Bahai study circles teach value of unlimited love

Voices of Religion

Posted: Friday, November 24, 2006

At times, it can seem that human society is falling apart altogether. Yet developments in all arenas of life are often the source of hope and signs of an emerging sense of individual and collective responsibility.

Bahaullah’s writings illuminate this seeming contradiction. Like an adolescent moving to adulthood, humanity is growing up.

And Bahais are growing up too. Around the world Bahais are striving to contribute to the building of a global society that reflects humanity’s coming of age byparticipating in study circles.

The transformation of the individual is not an isolated process — not ascetic nor centered wholly on one’s self-fulfillment.

In Bahai terms, the process of one’s individual development and fulfillment is tied to the centering of one’s energies on the betterment of human-kind and serving the needs of the community and the larger society.

Study circles are regular gatherings of people interested in an in-depth systematic study. The purpose of this study is to gain a deeper understanding of the holy word, a feature that infuses a high degree of spirituality into the process.

Usually set in a home atmosphere, participants in the courses learn, for example, to teach values to children, to engage in community service activities, to assist and empower others to independently investigate spiritual truths, to learn how to competently express one’s views, and to engage oneself in serving the broader needs of society for unity, justice and equity.

Prayer and meditation, fighting one’s spiritual battles, living according to spiritual laws and teachings — all are essential elements in fulfilling life’s purpose, but such efforts reach their fullest transformative effect when they are dedicated to service.

By learning about our spiritual reality and our individual role in the progress of society, we can better understand our purpose in life and the way to improve our own lives and the lives of those around us.

All are welcome in the classes, regardless of their ideas or beliefs.

Typically, a study circle is led by a tutor or facilitator. His or her role, however, is not that of a traditional teacher, who imparts knowledge to the group.

Rather, the tutor serves merely as a guide to assist participants to come to their own understandings and to generate new knowledge about themselves and their communities, a reciprocal process in which everyone learns.

The following are excepts from a study circle book:

n “Our True Wealth

“Our spiritual qualities, our knowledge, our service to humanity constitute our true wealth. Material possessions are necessary and acceptable, but only if they are used for the promotion of human virtue and happiness.

“To develop our spiritual qualities, we must be aware of the high spiritual station God has destined for each of us and steadily move toward it. Our eyes should be fixed on excellence; we should not be satisfied with mediocrity.

“Living according to the standards of today’s society lulls us into mediocrity. Many people think that excellence is achieved through competition with others, but, in fact, competition entangles us even further in the trappings of society.”

n “Finding Unlimited Love

“The human heart was created to love. It is in its nature to be bound to something. If it is not to be attached to earthly things and is to be able to reflect the light of God, it has to be bound to God.

“There are many ways of expressing love. We love our families, our friends, our community and our country. However, all of these forms of love are limited.

“The only unlimited love is the love of God. His love is all-embracing. When our hearts are pure and reflect his love, we express unlimited and unselfish love for the entire human race.

“Unless our love for others is illumined by the limitless love of God, it can take on undesirable characteristics, such as jealousy, possessiveness and prejudice.

Around the world Bahais are striving to contribute to the building of a global society that reflects humanity’s coming of age.

Paul Gray is a member of the Baha’i faith. Sunday devotions at the Ridgeway Baha’i Center on Knight Drive are at 11 a.m. Children’s class is at 11:30 a.m.

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