Compilation on Food and Nutrition


       

COMPILATIONS FROM THE BAHÁ'Í WRITINGS


COMPILATION ON FOOD AND NUTRITION

This compilation is based on a selection of references to food and nutrition in the Bahá'í Writings originally prepared by Margaret Tash, with subsequent additions.


CONTENTS
Diet of the Future
Oneness of Humanity
Kindness to Animals
Elimination of Extremes of Wealth and Poverty
Health and Healing
Stewards of the Environment/Nature/Agriculture
Physical and spiritual actions affect each other
Moderation/Simplicity/Frugality
Gratitude/Mindfulness
What is needed to make this change?


“Looking after one’s health is done with two intentions. Man may take good care of his body for the purpose of satisfying his personal wishes. Or, he may look after his health with the good intention of serving humanity and of living long enough to perform his duty toward mankind. The latter is most commendable.” - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. VIII, No. 18, p. 230; The Throne of the Inner Temple, p. 19

"You should always bear in mind Bahá'u'lláh's counsel that we should take the utmost care of our health, surely not because it is an end in itself, but as a necessary means of serving His Cause.” - From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer July 17, 1937; in Lights of Guidance, p. 291

Diet of the Future

“The food of the future will be fruit and grains. The time will come when meat is no longer eaten. Medical science is yet only in its infancy, but it has shown that our natural diet is that which grows out of the ground. The people will gradually develop up to the condition of taking only this natural food.” - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 296

"In regard to the question as to whether people ought to kill animals for food or not, there is no explicit statement in the Bahá'í Sacred Scriptures (as far as I know) in favor or against it. It is certain, however, that if man can live on a purely vegetarian diet and thus avoid killing animals, it would be much preferable. This is, however, a very controversial question and the Bahá'ís are free to express their views on it." - From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 9, 1931; quoted in Lights of Guidance, p. 296

“As humanity progresses, meat will be used less and less, for the teeth of man are not carnivorous. For example, the lion is endowed with carnivorous teeth, which are intended for meat, and if meat be not found, the lion starves. The lion cannot graze; its teeth are of different shape. The digestive system of the lion is such that it cannot receive nourishment save through meat. The eagle has a crooked beak, the lower part shorter than the upper. It cannot pick up grain; it cannot graze; therefore, it is compelled to partake of meat. The domestic animals have herbivorous teeth formed to cut grass, which is their fodder. The human teeth, the molars, are formed to grind grain. The front teeth, the incisors, are for fruits, etc. It is, therefore, quite apparent according to the implements for eating that man's food is intended to be grain and not meat. When mankind is more fully developed, the eating of meat will gradually cease.” - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 170

“As in so many other areas, the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh in this regard follow the golden mean: kindness toward animals is definitely upheld, vegetarianism is encouraged, hunting is regulated, but certain latitude is left to individual conscience and in practical regard to the diversity of circumstances under which human beings live. For example, the indigenous peoples of the Arctic would be hard-pressed to subsist without recourse to animal products.” - Letter from the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, June 29, 1995

“O concourse of priests and monks! Eat ye of that which God hath made lawful unto you and do not shun meat. God hath, as a token of His grace, granted you leave to partake thereof save during a brief period.” - Bahá'u'lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts: Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, § 154, p. 80

"Regarding the eating of animal flesh and abstinence therefrom, …he [man] is not in need of meat, nor is he obliged to eat it. Even without eating meat he would live with the utmost vigour and energy. For example, the community of the Brahmins in India do not eat meat; notwithstanding this they are not inferior to other nations in strength, power, vigour, outward senses or intellectual virtues. Truly, the killing of animals and the eating of their meat is somewhat contrary to pity and compassion, and if one can content oneself with cereals, fruit, oil and nuts, such as pistachios, almonds and so on, it would undoubtedly be better and more pleasing." - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in a letter written to an individual believer; in Lights of Guidance, p. 294

Oneness of Humanity

“The essential oneness of all the myriad forms and grades of life is one of the fundamental teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. Our physical health is so linked up with our mental, moral and spiritual health, and also with the individual and social health of our fellowmen, nay, even with the life of the animals and plants, that each of these is affected by the others to a far greater extent than is usually realized. There is no command of the Prophet, therefore, to whatever department of life it may primarily refer, which does not concern bodily health.” - Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, p. 101

Kindness to Animals

“Burden not an animal with more than it can bear. We, truly, have prohibited such treatment through a most binding interdiction in the Book. Be ye the embodiments of justice and fairness amidst all creation.” - Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy Book, p. 87

“Briefly, it is not only their fellow human beings that the beloved of God must treat with mercy and compassion, rather must they show forth the utmost loving-kindness to every living creature. For in all physical respects, and where the animal spirit is concerned, the selfsame feelings are shared by animal and man. Man hath not grasped this truth, however, and he believeth that physical sensations are confined to human beings, wherefore is he unjust to the animals, and cruel.

“And yet in truth, what difference is there when it cometh to physical sensations? The feelings are one and the same, whether ye inflict pain on man or on beast. There is no difference here whatever. And indeed ye do worse to harm an animal, for man hath a language, he can lodge a complaint, he can cry out and moan; if injured he can have recourse to the authorities and these will protect him from his aggressor. But the hapless beast is mute, able neither to express its hurt nor take its case to the authorities. If a man inflict a thousand ills upon a beast, it can neither ward him off with speech nor hale him into court. Therefore is it essential that ye show forth the utmost consideration to the animal, and that ye be even kinder to him than to your fellow man.

“…But to blessed animals the utmost kindness must be shown, the more the better. Tenderness and loving-kindness are basic principles of God's heavenly Kingdom. Ye should most carefully bear this matter in mind.” - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 158

“In regard to the question as to whether people ought to kill animals for food of not, there is no explicit statement in the Bahá'í Sacred Scriptures (as far as I know) in favor or against it. It is certain, however, that if man can live on a purely vegetarian diet and thus avoid killing animals, it would be much preferable. This is, however, a very controversial question and the Bahá'ís are free to express their views on it.” - From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 9, 1931; in Lights of Guidance, p. 296

“Your concern for the prevention of cruelty to animals and for restraint in exploiting them unduly for food and other purposes is indeed praiseworthy; however, the House of Justice is not aware of any absolute prohibition in any Holy Book against the use of animals for food and clothing. As the laws brought by Bahá'u'lláh become known and operative throughout the world, we believe that humanity will find the proper balance in adjusting itself to nature and to the world of animals.

“As in so many other areas, the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh in this regard follow the golden mean: kindness toward animals is definitely upheld, vegetarianism is encouraged, hunting is regulated, but certain latitude is left to individual conscience and in practical regard to the diversity of circumstances under which human beings live.” - The Universal House of Justice, December 16, 1998, Traditional practices in Africa

Elimination of Extremes of Wealth and Poverty

“With the establishment of the Most Great Peace and the spiritualization of the peoples of the world, man will become a noble being adorned with divine virtues and perfections. This is one of the fruits of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, promised by Him. The nobility of man and his spiritual development will lead him in the future to such a position that no individual could enjoy eating his food or resting at home while knowing that there was one person somewhere in the world without food or shelter. It is Bahá'u'lláh's mission to create such a new race of men.” - Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 3, p. 126

“The arrangements of the circumstances of the people must be such that poverty shall disappear, and that every one as far as possible, according to his position and rank, shall be comfortable. Whilst the nobles and others in high rank are in easy circumstances, the poor also should be able to get their daily food and not be brought to the extremities of hunger”. - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 'Abdu'l-Bahá in London, p. 29

“All the peoples of the world will enjoy like interests, and the poor shall possess a portion of the comforts of life. …the poor will have at least their comfortable and pleasant places of abode; …the needy shall have their necessities and no longer live in poverty. In short, a readjustment of the economic order will come about….” - ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 102

“We see amongst us men who are overburdened with riches on the one hand, and on the other those unfortunate ones who starve with nothing; those who possess several stately palaces, and those who have not where to lay their head. Some we find with numerous courses of costly and dainty food; whilst others can scarce find sufficient crusts to keep them alive. Whilst some are clothed in velvets, furs and fine linen, others have insufficient, poor and thin garments with which to protect them from the cold. This condition of affairs is wrong, and must be remedied.” - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 151

Health and Healing

“Now let us speak of material healing. The science of medicine is still in a condition of infancy; it has not reached maturity. But when it has reached this point, cures will be performed by things which are not repulsive to the smell and taste of man -- that is to say, by aliments, fruits and vegetables which are agreeable to the taste and have an agreeable smell. For the provoking cause of disease -- that is to say, the cause of the entrance of disease into the human body -- is either a physical one or is the effect of excitement of the nerves.” - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 257

“… It is certain that in this wonderful new age the development of medical science will lead to the doctors' healing their patients with foods. …At whatever time highly-skilled physicians shall have developed the healing of illnesses by means of foods, and shall make provision for simple foods, and shall prohibit humankind from living as slaves to their lustful appetites, it is certain that the incidence of chronic and diversified illnesses will abate, and the general health of all mankind will be much improved. This is destined to come about. In the same way, in the character, the conduct and the manners of men, universal modifications will be made.” - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 153

“It is, therefore, evident that it is possible to cure by foods, aliments and fruits; but as today the science of medicine is imperfect, this fact is not yet fully grasped. When the science of medicine reaches perfection, treatment will be given by foods, aliments, fragrant fruits and vegetables, and by various waters, hot and cold in temperature.” - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 258

Stewards of the Environment / Nature / Agriculture

“Nature is God's Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world." - Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh

“…ye walk on My earth complacent and self-satisfied, heedless that My earth is weary of you and everything within it shunneth you.”  - Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, Persian #20

“In relation to the economic and social development of the nations, the Universal House of Justice underlines the importance of ‘agriculture and the preservation of the ecological balance of the world.’" - The Universal House of Justice, Department of the Secretariat, from a letter dated March 31, 1985, to the Association for Bahá'í Studies; in The Compilation of Compilations, vol. 1, p. 81

While the world of nature stands in need of development, man's approach to such development must be tempered by moderation, a commitment to protecting the "heritage [of] future generations", and an awareness of the sanctity of nature that pervades the Writings of the Bahá'í Faith. For example, Bahá'u'lláh states: “Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place, and the city, and the heart, and the mountain, and the refuge, and the cave, and the valley, and the land, and the sea, and the island, and the meadow where mention of God hath been made, and His praise glorified.” - Conservation of the Earth’s Resources, in The Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, p. 81

Bahá'u'lláh states that "Special regard must be paid to agriculture." He characterizes it as an activity which is "conducive to the advancement of mankind and to the reconstruction of the world". 'Abdu'l-Bahá asserts that “the fundamental basis of the community is agriculture, tillage of the soil.” In relation to the economic and social development of the nations, the Universal House of Justice underlines the importance of "agriculture and the preservation of the ecological balance of the world." - Conservation of the Earth’s Resources, in The Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, p. 81

“As trustees, or stewards, of the planet's vast resources and biological diversity, humanity must learn to make use of the earth's natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable, in a manner that ensures sustainability and equity into the distant reaches of time. This attitude of stewardship will require full consideration of the potential environmental consequences of all development activities. It will compel humanity to temper its actions with moderation and humility, realizing that the true value of nature cannot be expressed in economic terms. It will also require a deep understanding of the natural world and its role in humanity's collective development both material and spiritual.” - Bahá'í International Community, 1998, Valuing Spirituality in Development: Initial Considerations Regarding the Creation of Spiritually Based Indicators for Development

“…assisting in endeavors to conserve the environment in ways which blend with the rhythm of life of our community must assume more importance in Bahá'í activities.” - Letter from the Universal House of Justice, April 21, 1989, to the Bahá'ís of the World; in Conservation of the Earth’s Resources; in The Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, p. 86

Physical and spiritual actions affect each other

“We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.” - Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, dated 17 February 17, 1933; in The Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, p. 84

“Between material things and spiritual things there is a connection. The more healthful his body the greater will be the power of the spirit of man, the power of the intellect, the power of the memory, the power of reflections will then be greater.” - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. VIII, No. 18, p. 231; quoted in The Throne of the Inner Temple, pp. 19-20

“I hope thou wilt become as a rising light and obtain spiritual health; and spiritual health is conducive to physical health.” - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Divine Art of Living, p. 58

Moderation / Simplicity / Frugality

“Economy is the foundation of human prosperity. The spendthrift is always in trouble. Prodigality on the part of any person is an unpardonable sin. We must never live on others like a parasitic plant. Every person must have a profession, whether it be literary or manual, and must live a clean, manly, honest life, an example of purity to be imitated by others. It is more kingly to be satisfied with a crust of stale bread than to enjoy a sumptuous dinner of many courses, the money for which comes out of the pockets of others. The mind of a contented person is always peaceful and his heart at rest. He is like a monarch ruling over the whole world. How happily such a man helps himself to his frugal meals! How joyfully he takes his walks, how peacefully he sleeps!” - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, p. 102

One day 'Abdu'l-Bahá wanted to go from Akka to Haifa. He went to take an inexpensive seat in a regular coach. The driver was surprised and must have asked himself why 'Abdu'l-Bahá was so frugal as to ride in this cheap coach. “Surely, Your Excellency would prefer to travel in a private carriage,” he exclaimed. “No,” replied the Master, and He traveled in the crowded coach all the way to Haifa. As He stepped down from the coach in Haifa a distressed fisherwoman came to Him and asked for His help. All day she had caught nothing and now had to return to her hungry family. 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave her a good sum of money, turned to the driver and said, “Why should I ride in luxury while so many are starving?” - Story from Ruhi Book 3: Teaching Children’s Classes, Grade 1; pp. 43-44

A Persian friend arrived who had passed through 'Ishqabad. He presented a cotton handkerchief to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Who untied it, and saw therein a piece of dry black bread, and a shrivelled apple. The friend explained: "A poor Bahá'í workman came to me: 'I hear thou goest into the presence of our Beloved. Nothing have I to send, but this my dinner. I pray thee offer it to Him with my loving devotion.'" 'Abdu'l-Bahá spread the poor handkerchief before Him, leaving His own luncheon untasted. He ate of the workman's dinner, broke pieces off the bread, and handed them to the assembled guests, saying: "Eat with me of this gift of humble love.” - Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 161

 

Gratitude / Mindfulness

“All that has been created is for man who is at the apex of creation and who must be thankful for the divine bestowals, so that through his gratitude he may learn to understand life as a divine benefit.” - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 134

“God has conferred upon man the gift of guidance, and in thankfulness for this great gift certain deeds must emanate from him. To express his gratitude for the favors of God man must show forth praiseworthy actions. In response to these bestowals he must render good deeds, be self-sacrificing, loving the servants of God, forfeiting even life for them, showing kindness to all the creatures. “ - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 236

What is needed to make this change?

“We need a change of heart, a reframing of all our conceptions and a new orientation of our activities. The inward life of man as well as his outward environment have to be reshaped if human salvation is to be secured.” - Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, from a letter dated May 27, 1932, to an individual believer; in The Compilation of Compilations, vol. 1, p. 85

“Issues of food, nutrition, health and shelter are central to the challenge of providing an adequate standard of living for all members of the human family. These issues cannot, however, be tackled solely as technical or economic problems. Eliminating hunger and malnutrition; establishing food security; providing adequate shelter; and achieving health for all will require a shift in values, a commitment to equity, and a corresponding reorientation of policies, goals and programs.” - Baha'i International Community, Feb. 18,1998, Valuing Spirituality in Development: Initial Considerations Regarding the Creation of Spiritually Based Indicators for Development

“It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written in reality and action.” - Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 165


References

For the Betterment of the World: The Worldwide Bahá'í Community’s Approaches to Social and Economic Development; Bahá'í International Community, 2003

Health and Healing; compilation from the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice

Lights of Guidance, Section XXIV, “Health, Healing and Nutrition”

The Prosperity of Humankind, Bahá'í International Community

Selections from Bahá'í Writings on Some Aspects of Health, Healing, Nutrition and Related Matters; found in The Compilation of Compilations, vol. 1, pp. 459- 489

The Throne of the Inner Temple, compilation by Eliaz Zohoori

Valuing Spirituality in Development, Bahá'í International Community

 



International Environment Forum - Updated 4 January 2014