Monday, April 26, 2010

Ridvan 2010 Message - Take 5

There is nothing quite as exciting as studying the Writings with someone else. My friend, Samuel, and I get together a few times a week to study the Kitab-i-Iqan, but have recently put that on hold in order to study this Ridvan message. Today, we had a few questions for each other and have become very excited about what we feel we learned.

First of all, in paragraph 4, there is a reference to "the illustrative example in Book 6 of the Ruhi Institute". Obviously this is a reference to what has become known as "Anna's presentation". That was an easy one.

But then came the first phrase in paragraph 5, "The significance of this develpoment..."  Which development?

Ah, that was when it became interesting.

We believe that it refers to paragraph 4. "Whether the first contact... elicits an invitation for them to enrol... is not an overwhelming concern. More important is that every soul feel welcome to join" us in trying to better society. This is such an important development. To start, it shows a greater understanding of the first quote in the Ruhi books: "The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds, through commendable and seemly conduct."

You don't have to be a member of the Baha'i community to help better the world.

Many people, both within and without the community, have felt that you had to join first and then help better society. Now we understand that we can encourage everyone to help better society and that will have the secondary effect of seeing some people enrol, but that "is not an overwhelming concern".

This shift in perspective, the knowledge that every one can help better society, is significant. It leads to greater unity, for we no longer have an "us and them" mentality, and helps us "consort with the followers of all religions".

The realization that this was a new paradigm was very uplifting. Of course, it did not take away the importance of confirming people who are ready to enrol, nor diminsh the importance of direct teaching, but rather placed it a healthier framework that leads to greater unity.

Then we moved on to paragraph 6. "Within this context..."

Uh oh. What context?

Back we went to paragraph 5.

"Those who serve in these settings... would rightly view their work in terms of community building." This is "a process that seeks to raise capacity within a population."

Ah, given that context, that of community building as opposed to one of conversion, the rest of the paragraph made far more sense.

As you know, and as I feel obligated to repeat, this is all my own opinion, and is nothing official. I may be way off base, but this my read of it. If I've made any gross errors, please feel free to write me with corrections.

In paragraph 6, they give us the definition we've all been waiting for: recpetivity. In the context of community building, someone who is receptive is willing "to participate in the process of community building set in motion by the core activities." In other words, if we are looking for a receptive neighbourhood, it will be one in which you can invite people to help us teach children, or whatever else we are doing, and they will say "yes".

Ifwe see our job as building community, helping raise a new civilization, then this only makes sense. A receptive person wants to help do this.

"...The task before (us) this coming year is to teach within one or more receptive populations..." To put it in simpler terms, our job is to work within neighbourhoods where the local people are willing to do some of the work. We are, in short, there to help them raise a new civilization.

Oh, and while we do this, we need to be "employing a direct method in (our) exposition of the fundamentals of (our) Faith..." They need to be aware of where we receive our inspiration and guidance. It's only fair.

By this point, Samuel and I were just buzzing. Then we got to paragraph 7. "To meet this challenge..."

Which challenge?

"...Teaching within one or more receptive populations..."

"To meet this challenge" of "teaching within one or more receptive populations", we need to "strengthen the institute process".

As an indiviudal, I can do that by tutoring, and helping train other tutors. I can also do this by working with the participants. When we are told to study a prayer with a friend, I can ask the participants if they have someone in mind. "Would you like me to join you?" This sense of joining people in their practices is another major development, as I mentioned previously. It is also referred to in paragraph 19.

But now, instead of the old style of deepening, this new paradigm that has come into being in the past decade is more outward looking. Rather than asking people to come into our tiny little circle of friends studying in someone's living room, we are going out there and meeting people "in the field of service" where "knowledge is tested, questions arise out of practs, and new levels of understanding are achieved."

Even in the summer schools, I am seeing a practice component. We are at a new level of development.

And it is so exciting.

I would love to write more, but I have to go and pick up my son from school.


  1. There is a huge Banner for scientology on your home page.

  2. Thanks parVeen.

    I'll be sure not to click on it.

    Actually, when I checked, I didn't see it anywhere, but I'm not too concerned. I can't control what Google puts there, so it's out of my hands. I did, however, remove the really large banner ad, as too often it was something just downright offensive.

  3. Although we know and read in messages and so on there are many ways to serve, this Ridvan letter was intended to reassure that. Clearly others can improve the world, not just Baha'is and my best new friends in recent years are hugely diverse, where we've been "shoulder to shoulder" on social economic projects. Hopefully more Baha'is will gain extensive new bonds of friendship - it makes this life much richer personally and collectively.

  4. Thanks. The least this review can do is to help me think more accurately at "every single word of the message" and not just try to find out the general meaning.