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30 October 2007

One Common Faith

Every age has its needs, its exigencies. Humanity has always turned to God for answers and God has always provided humanity with relative guidance through His Manifestations. These Manifestations include those that have appeared before recorded history, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Christ, Mohammed, the Bab and Baha'u'llah. Located where religions have historically been forced to confront each other, India has been a battle-ground for religious turmoil. But like a gem, that is polished through great ordeals, its unity now shines bright. In 'One Common Faith' we meet some of India's religious leaders and hear what they say about the inherent oneness of religious truth, the human family and our collective salvation.

Read the One Common Faith document written by the Universal House of Justice and access a wonderful study companion to the document at

Produced and Directed by: Sean Hinton and Peter Bisanz
Executive Producers: Hassan Elmasry, Kersten Pucks, & Ramin Khadem
Director of Photography: Stefan Forbes
Written by: Leyla Haidarian
Edited by: Ryan and Leyla Haidarian
Music by: Amal Ma'ani
Field Producer (India): Rumana Hamied
Sound Engineer: Subramanian Mani
First Assistant Director: Avani Batra
Production Services in India provided by: Sparkwater

Interviewees in order of appearance:
Dr. A.K. Merchant
Archbishop Vincent Concessao
Dr. Mohinder Singh
Rabbi Ezekiel Isaac Malekar
His Holiness, The Dalai Lama
Pir Khwaja Afzal
Swami Agnivesh
Farida Vahedi

With thanks to:
The Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of India
Dr. A.K. Merchant
Naysan & Jalan Sahba

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Why do we need organized religion?
Added: Saturday, 14 April 2007

watch original V-Blog in Persian

Over one of my famously philosophical dinner the other night, one of my friends said she feels she has a personal relationship with her creator. If she feels she can communicate with God, why then do we need organized religion? We thought about this question with everyone over dinner and several answers crystallized.

My personal view was that we all might talk to 'God' in our way. We may have a personal style of communication, a personal feeling or approach to addressing our concerns and matters of the heart with our Lord. But what when we try to listen to His answers? What are the answers? What are the guidelines? How do I know that what I 'feel' in my heart is right or harmonizes with what someone else 'feels' in their heart? How many times do our feelings and inclinations mislead us or clash one with another? I would say more often than not. What is good and right in my estimation might not be good and right for someone else. It is like traffic. If we all followed our own sensibilities, we would have utter chaos in traffic. But organized religion is like a universal set of traffic laws that we can all follow and that protects all of our interests as a whole, as an organism. The moment we look to one system, we create unity and prosperity for all.

Another friend of mine introduced the idea that each age requires specific solutions to its problems. 500 years ago our problems were different than they are today. Since 23 May 1844 when the first telegram was sent out, the world has experienced an exponential boost in technological advances. In a matter of 160 years we have become one world with interlinked economies and one joint destiny. 500 years ago it would have been impossible to imagine us all sitting here together. At the dinner we had people from China, the US, Iran, Austria, Australia, England, South Africa, Scotland and Canada. And many of us were multiracial. Therefore, the guidance we get needs to be renewed from age to age. The guidance we received 2000 years ago is not the guidance that suffices us today. So, although the core messages of all religions remain the same throughout history, each new teacher brings new social laws that will benefit the progress of humanity. It is essentially the same religion throughout history, but it is renewed from age to age. Just as a child doesn't stay in first grade but advances to second, third grade and eventually to university. What the first grade teacher taught was not 'wrong', it is was simply the foundation upon which the next teacher begins to elaborate on truth.

But then why, was my friend's question, does 'organized religion' cause so much disunity and dissent in the world? Surely we'd be in denial if we ignored the bloodshed that's been committed in the name of God.

That's when it occurred to me that religion is like a tree. It grows and bears fruits. These fruits are juicy and ripe. They nourish and they sustain mankind for a period of time. Then the fruit slowly withers, it falls from the tree and begins to disintegrate. It begins to smell foul. If you focus on that apple you will feel disillusioned. It is rotting, you might say and you bemoan the demise of the apple. Meanwhile, what you haven't noticed is that the seed of the fallen apple has taken root and has given birth to a new tree right next door; A new tree, which will sustain and nourish humanity again. But we don't look at the new tree. We say it's another tree. It's not the same tree. We deny it and we call it the anti-tree. We don't want to accept that it is, essentially, the same ancient tree offering us the fruits we so dearly need.

And that is our eternal challenge. For to recognize the new tree when it grows requires detachment from preconceived notions and a spirit of independent search - something we sorely lack in society!

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