Monday, November 6, 2017

A Broad Outline for Ruhi 2

Book 2 of the Ruhi curriculum also shows us a beautiful path, or series of paths, for exploring the Writings and applying them in our daily lives.

Oh, by the way, one thing I forgot to mention is that this became more obvious to me when I began adding my own titles to each section, so as to make it easier for me to recall what they were about. Once I did that, I then transferred the titles to the first page of each unit. This gave me a working table of contents, enabling me to find what I was looking for more easily. This has been incredibly useful when tutoring. What surprised me, however, was how obvious it made the over outline of the series to me.

Back to Book 2, though. Arising to Serve.

2:1 talks about the joy of service. As the entire primary theme of all the books is service to humanity, founded on the Writings of Baha'u'llah, it makes sense that they would choose this as the broad theme for Book 2. After all, once you have a better understanding of your goal in life, service is the natural outcome. Natural, for what it's worth, means that this sense of wanting to serve grows organically, slowly over time, getting stronger and stronger. It doesn't mean that you have it in full strength as soon as you are done with Book 1. It means that the seed has been planted and will grow, given the right conditions.

As they are aware, through experience, of the many pitfalls that can occur during service, they have recognize that the need for joy is a primary element that is required to sustain it. Throughout this section we learn that the joy is in the service itself, much like writing a blog. I mean, I don't actually get to see you read this. I rarely get feedback. I am not able to see any possible changes that you make in your life as you consider what little bit I have to offer, and look at the Writings again with these few thoughts in mind. I almost never hear about your reflections, your thoughts, and your insights. I only trust that my little grain of sand offered here will be of some use to someone out there. If not, at least it helps clarify my own thoughts, and that's worth something, too. I find joy in thinking about these issues, and discussing them, and recognizing as I type these words how the Writings have changed my life over the years.

The joy of service. Without it, or if the joy is found in results instead of in the service itself, then the act of serving is too easily diminished.

Now that we have looked at this a little bit, they go into the idea of a particular line of service that can easily be offered: visiting someone in their home and talking with them about real issues.

In 2:2:1, we begin with the attitude we have when sharing ideas with others. Like the unit on the joy of teaching, this is a wonderful reminder.

From there we go on to the themes themselves: the Eternal Covenant, Baha'u'llah, unity, the Feast, the fund, and teaching the Cause.

Why these? And why in this order?

As usual, I'm not really sure, but here are my thoughts on it.

By starting with the Eternal Covenant, a member of any faith background can relate. The only significant difference is where they may feel that covenant last stopped. In many ways, this shows the same wisdom of establishing a good starting point that Baha'u'llah used in the Kitab-i-Iqan. No matter their faith, we agree with them that the messengers of God in their religion are true. By beginning with this theme, we continue the conversation by saying that not only are they correct, but that God's promie in their own faith is also true.

From there we go on to Baha'u'llah, the latest of God's Messengers in that Eternal Covenant. Now don't forget, this is not a single conversation. Every one of these themes is a conversation unto themselves. While we may begin with a presentation based on the talks of 'Abdu'l-Baha, there are likely questions that follow. Over tea, or lunch, or a snack, the conversation probably goes on from the talk into all sorts of thoughts they may have, or questions the want to ask. This talk about Baha'u'llah is another conversation entirely, but logically follows on the first.

After this talk, the most likely question is "What did He teach?" In a word, unity. This is the very pivot around which all His teachings revolve. Eternal Covenant to Baha'u'llah to unity. It's a very simple, straightforward, logical path.

And these, by the way, are the three themes that we are to share with others as the practice for this unit. They are themes that we can easily share with anyone at all. History, history, and a basic concept. No problem.

From there, unity leads to community, which is what we need to hold a Feast. The Feast strengthens and reinforces the community, gives it shape and guidance. At the Feast, one of the things we naturally talk about is the Fund. After all, a community needs money to do some of the the things that it wants to do. And what does it want to do? Teach. So unity leads to the Feast which gets us to talk about financial issues, which are needed to help fund our teachings efforts, either through the rental of space, or the purchase of materials, or all sorts of other things that a community might require.

There you have it, 2:2. A beautiful path of concepts that lead us to teaching and service. The Eternal Covenant to Baha'u'llah to unity to the Feast to the funds to teaching. Straightforward and systematic, all leading from pretty much any starting point to teaching.

Fine, I can hear you say, but what about 2:3? Surely that can't be as logical and straightforward, can it?

Well, let's see. It begins, in 2:3:1, with a basic review, and the thought of how to introduce the teachings naturally in our conversations. The reminders in this short section are numerous, and very important, and I'd encourage you to go back and look at it again, even though I know you've done this book many times, dear Reader.

After this review, and simple guidance, we look briefly at the Master, and how He taught. I mean, this just makes sense, right? After all, we're using His talks as our launching point, and we've already looked a little bit at the life of Baha'u'llah. Might as well look at the Master, too, and His example.

From there, we get right into it: Baha'i' beliefs.

We begin with a short section on the need for an educator. Now, remember 2:2:2, and the talk on the Eternal Covenant? Well, what if the person is an atheist? Starting with a talk about the Eternal Covenant would be silly. They'd disagree with you right there. No. This is a much better starting point for a conversation about the Faith. Every atheist I have ever met would agree with this concept. However, and this is a big however, they would also say that you can't just take any teacher's word for it.

And that leads us right into the next teaching: Independent investigation of the truth. This is another theme that almost everyone will agree with. And, of course, it leads to lots of questions. One of the most common questions is what it is that we need to study. What is it that we are investigating? For us not only is it science, but also questions of moral behaviour.

Not surprisingly, this leads us into our third teaching: the need for a Manifestation. Depending on the person I am talking with, I will phrase this in many different ways. I won't insist on my own comfortable terms, but will try to use terms that have meaning to them. In the end, it allows us to talk about where we learn morality, and the difference between the Founders of the various Faiths, and where those faiths have gone since their founding.

This leads me to talk about Baha'u'llah's life, once again. You see, it always comes back to sharing a bit about Baha'u'llah Himself. And again, this is in a historical context, not in the lofty "Lo! A child was born unto the house of Mirza Buzurg" sort of thing you see when Baha'i's fall over themselves in awe of His station. No. It's more in the sense of "Hey, have you heard about this great teacher from the 19th century?" I mean, I'm happy to talk about Gandhi, so why not Baha'u'llah?

Anyways, this leads us into the next theme, which is the maturation of humanity. Anyone with half a brain cell can see that something in the life of humanity has changed in the past 200 years. By talking about our collective life and likening it to a maturing individual, not only is it a good analogy, but it also makes the person with whom we're having this conversation feel a bit better about themselves. They are more likely to agree with you. From there you can begin to talk about the various signs of maturity, and on and on.

But what is the greatest sign of moving through the turbulent times of adolescence to adulthood? Peace. There is generally a greater sense of peace both within and without once you move past that stage. And in terms of world peace, one of the greatest parts of that puzzle is the oneness of humanity. The realization of our basic oneness will lead to a greater sense of justice throughout the world. True justice will naturally help us realize, in our everyday reality, the equality of women and men, for most of the problems in this vast arena are based on basic injustices. To help us realize the equality of women and men, we best begin by teaching it to children, and therefore universal education is also of prime importance.

So, 2:3 begins with the need for an educator which leads us to the independent investigation of truth, which has the component of the need for a Manifestation, which leads us to Baha'u'llah. His Revelation is a sign of the maturation of humanity which will lead us to world peace, which is based on the oneness of humanity, which leads to justice which helps us recognize the equality of women and men, which is most easily taught to children. Another great path to share a whole whack of concepts in a logical and straightforward manner.

There you have it: Book 2, in a nutshell. A wide number of topics, all laid out like pearls on a string. You can stop and examine any single one of them to your heart's content, or carry on to whichever theme you prefer, knowing all the while that they all relate one to the other, as we arise to serve.

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