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(US – CA, 1912)
Notes from ‘Abdu’l-Bahás words on teaching and divine inspiration to a few youth in San Francisco, 23 October 1912. The talk He encourages them to memorize is found here.
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These young ladies have asked Me how to teach and the method of teaching. I have told them a few days ago, and now I will recapitulate.
You must first be assured of the fact that whosoever heralds the Cause of God, the Kingdom of Abha, will be confirmed. This has been tried heretofore. Whosoever has stepped forth in this arena, the hosts of the Supreme Concourse have aided. He has been confirmed and assisted. He has achieved extraordinary progress. Upon him the door of Knowledge has been opened. His eyes were opened, and the Breath of the Holy Spirit aided him, and he was instrumental in guiding others. It has been tried. No one has advanced toward this Cause without receiving this confirmation.
Secondly: when a man sings a beautiful melody, he, himself, more than his audience, will be moved by his song. Hence, when a man commences guiding souls, when he expounds the Teachings, he, himself, will experience keenly the sense of joy.
Thirdly: everything in the world of existence is limited. There is nothing which is unlimited, except the eternal confirmation of God, and that eternal confirmation of God through teaching, will be attained by man.
Consequently, His Holiness Christ says, when you speak that which is in your heart, you are inspired to say, that you must expound, and that is the Breath of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I say to you, and to all of you: If you seek the eternal Bestowal, teach. If you seek entrance at the Threshold of God, teach. If you seek eternal glory, teach. If you wish to win eternal life, teach. If you wish the supremacy of heaven, teach. And be confident that confirmation will attend you and that Divine assistance will uphold you. Because it has been tried many, many times.
But it requires firmness, it requires steadfastness. Consider the disciples of Christ, and their steadfastness. They were exposed to the sword, and they were not afraid; they were firm and steadfast. When a man drinks from a fount of salubrious waters, naturally he wants to convey the water to others. If a man reaches a tree bearing luscious fruits, he wishes to enjoy them with others. If a man hears a beautiful voice, he wishes others to hear it also.
If you seek to attain the everlasting bounties, and occupy yourselves conveying the message of God, and to be the means of guiding souls, do not look at your capacity, do not look at your [deserts]. If Peter had looked at his own capacity, he would have remained a fisherman. He was quite devoid of knowledge. But he did not look at his own capacity. Nay, rather, he looked at the divine bounty. And you must not look at your own capacity. You must not say that you are young, that you have not entered college, that you have not attained an extraordinary education. Nay, rather, consider the bounties of the Kingdom of Abha. What beautiful fruits are produced by the black soil. This is not due to the capacity of the soil, but because of the great heat of the sun and of the rain from the clouds. Likewise, you must not say that you are dust. Nay, rather, you must look at the effulgence of the Sun of Reality, which ever shines upon you. You must look at the cloud of the Kingdom that ever pours down its rain upon you. You must feel the breeze of Providence that ever blows toward you.
We three sat spellbound as ‘Abdu’l-Baha impressed upon us in simple and beautiful language the great importance of teaching the Faith and assured us of wonderful confirmations. For a moment, as we remained seated, I silently prayed that I would ever remain firm and steadfast. Then we stood, and just as the Master started to leave the room, I asked Him what I should teach. He smilingly replied, “Memorize the talk I gave at Stanford University.”
(Brown, Ramona Allen, Memories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – Recollections of the Early Days of the Bahá’ís of California, pp. 79-80)
Notes from a talk by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on differing approaches to delivering the Message.
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Limited and unlimited teaching
About teaching. You may teach in two ways. One way is limited teaching; another way is the unlimited teaching.
Teaching in a limited way consists of the following, namely: explaining the proofs and evidences in regard to the principles of Baha’u’llah, quoting prophecies from the Old and New Testaments, stating that that Day has come. Moreover the intellectual proofs and evidences are this and this, etc. The principles of Baha’u’llah have been set forth with such potency and penetration that no one can deny them. While He was in prison, He was in chains, and He wrote important Epistles to the Kings and Rulers of the world. All that which He wrote in these letters came to pass later on. The Tablets of Baha’u’llah do exist quoting therein wonderful signs which appeared to Baha’u’llah during the various periods of His life.
While in prison He withstood two despotic kings, and He gained victory over both. In prison He raised His Banner, He spread His Teachings and spiritually defeated two despotic kings. They could not prevent the spread of His Teachings. In brief, while in prison, He raised the Ensign of His Principles. This is impaneled in the history of the world. Such dominion appeared from Him, and such potency manifested from His personality. There are many instances of such, and when a person explains these things, He is guiding. He is teaching, He is crying out. This is teaching in a limited sense [!].
Teaching in an unlimited sense consists of the following and is very good, very great: the teacher himself (or herself) becomes the standing proof of Baha’u’llah — that he (or she) may become a miracle of Baha’u’llah with such power and such knowledge and desire such actions and such words and character, and such heavenly powers, that you may live amongst the people, that you may be a proof, undeniable proof, of Baha’u’llah.
If someone ask: “What is the proof of Baha’u’llah?” one may say such a person — there is the proof; look at her. Baha’u’llah has educated this person. He has awakened this soul. He has quickened this life. He has made this person a speaker; He has given her knowledge, made her holy, made her sanctified — a shining light — He has made her a sun.
This is the unlimited teaching.
(Brown, Memories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp. 66-67)
(US – CA, 28 June)
A remarkable, humorous story from the Monterey County, CA cluster (A-stage) that illustrates what far-reaching effects an earlier positive impression can have on people, and especially children as here, further down the road!
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Last summer in [this cluster], two of the friends held a children’s class in their neighborhood, and they planned to offer the class again this summer. But apparently the children were not going to wait a whole year! . . .
One recent Sunday afternoon, __’s husband [a Bahá’í] was out walking the family dog. All of a sudden a little boy pointed to the dog and said “Hey, I know that dog!” The boy remembered that this was the “teacher’s” dog. The next thing __’s husband knew, an army of children was following him home! When the children saw __, they said, “When are we having the class again?” So she told them that she and the other teacher would come the next day!
When the 2 teachers arrived the next day, they found the little boy and his sister, who then helped them round up another 15 or so children. One of the teachers explained to the children that because of her new work schedule, she would not be able to come to class every week, so that another co-teacher would be needed to help out. She asked the children to raise their hand if they had an older brother or sister in high school that might like to help teach the class; one of the children said her older sister might be interested. So she was invited to come the following week.
When the older sister came, one of the teachers gave an overview of the children’s class and invited her to join a training—she came to the __ home the following weekend and started Book 1!
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A Baha’i children’s class in Toronto, Canada
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…as men and women of various ages move along the sequence [of institute courses] and complete their study of each course with the help of tutors, others must stand ready to accompany them in acts of service undertaken according to their strengths and interests—particularly the coordinators responsible for children’s classes, for junior youth groups and for study circles, acts of service crucial to the perpetuation of the system itself. …
…the vitality of the spiritual and social life of [a] community…—a growing community that welcomes the constructive contributions of both those who are formally enrolled and those who are not[—is to be the measure of its strength].
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(From the teaching blog http://teaching.bahai.us/2010/06/if-it-hadn-been-for-dog.html. Photo reprinted with permission of the Bahá’í World Centre. View it here.)
(US, CA, 5 December)
From this short report may be gleaned virtually all the key concepts and methods that our beloved Supreme Body is directing us to learn about in the current stage of the unfoldment of the Divine Plan of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Let us make befitting use of these precious lessons, which serve to draw us nearer to our hearts’ Desire!
This story from Coachella Valley, CA (C-stage cluster) is full of gems. A group of believers, small in number but totally committed to teaching, accompanied by their friends from neighboring clusters, rose up to engage in a collective teaching effort. They tasted the joy of teaching and are steadily gaining in knowledge and experience. They are learning how to present the Message directly and respectfully. One particularly thought-provoking insight is highlighted in red below.
I am so pleased to report success in our mini teaching effort. We had approximately 12 people from our cluster participating, and joined by the cluster institute coordinator, Auxiliary Board member, and two members of the area teaching committee…
We have gained a lot of insights from our experiences. Here are some:
Our purpose in collective teaching is to find receptive, waiting souls and invite them to recognize Bahá’u’lláh as the Manifestation of God for this Day.
Wisdom requires refraining from trying to convince, arguing about philosophical points or dogma, and avoiding engaging in contention or dispute.
As we work together as teaching teams, our skills and capacities improve markedly with each new interaction.
When we are presenting the Bahá’í Faith to someone, we need to encourage them to see themselves as having the capacities to help build the unity of the human family, and empower them to arise and serve.
As we invite people to join the Faith, we have the opportunity to encourage them to participate in the processes of growth by entering the institute process and engaging in the core activities. We need to be committed to accompany them in this process.
So now, our own cluster’s collective understanding has grown:
We realize that there are pure souls waiting for us. Visiting a receptive neighborhood is a very effective way to find them.
We can gain people’s confidence through our own sincerity and purity of motive, and speaking to them from the heart in a respectful and dignified way.
“Careful” teaching does not mean slowly over a long period of time! Anna’s presentation IS a careful, well-thought-out, effective approach!
We must not lose sight of the institute process when we get engaged in exciting and fruitful teaching efforts. In other words, we need everyone to continue moving through the Ruhi courses, so we have more resources to carry out the work. An integral part of the institute process is the practice and service components.
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Fountain and benches in the Ridván Garden, ‘Akká
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Behold the portals which Bahá’u’lláh hath opened before you! Consider how exalted and lofty is the station you are destined to attain; how unique the favors with which you have been endowed. Should we become intoxicated with this cup, the sovereignty of this globe of earth will become lower in our estimation than children’s play. Should they place in the arena the crown of the government of the whole world, and invite each one of us to accept it, undoubtedly we shall not condescend, and shall refuse to accept it.
To attain to this supreme station is, however, dependent on the realization of certain conditions:
The first condition is firmness in the Covenant of God …
The second condition: Fellowship and love amongst the believers…
The third condition: Teachers must continually travel to all parts of the continent, nay, rather, to all parts of the world, but they must travel like ‘Abdu’l-Bahá…
The aim is this: The intention of the teacher must be pure, his heart independent, his spirit attracted, his thought at peace, his resolution firm, his magnanimity exalted and in the love of God a shining torch. Should he become as such, his sanctified breath will even affect the rock; otherwise there will be no result whatsoever. As long as a soul is not perfected, how can he efface the defects of others? Unless he is detached from aught else save God, how can he teach severance to others?
In short, O ye believers of God! Endeavor ye, so that you may take hold of every means in the promulgation of the religion of God and the diffusion of the fragrances of God.
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 50-54
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(Excerpted and adapted from the teaching blog http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/12/learning-from-each-new-interaction.html) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)
Regular core activities and training in Anna’s presentation lay a foundation for successful teaching efforts
(US, CA, 1 May)
The following report from a recently launched intensive program of growth shows how core activities nourish the teaching efforts of the believers:
Today is day number one for door-to-door teaching at one apartment complex where one of the friends has been teaching a children’s class for over a year. There are about 200 adults and children in this complex, and more than 30 are already part of the community of interest.
This evening two of the friends started teaching. They knocked on one door of a home where family members are already participating in study circles and children’s classes. During this visit, three people declared their belief in Bahá’u’lláh.
For certain, a new spirit is permeating this cluster. Friends are calling and asking to receive training on delivering Anna’s presentation more effectively; young adults have recently called and asked to consult on how to be more outward looking and how to use Anna’s presentation, and the Local Assemblies are quickly and nimbly responding to the Plan and to collaboration.
(Report from the Santa Clara County West “A” stage cluster)
“Meet me at the pool” (USA, CA, 25 April)
…witness the power of the younger generation. Here are two inspiring stories from a teaching team consisting of a junior youth, a youth and an adult. Anyone can teach, and teaching can occur anywhere . . . so see you at the pool!
A 14-year old boy opened the door and showed interest in the presentation. He listened attentively. N and A were excited! A short while later, this wonderful boy declared! The new believer wanted to be visited again when his parents would be home to sign his enrollment card. This second visit will provide an opportunity for the team to introduce the Faith to the boy’s parents.
An American gentleman opened his door. Surprised to see the team, he asked what they wanted. Hearing the explanation, he said, “I am leaving now. Could you meet me in ten minutes at the pool?” The team happily accepted to do so. Before ten minutes had passed, the team met another wonderful gentleman who listened for 45 minutes to the entire presentation, given mostly by the youth and junior youth. He kept the declaration card and agreed to be visited again. His wife, who had apparently been watching the team from upstairs, kindly sent four glasses of juice to the team and her husband, a wonderful sign of receptivity and generosity. After they left the home, the team went to the pool to meet the first man, but they were worried they would not find him because of the delay. But he was still there; they apologized for the delay and explained the reason. He warmly received the team, listened to the introduction, and then personally read each page of Anna’s presentation. He asked questions, gave some favorable comments, read the final prayer and then signed his declaration card at that blessed pool site!
It is so delightful to see how our Baha’i junior youth and youth can touch the hearts of their listeners simply by their sincerity, audacity and, above all, by this marvelous Anna’s presentation.
(Report from Thousand Oaks) (http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/04/what-delight-in-thousand-oaks-ca-which.html)