In Ruhi Book 10.1, (Accompanying One Another on the Path of Service) pages 86-87, we are asked to put some passages together on the themes Enidia identified. These included:
- Period of Youth
- Twofold Moral Purpose
- Relationship Between Personal and Social Transformation
- Constructive and Destructive Forces Operating in Society
- Material and Spiritual Progress
- Service to the Community
- Educating Younger Generations
- Early Adolescence as a Critical Stage of Life
- The Institute Process and the Educational Process it Promotes
Our study circle, consisting of long-term deepened Bahá’ís, did some research and combined our collective quotes and posted them in this article, hoping that these would help others going through Book 10.
The next step was to undertake a thorough exploration of each theme. We each chose a topic, researched it using the quotes we’d gathered and prepared a small talk, to help us get familiar and comfortable using the language and concepts, in preparation for having a conversation with some youth on these themes.
Although everyone prepared an oral talk, they were invited to submit their talks for publication here, to again help others with this assignment and with elevating the levels of discourse in society.
What follows is a couple of those submissions. We’d be very grateful to have you add your own presentations, so we can have an even better compilation. We hope you find our efforts helpful!
The Younger Generations by Jane Macmillan
In the following talk, Jane assumes she is talking to Chantal.
Hello Chantal – I am so glad that you were able to come and meet me today – lets go and have a hot bowl of soup at the Grind!!
You remember last time you were asking me about our programs for children in the community and I mentioned that we have four core activities that we offer – Devotional, Study Circles, Junior Youth Empowerment and Children’s classes – I think you were particularly interested in the children’s classes because Rosie is 6 years old.
We really believe that the younger generations are the most precious treasures that a community can possess and that in our material world it is so easy for children to be overwhelmed by the aggressive pursuit of materialistic ends – so the moral and spiritual education of children assumes vital importance.
All children have capacity and are noble beings – so we like to think of them as a mine filled with precious gems that can be discovered and polished – so that they see with both their inner and outer eyes and become aware and learn to express themselves.
I know that you were interested in the lesson plans too – so a typical lesson might start with a prayer or reflection and then an exploration into some of the words contained in that prayer – for instance: “O God! Guide me, protect me, illumine the lamp of my heart and make of me a brilliant star…” So we would look at the words guide, protect, illumine and discuss their meaning and gain a little more awareness of what we are praying for. This might then be followed with a story that further illustrates these sentiments and virtues and then a song which would have some bearing on the lesson.
By letting them discuss and experience the word of God they will gradually foster habits and patterns of conduct that are a reflection of those spiritual qualities and become more aware of their interactions with others.
Children are like young plants that need to be nurtured, respected, and treated as noble beings, all have talents and faculties that can be encouraged along.
Maybe next time we meet we can have a chat about the Junior Youth Empowerment program as I know you also have an 11 year old at home.
Material and Spiritual Progress by Susan Gammage
Central to the Bahá’í teachings is a belief that that there must be a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual requirements of life.
At this crucial point in the unfoldment of the Plan, it seems appropriate that we reflect on the nature of the contributions which our growing, vibrant communities will make to the material and spiritual progress of society.
Material and spiritual progress are two very different things
- Material progress comes from the dictates of a material civilization
- Spiritual progress comes from following the laws of God
Material progress ensures the happiness of the human world. Spiritual progress ensures the happiness and eternal continuance of the soul.
We need material progress. For example, if a man is successful in his business, art, or profession, he is able to increase his physical wellbeing and give his body the amount of ease and comfort in which it delights. If we aren’t careful, we can surround ourselves with every modern convenience and luxury, and deny ourselves nothing.
It’s OK to have wealth, but it must serve humanity and its use must accord with spiritual principles. Material advantages do not elevate our spirits, so we need to be careful not to forget the things of the soul.
In material civilization good and evil advance together and maintain the same pace. For example, consider the material progress of man in the last century. Schools and colleges, hospitals, philanthropic institutions, scientific academies and temples of philosophy have been founded, but hand in hand with these evidences of development, the invention and production of means and weapons for human destruction have correspondingly increased.
Motivated by the desire to serve humanity, Bahá’ís are improving the material and spiritual conditions in their surroundings, by multiplying the core activities, involving themselves in social action projects and participating in the prevalent discourses of society. These activities contribute to constructive social change as we learn to combine the teachings of Baha’u’llah with knowledge accumulated from different fields of human endeavor.
There’s a children’s prayer I like to say to balance my own material and spiritual progress:
I am earthly, make me heavenly; I am of the world below, let me belong to the realm above; gloomy, suffer me to become radiant; material, make me spiritual, and grant that I may manifest Thine infinite bounties. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá (Baha’i Prayer Book, page 29)
Only by improving spiritually as well as materially, can we make any real progress, and become perfect beings. Only when material and spiritual civilization are linked and coordinated, will happiness be assured. Then humankind will achieve extraordinary progress, the sphere of human intelligence will be immeasurably enlarged, wonderful inventions will appear, and the spirit of God will reveal itself; all men will consort in joy and fragrance, and eternal life will be conferred upon the children of the Kingdom.
O God, hasten the day!