Building a better world will not happen by magic. It requires an ever-growing pool of people capable of contributing to the advancement of civilization. That is why the concept of the “training institute” was adopted by the Bahá’í community in the mid-1990s. The activities of the institute are open to people of all faiths, or none. Their purpose is to assist individuals to deepen their understanding of the Bahá’í teachings, and to gain the spiritual insights and practical skills they need to carry out the work needed to strengthen communities.
The nature of the training institute can be understood by imagining an ongoing conversation taking place among friends concerned with contributing to the advancement of civilization through the application of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings. As the number of participants in the conversation grows, processes to achieve collective spiritual and material goals in each space are set in motion.
A principal elements of the institute is the “study circle.” A study circle is a small group that meets once or twice a week for a few hours, usually in the home of one of its members, to study the course materials. Anyone aged fifteen or older, whether a Bahá’í or not, is welcome to take part. The group is brought together by a tutor, who is simply someone further along in their study of the materials. All those participating are seen as active agents of their own learning, and tutors strive to create an atmosphere that encourages individuals to assume ownership for the educational process in which they are engaged. A study circle should be a space that leads to the spiritual and moral empowerment of individuals.
The materials include passages from the Bahá’í writings related to specific themes and acts of service. Together participants think about the application of these passages to their individual and collectives lives. Among the questions they explore are how to create environments that put people in contact with the spiritual forces released through prayer and devotion; how to strengthen bonds of friendship and establish meaningful patterns of communication among people of various backgrounds; how to make the education of children an integral part of their community life; how to maintain an environment that helps young people develop their intellectual and spiritual capacities; how to generate dynamics within the family unit that give rise to material and spiritual prosperity.
In response to the materials they study and with support from their institutions, participants arise to carry out specific acts of service. Men and women, young and old alike, come to recognize that they have the power in their hands to re-create the world around them. As more and more people become committed to the vision of individual and collective transformation fostered by the institute courses, capacity is gradually built in the community to reflect a pattern of life that places at its heart service and worship.
If you would like to participate in a study circle, please contact the Saskatoon Baha’i community at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Paul at 306-978-4797. For more about study circles and the training institute visit https://www.bahai.org/action/response-call-bahaullah/training-institute