Are there rules about body modification e.g. tattoos, cosmetic surgery or amputations?
There are no specific injunctions against them, but moderation should be observed. One is not to become a cause of displeasure to others, as pertains to one’s dress and appearance. On a similar subject, the Guardian has written: “Regarding Bahá’í women using facial make-up: individuals are entirely free to do as they please in such purely personal matters. As Bahá’ís are enjoined to use moderation in all things, and to seek the Golden mean, the National Spiritual Assembly can, if it deems it necessary or advisable, counsel the believers to use moderation in this respect also.
(Shoghi Effendi: Dawn of a New Day, p. 193) Most especially, nothing should be done that would be harmful to one’s body. Bahá’u’lláh says: ... Beware of using any substance that … inflicteth harm upon the body. We, verily, desire for you naught save what shall profit you, and to this bear witness all created things, had ye but ears to hear.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 155, p. 75) (Jonah Winters, Fifty-five Questions on Bahá’í Ethics)
But beware, O people, lest ye make yourselves the playthings of the ignorant.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 23)
Fully alive to the unfailing efficacy of the power of Bahá’u’lláh, and armed with the essential weapons of wise restraint and inflexible resolve, let him wage a constant fight against the inherited tendencies, the corruptive instincts, the fluctuating fashions, the false pretences of the society in which he lives and moves.
(Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, p. 130)
Problems arise when there are disagreements among the friends as to what is dignified and reverent. The Universal House of Justice is reluctant to specify such matters in detail and urges the believers not to make an issue of them. If a believer is seriously worried about a particular case, he may refer it to his National Spiritual Assembly and should abide by the Assembly’s decision.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 539)
Your email letter of 17 August 2003 regarding tattoos has been received at the Bahá’í World Centre and referred to our Department for response. In reply to your enquiry, nothing at all has been found in the Holy Texts on the matter of tattooing. There is, of course, the following general counsel given by Bahá’u’lláh: “Let there be naught in your demeanour of which sound and upright minds would disapprove, and make not yourselves the playthings of the ignorant. Well is it with him who hath adorned himself with the vesture of seemly conduct and a praiseworthy character.
(The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, paragraph 159)” Generally, what is appropriate in such matters will clearly vary from culture to culture.
(Universal House of Justice to an individual, 19 August 2003)