Friday, November 10, 2017

A Broad Outline for Ruhi 6

Teaching the Cause. Ruhi Book 6.

It seems to me that a number of years ago a lot of the friends went from Book 1 to Book 6, sometimes visiting Book 2 along the way. And at that time, many of us missed doing the practices, and then wondered why we weren't seeing these wonderful changes in our culture that we were expecting.

Well, as you know, dear Reader, without a change in our behaviour, the rest is immaterial.

Going from Book 1 to Book 6 was, as regards to the practices, just too big a leap for most of us. We honestly had little to no clue what designing and implementing our own personal teaching plan meant. And besides, most of our communities didn't have a teaching campaign in place that we could join.

No. We really needed to start with the basic practices of studying a prayer with a friend, and then presenting some simple concepts to them through the talks in Book 2. We needed to begin to understand what it meant to tell a story in an effective manner, through our practice of Book 4. And getting a working understanding of what it meant to work with children and junior youth really gave us the grounding for working with adults, who often act in childish manners.

Once we had these basics down, and had the wonderful experience of having our tutors walking with us on our own personal path of service, accompanying us through our difficulties, and rejoicing in our victories, then we had a far better understanding of the greater dynamics of truly teaching the Cause, instead of merely mentioning the name of the Faith to someone as we quickly passed by them on the trail.

So, Book 6. The first unit, 6:1, talks about the significance of teaching, and the importance of both "being" and "doing". They remind us that there are certain things that we have to do in our life, and that we don't need to shy away from something that is a "duty". It's like food, to me. I could, if I wanted, lament the fact that I have to eat, and do all that I can to avoid this onerous duty. Or, if I prefer, I could take joy in the cooking process, preparing foods that I love, researching the ones that are healthy, and savoring each and every meal, sharing it with friends and family.

They go on to really drive home the spiritual pieces that we need to develop in ourselves in order to be more effective teachers of the Cause. After all, I may be wrong, but I don't think anyone is going to want to listen to what I have to say about the love of God when I'm moping and miserable. No. They talk about how our own spiritual state directly affects our effectiveness. (I can't believe I got those two words in their correct position in that previous sentence.) But they also remind us that all success in this arena comes from God.

And what is meant by success? Declarations? Not necessarily. Success is found in the sharing of these ideas, hopefully to someone who is open to hearing about them. Success is found in watching as these ideas latent within the Word of God take root, both within others and within ourselves, and begin to grow in the hearts. Success is found in witnessing this transformative process continually taking place in our lives.

That is part of the spiritual nature of this process of teaching.

6:2 goes further into this. They focus specifically on the qualities and attitudes of the teacher, so much so that they've even called the unit that. It is a time to not only look at these various qualities, but to also identify the implications of each of them. It gives us the opportunity to really look at how each and every one of the qualities and attitudes, whether it is purity, selflessness, courage, wisdom, or any of the other myriad attributes they look at, affect our teaching work.

They remind us of the importance of that posture of learning, taking simple steps of action, and then reflecting on the actual experience we have jut had. We are reminded that there is no singular method, but that we must continually look at our situation and decide upon the appropriate method for any given moment. And we are encouraged to consult with others. After all, it is a community based on the sacred Word that we are trying to build. If we are to teach by example, then being part of an integrated community is part of that example.

And all this leads us right into 6:3.

Now, this is a good time to remember a bit about what we have already learned in Book 2. Remember those simple presentations in Book 2? We learned a little bit about presenting a simple topic, usually no more than a dozen lines. Here we go into a bit more depth, with Anna's presentation.

Aside: Anna's presentation caused a lot of problems for a lot of people a few years back. I remember so many of us going door to door, meeting people for the first time, and trying to get through all of this presentation, which our friends had so thoughtfully printed in a little booklet for us.


We looked at the talks, but forgot to look at what was around them.

Anna and Emilia (remember Emilia?) are friends. They have had many conversations, as evidenced in 6:3:7, where the presentation begins "From our previous conversations..." In later sections we will see that they have other conversations in the midst of all of this presentation. Anna regularly checks with Emilia to make sure it's ok to continue.

But most of all, to me, Emilia likes the logical way in which Anna presents all this stuff.

Why is this important to me?

Simple. I know what I'm talking about, so I have no trouble following it. Others don't. That is why they go into detail about understanding the concepts we are sharing, in 6:3:4. This becomes our outline, ensuring that we keep the presentation on topic, and simple, adding in information and details as necessary. It keeps us from making those frenzied hour-long talks in which we try to get in as much information as we can, force feeding it to our audience, out of fear that we may never be able to talk to them again about the Faith, and thereby ensuring that will likely run away if we ever try to approach them about the Faith again.

By looking at the concepts, we can see the outline of Anna's presentation, and see just how logical it is. She begins with recognizing that Faith is continual, and that God is essentially unknowable. From there, she points out that we do, however, know that God loves us, since He sent us Messengers, leading into the Eternal Covenant. From there, she goes into Baha'u'llah, as the latest step in this eternal and progressive Revelation from God to humanity.

And that's the first part. That's it. A wonderful place to pause.

Next she talks about unity and diversity, which just makes sense as unity is the pivot around which all of Baha'u'llah's teachings revolve.

The third talk is more about Baha'u'llah, and the fourth is about the Bab. The next little talk introduces the wonderful figure of 'Abdu'l-Baha. You see the progression?

After this she talks a bit about the laws of the Faith, and then the concept of community, inviting her to join it, if she wishes.

When you outline it, this talk just makes sense. And you will notice that it's a very different order of presentations to those that were given in Book 2. one of my favorite exercises is to take all three outlines, 2:2, 2:3 and 6:3, and look at different types of people. Which of these outlines would you use for an atheist? How about a born-again Christian? What about a new mother? Since we now have three outlines to look at, we can be more discerning in which one we would use at any given moment.

This is, in a sense, the beginning of a coherent teaching plan. We identify our contacts, and make a note of their perspective and interests. From there, we can choose the most effective approach.

Once we understand our own basic personal teaching plan, we can then integrate our plans together into a more comprehensive community teaching plan.

As we learn to reflect on our own teaching work, we can begin to get a better idea of receptive populations. For example, if I have a dozen people that I am teaching, and other community members do, too, we may discover that I have one contact from a particular community, and so does everyone else. I won't think of them as a receptive population, but someone who is looking at all the teaching plans, who is in contact with all the teachers, may recognize this trend. And they may be in a position to help us see this, thereby focusing our attention on this receptive group.

And finally, once we've identified a group that is receptive, we need to work systematically to effectively teach this population. The last few sections deal with this. What does a teaching campaign look like? What are the nitty grity details of the day to day aspects of the campaign? Well, this is where we draw on the experience of other communities, and learn from them. They conclude with just a little bit about how the training institute plays a part in this teaching campaign, and that, dear Reader, leads us into Book 7, where we help to fulfill the need for more tutors to offer Book 1 to all those who express interest through this campaign in which we have just engaged.

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