Monday, January 3, 2011

An instrument tempered in the crucible of experience

One of the instruments of effective and long lasting transformation is the existence of a model. So long as discussions are in the abstract, they are less clear and more difficult to understand, to appreciate or to communicate. This is true in science, as it is in community building.

Let us take the example of fire. Before a person can see, or feel, what fire is, and what you can do if you have access to fire, it is very hard to try to explain it. Even if you can explain it, it is likely that the listener will argue that such a thing can not exist. But when lightening strikes, and a fire is ignited, if you are close to it, you will quickly understand what it is. Now you want one. You would like to be able to start a fire, to keep warm, to cook your food, and so on. You know it exists because you have seen one. So you keep trying to find a way to start a fire. The conviction that it is possible will drive you to try many different ways to start one. Even though you may keep failing to start, or after you start you fail to keep it going, still you do not doubt that it is possible, and it is desirable. So you keep going.

The Baha'i community itself, is an existence proof. It shows that it is possible to create harmonious and spiritual communities that also make advancement on both fronts of material and spiritual development.

Take the example of the letter that came from the Universal House of Justice addressed to all the Baha'is of the world dated 1 January, 2011 on the occasion of the final day of the conference of the Continental Counsellors which was held in Haifa over a five day period. It encourages the Baha'is and their friends to "become as occupied with the well-being of the human family as you are with that of your dearest kin."

The letter was sent, translated into dozens of languages, distributed by almost 200 National Communities, and read by tens of thousands immediately, and possibly by millions of people within a short time. Of course hundreds of millions remain unaware of it, but the fact that this fire exists is proof that it can be done.

The period of the conference itself was an occasion to reflect on the accomplishments of the last few years. It was here when each Counsellor spoke of the efforts and sacrifices of the friends. It was a "vivid retelling of your numerous exploits, deeds which secured the astonishing attainment of the goal of the Five Year Plan one year early." While much of this was the work of Baha'is, we must keep in mind that there were a large participation by friends, family, coworkers and neighbors. It is this larger community of interest who is also the object of love and admiration of the Counsellors and for whom it is said: "It is hard to express in words how much love for you has been shown in these few, fleeting days.  We praise God that He has raised up a community so accomplished and render thanks to Him for releasing your marvellous potentialities." [All quotes in this post are from Universal House of Justice, letter to the Baha'is of the world, 1 January, 2011] 

These series of Five Year Plans are part of the Divine Plan. And all of these Plans are about service to humanity. About promoting peace and oneness. About a deeper understanding of the nobility of human nature. And about the enormous potential and value of each member of human race. It is about "forging ties of spiritual kinship that foster a sense of community."

It is this absolute faith in human potential, irrespective of race or social status, that drives the work.  The essential attribute of the training institute is the belief that all people are capable to "take charge of their own destiny" and should take ownership of their own material and spiritual development. This belief is embedded in the way the tutors of training institute conduct their study circles. This training institute then is that "instrument tempered in the crucible of experience." "For you possess a potent instrument for spiritually empowering the masses of humanity to take charge of their own destiny, an instrument tempered in the crucible of experience."

Finally we should keep in mind that it is not only the Baha'is who are implementing the instruments for buidling spiritual communities, one neighborhood at a time, but also an increasing number of enlightened individuals. "It brings us great joy that so many souls throughout the Baha'i community are ready to thus distinguish themselves.  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 Baha'u'llah's coming, much less acquainted with the "society-building power" of His Faith."

And this idea of empowerment is in fact not a new idea in our community. It is in fact the essence of the Revelation. Now that we know a little more about the training institute, and about empowerment, and about trusting that everyone who comes across the teachings of the Faith and who is "conscious of the spiritual forces that support" them can and will arise to make a difference in their society, now we can see this statement by Baha'u'llah with new eyes. For He wrote:

"I am the Sun of Wisdom and the Ocean of Knowledge.  I cheer the faint and revive the dead.  I am the guiding Light that illumineth the way.  I am the royal Falcon on the arm of the Almighty.  I unfold the drooping wings of every broken bird and start it on its flight."

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