13 July 2009

Teaching-Learning in the Baha’i Faith

Often, Baha’is talk about how there are no clergy in the Baha’i faith. This deserves some explanation. Certainly, one aspect of clericalism is that on the one hand there is a small elite that teaches but is no longer in a learning mode and there is, on the other hand, the vast majority who show their piety first and foremost by learning from that small elite rather than teaching. And if they do teach, the focus is mostly on teaching others to learn from the elite. Aside from this sweeping generalization of how clergies function, let’s now turn to an example of how Baha’is do without them. It comes from the introduction entitle, “To the Collaborators” from Ruhi book two.

Here, the Ruhi Institute discusses the home visits to newly enrolled believers for which the second unit prepares participants. “For most of the students, this unit will be the first opportunity to study these particular themes at any depth. It is important to note that the knowledge they are acquiring is gained in the context of sharing it with others.” Often, the people making these visits are relatively new additions to the community themselves. It could be a great challenge for those making these visits to even pose as a learned one imparting knowledge to the ignorant. Often, more experienced Baha’is have a hard time connecting with their hosts. The hosts may feel intimidated by their knowledge, and may feel they have a long way to go to be a “real Baha’i.” But with newer Baha’is the situation is very different. The atmosphere of these visits is to be one in which the visitor comes to the home eager to share and learn with their hosts about something new and perhaps unfamiliar for both of them. Recipients of the visit feel at ease because they sense that the mark of a “real Baha’i” isn’t so much knowledge as it is learning and action. The aim is that collaborators approach teaching and learning as an integrated process. Learning about the faith goes hand in hand with the act of teaching the very same themes to others. The relationship between learning and teaching is not linear, with the first reaching its conclusion in the commencement of the second. The process is reciprocal. A collaborator is one who is always, in some way, in a process of both learning and teaching. After explaining the dynamics of this type of home visit, the institute continues along the same line. “It is hoped that this will set the stage for a life in which personal growth and service to others are seen as an integrated whole, and not as separate and sometimes conflicting ends.” Briefly touched on here, this passage illustrates the way in which the various aspects of one’s life are to be balanced with the action one takes amidst them. When the Ruhi Institute talks about living an integrated life, one meaning is that Baha’is are to integrate functions that might otherwise be divided between clergy and laity.

1 comment:

  1. I love your continued focus on human empowerment and how it represents a revolutionary theological mode.