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Abstract:
A glossary of Baha'i principles and concepts, as derived from hundreds of messages of the Universal House of Justice.
Notes:
Mirrored with permission from susangammage.com/a-bahai-glossary.

A Baha'i Glossary

by Neil McMillan and Brian Didier

edited by Susan Gammage.
2016

Note: This glossary is very much a work-in-progress based on the more than 440 messages of the Universal House of Justice that are accessible on the World Wide Web.

The glossary is an initial attempt to systematize a steadily evolving terminology that it is truly worth studying in order to frame and understand what is happening both within and outside the Bahá'í community in order to communicate not only with Bahá'ís but also with any other human beings on this planet.

Since all the quotations are dated, it becomes surprising to realize that some concepts that we believe are quite recent have actually been articulated for quite a long time - 10 or 20 years or more.

Interestingly, the most recent item on Bahá'í World News Service (BWNS) titled "Five decades of guidance foster a growing youth movement" implies this idea of an evolving body of guidance.

Accompaniment

"Most noteworthy in this regard is the spirit of initiative shown by believers who extend the range of their endeavors to assist others also striving to tread a path of service. Having acquired the capacity to serve as tutors of institute courses, they take up the challenge of accompanying participants in their initial attempts to perform acts of service until they, too, are ready to start their own study circles and help others do the same, widening in this way the scope of the institute's influence and bringing eager souls into contact with the Word of God. This particular aspect of the institute process, which serves to multiply the number of active supporters of the Faith in a self-perpetuating manner, holds much promise, and we hope that its potential will be realized in the coming Plan. "Let him not be content," are the words of the Guardian referring to every teacher of the Cause, "until he has infused into his spiritual child so deep a longing as to impel him to arise independently, in his turn, and devote his energies to the quickening of other souls, and the upholding of the laws and principles laid down by his newly adopted Faith." (2005)

For more information please see What is Accompaniment and How Do We Do It?

Avoidance of false dichotomies

"Closely related to the habit of reducing an entire theme into one or two appealing phrases is the tendency to perceive dichotomies, where, in fact, there are none. It is essential that ideas forming part of a cohesive whole not be held in opposition to one another. In a letter written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi warned: "We must take the teachings as a great, balanced whole, not seek out and oppose to each other two strong statements that have different meanings; somewhere in between, there are links uniting the two." How encouraged we have been to note that many of the misunderstandings of the past have fallen away as appreciation for the provisions of the Plan has grown. Expansion and consolidation, individual action and collective campaigns, refinement of the inner character and consecration to selfless service--the harmonious relationship between these facets of Bahá'í life is now readily acknowledged. It brings us equal pleasure to know that the friends are on their guard, lest new false dichotomies be allowed to pervade their thinking. They are well aware that the diverse elements of a programme of growth are complementary. The tendency to see activities, and the agencies that support them, in competition with one another, a tendency so common in society at large, is being avoided by the community." (2010)

Centrality of knowledge

"One (fundamental concept) is the centrality of knowledge to social existence. The perpetuation of ignorance is a most grievous form of oppression; it reinforces the many walls of prejudice that stand as barriers to the realization of the oneness of humankind, at once the goal and operating principle of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation. Access to knowledge is the right of every human being, and participation in its generation, application and diffusion a responsibility that all must shoulder in the great enterprise of building a prosperous world civilization--each individual according to his or her talents and abilities." (2010)

Change of culture

"We feel moved, as we take pause on this festive occasion, to make clear that what evokes such a deep sense of pride and gratitude in our hearts is not so much the numerical feat you have achieved, remarkable as it is, but a combination of developments at the more profound level of culture, to which this accomplishment attests. Chief among them is the rise we have observed in the capacity of the friends to converse with others on spiritual matters and to speak with ease about the Person of Bahá'u'lláh and His Revelation. They have understood well that teaching is a basic requirement of a life of generous giving." (2010)

Clusters

"... smaller geographic areas. Most of these will consist of a cluster of villages and towns, but, sometimes, a large city and its suburbs may constitute an area of this kind. Among the factors that determine the boundaries of a cluster are culture, language, patterns of transport, infrastructure, and the social and economic life of the inhabitants." (2001)

Coherence

"And in those advanced clusters where activity governed by the framework of the Plan is in abundance and the demands of ensuring coherence amongst lines of action are most pressing, the evolving administrative structures offer glimmerings, however faint, of how the institutions of the Faith will incrementally come to assume a fuller range of their responsibilities to promote human welfare and progress. Clearly, then, the development of the individual, the community, and the institutions holds immense promise. But beyond this, we note with particular joy how the relationships binding these three are marked by such tender affection and mutual support." (2012)

"the capacity needed to employ with a high degree of coherence the instruments and methods which it has so painstakingly developed." (2010)

Collective worship

"In diverse settings, on every continent, groups of believers are uniting with others in prayer, turning their hearts in supplication to their Maker, and calling to their aid those spiritual forces upon which the efficacy of their individual and collective efforts depends. (2010)

Responding to the inmost longing of every heart to commune with its Maker, they carry out acts of collective worship in diverse settings, uniting with others in prayer, awakening spiritual susceptibilities, and shaping a pattern of life distinguished for its devotional character." (2008)

For more information please see Newsletter on Devotional Gatherings and Programs for Devotional Gatherings

Community-building

In every cluster, once a consistent pattern of action is in place, attention needs to be given to extending it more broadly through a network of co-workers and acquaintances, while energies are, at the same time, focused on smaller pockets of the population, each of which should become a centre of intense activity. In an urban cluster, such a centre of activity might best be defined by the boundaries of a neighbourhood; in a cluster that is primarily rural in character, a small village would offer a suitable social space for this purpose. Those who serve in these settings, both local inhabitants and visiting teachers, would rightly view their work in terms of community building. To assign to their teaching efforts such labels as "door-to-door", even though the first contact may involve calling upon the residents of a home without prior notice, would not do justice to a process that seeks to raise capacity within a population to take charge of its own spiritual, social and intellectual development. The activities that drive this process, and in which newly found friends are invited to engage--meetings that strengthen the devotional character of the community; classes that nurture the tender hearts and minds of children; groups that channel the surging energies of junior youth; circles of study, open to all, that enable people of varied backgrounds to advance on equal footing and explore the application of the teachings to their individual and collective lives--may well need to be maintained with assistance from outside the local population for a time. It is to be expected, however, that the multiplication of these core activities would soon be sustained by human resources indigenous to the neighbourhood or village itself - by men and women eager to improve material and spiritual conditions in their surroundings. A rhythm of community life should gradually emerge, then, commensurate with the capacity of an expanding nucleus of individuals committed to Bahá'u'lláh's vision of a new World Order. (Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 2010)

"... receptivity manifests itself in a willingness to participate in the process of community building set in motion by the core activities. In cluster after cluster where an intensive programme of growth is now in operation, the task before the friends this coming year is to teach within one or more receptive populations, employing a direct method in their exposition of the fundamentals of their Faith, and find those souls longing to shed the lethargy imposed on them by society and work alongside one another in their neighbourhoods and villages to begin a process of collective transformation. If the friends persist in their efforts to learn the ways and methods of community building in small settings in this way, the long-cherished goal of universal participation in the affairs of the Faith will, we are certain, move by several orders of magnitude within grasp." (2010)

The pattern of spiritual and social life taking shape in clusters that involves study circles, children's classes, junior youth groups, devotional meetings, home visits, teaching efforts, and reflection meetings, as well as Holy Day observances, Nineteen Day Feasts, and other gatherings, provides abundant opportunities for engagement, experience, consultation, and learning that will lead to change in personal and collective understanding and action. Issues of prejudice of race, class, and color will inevitably arise as the friends reach out to diverse populations, especially in the closely knit context of neighborhoods. There, every activity can take a form most suited to the culture and interests of the population, so that new believers can be quickened and confirmed in a nurturing and familiar environment, until they are able to offer their share to the resolution of the challenges faced by a growing Bahá'í community. For this is not a process that some carry out on behalf of others who are passive recipients--the mere extension of a congregation and invitation to paternalism--but one in which an ever-increasing number of souls recognize and take responsibility for the transformation of humanity set in motion by Bahá'u'lláh. (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 10 April 10 2011)

Efforts to engage circles of friends in the core activities--university students or young mothers, to mention but two-- make a valuable contribution to the overall community-building process under way. As the friends strive to creatively explore the possibilities around them in more and more parts of the cluster, new believers are welcomed, human resources raised up, and the pattern of community life that germinates through the core activities is gradually extended until it embraces all the believers and their associates. (International Teaching Centre, Insights from the Frontiers of Learning, April 2013, Sections 3.3)

The capacity to reach young people and assist them in carrying out acts of service, especially for establishing junior youth groups and children's classes in neighborhoods that have become centers of intense activity, offers great promise for the progress of clusters at every juncture along their path of development. However, experience has demonstrated that the process of community building falters if there is a sense that the work of the Plan is confined to the young or to certain neighborhoods alone. The House of Justice has emphasized the importance of a two-pronged approach to expansion and consolidation, involving endeavors throughout the localities in a cluster as well as in one or more receptive neighborhoods. The full pattern of activity envisioned for a thriving community requires involvement of the generality of believers. The friends everywhere can be assisted to overcome dichotomies, to grasp the intent of the Plan's community-building activities, and to determine the place each will choose in contributing to the collective effort. (Universal House of Justice, to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, 5 January 2015)

Conceptual framework

"the Bahá'í community's distinct spheres of endeavour are governed by a common, evolving, conceptual framework composed of mutually reinforcing elements, albeit these assume varied expressions in different domains of action." (2013)

Core activities

"The core activities of the Plan have attained a scale far outstripping that of the past year."(2003)

Invariably, opportunities afforded by the personal circumstances of the believers initially involved--or perhaps a single homefront pioneer--to enter into meaningful and distinctive conversation with local residents dictate how the process of growth begins in a cluster. A study circle made up of a few friends or colleagues, a class offered for several neighbourhood children, a group formed for junior youth during after-school hours, a devotional gathering hosted for family and friends--any one of these can serve as a stimulus to growth. What happens next follows no predetermined course. Conditions may justify that one core activity be given precedence, multiplying at a rate faster than the others. It is equally possible that all four would advance at a comparable pace. Visiting teams may be called upon to provide impetus to the fledgling set of activities. But irrespective of the specifics, the outcome must be the same. Within every cluster, the level of cohesion achieved among the core activities must be such that, in their totality, a nascent programme for the sustained expansion and consolidation of the Faith can be perceived. That is to say, in whatever combination and however small in number, devotional gatherings, children's classes and junior youth groups are being maintained by those progressing through the sequence of institute courses and committed to the vision of individual and collective transformation they foster. This initial flow of human resources into the field of systematic action marks the first of several milestones in a process of sustainable growth. (Universal House of Justice to the Continental Board of Counsellors, 28 Dec 2010)

Cycles of growth

"Such (intensive) programs (of growth) tend to consist of a series of cycles, each of several months' duration, devoted to planning, expansion, and consolidation." (2005)

Diffusion followed by penetration and suffusion

"At the inception of the Bahá'í community's first global Plan, Shoghi Effendi described in compelling language the successive stages by which the divine light had been kindled in the Siyah-Chal, clothed in the lamp of revelation in Baghdad, spread to countries in Asia and Africa even as it shone with added brilliancy in Adrianople and later in 'Akka, projected across the seas to the remaining continents, and by which it would be progressively diffused over the states and dependencies of the world. The final part of this process he characterized as the "penetration of that light ... into all the remaining territories of the globe", referring to it as "the stage at which the light of God's triumphant Faith shining in all its power and glory will have suffused and enveloped the entire planet." Though that goal is far from being fulfilled, the light already blazes intensely in many a region. In some countries it shines in every cluster. In the land where that inextinguishable light was first ignited, it burns bright despite those who would snuff it out. In diverse nations it achieves a steady glow across whole neighbourhoods and villages, as candle after candle in heart after heart is lighted by the Hand of Providence; it illuminates thoughtful conversation at every level of human interaction; it casts its beams upon a myriad initiatives taken to promote the well-being of a people. And in every instance it radiates from a faithful believer, a vibrant community, a loving Spiritual Assembly--each a beacon of light against the gloom." (2011)

Expansion phase

"As the experience of the friends has deepened, their capacity for fostering within a cluster a rich and intricate pattern of life, embracing hundreds or even thousands of people, has risen. How pleased we are to note the many insights the believers are gaining from their endeavours. They appreciate, for instance, that the Plan's gradual unfoldment at the level of the cluster is a dynamic process, one that is necessarily complex and does not lend itself to ready simplification. They see how it moves forward as they increase their ability both to raise up human resources and to coordinate and organize well the actions of those who arise. The friends realize that as these capacities are enhanced, it becomes possible to integrate a wider range of initiatives. Equally, they have come to recognize that when a new feature is introduced it requires special attention for some time, but that this in no way diminishes the significance of other aspects of their community-building endeavours. For they understand that if learning is to be their mode of operation, they must be alert to the potential offered by any instrument of the Plan that proves to be especially suited to a particular point in time and, where called for, invest greater energy in its development; it does not follow, however, that every person must be occupied with the same aspect of the Plan. The friends have also learned that it is not necessary for the principal focus of the expansion phase of every cycle of a programme of growth to be directed towards the same end. Conditions may require that in a given cycle, as an example, attention be primarily aimed at inviting souls to embrace the Faith through intensive teaching efforts, undertaken as individuals or collectively; in another cycle, the focus could be on multiplying a specific core activity."

Evolving framework for action

"... the adoption of an evolving framework for action has enabled the friends to progressively nurture and refine essential capacities, giving rise to simple acts of service at first, leading to more elaborate patterns of action, which in turn demanded the development of capacities still more complex." (2016)

"The first year of the Five Year Plan bears eloquent testimony to the spirit of devotion with which Bahá'u'lláh's followers have embraced the framework for action presented in our message of 27 December 2005 and their commitment to advancing the process of entry by troops. the framework for action presented in our message of 27 December 2005." (2007)

Homefront pioneers

"... national plans in these countries will need to make provision for the progressive opening of virgin areas through the settlement of homefront pioneers. Such goals can be met with relative ease if pioneers are experienced in institute programs and are able to use their methods and materials in raising up a group of dedicated believers who can carry the work of the Faith forward in the area." (2001)

Individuals

"supremely confident in the efficacy of the Plan's methods and instruments and remarkably deft at wielding them." (2009)

Importance of continuing right to the end of each Plan

"No Bahá'í should lose the priceless opportunity afforded by the remaining days of the Plan to reinforce in this way the foundation for the launching next Ridvan of an even more ambitious undertaking." (2005)

Importance of thoroughly studying each new Plan

"The friends and their institutions were urged to study the message (of 27 December 2005 to the Counsellors gathered in the Holy Land) thoroughly, and its content is no doubt well familiar to you." (2006)

For guidance on the current plan please see:

Study Guide for the 29 December 2015 Letter To the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors

Study Guide for the Ridvan 2016 Message

Interactions among individuals, institutions and communities

"By contrast, relations among the three corresponding actors in the world at large--the citizen, the body politic, and the institutions of society--reflect the discord that characterizes humanity's turbulent stage of transition. Unwilling to act as interdependent parts of an organic whole, they are locked in a struggle for power which ultimately proves futile. How very different the society which 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in unnumbered Tablets and talks, depicts--where everyday interactions, as much as the relations of states, are shaped by consciousness of the oneness of humankind. Relationships imbued with this consciousness are being cultivated by Bahá'ís and their friends in villages and neighbourhoods across the world; from them can be detected the pure fragrances of reciprocity and cooperation, of concord and love. Within such unassuming settings, a visible alternative to society's familiar strife is emerging. So it becomes apparent that the individual who wishes to exercise self-expression responsibly participates thoughtfully in consultation devoted to the common good and spurns the temptation to insist on personal opinion; a Bahá'í institution, appreciating the need for coordinated action channelled toward fruitful ends, aims not to control but to nurture and encourage; the community that is to take charge of its own development recognizes an invaluable asset in the unity afforded through whole-hearted engagement in the plans devised by the institutions. Under the influence of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation, the relationships among these three are being endowed with new warmth, new life; in aggregate, they constitute a matrix within which a world spiritual civilization, bearing the imprint of divine inspiration, gradually matures." (2012)

"In relationships among the friends, then, this development in culture finds expression in the quality of their interactions. Learning as a mode of operation requires that all assume a posture of humility, a condition in which one becomes forgetful of self, placing complete trust in God, reliant on His all-sustaining power and confident in His unfailing assistance, knowing that He, and He alone, can change the gnat into an eagle, the drop into a boundless sea. And in such a state souls labour together ceaselessly, delighting not so much in their own accomplishments but in the progress and services of others. So it is that their thoughts are centred at all times on helping one another scale the heights of service to His Cause and soar in the heaven of His knowledge. This is what we see in the present pattern of activity unfolding across the globe, propagated by young and old, by veteran and newly enrolled, working side by side." (2010)

"Of particular significance is the widening impact of the dynamism flowing from the interactions between the three participants in the Plan. Institutions, from the national to the local level, see with ever greater clarity how to create conditions conducive to the expression of the spiritual energies of a growing number of believers in pursuit of a common goal. The community is serving more and more as that environment in which individual effort and collective action, mediated by the institute, can complement each other in order to achieve progress. The vibrancy it manifests and the unity of purpose that animates its endeavours are drawing into its swelling ranks those from every walk of life eager to dedicate their time and energies to the welfare of humanity. That the doors of the community are more widely open for any receptive soul to enter and receive sustenance from Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation is clear. No greater testament is there to the efficacy of the interactions among the Plan's three participants than the dramatic acceleration in the tempo of teaching that was witnessed this past year." (2008)

For more information please see The Three Protagonists in the Divine Plan

Life of society at large

"As you continue to labour in your clusters, you will be drawn further and further into the life of the society around you and will be challenged to extend the process of systematic learning in which you are engaged to encompass a growing range of human endeavours. In the approaches you take, the methods you adopt, and the instruments you employ, you will need to achieve the same degree of coherence that characterizes the pattern of growth presently under way." (2008)

Major Plan and Minor Plan of God

"Our fellow human beings everywhere are insensibly subjected at one and the same time to the conflicting emotions incited by the continuous operation of simultaneous processes of 'rise and of fall, of integration and of disintegration, of order and chaos.' These Shoghi Effendi identified as aspects of the Major Plan and Minor Plan of God, the two known ways in which His purpose for humankind is going forward. The Major Plan is associated with turbulence and calamity and proceeds with an apparent, random disorderliness, but is, in fact, inexorably driving humanity towards unity and maturity. Its agency for the most part is the people who are ignorant of its course and even antagonistic towards its aim. As Shoghi Effendi has pointed out, God's Major Plan uses 'both the mighty and the lowly as pawns in His world-shaping game, for the fulfillment of His immediate purpose and the eventual establishment of His Kingdom on earth.' The acceleration of the processes it generates is lending impetus to developments which, with all the initial pain and heartache attributable to them, we Bahá'ís see as signs of the emergence of the Lesser Peace."

"Unlike His Major Plan, which works mysteriously, God's Minor Plan is clearly delineated, operates according to orderly and well-known processes, and has been given to us to execute. Its ultimate goal is the Most Great Peace. The four-year-long campaign, at the midpoint of which we have arrived, constitutes the current stage in the Minor Plan. It is to the achievement of its purpose that we must all devote our attention and energies.

"At times it may seem that the operation of the Major Plan causes a disruption in the work of the Minor Plan, but the friends have every reason to remain undismayed. For they recognize the source of the recurrent turbulence at play in the world and, in the words of our Guardian, 'acknowledge its necessity, observe confidently its mysterious processes, ardently pray for the mitigation of its severity, intelligently labor to assuage its fury, and anticipate, with undimmed vision, the consummation of the fears and the hopes it must necessarily engender.' " (1998)

"The disruptions caused by this (war in Iraq) and other situations in the world have, in one instance, suggested the opening of a new chapter in the history of the highly prized but woefully oppressed Bahá'í community of a land in which the Manifestation of God for this Day resided for a whole decade. In another, they have dashed the preparations for the Ninth International Convention at the World Centre of our Faith. But, however disappointing, this calls for no dismay. When the Major Plan of God interferes with His Minor Plan, there should be no doubt that in due course a way will providentially be opened to an opportunity of stellar possibilities for advancing the interests of His glorious Cause." (2003)

"An example of the capacity of the Bahá'í world to respond to unexpected conditions occurred a year ago, when multiple dangers required the cancellation of the International Bahá'í Convention; the election of the Universal House of Justice was duly held and the Plan went forward without a missed step." (2004)

Meaningful Conversation

Usually of a spiritual nature, and "Conversation with people of varied backgrounds and interests and to undertake with them an exploration of reality that gives rise to a shared understanding of the exigencies of this period in human history and the means for addressing them." (Universal House of Justice, 28 Dec 2010, para.2)

New Blood

"But what gratifies us beyond this is the certain knowledge that victories will be won in the next five years by youth and adults, men and women, who may at present be wholly unaware of Bahá'u'lláh's coming, much less acquainted with the "society-building power" of His Faith. (2011)

Pattern of life

"As the experience of the friends has deepened, their capacity for fostering within a cluster a rich and intricate pattern of life, embracing hundreds or even thousands of people, has risen. How pleased we are to note the many insights the believers are gaining from their endeavours. They appreciate, for instance, that the Plan's gradual unfoldment at the level of the cluster is a dynamic process, one that is necessarily complex and does not lend itself to ready simplification. They see how it moves forward as they increase their ability both to raise up human resources and to coordinate and organize well the actions of those who arise. The friends realize that as these capacities are enhanced, it becomes possible to integrate a wider range of initiatives. Equally, they have come to recognize that when a new feature is introduced it requires special attention for some time, but that this in no way diminishes the significance of other aspects of their community-building endeavours. For they understand that if learning is to be their mode of operation, they must be alert to the potential offered by any instrument of the Plan that proves to be especially suited to a particular point in time and, where called for, invest greater energy in its development; it does not follow, however, that every person must be occupied with the same aspect of the Plan. The friends have also learned that it is not necessary for the principal focus of the expansion phase of every cycle of a programme of growth to be directed towards the same end. Conditions may require that in a given cycle, as an example, attention be primarily aimed at inviting souls to embrace the Faith through intensive teaching efforts, undertaken as individuals or collectively; in another cycle, the focus could be on multiplying a specific core activity. (2013)

Process of action, reflection, consultation and study

It is only through continued action, reflection and consultation on their part that they will learn to read their own reality, to see their own possibilities, make their own resources, and respond to the exigencies of large-scale expansion and consolidation to come. (Universal House of Justice, to the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 28 December 2010)

At the heart of every development endeavour is consistent, systematic action. Action, however, needs to be accompanied by constant reflection to ensure that it continues to serve the aims of the endeavour. (Universal House of Justice, Office of Social and Economic Development, Social Action, 26 November 2012, p. 14)

Development strategies that are formulated simply in terms of projects with well-stated goals, followed by evaluation of how and why they were or were not achieved, have limitations. An approach to development defined in terms of learning does, at times, admit formal evaluation. Yet, it depends far more on structured reflection woven into a pattern of action, through which questions can emerge and methods and approaches be adjusted. (Universal House of Justice, Office of Social and Economic Development, Social Action, 26 November 2012, p. 14)

. . . the Bahá'í community has adopted a mode of operation characterized by action, reflection, consultation and study--study which involves not only constant reference to the writings of the Faith but also the scientific analysis of patterns unfolding. Indeed, how to maintain such a mode of learning in action, how to ensure that growing numbers participate in the generation and application of relevant knowledge, and how to devise structures for the systemization of an expanding worldwide experience and for the equitable distribution of the lessons learned--these are, themselves, the object of regular examination. (Universal House of Justice, To the Bahá'ís of Iran, 2 March 2013)

For more information please see Improving the Quality of Our Reflection Gatherings

Read community reality

"A worldwide community is refining its ability to read its immediate reality" (2016)

During this period, the adoption of an evolving framework for action has enabled the friends to . . . think in terms of process, to read their immediate reality and assess their resources in the places where they live, and to make plans on that basis . . . (Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 2016)

ABS 2014 - Haleh Arbab from Association for Bahá'í Studies on Vimeo.

Receptivity

"... receptivity manifests itself in a willingness to participate in the process of community building set in motion by the core activities. In cluster after cluster where an intensive programme of growth is now in operation, the task before the friends this coming year is to teach within one or more receptive populations, employing a direct method in their exposition of the fundamentals of their Faith, and find those souls longing to shed the lethargy imposed on them by society and work alongside one another in their neighbourhoods and villages to begin a process of collective transformation. If the friends persist in their efforts to learn the ways and methods of community building in small settings in this way, the long-cherished goal of universal participation in the affairs of the Faith will, we are certain, move by several orders of magnitude within grasp." (2010)

"Every follower of Bahá'u'lláh conscious of the forces of integration and disintegration operating in society today sees the relationship between the rise in receptivity to the Faith in all parts of the globe and the failings of the world's systems. That such receptivity will increase as the agonies of humanity deepen is certain. Let there be no mistake: The capacity building that has been set in motion to respond to mounting receptivity is still in its earliest stages. The magnitude of the demands of a world in disarray will test this capacity to its limits in the years ahead. Humanity is battered by forces of oppression, whether generated from the depths of religious prejudice or the pinnacles of rampant materialism. Bahá'ís are able to discern the causes of this affliction. "What 'oppression' is more grievous", Bahá'u'lláh asks, "than that a soul seeking the truth, and wishing to attain unto the knowledge of God, should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it?" (2008)

Reflection meetings

"Reflection meetings at the level of clusters have become a powerful means of unifying thought and action across institutions and localities; they have lent a potent stimulus to institutional and individual initiatives in a mutually supportive spirit." (Ridvan Message 2003)

Reflection meetings at the cluster level are becoming a forum for the discussion of the needs and plans, creating a collective identity and strengthening the collective will. (The Universal House of Justice, to the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 27 December 2005)

For more information please see Improving the Quality of our Reflection Meetings

Requirements of steady growth

  • Promote systematic action and avoid distractions
  • Bring certain elements of collective decision-making close to the grassroots and create communities with a sense of mission
  • Encourage universal participation and accommodate different segments of society in their activities, particularly children and junior youth, the future champions of the Cause of God and builders of His civilization. (2007)

Ruhi Institute

The House of Justice feels that you need to consider this issue in the larger context of the development of the training institute as an element essential to the growth of the Faith, beginning with the Four Year Plan. Given the nature of this agency and the purpose defined for it by the House of Justice, it goes without saying that the emerging training institutes around the world would choose a sequence of courses and offer them to the friends in the territories they respectively serve. To have a large number of believers engaged in the study of these courses, far from a sign of uniformity, is part of the natural dynamics of a successful educational program. That at this point in the development of the Bahá'í community a significant percentage of the training institutes worldwide have opted to initiate their activities with a set of materials that has proven itself effective over many years of experience is a welcome phenomenon. (Universal House of Justice, Turning Point - Selected Messages from the House of Justice 1996-2006, paragraph 43.42)

"On assessing the opportunities and needs of their respective communities, the great majority of National Spiritual Assemblies have chosen to adopt the course materials devised by the Ruhi Institute, finding them most responsive to the Plan's needs. This has had the collateral benefit that the same materials have been translated into many languages and, wherever Bahá'ís travel, they find other friends following the same path and familiar with the same books and methods." (2004)

It is natural that any given educational program would not appeal to everyone, and clearly participating in the courses of an institute is not a requirement to be fulfilled by all believers. In no way, then, should those who do not wish to take part feel that they are disobeying the directives of the Universal House of Justice. It does ask, however, that everyone, even those not involved, support the institute process and not impede its steady progress. (Universal House of Justice, Turning Point - Selected Messages from the House of Justice 1996-2006," paragraph 43.38)

Studying the messages in order to formulate complex thoughts

"Not satisfied with a fragmentary grasp of their contents, the friends are returning to these messages again and again, singly and in groups, at formal meetings and spontaneous gatherings." (2011)

"It is heartening to note that the friends are approaching the study of the messages of the Universal House of Justice related to the Plan with such diligence. The level of discussion generated as they strive to put into practice the guidance received, and to learn from experience, is impressive. We cannot help noticing, however, that achievements tend to be more enduring in those regions where the friends strive to understand the totality of the vision conveyed in the messages, while difficulties often arise when phrases and sentences are taken out of context and viewed as isolated fragments. The institutions and agencies of the Faith should help the believers to analyse but not reduce, to ponder meaning but not dwell on words, to identify distinct areas of action but not compartmentalize. We realize that this is no small task. Society speaks more and more in slogans. We hope that the habits the friends are forming in study circles to work with full and complex thoughts and to achieve understanding will be extended to various spheres of activity." (2010)

Sustainable pattern of growth

"Particularly since the opening of the fifth epoch in 2001, it (the Bahá'í community) has made significant strides in multiplying its human resources through a program of training that reaches the grassroots of the community and has discovered methods and instruments for establishing a sustainable pattern of growth." (2006)

"Sustaining growth in cluster after cluster will depend on the qualities that distinguish your service to the peoples of the world. So free must be your thoughts and actions of any trace of prejudice--racial, religious, economic, national, tribal, class, or cultural--that even the stranger sees in you loving friends. So high must be your standard of excellence and so pure and chaste your lives that the moral influence you exert penetrates the consciousness of the wider community. Only if you demonstrate the rectitude of conduct to which the writings of the Faith call every soul will you be able to struggle against the myriad forms of corruption, overt and subtle, eating at the vitals of society. Only if you perceive honour and nobility in every human being--this independent of wealth or poverty--will you be able to champion the cause of justice. And to the extent that administrative processes of your institutions are governed by the principles of Bahá'í consultation will the great masses of humanity be able to take refuge in the Bahá'í community." (2008)

Systematic process of human resource development and community building

"a systematic process of human resource development and community building" (2016)

"In this long-term process of capacity building, the Bahá'í community has devoted nearly a decade and a half to systematizing its experience in the teaching field, learning to open certain activities to more and more people and to sustain its expansion and consolidation." (2010)

Teaching

"We look with expectant eyes to the day when teaching is the dominating passion in the life of every believer and when the unity of the community is so strong as to enable this state of enkindlement to express itself in unremitting action in the field of service. This, then, is our ardent hope for you and the object of our most fervent prayers at the Sacred Threshold." (2007)

Training institutes

"As foreseen, the training institute is proving to be an engine of growth." (2004)

Regional Training Institutes (RTIs), agencies established by the National Spiritual Assembly to serve specific geographic areas, are overseen by Regional Bahá'í Councils on behalf of the National Assembly. (Universal House of Justice, Turning Point, Selected Messages from the Universal House of Justice and Supplementary Material, 1996-2006, par. 44.34)

Each Regional Training Institute is operated by a board of directors responsible for governing the affairs of the Institute and guiding its activities. The board is appointed by the National Spiritual Assembly in consultation with the Continental Board of Counselors and the Regional Bahá'í Council. Each Institute board appoints Regional Institute coordinators, who are responsible for coordinating and supporting the work of the Cluster Institute coordinators (CIC) in their region. Cluster Institute coordinators work in their respective clusters as facilitators of the institute process, ensuring that local tutors have what they need to increase and grow study circles. (Universal House of Justice, Turning Point, Selected Messages from the Universal House of Justice and Supplementary Material, 1996-2006, par. 44.34)

The role of Regional Training Institutes is to assist in training the human resources in its area to ready them for mobilization by Assemblies to meet the goals of teaching plans and to serve the needs of the community. (Universal House of Justice, Turning Point, Selected Messages from the Universal House of Justice and Supplementary Material, 1996-2006, par. 44.34)

The regional institutes are charged with responsibility for the implementation and management of the classes, and they require a wide degree of latitude to train the teachers, deploy resources and collaborate with Local Spiritual Assemblies. (Universal House of Justice, October 19, 2005, to a National Spiritual Assembly)

It [the training institute] strives to engage the individual in an educational process in which virtuous conduct and self-discipline are developed in the context of service, fostering a coherent and joyful pattern of life that weaves together study, worship, teaching, community building and, in general, involvement in other processes that seek to transform society. At the heart of the educational process is contact with the Word of God, whose power sustains every individual's attempts to purify his or her heart and to walk a path of service with "the feet of detachment". (Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 23 April 2013)

Crucial to the future success of the institute will be the freedom of movement and action that it enjoys. The institute is, of course, an agency functioning under your aegis, and ultimately matters related to its operation rest with you. However, at this point in the growth of the Faith, the mandate of the institute is fairly clear-cut: A sequence of courses has been adopted as the national program for the development of human resources. It is the job of the institute, then, to help a steadily increasing number of youth and adults advance through that sequence and to carry out the concomitant task of organizing and maintaining classes for junior youth and children. There is little need for lengthy and frequent consultations to set direction and devise and rethink fundamental plans. Now is the time for action, and the central participants driving the institute process should be granted the latitude required to perform their functions effectively. Specifically, the national coordinator should be invested with enough authority to ensure that the basic purpose of the institute to raise up active supporters of the Faith is fulfilled. (Universal House of Justice, Turning Point, Selected Messages from the Universal House of Justice and Supplementary Material, 1996-2006, par. 44.34)

Two complementary movements

"As a first step, Bahá'í communities were urged to systematize their efforts to develop the human resources of the Cause through a network of training institutes. While every national community took measures to create institutional capacity to perform this essential function, it was not until the outset of the Five Year Plan that the significance of a well-conceived program of training became widely appreciated. The introduction of the concept of the cluster made it possible for the friends to think about the accelerated growth of the community on a manageable scale and to conceive of it in terms of two complementary, reinforcing movements: the steady flow of individuals through the sequence of institute courses and the movement of clusters from one stage of development to the next. This image helped the believers to analyze the lessons being learned in the field and to employ a common vocabulary to articulate their findings." (December 2005)

Vibrant community life

"To meet this challenge, the believers and the institutions that serve them will have to strengthen the institute process in the cluster, increasing significantly within its borders the number of those capable of acting as tutors of study circles; for it should be recognized that the opportunity now open to the friends to foster a vibrant community life in neighbourhoods and villages, characterized by such a keen sense of purpose, was only made possible by crucial developments that occurred over the past decade in that aspect of Bahá'í culture which pertains to deepening. (2010)

World crises

"For the friends of God, there is an unambiguous explanation for what is occurring; they have only to recall the vision and principles offered by the Faith if they are to respond effectively to the challenges posed by the spread of distress and dismay. Let them strive to understand more deeply the Teachings that are relevant by reviewing letters of Shoghi Effendi which have been published in The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, particularly those entitled 'The Goal of a New World Order,' 'America and the Most Great Peace,' and 'The Unfoldment of World Civilization.'

"More than seventy years ago Shoghi Effendi penned his World Order letters in which he provided a penetrating analysis of the forces operating in the world. With an eloquence that was his alone, he described two great processes that have been set in motion by Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation, one destructive and the other integrative, both of which are propelling humanity towards the World Order He conceived. We were cautioned by the Guardian not to be "misled by the painful slowness characterizing the unfoldment of the civilization" being laboriously established or to be "deluded by the ephemeral manifestations of returning prosperity which at times appear to be capable of checking the disruptive influence of the chronic ills afflicting the institutions of a decaying age." (2006)

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