“Let your vision be world embracing…” Bahá’u’lláh
The nature of the training institute can be understood by imagining an ongoing conversation taking place among friends in thousands upon thousands of social spaces—neighbourhoods, villages, schools, universities, and workplaces—concerned with contributing to the advancement of civilization through the application of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings. As the number of participants in the conversation grows, processes to achieve collective spiritual and material goals in each space are set in motion.
Bahá’ís hail from all walks of life. Young and old, men and women alike, they live alongside others in every land and belong to every nation. They share a common goal of serving humanity and refining their inner-lives in accordance with the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. The community to which they belong is one of learning and action, free from any sense of superiority or claim to exclusive understanding of truth. It is a community that strives to cultivate hope for the future of humanity, to foster purposeful effort, and to celebrate the endeavours of all those in the world who work to promote unity and alleviate human suffering.
The Community as One
We may think of the work of the training institute, then, as maintaining a system of distance education to fuel and facilitate this evolving conversation. The principal elements of the system include the “study circle”, the tutor, and a set of materials, grounded in the Bahá’í writings, that express the spiritual insights and the knowledge gained in the process of translating Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings into reality. The materials help the individual enter into the discussion of what the Bahá’í community has learned through experience as it has tried to contribute to the advancement of civilization. More crucially, they seek to involve him or her in this process of learning and in the diffusion of relevant knowledge.
A study circle is a small group that meets at least once or twice a week for a few hours, usually in the home of one of its members, to study the course materials. Anyone aged fifteen or older, whether a Bahá’í or not, is welcome to take part. The group is brought together by a tutor associated with the training institute. Tutors do not hold any special status. They are simply those who are further along in their study of the materials. Everyone can potentially serve as a tutor on some occasions, while taking part as a member of a study circle on others. All those participating are seen as active agents of their own learning, and tutors strive to create an atmosphere that encourages individuals to assume ownership for the educational process in which they are engaged. A study circle should be a space that leads to the spiritual and moral empowerment of individuals.
EXPLORING THIS SUBJECT
“If the learned and worldly-wise men of this age were to allow mankind to inhale the fragrance of fellowship and love, every understanding heart would apprehend the meaning of true liberty, and discover the secret of undisturbed peace and absolute composure.” Bahá’u’lláh