thoughts from counsellor scott’s ottawa talk…

This post was also blogged at doberman pizza.

Counsellor Scott’s talk went off quite well. About sixty people showed up, a mix of parents, teachers, members of institutions, children and youth. Part of the talk reprised points and ideas that were discussed at the meeting with the youth on the 5th, and that formed the conceptual framework necessary to understand the lines of action in the newest Five Year Plan. The focus at this meeting being the education of children and junior youth, we spent time discussing concepts related to the state of our education system and the state of children’s education in our community.

The talk made all of us question the sort of education we provide to our children—is it really enough to talk about virtues we “should be” manifesting, and go straight on without teaching related skills and developing in children the will to manifest those skills, or without practicing them in a safe, loving and encouraging environment? Is it enough to teach our children to be “relatively” excellent, whereas Shoghi Effendi exhorts the Bahá’ís not to “content themselves merely with relative distinction and excellence”? Are we teaching our children to be merely good citizens, or are we teaching them to be agents of change that will transform the society around them?

I’ll definitely be doing some thinking, particularly since I’m involved in a Bahá’í children’s class (recently featured on Baha’i Views. cool, huh?). Sometimes I really feel like I’m learning everything from the ground up. These questions have profound implications for the way I serve, the importance I place on these weekly classes, and the attitude I cultivate about my role in the process. Food for thought from the Writings:

Blessed is that teacher who shall arise to instruct the children…

(Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Education—A Compilation, p. 9)

Among the greatest of all services that can possibly be rendered by man to Almighty God is the education and training of children…

(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections From The
Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, #106, p. 133

According to the explicit divine Text, teaching the children is indispensable and obligatory. It followeth that teachers are servants of the Lord God, since they have arisen to perform this task, which is the same as worship. You must therefore offer praise with each breath, for you are educating your spiritual children.

(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Education—A Compilation, p. 33)

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2 thoughts on “thoughts from counsellor scott’s ottawa talk…

  1. Wow… No comments from others on this? Why not?

    The more I learn and read about the Faith, the more I am starting to understand the role of the individual in transforming this world. We must go beyond stateting “We believe in world peace, harmony, justice, and the three onenesses.”

    The how and why needs to be shown by our living example, though we know that we can never live up to that of Abdu’l-Baha. But we know enough that we are not made perfect and that is the reason we can see what we should strive towards.

    In an old compilation called “Baha’i Scriptures”, there was a passage by ‘Abdu’l-Baha stateing:

    “Were it not for the favors of the Blessed Perfection, no one would have given us any importance. There are some who become proud and haughty and forget this fact. In their utter blindness they consider themselves to be important. Then they fall from their high pedestal, and great is the noise thereof.

    Meekness and humility are the hallmarks of faith. As soon as a believer feels himself the least degree superior to others, the beginning of his spiritual decline has set in, all unaware to himself. There are no offices in this Cause. I do not and have not “appointed” any one to perform any special service, but I encourage every one to engage in the service of the Kingdom. The foundation of this Cause is pure spiritual democracy, and not theocracy. The difference between me and others is this: I confess and acknowledge my own inability, weakness and humility, and know that all these outward confirmations are the favors of the Blessed Perfection. There are some who imagine, and little by little come to believe, that their spiritual successes are by and through themselves.”

    (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 449)

    And Shoghi Effendi:

    “At all times we must look at the greatness of the Cause, and remember that Baha’u’llah will assist all who arise in His service. When we look at ourselves, we are sure to feel discouraged by our shortcomings and insignificance!”

    (Dated 12 December 1950 to an individual believer -The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 223)

    With this in mind and heart, I think the best we can do is strive day by day to be pure channels (letting our ego step aside).

    I find that the following qualities, if explored in depth and try to put into practice, we would indeed be agents of change:

    – Refinement (as in everything from cleanliness to purity of mind to art and beauty, action, language, work etc, etc.)
    – Detachment (and it does not mean we don’t care about anything, but rather not letting things and especially ourselve get in the way to do what is right. What is the right thing to do? See, that is why focusing on these qualities in our lives help us improve.)
    – Unity (of mind and heart, our life, purpose, our words and action, our standpoint in which we make our choices. To have unity we must have justice, but to have justice you need equality, and to do that we must remove prejudices, and to do so we must see the oneness of humanity, . We also should focus on helping improve the lives of each other, be kind, be selfless, etc. etc.)

    I wonder how the Faith would sound to others if we focus on these points first, and then when asked “to what end do we focus on the individual heart?” We could surely answer “To change the world, to establish a sustainable and ever advancing civilization that is based on spiritual principles rather than the current cut-throat selfish pursuits of individuals and of nations, to rid of corruption and strife.” Then we could show the vision of what the principles such a world should and would stand for,(education for all, elimionation of extream poverty and wealth, world parlament, auxelery language, equality of men and woman,etc, etc,) and finally offer our administrative order as an example of how the frame work for a global democracy based on spiritual principles is possible; a system in which there is no absolute power to any individual, a system in which there are no campaign promisses to be made or broken, but rather the elected body locally and nationally are able to handle issues that are on hand without being partisn etc.

    Many of us vision world peace and focus on the nations, the global structure that would support it – a fine picture indeed, and focus on its princples -which most people would agree to it, but a world structure alone will not change the ways of the people or habits. Our work here is to change the world from inside out.

    So essentially I am saying, I agree with you and I wish I could have heard Counsellor Scott’s talk.

    Let me end with just one more quote:

    “Just one mature soul, with spiritual understanding and a profound knowledge of the Faith, can set a whole country ablaze-so great is the power of the Cause to work through a pure and selfless channel.”

    (From a letter dated 6 November 1949 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer. The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 315)

    • Thanks so much for sharing Gaijin! These are all powerful reflections on the qualities we need to show forth and nurture in our children, that they may become agents of change. The key, I suppose, is bridging the gap between education which merely acquaints them with these qualities, and education which enables them to practice and apply them in their daily lives.

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