Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Last weekend I was helping a friend out by subbing for her as a tutor of Ruhi Book 7. She had to go out of town and didn't want that to interrupt the flow of the course. It was kind of funny, as she had told me that they were at the last section of the second unit, so I should prepare for the arts in the third unit. When I got there, the participants told me that they were about five sections from the end. I guess my friend made a typo about the section. We actually finished where we were supposed to begin.

But this session got me thinking.

When we began, I explained that I really didn't know the participants and I wanted to get to know them a bit before getting into the book itself. In the midst of our conversation, I asked a question that I think is pertinant to Ruhi Book 7, the one that helps train you to be a tutor of the previous books. "What is the difference between teaching and training?"

I think many of us never really stop to think about that. I mean, have you ever noticed how the Universal House of Justice refers to this core activity? I may be mistaken, but I don't believe that they refer to it as "Stucy Circles". They call it "the training institute", of which the study circle is one component. Some of the other pieces of this institute are things like the sequence of courses, but I'm sure you already know all this.

Teaching, to me, is the imparting of information, while training is the gradual development of skills. Sports players are not taught how to be better players; they undergo training. And this training requires practice, reflection, information, analysis, and more practice, and on and on.

Based on the conversation that we had, the other participants and I, it seemed timely to share this quote from 'Abdu'l-Baha. After I read it, their reaction told me that it was useful, and so, with that in mind, here it is:
The Blessed Perfection suffered innumerable ordeals and calamities, but during His lifetime He trained in all regions many souls who were peerless. The purpose of the appearance of the Manifestations of God is the training of the people. That is the only result of Their mission, the real outcome. The outcome of the whole life of Jesus was the training of eleven disciples and two women. Why did He suffer troubles, ordeals and calamities? For the training of these few followers. That was the result of His life. The product of the life of Christ was not the churches but the illumined souls of those who believed in Him. Afterward, they spread His teachings.

It is my hope that you all may become the product of the life of Bahá'u'lláh and the outcomes of His heavenly training. When the people ask you, "What has Bahá'u'lláh accomplished?" say to them, "He has created these; He has trained us."
Thinking about this gave me a deeper appreciation for this core activity. We, or at least I, often refer to it as a study circle, which seems to place the emphasis on study. This gives great weight to the book learning side of it.

But when I think of it as a part of the training institute, then the emphasis is more properly placed on the training and practice side of it.

Today I believe we could do no better than to remember these words of 'Abdu'l-Baha and look at what He is trying to tell us. The purpose of Baha'u'llah's life was not to build the temples and the Administrative Order: it was to train us. Each and every one of us.

Oh, and as a tutor, or as a teacher of the Faith, that means not just us. It means those to whom we are reaching out, also. Truly each and every one of us.

When I am sitting there in a study circle, listening to the questions and insights of the other participants, I try to remember that I am listening to those saints and angels that Baha'u'llah is helping to raise. When I listen to the heartfelt questions of the seekers with whom I have the pleasure of talking, I need to keep in mind that these are the souls that He has sent to help train me, too. And that they, also, are being trained. We are all being trained to raise up a new civilization based upon spiritual principles, in which all peoples are given the love and respect due each human being upon this planet.

This is why He suffered. This is the outcome of His life.

And this is one of the reasons why I am so grateful to be able to walk this path with each of you reading this. Thanks for making it possible.


  1. so glad I stopped and checked your blog today. this post is just what I needed. Thank you. :)

  2. Oh boy, did I blow it in this one. Entirely my mistake.

    The study circle is one of the core activities, and it falls under the jurisdiction of the Training Institute, which also oversees the junior youth groups and the children's classes. Thanks to all those who corrected me.