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Guidelines for Teaching
Compilation of Compilations
Vol. II, pp. 295-327
Compiled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice
Introductory Letter published in "Gift of Teaching" also included
Revised August 1990
0. Introductory Letter b, c
I. Extracts from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh
1898 1899 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905
II. From the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha
1906 1907 1908 1909 1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927
III. From the Writings of Shoghi Effendi and Letters Written on His Behalf
1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
The Universal House of Justice
Bahá'í World Centre
March 3, 1977
To All National Spiritual Assemblies
Dear Bahá'í Friends,
The corner-stone of the foundation of all Bahá'í activity is teaching the Cause. As `Abdu'l-Bahá has categorically proclaimed in His will and Testament, "the guidance of the nations and peoples of the world" is "the most important of all things", and "Of all the gifts of God the greatest is the gift of Teaching."
The friends likewise are in varying degrees aware of the repeated exhortations found in the writings of our Faith that divine confirmations are dependent upon the active pursuit of the teaching work. In the words of the beloved Master, "the unseen divine assistance encompasseth those who deliver the Message." He thus further states, "... if the work of delivering the message be neglected, the assistance shall be entirely cut off, for it is impossible that the friends of God could receive assistance unless they be engaged in delivering the Message."
While the friends are generally conscious of the vital importance of teaching, yet, because of their frailties, many for the most part lack confidence, and feel they do not know what course of action to follow, or how to bring their efforts to a conclusion. Such guidance on such fundamental issues comes from the writings of the Faith, we asked the Research Department to prepare a compilation of texts on the subject. This is now ready and a copy is enclosed.
A study of the compilation will provide the friends with stimulating information on general guidelines to be followed by them when engaged in the teaching work. While many will be inspired, after reading the compilation, to cast aside their fears and misgivings and their sense of inadequacy, and will arise to speak forth announcing the glad-tidings of the Kingdom to their fellow-men, many more will still be in need of loving education and more detailed guidance on the part of the institutions of the Faith, and patient and wise prodding before they are aroused to action. And since the primary purpose for which Local Spiritual Assemblies are established is to promote the teaching work, it is clear that every National Spiritual Assembly must give careful consideration to ways and means to encourage each Local Assembly under its jurisdiction to fulfil its principal obligation. For instance, Local Assemblies could be urged to organize special meetings when texts, such as important that Local Assemblies share with the local friends stories of successes achieved by some of them, descriptions of effective presentations found useful by them, examples of various ways that a Bahá'í subject could be introduced to inquirers, or illustrations of methods which would enable the believer to relate the needs of society to our teachings. Such information and suggestions could be offered to the friends at Nineteen Day Feasts, through a local newsletter, or by any other means open to each Local Assembly. In all these contacts with the believers, each Local Spiritual Assembly should impress upon the friends the unique and irreplaceable role the individual plays in the prosecution of any Bahá'í undertaking. Quotations from the writings on this point, such as the following passage from one of the letters of Shoghi Effendi, should be repeatedly presented and explained to the friends:
"He (the individual believer) it is who constitutes the warp and woof on which the quality and pattern of the whole fabric must depend. He it is who acts as one of the countless links in the mighty chain that now girdles the globe. He it is who serves as one of the multitude of bricks which support the structure and insure the stability of the administrative edifice now being raised in every part of the world. Without his support, at once whole-hearted, continuous, and generous, every measure adopted, and every plan formulated, by the body which acts as the national representative of the community to which he belongs, is foredoomed to failure. The World Centre of the Faith itself is paralyzed in such a support on the part of the rank and file of the community is denied it. The Author of The Divine Plan Himself is impeded in His purpose if the proper instruments for the execution are lacking. The sustaining strength of Bahá'u'lláh Himself, the Founder of the Faith, will be withheld from every and each individual who fails in the long run to arise and play his part."
When the friends realize that the hosts of the Kingdom are waiting to rush forth and assist them, that others from their own ranks have arisen and have been successful, that everyone can find some effective method of teaching according to his own particular capacities and talents, they will then no doubt arise with greater confidence to take the first step, and this, we know, will be aided and guided from on high, for the very act of striving to respond to God's call will bring in its wake countless divine blessings.
It is the hope and prayer of the Universal House of Justice that each National Spiritual Assembly will do its utmost to constantly encourage the friends to participate in what Shoghi Effendi calls "the most essential, the most urgent of all our obligations", and what must be "the dominating passion of our life", and follow the example of the Apostles of Christ who, as testified by `Abdu'l-Bahá, "forgot themselves and all earthly things, forsook all their cares and belongings, purged themselves of self and passion ...till at last they made the world another world, illumined the surface of the earth and even to the last hour proved self-sacrificing in the pathway of that Beloved One of God.... Let them that are men of action follow in their footsteps!"
With loving Bahá'í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE
Extracts From The Writings Of Bahá'u'lláh
1898. O Friends! You must all be so ablaze in this day with the fire of the love of God that the heat thereof may be manifest in all your veins, your limbs and members of your body, and the peoples of the world may be ignited by this heat and turn to the horizon of the Beloved.
(From a Tablet- translated from the Persian)
1899. Teach thou the Cause of God with an utterance which will cause the bushes to be enkindled, and the call 'Verily, there is no God but Me, the Almighty, the Unconstrained' to be raised therefrom. Say: Human utterance is an essence which aspireth to exert its influence and needeth moderation. As to its influence, this is conditional upon refinement which in turn is dependent upon hearts which are detached and pure. As to its moderation, this hath to be combined with tact and wisdom as prescribed in the Holy Scriptures and Tablets....
("Tablets of Baha'u'llah Revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas", 1st pocket-sized ed. (Wilmette: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1988), p. 143)
1900. Moderation is indeed highly desirable. Every person who in some degree turneth towards the truth can himself later comprehend most of what he seeketh. However, if at the outset a word is uttered beyond his capacity, he will refuse to hear it and will arise in opposition.
(From a Tablet- translated from the Persian)
1901. ... Piety and detachment are even as two most great luminaries of the heaven of teaching. Blessed the one who hath attained unto this supreme station...
("Tablets of Baha'u'llah Revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas", p. 253)
1902. Should any one among you be incapable of grasping a certain truth, or be striving to comprehend it, show forth, when conversing with him, a spirit of extreme kindliness and good-will. Help him to see and recognize the truth, without esteeming yourself to be, in the least, superior to him, or to be possessed of greater endowments.
The whole duty of man in this Day is to attain that share of the flood of grace which God poureth forth for him. Let none, therefore, consider the largeness or smallness of the receptacle. The portion of some might lie in the palm of a man's hand, the portion of others might fill a cup, and of others even a gallon-measure.
("Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, rev. ed. (Wilmette: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1983), p. 8)
1903. Consort with all men, O people of Baha, in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship. If ye be aware of a certain truth, if ye possess a jewel, of which others are deprived, share it with them in a language of utmost kindliness and good-will. If it be accepted, if it fulfil its purpose, your object is attained. If any one should refuse it, leave him unto himself, and beseech God to guide him. Beware lest ye deal unkindly with him. A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men. It is the bread of the spirit, it clotheth the words with meaning, it is the fountain of the light of wisdom and understanding....
("Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah", p. 289)
1904. If he be kindled with the fire of His love, if he forgoeth all created things, the words he uttereth shall set on fire them that hear him.
(Cited in Shoghi Effendi, "The Advent of Divine Justice" (Wilmette: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1984), p. 51)
1905. Say: O people of God! That which can insure the victory of Him Who is the Eternal Truth, His hosts and helpers on earth, have been set down in the sacred Books and Scriptures, and are as clear and manifest as the sun. These hosts are such righteous deeds, such conduct and character, as are acceptable in His sight. Whoso ariseth, in this Day, to aid Our Cause, and summoneth to his assistance the hosts of a praiseworthy character and upright conduct, the influence from such an action will, most certainly, be diffused throughout the whole world.
(Cited in Shoghi Effendi, "The Advent of Divine Justice", p. 24)
From the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha
1906. Now is the time for you to divest yourselves of the garment of attachment to this world that perisheth, to be wholly severed from the physical world, become heavenly angels, and travel to these countries....
("Tablets of the Divine Plan Revealed by 'Abdu'l-Baha to the North American Baha'is, rev. ed. (Wilmette: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1980), p. 34)
1907. With hearts overflowing with the love of God, with tongues commemorating the mention of God, with eyes turned to the Kingdom of God, they must deliver the Glad Tidings of the manifestation of the Lord of Hosts to all the people. Know ye of a certainty that whatever gathering ye enter, the waves of the Holy Spirit are surging over it, and the heavenly grace of the Blessed Beauty encompasseth that gathering.
("Tablets of the Divine Plan Revealed by 'Abdu'l-Baha to the North American Baha'is", pp. 38-39)
1908. 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!
("Tablets of the Divine Plan Revealed by 'Abdu'l-Baha to the North American Baha'is", p. 51)
1909. ...rest ye assured in the confirmations of the Merciful and the assistances of the Most High; become ye sanctified above and purified from this world and the inhabitants thereof; suffer your intention to become for the good of all; cut your attachment to the earth and like unto the essence of the spirit become ye light and delicate. Then with a firm resolution, a pure heart, a rejoiced spirit, and an eloquent tongue, engage your time in the promulgation of the divine principles...
("Tablets of the Divine Plan Revealed by 'Abdu'l-Baha to the North American Baha'is", p. 67)
1910. ...the believers of God must become self-sacrificing and like unto the candles of guidance become ignited... Should they show forth such a magnanimity, it is assured that they will obtain universal divine confirmations, the heavenly cohorts will reinforce them uninterruptedly, and a most great victory will be obtained....
("Tablets of the Divine Plan Revealed by 'Abdu'l-Baha to the North American Baha'is", p. 27)
1911. 0 ye believers of God! Be not concerned with the smallness of your numbers, neither be oppressed by the multitude of an unbelieving world. Five grains of wheat will be endued with heavenly blessing, whereas a thousand tons of tares will yield no results or effect. One fruitful tree will be conducive to the life of society, whereas a thousand forests of wild trees offer no fruits. The plain is covered with pebbles, but precious stones are rare. One pearl is better than a thousand wildernesses of sand, especially this pearl of great price, which is endowed with divine blessing. Ere long thousands of other pearls will be born from it. When that pearl associates and becomes the intimate of the pebbles, they also all change into pearls.
...rest ye not, seek ye no composure, attach not yourselves to the luxuries of this ephemeral world, free yourselves from every attachment, and strive with heart and soul to become fully established in the Kingdom of God. Gain ye the heavenly treasures. Day by day become ye more illumined. Draw ye nearer and nearer unto the threshold of oneness. Become ye the manifestors of spiritual favours and the dawning-places of infinite lights!...
As regards the teachers, they must completely divest themselves from the old garments and be invested with a new garment. According to the statement of Christ, they must attain to the station of rebirth--that is, whereas in the first instance they were born from the womb of the mother, this time they must be born from the womb of the world of nature. Just as they are now totally unaware of the experiences of the fetal world, they must also forget entirely the defects of the world of nature. They must be baptized with the water of life, the fire of the love of God and the breaths of the Holy Spirit; be satisfied with little food, but take a large portion from the heavenly table. They must disengage themselves from temptation and covetousness, and be filled with the spirit. Through the effect of their pure breath, they must change the stone into the brilliant ruby and the shell into pearl. Like unto the cloud of vernal shower, they must transform the black soil into the rose-garden and orchard. They must make the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the extinguished one enkindled and set aglow, and the dead quickened.
("Tablets of the Divine Plan Revealed by 'Abdu'l-Baha to the North American Baha'is" pp. 86-88)
1912. O thou maid-servant of God! Whenever thou art intending to deliver a speech, turn thy face toward the Kingdom of ABHA and, with a heart detached, begin to talk. The breaths of the
Holy Spirit will assist thee.
("Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas, vol. 2 (Chicago: Baha'i Publishing Committee, 1930 printing), p. 246)
1913. By the Lord of the Kingdom! If one arise to promote the Word of God with a pure heart, overflowing with the love of God and severed from the world, the Lord of Hosts will assist him with such a power as will penetrate the core of the existent beings.
("Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas", vol. 2, p. 348)
1914. Under all conditions the Message must be delivered, but with wisdom. If it be not possible openly, it must be done quietly. The friends should be engaged in educating the souls and should become instruments in aiding the world of humanity to acquire spiritual joy and fragrance. For example: If every one of the friends (believers) were to establish relations of friendship and right dealings with one of the negligent souls, associate and live with him with perfect kindliness, and meanwhile through good conduct and moral behaviour lead him to divine instruction, to heavenly advice and teachings, surely he would gradually arouse that negligent person and would change his ignorance into knowledge.
Souls are liable to estrangement. Such methods should be adopted that the estrangement should be first removed, then the Word will have effect. If one of the believers be kind to one of the negligent ones and with perfect love should gradually make him understand the reality of the Cause of God in such a way that the latter should know in what manner the Religion of God hath been founded and what its object is, doubtless he will become changed; excepting abnormal souls who are reduced to the state of ashes and whose hearts are like stones, yea, even harder.
("Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas", vol. 2, p. 391)
1915. If thou wishest to guide the souls, it is incumbent on thee to be firm, to be good and to be imbued with praiseworthy attributes and divine qualities under all circumstances. Be a sign of love, a manifestation of mercy, a fountain of tenderness, kind-hearted, good to all and gentle to the servants of God, and especially to those who bear relation to thee, both men and women. Bear every ordeal that befalleth thee from the people an confront them not save with kindness, with great love and good wishes.
("Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas, vol. 3 (Chicago: Baha'i Publishing Committee, 1930 printing), pp. 619-20)
1916. The teacher, when teaching, must be himself fully enkindled, so that his utterance, like unto a flame of fire, may exert influence and consume the veil of self and passion. He must also be utterly humble and lowly so that others may be edified, and be totally self-effaced and evanescent so that he may teach with the melody of the Concourse on high--otherwise his teaching will have no effect.
("Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, [rev. ed.] (Haifa: Baha'i World Centre, 1982), Sec. 217, p. 270)
1917. When the friends do not endeavour to spread the message, they fail to remember God befittingly, and will not witness the tokens of assistance and confirmation from the Abha Kingdom nor comprehend the divine mysteries. However, when the tongue of the teacher is engaged in teaching, he will naturally himself be stimulated, will become a magnet attracting the divine aid and bounty of the Kingdom, and will be like unto the bird at the hour of dawn, which itself becometh exhilarated by its own singing, its warbling and its melody.
("Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha", Sec. 211, pp. 267-68)
1918. In accordance with the divine teachings in this glorious dispensation we should not belittle anyone and call him ignorant, saying: "You know not, but I know". Rather, we should look upon others with respect, and when attempting to explain and demonstrate, we should speak as if we are investigating the truth, saying: "Here these things are before us. Let us investigate to determine where and in what form the truth can be found." The teacher should not consider himself as learned and others ignorant. Such a thought breedeth pride, and pride is not conducive to influence. The teacher should not see in himself any superiority; he should speak with the utmost kindliness, lowliness and humility, for such speech exerteth influence and educateth the souls.
("Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, Sec 15, p. 30)
1919. It is at such times that the friends of God avail themselves of the occasion, seize the opportunity, rush forth and win the prize. If their task is to be confined to good conduct and advice, nothing will be accomplished. They must speak out, expound the proofs, set forth clear arguments, draw irrefutable conclusions establishing the truth of the manifestation of the Sun of Reality.
("Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha", Sec. 212, p. 268)
1920. When a speaker's brow shineth with the radiance of the love of God, at the time of his exposition of a subject, and he is exhilarated with the wine of true understanding, he becometh the centre of a potent force which like unto a magnet will attract the hearts. This is why the expounder must be in the utmost enkindlement.
(From a Tablet - translated from the Persian)
1921. Speak, therefore; speak out with great courage at every meeting. When you are about to begin your address, turn first to Baha'u'llah and ask for the confirmations of the Holy Spirit, then open your lips and say whatever is suggested to your heart; this, however, with the utmost courage, dignity and conviction....
("Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha", Sec. 216 p. 269)
1922. As to his question about the permissibility of promulgating the divine teachings without relating them to the Most Great Name, you should answer: "This blessed Name hath an effect on the reality of things. If these teachings are spread without identifying them with this holy Name, they will fail to exert an abiding influence in the world. The teachings are like the body, and this holy Name is like the spirit. It imparteth life to the body. It causeth the people of the world to be aroused from their slumber."
(From a Tablet - translated from the Persian)
1923. The teaching work should under all conditions be actively pursued by the believers because divine confirmations are dependent upon it. Should a Baha'i refrain from being fully, vigorously and wholeheartedly involved in the teaching work he will undoubtedly be deprived of the blessings of the Abha Kingdom. Even so, this activity should be tempered with wisdom - not that wisdom which requireth one to be silent and forgetful of such an obligation, but rather that which requireth one to display divine tolerance, love, kindness, patience, a goodly character, and holy deeds. In brief, encourage the friends individually to teach the Cause of God and draw their attention to this meaning of wisdom mentioned in the Writings, which is itself the essence of teaching the Faith--but all this to be done with the greatest tolerance, so that heavenly assistance and divine confirmation may aid the friends.
("Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha", Sec. 213, p. 268)
1924. The friends of God should weave bonds of fellowship with others and show absolute love and affection towards them. These links have a deep influence on people and they will listen. When the friends sense receptivity to the Word of God, they should deliver the Message with wisdom. They must first try and remove any apprehensions in the people they teach. In fact, every one of the believers should choose one person every year and try to establish ties of friendship with him, so that all his fear would disappear. Only then, and gradually, must he teach that person. This is the best method.
(From a Tablet- translated from the Persian)
1925. Follow thou the way of thy Lord, and say not that which the ears cannot bear to hear, for such speech is like luscious food given to small children. However palatable, rare and rich the food may be, it cannot be assimilated by the digestive organs of a suckling child. Therefore unto every one who hath a right, let his settled measure be given.
"Not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed, nor can everything that he can disclose be regarded as timely, nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the capacity of those who hear it." Such is the consummate wisdom to be observed in thy pursuits. Be not oblivious thereof, if thou wishest to be a man of action under all conditions. First diagnose the disease and identify the malady, then prescribe the remedy, for such is the perfect method of the skilful physician.
("Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha", Sec. 214, pp. 268-69)
1926. Do not argue with anyone, and be wary of disputation. Speak out the truth. If your hearer accepteth, the aim is achieved. If he is obdurate, you should leave him to himself, and place your trust in God. Such is the quality of those who are firm in the Covenant.
(From a Tablet- translated from the Persian)
1927. In this day every believer must concentrate his thoughts on teaching the Faith... O loved ones of God! Each one of the friends must teach at least one soul each year. This is everlasting glory. This is eternal grace.
(From a Tablet- translated from the Persian)