ascetics, but even the most extreme starvations and deprivations failed to bring enlightenment.

Finally, Gautama sat beneath the bodhi tree and vowed not to move until he had seen the truth. Days later, he saw through the nature of suffering and was no longer affected by it. He arose as the Buddha.  He spent the remaining 45 years of his life teaching this truth, (the dharma), the path to liberation from suffering, and establishing a community of monks (the sangha). Buddhism was founded around the year 500 BCE.

Today, although virtually extinct in India where it originated, there are over 360 million followers of Buddhism in China, Japan and Southeast Asia and latterly in Europe and America. There are now over one million American Buddhists.  Many people say that Buddhism is not a religion since The Buddha refused to talk about God. This was not however because he denied the existence of God but that given man's suffering state it was pointless to speculate upon the nature of God when what mattered the most was discovering one's own nature and transcending that.  Talk of God could only prove to be a distraction.

Buddhist beliefs vary significantly across various sects and schools, but all share an admiration for the figure of the Buddha and the goal of ending suffering and the cycle of rebirth. In Southeast Asia, Theravada Buddhism, is the prominent form it is atheistic and philosophical in nature and believes that meditation and the withdrawal from the pressures of life are the means to liberation.

In China and Japan, Mahayana Buddhism, is prominent.  This incorporates several deities, celestial beings, and other traditional religious elements. Zen, Nichiren, Tendai, and Pure Land are major forms of Mahayana Buddhism. In these the path to liberation may include devotion, meditation, ritual, and a heightened respect for nature.