The Last Study Circle

Yeah, yeah I know. In the last post I promised to talk about changes I might include going forward with Project Conversion, but I thought you folks would be interested in the events of last evening. They were special because for the last month, my Mentor and I have met every Tuesday evening for what the Baha’is call a Study Circle.

Mentor and me

A Study Circle is a time where folks of the Baha’is faith (and even other faiths!) get together and study scripture. Prayers are recited, songs might be sung, there’s food, maybe tea…it’s just a relaxed way to study and consult one another regarding God and the teachings of His Manifestations (messengers to mankind, such as Krishna, Jesus, and most central to Baha’is, Baha’u'llah).

The only difference with our Study Circle is that my Mentor is–as far as we know–the only Baha’i around. So every Tuesday it’s just been the two of us. More like a Study Line I suppose.

We use the Ruhi Institute workbooks–the standard for most Study Circles–to learn about the faith. The last third of book one is particularly intense compared to the rest of the book, so much of the 3 1/2 hours I was there last night was spent by my Mentor’s valiant attempt to field my bombardment of questions and ceaseless curiosity. She also served her signature blend of English and orange peel teas…something I’ve come to look forward to upon every visit. And because my Mentor has insisted upon giving me as much instruction as possible during our time together, she gave me even more books to take home! She certainly has earned the title of Mentor. Thank you, Dr. McCormick.

I bring all of this up because I want you to understand that studying the scriptures and performing the rituals of a particular faith is only half the journey. Religions involve people, and despite the rules and regulations of a faith, each person brings a particular and unique nuance to the faith. I could not appreciate what it is to be a Hindu or Baha’i had it not been for the intense interaction with the people of the faith. Religion is indeed a relationship with the divine, but also with its people. I will certainly miss this interaction next month for Zoroastrianism, as the number of believers is few and my Mentor is in Chicago. March indeed, will be a bitter test, and through that test I’ll come to know exactly how those who belong to a scattered and shrinking diaspora live.

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  • World Wonderer

    Thanks for sharing your Ruhi Study Circle experience. In the beginning, when the Study Circles and Ruhi Books were first introduced, 10+ years ago, there were lots of participants in each group, largely because there were few facilitators and many eager students. As the process has continued, there are more facilitators and less students who have taken a particular book, especially the early ones, so it is not unusual to have a one-on-one experience. Also it depends on one’s schedule, I can only take classes in the daytime, and one’s geographic location, more Baha’is more circles. Whatever the size of the circle, the experience is a wonderful way to learn about the Faith and improve one’s connection with God. That was what impressed me most before I joined, that here were a group of people trying to improve not only their own connection with God, but others not of their Faith as well.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for sharing this. It’s true that there are certainly limitations due to schedule. What’s great is that there is a lot of flexibility as to when a Study Circle can happen. The point is, like you said, to establish a connection with God through learning and fellowship with others.

  • Janna

    My husband and I went to Panama about 4 years ago to visit the Baha’i Community and offer our assistance. During our stay, we visited the San Blas Islands (beautiful place, google it!) and stayed in a village for a week. They still live a very traditional way of life and do not have running water, electricity etc. It was the greatest testimony to the unity of the world when we experienced their study circle. Although we didn’t understand their local dialect, we could follow along because we knew the quotes and questions in English. The family swept the dirt floor of their bamboo hut, put out planks of wood for people to sit on, gathered some special food (bread that had been flown in by plane), offered tea, warmed by the fire, and invited the participants in. With only smiles and nods as our tools of communication, we joined the circle and felt the mighty power of the love of God permeate that remote and beautiful spot. I can still hear the joyful chanting of the children as we neared the village every day to hold children’s classes “Tan potente es la luz de la unidad que puede iluminar toda la tierra.”

    • Anonymous

      What a fantastic experience. Baha’u'llah advocated a universal language, however with stories like this we can see that a universal language already exists among us.