Friday, June 29, 2012

Direct Teaching

"What is", she said, quite sincerely, "direct teaching?"

Oh, that is such a great question, I thought.

Direct teaching. It is a phrase that we see over and over again, but how many of can actually define it? I know that I sure can't. At least, I couldn't define it to my friend.

I recalled the phrase from Ruhi Book 6 (unit 2, section 15), in which the Guardian says that we "must use the direct or indirect method", but could't recall much more than that. Oh, and I also remembered a message from the International Teaching Centre in which they point out that when the level of enrolments has stalled in areas with intensive programs of growth, what is missing is the direct, collective teaching.

But that still doesn't answer the question, what is "direct teaching"?

Well, now we can say, "Here. Watch this video." Of course, this video has vbeen around for a little while, but it is still a good one.

So, what is "direct teaching"? Shoghi Effendi describes it as an "open and bold assertion of the fundamental verities of the Cause", as opposed to a more cautious approach, which is also necessary and wise, at times. He goes to say that we should "consider the degree of his hearer's receptivity, and decide for himself the suitability of either the direct or indirect method of teaching..." In other words, it ain't always appropriate.

Sometimes the indirect method is exactly what we need. It completely depends on the person with whom we are talking, and not a thing to do with ourselves. When the Teaching Centre says that collective and direct teaching is missing in those areas where enrollments have stalled does not mean that we should only use the direct method, just that we are not using it enough.

Teaching directly means that we are assuming an open, decisive, and challenging, but not confrontational, tone. It means that we know the individual well enough to understand that they are open to hearing such an assertion without it somehow being an impediment to their connection with Baha'u'llah. This understanding can take moments to achieve, or much longer, depending upon the circumstances. I have met some people where, after just a few moments, I knew I could be more direct when talking about my own beliefs. There were others with whom I wasn't sure for quite some time.

We only need to look at 'Abdu'l-Baha to see the importance of this. To some He spoke very clearly and openly about Baha'u'llah. To other He unfolded Baha'u'llah's station more gradually, slowly "disclosing to the eyes of an unbelieving world the implications of a Truth which, by its own challenging nature, it is so difficult for it to comprehend and embrace."

Shoghi Effendi says it so well when describing what the master would do. "It was He, our beloved 'Abdu'l-Bahá, our true and shining Exemplar, who with infinite tact and patience, whether in His public utterances or in private converse, adapted the presentation of the fundamentals of the Cause to the varying capacities and the spiritual receptiveness of His hearers. He never hesitated, however, to tear the veil asunder and reveal to the spiritually ripened those challenging verities that set forth in its true light the relationship of this Supreme Revelation with the Dispensations of the past. Unashamed and unafraid when challenged to assert in its entirety the stupendous claim of Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá'ís, whether laboring as individuals or functioning as an organized community, feel certain that in the face of the apathy, the gross materialism, and the superficiality of society today, a progressive disclosure of the magnitude of the claim of Bahá'u'lláh would constitute the most effective means for the attainment of the end so greatly desired by even the staunchest and most zealous advocate of the Faith."

This all comes to a head for me, in my own life, and in the way in which I share the Faith, when I think about a particular friend of mine. He said, and said it so well, "The more whacko the sect, the greater their claim."

So, when we come across and say "Baha'u'llah is the return of Christ" right off the bat, we appear to fall into that position. Liken this to how late it was in the Ministry of the Bab, Baha'u'llah or even Jesus before They announced Their Station.

Look at how late it was before Jesus asked Peter "Who do you say I am?" The Bab fulfilled the proofs for Mulla Husayn before He made His claim. Baha'u'llah sent back to the Babis the Kitab-i-Iqan, the Hidden Words, the Seven Valleys, the Four Valleys, and many other Works before He made His claim.

Why would I think that I can openly proclaim Baha'u'llah's station right off the bat for just anyone. Nah. I need to think about it, pray about it, and really be aware of the other person before making that decision. And I need to be completely open to the possibility of teaching directly and not let my own fears get in the way, or else I'll never do it.

And finally, dear Reader, when I am open to it, the obviousness of using the direct method comes up far more often then I ever would have thought. (Now, I wonder, did I answer that lady's question at the beginning of this article?)


  1. How many Baha'is can meet people or interact with them without thinking - "Are they a candidate for joining the Baha'i Faith"? It's almost like pyramid selling so that every person becomes some one you can sign up rather than a person you can be "genuine" with for the sake of human relationships. Intent, Intent, Intent!!!!

    1. Oh, you are so correct. It is a great challenge for many of us. But in the end, for myself, I realized that it doesn't matter to me what religion someone is, as long as they are striving to be the best person they can be. It is, as you say, all about intent.

      Oh, and that's also why I do not participate in the various forms of pyramid sales, or direct marketing schemes as they now call it.

  2. But Baha'i belief can affect how one views NonBaha'is, and those who do not join the Faith when given the message (Teaching).... for in the Tablet of Ahmad, which Baha'is say every day, it says:

    "He who turns away from this Beauty hath turned away from all the Messengers of the past, and showeth pride to God from all Eternity to all Eternity".

    1. Yes, you are correct. If one sees that line from the Tablet of Ahmad as a dogmatic challenge, then they are forgetting the universal nature of all the Messengers.

      In this line, Baha'u'llah is clear when He says that the person must be turning away, which is not the same as not seeing. For one to turn away, one must first be turned towards.

      The overriding thing about teaching, which I think is so fundamental to the Baha'i Faith, is to recognize the universal nature of all the Messengers, and to not distinguish between them. In Gleanings 24 He says that we should make no "distinction between any of the Manifestations of His Cause".

      I think the point you make is so important that I want to actually write a full article about it, instead of trying to reply in a short note here.

      Thanks for bringing it up.

  3. "He (Baha'u'llah) is the King" and all are "under His shadow" (before and after for the next 500 thousand years). I'd suggest looking up your quotes on this subject because they say both (that Messengers are all the same, but He is at the top of em). Do you think both are true?