Table of Contents
Passages from recent letters of the Universal House of Justice
9 May Letter
9 May 2020 letter to all National Spiritual Assemblies
Much, then, has been accomplished, and this is a clear indicator of the strength and confidence of the Bahá’í community. But, as you already appreciate, the current crisis has altered the context in which the Plan is being pursued. We have been impressed by how many communities have taken great strides in adapting to this new reality. Far from viewing the present period as simply a hiatus to be endured with patience, they have recognized that the state of the world has made the need to render meaningful service to humanity more urgent. Naturally, the activities undertaken must suit the prevailing conditions, but there should be no doubt that this is a time for noble aims, high resolve, and intense endeavour.
In short, the promotion of the Plan implies building capacity to walk the path of service in every time and season—which must surely include moments of acute peril in the life of humanity, such as now. It is essential, then, that the steps being taken to learn how to apply the Plan’s framework for action to the current circumstances of the world continue in earnest; in all likelihood, the global health crisis will have a direct impact on Bahá’í activities, to a greater or lesser degree, for months or even years, and the task of adapting to the situation cannot be postponed.
We appreciate, of course, that some activities have had to be suspended, and particular strategies or methods that are unsuited to current conditions have had to be set aside for a time. However, while certain possibilities have been temporarily closed, others have opened up, and new means have emerged for strengthening existing patterns of activity. Flexibility has proven to be an asset, but so has vigilance in ensuring that the primarily local character of community activities is not diluted; efforts to nurture flourishing communities within neighbourhoods and villages and across clusters must continue. In some cases, present conditions have created unexpected opportunities for widening community participation in devotional meetings and study circles, conducted with safety in mind.
When society is in such difficulty and distress, the responsibility of the Bahá’ís to make a constructive contribution to human affairs becomes more pronounced. This is a moment when distinct but interrelated lines of action converge upon a single point, when the call to service rings aloud. The individual, the community, and the institutions of the Faith—inseparable protagonists in the advancement of civilization—are in a position to demonstrate the distinctive features of the Bahá’í way of life, characterized by increased maturity in the discharge of their responsibilities and in their relationships with each other. They are summoned to a fuller expression of the Faith’s society-building powers.
At a time when the urgency of attaining higher levels of unity, founded on the incontestable truth of humanity’s oneness, is becoming apparent to larger and larger numbers, society stands in need of clear voices that can articulate the spiritual principles that underlie such an aspiration.
You are of course ever conscious that your responsibilities reach beyond those of administering the affairs of the community and channelling its energies towards the fulfilment of noble goals: you seek to raise awareness of those spiritual forces that are available to every confirmed believer and which must be marshalled at the hour of need. It is these forces which endow the community with resilience, ensure its integrity, and keep it focused on its divine mission to serve humanity and elevate its vision of the future.
Ridvan message 2020
However long and arduous the road that must be travelled, we are supremely confident in your fortitude and your determination to see the journey through. You draw from stores of hope, faith, and magnanimity, putting the needs of others before your own, enabling those who are deprived to be spiritually nourished, those who increasingly thirst for answers to be satisfied, and those who long to work for the betterment of the world to be offered the means. From the devoted followers of the Blessed Perfection, how could we expect less?
Naw-Ruz message 2020
At a time of another crisis, ’Abdu’l-Bahá offered these words of counsel:
“In a day such as this, when the tempests of trials and tribulations have encompassed the world, and fear and trembling have agitated the planet, ye must rise above the horizon of firmness and steadfastness with illumined faces and radiant brows in such wise that, God willing, the gloom of fear and consternation may be entirely obliterated, and the light of assurance may dawn above the manifest horizon and shine resplendently.” The world stands more and more in need of the hope and the strength of spirit that faith imparts. Beloved friends, you have of course long been occupied with the work of nurturing within groups of souls precisely the attributes that are required at this time: unity and fellow feeling, knowledge and understanding, a spirit of collective worship and common endeavour….Though having to adapt to new circumstances, the believers have used creative means to strengthen bonds of friendship, and to foster among themselves and those known to them spiritual consciousness and qualities of tranquillity, confidence, and reliance on God. The elevated conversations that have occurred as a result, whether remotely or in person, have been a source of comfort and inspiration to many. Such efforts on your part provide a valuable service at this hour when many souls are perplexed and dismayed, unsure of what will be. However difficult matters are at present, and however close to the limits of their endurance some sections of societies are brought, humanity will ultimately pass through this ordeal, and it will emerge on the other side with greater insight and with a deeper appreciation of its inherent oneness and interdependence.
For now, our thoughts and our prayers are focused on the health and well-being of all the friends of God and all those among whom you dwell. We pray earnestly, also, for the Almighty to bestow upon you assurance, stamina, and staunch spirits. May your minds be ever bent upon the needs of the communities to which you belong, the condition of the societies in which you live, and the welfare of the entire family of humanity, to whom you are all brothers and sisters. And in your quiet moments, when no course of action other than prayer seems possible, then we invite you to add your supplications to our own and ardently pray for the relief of suffering. We turn to these words of ’Abdu’l-Bahá, Whose whole existence was an example of selfless commitment to the well-being of others:
O Thou Provider! Assist Thou these noble friends to win Thy good pleasure, and make them well-wishers of stranger and friend alike. Bring them into the world that abideth forever; grant them a portion of heavenly grace; cause them to be true Bahá’ís, sincerely of God; save them from outward semblances, and establish them firmly in the truth. Make them signs and tokens of the Kingdom, luminous stars above the horizons of this nether life. Make them to be a comfort and a solace to humankind and servants to the peace of the world.
Quotations from the Writings on Teaching
Bahá’u’lláh has said:
“O ye beloved of God! Repose not yourselves on your couches, nay bestir yourselves as soon as ye recognize your Lord, the Creator, and hear of the things which have befallen Him, and hasten to His assistance. Unloose your tongues, and proclaim unceasingly His Cause. This shall be better for you than all the treasures of the past and of the future, if ye be of them that comprehend this truth.”
’Abdu’l-Bahá teaches us:
“It is at such times that the friends of God avail themselves of the occasion, seize the opportunity, rush forth and win the prize. If their task is to be confined to good conduct and advice, nothing will be accomplished. They must speak out, expound the proofs, set forth clear arguments, draw irrefutable conclusions establishing the truth of the manifestation of the Sun of Reality.”
“Then look thou not at the degree of thy capacity, look thou at the boundless favour of Bahá’u’lláh; all-encompassing is His bounty, and consummate His grace.”
“Turn thy face toward the Kingdom of God, ask for the bestowals of the Holy Spirit, speak, and the confirmations of the Spirit will come.”
Shoghi Effendi has stated:
“If the friends always waited until they were fully qualified to do any particular task, the work of the Cause would be almost at a standstill! But the very act of striving to serve, however unworthy one may feel, attracts the Blessings of God and enables one to become fitted for the task.”
“Today the need is so great on the part of humanity to hear of the Divine Message, that the believers must plunge into the work, wherever and however they can, heedless of their own shortcomings, but ever heedful of the crying need of their fellow-men to hear of the teachings in their darkest hour of travail.”
Qualities and Attitudes of the teacher
“Speak, therefore; speak out with great courage at every meeting. When thou art about to begin thine address, turn first to Bahá’u’lláh, and ask for the confirmations of the Holy Spirit, then open thy lips and say whatever is suggested to thy heart; this, however, with the utmost courage, dignity and conviction.”
“The Baha’i teacher must be all confidence. Therein lies his strength and the secret of his success. Though single-handed, and no matter how great the apathy of the people around you may be, you should have faith that the hosts of the Kingdom are on your side, and that through their help you are bound to overcome the forces of darkness that are facing the Cause of God. Persevere, be happy and confident, therefore.”
Detachment (Book 6 Unit 2 Section 8)
Baha’u’llah has declared:
“If they arise to teach My Cause, they must let the breath of Him Who is the Unconstrained, stir them and must spread it abroad on the earth with high resolve, with minds that are wholly centered in Him, and with hearts that are completely detached from and independent of all things, and with souls that are sanctified from the world and its vanities. It behoveth them to choose as the best provision for their journey reliance upon God, and to clothe themselves with the love of their Lord, the Most Exalted, the All-Glorious. If they do so, their words shall influence their hearers.”
Abdu’l-Baha has said:
“These shall labour ceaselessly, by day and by night, shall heed neither trials nor woe, shall suffer no respite in their efforts, shall seek no repose, shall disregard all ease and comfort, and, detached and unsullied, shall consecrate every fleeting moment of their lives to the diffusion of the divine fragrance and the exaltation of God’s holy Word.”
The Power of Divine Assistance
“Be not dismayed, O peoples of the world, when the day star of My beauty is set, and the heaven of My tabernacle is concealed from your eyes. Arise to further My Cause, and to exalt My Word amongst men. We are with you at all times, and shall strengthen you through the power of truth. We are truly almighty. Whoso hath recognized Me, will arise and serve Me with such determination that the powers of earth and heaven shall be unable to defeat his purpose.”
Bahá’u’lláh wishing to reveal the full potency of His invincible power asserts:
“By the righteousness of God, should a man, all alone , arise in the name of Bahá and put on the armor of His love, him will the Almighty cause to be victorious, though the forces of earth and heaven be arrayed against him.”
Abdu’l-Bahá has said:
“He will come to your aid with invisible hosts, and support you with armies of inspiration from the Concourse above; He will send unto you sweet perfumes from the highest Paradise, and waft over you the pure breathings that blow from the rose gardens of the Company on high. He will breathe into your hearts the spirit of life, cause you to enter the Ark of salvation, and reveal unto you His clear tokens and signs. Verily is this abounding grace. Verily is this the victory that none can deny.”
“…Rest ye assured that if a soul ariseth in the utmost perseverance and raiseth the Call of the Kingdom and resolutely promulgateth the Covenant, be he an insignificant ant he shall be enabled to drive away the formidable elephant from the arena, and if he be a feeble moth he shall cut to pieces the plumage of the rapacious vulture.”
“Whensoever holy souls, drawing on the powers of heaven, shall arise with such qualities of the spirit, and march in unison, rank on rank, every one of those souls will be even as one thousand, and the surging waves of that mighty ocean will be even as the battalions of the Concourse on high.”
“Be not grieved at the smallness of your number and thank God for the power of your spirits. He shall assist you with such a confirmation whereat minds will be astonished and souls will be amazed.”
“Arise with every power to assist the Covenant of God and serve in His vineyard. Be confident that a confirmation will be granted unto you and a success on His part is given unto you. Verily, He shall support you by the angels of His holiness and reinforce you with the breaths of the Spirit that ye may mount the Ark of Safety, set forth the evident signs, impart the spirit of life, declare the essence of His commands and precepts, guide the sheep who are straying from the fold in all directions, and give the blessings. Ye have to use every effort in your power and strive earnestly and wisely in this new century. By God, verily the Lord of Hosts is your support, the angels of heaven your assistance, the Holy Spirit your companion and the Center of the Covenant your helper. Be not idle, but active and fear not.”
And in the Paris Talks Abdu’l-Bahá has said:
“Remember not your own limitations; the help of God will come to you. Forget yourself. God’s help will surely come! When you call on the Mercy of God waiting to reinforce you, your strength will be tenfold.” “Look at me: I am so feeble, yet I have had the strength given me to come amongst you: a poor servant of God, who has been enabled to give you this message! I shall not be with you long! One must never consider one’s own feebleness, it is the strength of the Holy Spirit of Love, which gives the power to teach. The thought of our own weakness could only bring despair. We must look higher than all earthly thoughts; detach ourselves from every material idea, crave for the things of the spirit; fix our eyes on the everlasting bountiful Mercy of the Almighty, who will fill our souls with the gladness of joyful service to His command `Love One Another’.”
In the quotations below Baha’u’llah tells us that we should arise to guide souls to His Cause. He assures us that, when we do so, the hosts of divine inspiration descend upon us and assist us. Confident in the unfailing assistance of Baha’u’llah, we should detach ourselves from all things, be unrestrained as the wind, and spread the glad-tidings of His Revelation in every direction.
“Gird up the loins of thine endeavor, that haply thou mayest guide thy neighbor to the law of God, the Most Merciful. Such an act, verily, excelleth all other acts in the sight of God, the All-Possessing, the Most High.”
“By the righteousness of God! Whoso openeth his lips in this Day and maketh mention of the name of his Lord, the hosts of Divine inspiration shall descend upon him from the heaven of My name, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.”
“Whoso ariseth to teach Our Cause must needs detach himself from all earthly things, and regard, at all times, the triumph of Our Faith as his supreme objective.”
“Be unrestrained as the wind, while carrying the Message of Him Who hath caused the Dawn of Divine Guidance to break.”
“When the victory arriveth, every man shall profess himself as believer and shall hasten to the shelter of God’s Faith. Happy are they who in the days of world-encompassing trials have stood fast in the Cause and refused to swerve from its truth.”
“O Son of Being! Make mention of Me on My earth, that in My heaven I may remember thee, thus shall Mine eyes and thine be solaced.”
Perfection and humility (Book 6 Unit 2 Section 10)
The teacher of the Cause is not expected to be perfect. What is required is to set a goal and to work conscientiously towards it. One must be willing to walk the path towards perfection no matter how far off the final goal may appear. And it is essential to remember that to walk this path, one must possess humility. For without humility, success becomes the cause of downfall, and the seeds that one sows in the hearts of others become contaminated. ’Abdu’l-Baha tells us:
“The teacher, when teaching, must be himself fully enkindled, so that his utterance, like unto a flame of fire, may exert influence and consume the veil of self and passion. He must also be utterly humble and lowly so that others may be edified, and be totally self-effaced and evanescent so that he may teach with the melody of the Concourse on high—otherwise his teaching will have no effect.”
And in another passage He cautions us:
“In accordance with the divine teachings in this glorious dispensation we should not belittle anyone and call him ignorant, saying: ‘You know not, but I know’. Rather, we should look upon others with respect, and when attempting to explain and demonstrate, we should speak as if we are investigating the truth, saying: ‘Here these things are before us. Let us investigate to determine where and in what form the truth can be found.’ The teacher should not consider himself as learned and others ignorant. Such a thought breedeth pride, and pride is not conducive to influence. The teacher should not see in himself any superiority; he should speak with the utmost kindliness, lowliness and humility, for such speech exerteth influence and educateth the souls.”
And Shoghi Effendi tells us:
Perhaps the reason why you have not accomplished so much in the field of teaching is the extent you looked upon your own weaknesses and inabilities to spread the message. Bahá’u’lláh and the Master have both urged us repeatedly to disregard our own handicaps and lay our whole reliance upon God. He will come to our help if we only arise and become an active channel for God’s grace. Do you think it is the teachers who make converts and change human hearts? No, surely not. They are only pure souls who take the first step, and then let the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh move them and make use of them. If any one of them should even for a second consider his achievements as due to his own capacities, his work is ended and his fall starts. This is in fact the reason why so many competent souls have after wonderful services suddenly found themselves absolutely impotent and perhaps thrown aside by the Spirit of the Cause as useless souls. The criterion is the extent to which we are ready to have the will of God operate through us.
Stop being conscious of your frailties, therefore; have a perfect reliance upon God; let your heart burn with the desire to serve His mission and proclaim His call; and you will observe how eloquence and the power to change human hearts will come as a matter of course.
Shoghi Effendi will surely pray for your success if you should arise and start to teach. In fact the mere act of arising will win for you God’s help and blessings.”
True sacrifice (Book 6 Unit 2 Section 7)
Another condition which helps us maintain joy in our services to the Cause is our willingness to exert effort and to sacrifice. We use the word “sacrifice” frequently in our daily lives. If a good friend is daparting on a trip at dawn, we wake up early to be with him before he leaves. We say that we have sacrificed a few hours of sleep. Someone dear to us may be sick; we sacrifice a few hours of our favorite pastime to care fro him. We say that we are sacrificing our comfort if we have to walk a long distance to school every day and that we are sacrificing money, we would normally spend on our family when we contribute to a worthy cause.
Service to the Faith also involves sacrifice. We have to take time away from other things to attend Baha’i activities. We have to accept discomfort, expend some of our material means, and even renounce some of our plans and dreams. However, we should understand that, in doing so, we are leaving behind the things of this world and gaining spiritual happiness and furthering our spiritual progress. God forbid, we should ever think we are doing Him a favor when we serve the Faith. The opportunities of service with which we are presented are bestowed upon us by God, and our attitude in service should be one of humble gratitude and thankfulness.
“Labor is needed, if we are to seek Him; ardor is needed, if we are to drink of the honey of reunion with Him; and if we taste of this cup, we shall cast away the world.”
“…rest ye not, seek ye no composure, attach not yourselves to the luxuries of this ephemeral world, free yourselves from every attachment, and strive with heart and soul to become fully established in the Kingdom of God. Gain ye the heavenly treasures. Day by day become ye more illumined. Draw ye nearer and nearer unto the threshold of oneness.”
We should always remember that the true nature of sacrifice is to renounce that which is lower for that which is higher. Therefore, although sacrifice involves pain, it is in reality the bearer of joy. ’Abdu’l-Baha says:
“Until a being setteth his foot in the plane of sacrifice, he is bereft of every favor and grace; and this plane of sacrifice is the realm of dying to the self, that the radiance of the living God may then shine forth.”
The example of ’Abdu’l-Baha (Book 6, Unit 2, Section 17)
The Guardian tells us:
“Let us too bear in mind the example which our beloved Master has clearly set before us. Wise and tactful in His approach, wakeful and attentive in His early intercourse, broad and liberal in all His public utterances, cautious and gradual in the unfolding of the essential verities of the Cause, passionate in His appeal yet sober in argument, confident in tone, unswerving in conviction, dignified in His manners—such were the distinguishing features of our Beloved’s noble presentation of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh.”
Magnified be Thy name, O my God, for that Thou hast manifested the Day which is the King of Days, the Day which Thou didst announce unto Thy chosen Ones and Thy Prophets in Thy most excellent Tablets, the Day whereon Thou didst shed the splendor of the glory of all Thy names upon all created things. Great is his blessedness whosoever hath set himself towards Thee, and entered Thy presence, and caught the accents of Thy voice.
I beseech Thee, O my Lord, by the name of Him round Whom circleth in adoration the kingdom of Thy names, that Thou wilt graciously assist them that are dear to Thee to glorify Thy word among Thy servants, and to shed abroad Thy praise amidst Thy creatures, so that the ecstasies of Thy revelation may fill the souls of all the dwellers of Thine earth.
Since Thou hast guided them, O my Lord, unto the living waters of Thy grace, grant, by Thy bounty, that they may not be kept back from Thee; and since Thou hast summoned them to the habitation of Thy throne, drive them not out from Thy presence, through Thy loving-kindness. Send down upon them what shall wholly detach them from aught else except Thee, and make them able to soar in the atmosphere of Thy nearness, in such wise that neither the ascendancy of the oppressor nor the suggestions of them that have disbelieved in Thy most august and most mighty Self shall be capable of keeping them back from Thee.
Praise be to Thee, O Lord my God! I implore Thee, by Thy Name which none hath befittingly recognized, and whose import no soul hath fathomed; I beseech Thee, by Him Who is the Fountainhead of Thy Revelation and the Dayspring of Thy signs, to make my heart to be a receptacle of Thy love and of remembrance of Thee. Knit it, then, to Thy most great Ocean, that from it may flow out the living waters of Thy wisdom and the crystal streams of Thy glorification and praise.
The limbs of my body testify to Thy unity, and the hair of my head declareth the power of Thy sovereignty and might. I have stood at the door of Thy grace with utter self-effacement and complete abnegation, and clung to the hem of Thy bounty, and fixed mine eyes upon the horizon of Thy gifts.
Do Thou destine for me, O my God, what becometh the greatness of Thy majesty, and assist me, by Thy strengthening grace, so to teach Thy Cause that the dead may speed out of their sepulchers, and rush forth towards Thee, trusting wholly in Thee, and fixing their gaze upon the orient of Thy Cause, and the dawning-place of Thy Revelation.
Thou, verily, art the Most Powerful, the Most High, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
Say: Magnified be Thy Name, O Lord my God! I beseech Thee by Thy Name through which the splendor of the light of wisdom shone resplendent when the heavens of divine utterance were set in motion amidst mankind, to graciously aid me by Thy heavenly confirmations and enable me to extol Thy Name amongst Thy servants.
O Lord! Unto Thee have I turned my face, detatched from all save Thee and holding fast to the hem of the robe of Thy manifold blessings. Unloose my tongue therefore to proclaim that which will captivate the minds of men and will rejoice their souls and spirits. Strengthen me then in Thy Cause in such wise that I may not be hindered by the ascendancy of the oppressors among Thy creatures nor withheld by the onslaught of the disbelievers amidst those who dwell in Thy realm. Make me as a lamp shining throughout Thy lands that those in whose hearts the light of Thy knowledge gloweth and the yearning for Thy love lingereth may be guided by its radiance.
Verily, potent art Thou to do whatsoever Thou willest, and in Thy grasp Thou holdest the kingdom of creation. There is none other God but Thee, the Almighty, the All-Wise.
Darkness hath encompassed every land, O my God, and caused most of Thy servants to tremble. I beseech Thee, by Thy Most Great Name, to raise in every city a new creation that shall turn towards Thee, and shall remember Thee amidst Thy servants, and shall unfurl by virtue of their utterances and wisdom the ensigns of Thy victory, and shall detach themselves from all created things.
Potent art Thou to do Thy pleasure. No God is there but Thee, the Most Powerful, He Whose help is implored by all men.
I beg of Thee, O my God, by Thy power, and Thy might, and Thy sovereignty, which have embraced all who are in Thy heaven and on Thy earth, to make known unto Thy servants this luminous Way and this straight Path, that they may acknowledge Thy unity and Thy oneness, with a certainty which the vain imaginations of the doubters will not impair, nor the idle fancies of the wayward obscure. Illumine, O my Lord, the eyes of Thy servants, and brighten their hearts with the splendors of the light of Thy knowledge, that they may apprehend the greatness of this most sublime station, and recognize this most luminous Horizon, that haply the clamor of men may fail to deter them from turning their gaze towards the effulgent light of Thy unity, and to hinder them from setting their faces toward the Horizon of detachment.
My God, aid Thou Thy servant to raise up the Word, and to refute what is vain and false, to establish the truth, to spread the sacred verses abroad, reveal the splendors, and make the morning’s light to dawn in the hearts of the righteous.
Thou art, verily, the Generous, the Forgiving.
Thou knowest, O God, and art my witness that I have no desire in my heart save to attain Thy good pleasure, to be confirmed in servitude unto Thee, to consecrate myself in Thy service, to labor in Thy great vineyard and to sacrifice all in Thy path. Thou art the All-Knowing and the All-Seeing. I have no wish save to turn my steps, in my love for Thee, towards the mountains and the deserts to loudly proclaim the advent of Thy Kingdom, and to raise Thy call amidst all men. O God! Open Thou the way for this helpless one, grant Thou the remedy to this ailing one and bestow Thy healing upon this afflicted one. With burning heart and tearful eyes I supplicate Thee at Thy Threshold.
O God! I am prepared to endure any ordeal in Thy path and desire with all my heart and soul to meet any hardship.
O God! Protect me from tests. Thou knowest full well that I have turned away from all things and freed myself of all thoughts. I have no occupation save mention of Thee and no aspiration save serving Thee.
Insights about conversations with youth
Magnitude of the change called for
Attraction to beauty is one of the defining features of the human soul. It has been noted time and again that youth are attracted when the conversation engages their higher nature and in some way conveys the vision of Bahá’u’lláh. Firm in the conviction that all youth long to build a better world, teachers are often rewarded when they share the magnitude of the change called for by Bahá’u’lláh, both at the level of the individual as well as the profound process of transformation that must occur at the level of society.
The educational process
Aware of the magnitude of the transformation required, it is important that youth gain a glimpse into how this will be achieved. Developing our ability to share the nature of the educational process with others has been important to building a shared understanding of the unique role that this process plays in the progress of humanity. This understanding appears to be a source of enduring motivation.
Study of materials
One of the most effective ways some teachers have learned to do this is through the study of materials with others, even in the context of a first conversation. It has been witnessed, in multiple settings, that the study of material (be it a lesson from a junior youth text, the children’s class materials, a prayer, or quotations from Book 1) changes the nature of the conversation with youth. Obstacles are overcome, though indirectly, and youth come to see more tangibly the possibilities to achieve the noble goals and lofty vision of material and spiritual progress in their communities.
Role of the Training Institute
Another important feature of the conversations that has emerged is the ability to share the role of the training institute as an instrument of limitless potentiality equipping people with the qualities, skills and capacities to serve. Moreover, the training institute provides an environment of mutual support and accompaniment, individuals arise and serve in the company of others enabling difficult tasks to become easier. When teachers share personally the role the training institute has played in enabling them to do what they were not able to do before, and are generous in sharing its impact upon their own lives, it has aided others to see the power of the training institute and conceive of themselves as being able to walk a path of service. Exploring the nature of the training institute courses provides youth with an opportunity to know that they don’t start as champions of justice, rather participation in the training institute assists them to move towards this aim.
Introducing the first Ruhi book Reflections on the Life of the Spirit
The number of localities in which Reflections on the Life of the Spirit, the first book of the main sequence of courses offered by the Ruhi Institute, is studied throughout the world has been on the rise for many years. In the vast majority of cases, the material is read and discussed by a group of friends, who may constitute a study circle that meets regularly, may come together in a campaign arranged for intensive study, or may gather in a camp during school holidays. Whatever the occasion, one member of the group acts as a tutor. The relationship between the tutor and the other participants is not one of teacher-to-student; all are consciously engaged in a process in which everyone is seeking to learn. But the tutor is not a detached and passive facilitator of discussion either.
Participants worldwide come to this first institute course from diverse backgrounds. Some are already members of the Bahá’í community who hope to enhance their capacity to serve the Cause they have embraced. Others see the course as the beginning of their investigation of the Bahá’í Faith as a religion. Still others are attracted to Bahá’í ideals and wish to acquaint themselves with the community’s aims and endeavors. And there are an increasing number of young people in particular who, wanting to develop their capacity to serve society, often through one or another program promoted by the Bahá’í community, take the course as an initial step.
From the outset, it should be clear to every participant that the courses of the Ruhi Institute trace a path of service to humanity, upon which we each walk at our own pace, assisting and being assisted by others. Treading this path implies the pursuit of a twofold moral purpose: to attend to one’s own spiritual and intellectual growth and to contribute to the transformation of society. Progress on the path entails the development of a number of capabilities that require understanding and knowledge, spiritual qualities and praiseworthy attitudes, as well as a host of abilities and skills. The sources of knowledge upon which the books of the Institute draw are, on the one hand, the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith and, on the other, the accumulating experience of the worldwide Bahá’í community in furthering material and spiritual civilization. It is Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of the individual we can become and of the civilization we can build that inspires the Institute. It is assumed that all participants, independent of background, are open to embracing this vision, which is explicit in every unit of every book.
Two fold moral Purpose
The courses of the Ruhi Institute are intended to help participants walk a path of service. We walk this path impelled by a twofold sense of purpose—to grow spiritually and intellectually and to contribute to the transformation of society. These two aspects of our purpose are inseparable from each other. Bahá’u’lláh exhorts us in one passage:
“Do not busy yourselves in your own concerns; let your thoughts be fixed upon that which will rehabilitate the fortunes of mankind and sanctify the hearts and souls of men.”
In another passage, He makes clear:
” . . . the purpose for which mortal men have, from utter nothingness, stepped into the realm of being, is that they may work for the betterment of the world and live together in concord and harmony.”
In relation to our inner condition, He declares:
“A pure heart is as a mirror; cleanse it with the burnish of love and severance from all save God, that the true sun may shine therein and the eternal morning dawn.”
And ’Abdu’l-Bahá tells us:
“Your hearts must be pure and your intentions sincere in order that you may become recipients of the divine bestowals.”
What should be the focus of our thoughts and concerns?
For what purpose have we stepped from utter nothingness into the realm of being?
With what should we cleanse the mirror of our heart?
What are some of the conditions that attract divine bestowals?
- Are any of the following true?
– First you should take care of yourself, and then you can take care of others.
– If you are always helping others, you will end up losing sight of your own goals.
– You are your closest friend.
– What is most important is finding out what makes you happy.
– Follow your dreams, and they will lead you to happiness.
– As long as you are not hurting anyone else, it does not matter what you do.
– It is all right for your motives to be selfish, as long as you do some good.
A conviction central to our twofold purpose is that we have all been created noble. Bahá’u’lláh says:
“O Son of Spirit! I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.”5
To be true to the nobility of our souls, we must turn to the Source of our being and seek enlightenment from Him. One of the most compelling ways to achieve this is through prayer. The Bahá’í Writings tell us that its chief goal is “the development of the individual and society, through the acquisition of spiritual virtues and powers. It is the soul of man that has first to be fed. And this spiritual nourishment prayer can best provide.”6
Material and Spiritual Progress
- What are the goals of our community?
Youth Declaration (Book 5)
We are no longer children and should seriously think about our future. The world in which we live is filled with suffering and afflicted with disunity. We want to build a new world where people live in harmony and where war and poverty no longer exist. In order to build a new world we should begin with our own community. That is why we now speak about material and spiritual progress in our small village, Alegrías. To progress materially, we should improve our agriculture, take better care of our health, have more schools and be active in business and industry. With the fruits of our labors, we should turn our homes, our village and our surroundings into places of great beauty, where we can all enjoy a clean and sanitary environment. Material progress for all people is not attainable if we do not achieve spiritual progress. Without spirituality, a few become rich while the rest continue to live in poverty. To reach our goals as a community we should be united, act with justice, cooperate and be friendly with one another, and be generous, honest and trustworthy. Justice, generosity, love and kindness, honesty and trustworthiness are spiritual qualities through which we achieve both material and spiritual progress. It is not only to build a better world that we need spiritual qualities. We also need them for the life of our soul, which does not end on this earth. Material and spiritual progress means that each day we strive for excellence in the material and spiritual aspects of our lives, that we work hard to build a just and peaceful world, and that we prepare ourselves for an eternal life of joy and happiness.
Disintegration and crisis
- What is crisis; do we need it?
- What are some of the destructive forces which are assailing the world? How do we see these affecting our lives and the life of our community?
- How should we react when calamities and difficulties occur in our lives?
- What are the constructive forces which are starting to act on the world? How are they manifesting themselves?
- Which of these forces should we strive to be aligned with? How can we ensure that we are not unintentionally reinforcing antiquated or destructive tendencies in our own lives?
- How can we support one another to drive forward the forces of integration in our community?
In a day such as this, when the tempests of trials and tribulations have encompassed the world, and fear and trembling have agitated the planet, ye must rise above the horizon of firmness and steadfastness with illumined faces and radiant brows in such wise that, God willing, the gloom of fear and consternation may be entirely obliterated, and the light of assurance may dawn above the manifest horizon and shine resplendently.
’Abdu’l-Bahá cited by the Universal House of Justice in the Naw-Rúz 2020 Message to the Bahá’ís of the World.
Human society has arrived at a stage in its evolution when unity of the whole human race is imperative. To not appreciate this reality is to not grasp the meaning of the current crisis in world affairs. The principle of the oneness of humankind identifies the code for resolving the far-reaching issues involved …this principle implies not only the ultimate peaceful goal that it signifies but involves, as well, your participation in the painful tasks entailed in attaining it. Hence, you appreciate the global connotations of instances of oppression at home or abroad and accept the responsibility of striving, guided by the principles of the Faith and in collaboration with others whenever possible, to combat injustice, for the common good.
- Universal House of Justice
From a letter dated 21 December 2006 written by the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’ís
- How does upholding justice at the individual level contribute to upholding it at the collective level?
- How does justice differ at the individual and collective levels?
- What do oppression and tyranny look like at the scale of a neighbourhood or a community?
- How do we uphold justice at the community level?
- How can we, as a community, increase access, generation, application and diffusion of knowledge? What challenges are we facing?
“The light of men is Justice. Quench it not with the contrary winds of oppression and tyranny. The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men. The ocean of divine wisdom surgeth within this exalted word, while the books of the world cannot contain its inner significance.” – Bahá’u’lláh
‘Kalimát-i-Firdawsíyyih (Words of Paradise)’, published in Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Wilmette:US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1988), p.67
Change through prayer
- How can prayer help our hearts and communities to change?
- How do we know if we’re changing in the right direction?
- If change is sometimes uncomfortable, how do we know if our discomfort is good, or if we’re doing something wrong?
Is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself, both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions?
Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán (Wilmette: US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1989) p.240.
- What are some barriers to oneness which exist in our communities? How can we work to overcome them?
- What are some opportunities for us to promote justice in our community?
- What habits, behaviors and attitudes do each of us exhibit, even subtly or subconsciously, which might perpetuate racism?
- What efforts can we make as a group of friends to overcome racism in our neighborhoods? How can we bring “the light of love” to the hearts of our peers?
The evidences of discord and malice are apparent everywhere, though all were made for harmony and union. …The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. We cherish the hope that the light of justice may shine upon the world and sanctify it from tyranny.
Baha’u’llah, “Tablet of Maqsúd”, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Wilmette: US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1988), p.164
…Racism persists precisely because it is deeply rooted in outdated attitudes and erroneous beliefs. Accordingly, any campaign to eradicate racism must change those attitudes and beliefs. Although necessary, political action alone cannot offer a permanent solution. In the Baha’i view, racism will be eliminated only when the peoples of the world are convinced of the oneness of humankind and proceed to reconstruct their lives and their societies on that basis. The recognition of the oneness of mankind would require the abandonment of all doctrines of superiority, many of which still persist implicitly despite our preoccupation with its more obvious forms such as apartheid. More importantly, by establishing the foundation for true co-operation, the recognition of this principle would raise civilisation to a new level. At this higher level, no one need fear oppression, even those who were formerly oppressors. The sharing of power and responsibility among all citizens can then be implemented without fear, through appropriate legal measures and equitable social and economic policies.
- Bahá’í International Community, ‘Eliminating Racism’, Statement to the forty-fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Agenda Item 17 (b): Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Second Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, 8 February 1989