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Study Guide for the Ridvan 2016 Message

Study Guide for the Ridvan 2016 Message

With Assistance from Barbara Ann

__________________________________________________________

The Universal House of Justice

Riḍván 2016

 

To the Bahá’ís of the World

Dearly loved Friends,

Paragraph One

With the advent of the King of Festivals, the period of preparation for the next global Plan is over: we now summon the friends of God to a new five-year commitment of courage, resolve, and resources.

What is now over?

  • the period of preparation for the next global Plan is over

To what is the House of Justice summoning us?

  • to a new five-year commitment of courage, resolve, and resources

What will this five year commitment require of us?

  • courage, resolve, and resources

Paragraph Two

The company of Bahá’u’lláh’s faithful stands poised. Institutional gatherings convened across the world in recent months have sent out successive signals of eagerness to begin this mighty enterprise. The imperatives contained in the message addressed to the Counsellors’ Conference are already being translated into decisive plans of action. Decades of heroic endeavour have shaped the community and earned it a measure of proven ability in fostering growth, steeling it for this moment. The last two decades, in particular, have markedly accelerated this longed-for rise in proficiency.

Who stands poised?

  • the company of Bahá’u’lláh’s faithful

What sent out successive signals of eagerness to begin this mighty enterprise?

  • institutional gatherings convened across the world in recent months

What is already being translated into decisive plans of action?

  • the imperatives contained in the message addressed to the Counsellors’ Conference

What has shaped the community and earned it a measure of proven ability in fostering growth, steeling it for this moment?

  • decades of heroic endeavour

What has markedly accelerated this longed-for rise in proficiency?

  • the last two decades, in particular

DISCUSS

  • How are “the Company of Baha’u’llah’s faithful” standing poised?
  • How have the “institutional gatherings convened across the world in recent months sent out successive signals of eagerness to begin this mighty enterprise”?
  • How are “the imperatives contained in the message addressed to the Counsellors’ Conference already being translated into decisive plans of action”?
  • How have “decades of heroic endeavour shaped the community and earned it a measure of proven ability in fostering growth, steeling it for this moment”?
  • How has “the last two decades, in particular, markedly accelerated this longed-for rise in proficiency”?

Paragraph Three

During this period, the adoption of an evolving framework for action has enabled the friends to progressively nurture and refine essential capacities, giving rise to simple acts of service at first, leading to more elaborate patterns of action, which in turn demanded the development of capacities still more complex. In this way, a systematic process of human resource development and community building has been started in thousands of clusters—and, in many of them, become far advanced. The focus has not been solely on the individual believer, or the community, or the institutions of the Faith; all three inseparable participants in the evolution of the new World Order are being stimulated by the spiritual forces released through the unfoldment of the Divine Plan. The signs of their progress are more and more apparent: in the confidence that countless believers have acquired to share accounts of Bahá’u’lláh’s life and discuss the implications of His Revelation and peerless Covenant; in the growing contingents of souls who, as a result, have been attracted to His Cause and are contributing to the achievement of His unifying vision; in the ability of Bahá’ís and their friends, at the very grassroots of the community, to describe in eloquent terms their experience of a process capable of transforming character and shaping social existence; in the significantly larger numbers of those indigenous to a country who, as members of Bahá’í institutions and agencies, are now guiding the affairs of their communities; in the reliable, generous, and sacrificial giving to the Fund, so vital for sustaining the advancement of the Faith; in the unprecedented efflorescence of individual initiative and collective action in support of community building activities; in the enthusiasm of so many selfless souls in the prime of youth who are bringing immense vigour to this work, notably by tending to the spiritual education of younger generations; in the enhancement of the devotional character of the community through regular gatherings for worship; in the rise in capacity at all levels of Bahá’í administration; in the readiness of institutions, agencies, and individuals to think in terms of process, to read their immediate reality and assess their resources in the places where they live, and to make plans on that basis; in the now familiar dynamic of study, consultation, action, and reflection that has cultivated an instinctive posture of learning; in the mounting appreciation for what it means to give effect to the Teachings through social action; in the multiplying opportunities being sought and seized to offer a Bahá’í perspective on discourses prevalent in society; in the awareness of a global community that, in all its endeavours, it is hastening the emergence of divine civilization by manifesting the society building power inherent in the Cause; indeed, in the friends’ growing consciousness that their efforts to foster inner transformation, to widen the circle of unity, to collaborate with others in the field of service, to help populations take charge of their own spiritual, social, and economic development—and, through all such efforts, to bring about the betterment of the world—express the very purpose of religion itself.

What has enabled the friends to progressively nurture and refine essential capacities?

  • the adoption of an evolving framework for action

What happens first, and to what does it lead?

  • simple acts of service at first, leading to more elaborate patterns of action

What does this demand of us?

  • the development of capacities still more complex

What has been started in thousands of clusters—and, in many of them, become far advanced?

  • a systematic process of human resource development and community building

Which three inseparable participants in the evolution of the new World Order are being stimulated by the spiritual forces released through the unfoldment of the Divine Plan?

  • the individual believer
  • the community
  • the institutions of the Faith

Where are the signs of their progress more and more apparent?

  • in the confidence that countless believers have acquired to share accounts of Bahá’u’lláh’s life and discuss the implications of His Revelation and peerless Covenant
  • in the growing contingents of souls who, as a result, have been attracted to His Cause and are contributing to the achievement of His unifying vision
  • in the ability of Bahá’ís and their friends, at the very grassroots of the community, to describe in eloquent terms their experience of a process capable of transforming character and shaping social existence
  • in the significantly larger numbers of those indigenous to a country who, as members of Bahá’í institutions and agencies, are now guiding the affairs of their communities
  • in the reliable, generous, and sacrificial giving to the Fund, so vital for sustaining the advancement of the Faith
  • in the unprecedented efflorescence of individual initiative and collective action in support of community building activities
  • in the enthusiasm of so many selfless souls in the prime of youth who are bringing immense vigour to this work, notably by tending to the spiritual education of younger generations
  • in the enhancement of the devotional character of the community through regular gatherings for worship
  • in the rise in capacity at all levels of Bahá’í administration
  • in the readiness of institutions, agencies, and individuals to think in terms of process, to read their immediate reality and assess their resources in the places where they live, and to make plans on that basis
  • in the now familiar dynamic of study, consultation, action, and reflection that has cultivated an instinctive posture of learning
  • in the mounting appreciation for what it means to give effect to the Teachings through social action
  • in the multiplying opportunities being sought and seized to offer a Bahá’í perspective on discourses prevalent in society
  • in the awareness of a global community that, in all its endeavours, it is hastening the emergence of divine civilization by manifesting the society building power inherent in the Cause

Through what efforts have we been able to express the very purpose of religion itself?

  • growing consciousness
  • efforts to foster inner transformation
  • widen the circle of unity
  • collaborate with others in the field of service
  • help populations take charge of their own spiritual, social, and economic development

What has these efforts brought about?

  • the betterment of the world

DISCUSS

  • How is “the evolution of the new World Order” “being stimulated”?

Paragraph Four

While no single measure can capture the totality of the Bahá’í community’s progress, much can be inferred from the number of clusters worldwide where a programme of growth has been established, which, with gratitude for the bounties bestowed by the Abhá Beauty, we confirm has surpassed 5,000. So broad a foundation as this was a prerequisite for taking on the task that now confronts the Bahá’í world—strengthening the process of growth in every cluster where it has begun and extending further an enriching pattern of community life. The sustained effort required will be arduous. But the outcome has the potential to be profoundly significant, even epoch making. Small steps, if they are regular and rapid, add up to a great distance travelled. By concentrating on the advance that must be made in a cluster in an initial period—for instance, in the six cycles occurring before the first of the bicentennial anniversaries—the friends will do much to bring their goal for the full five years within reach. In each cycle are vested fleeting opportunities for a stride forward, precious possibilities that will not return.

How can we measure progress?

  • While no single measure can capture the totality of the Bahá’í community’s progress, much can be inferred from the number of clusters worldwide where a programme of growth has been established

How many programmes of growth have been established?

  • we confirm has surpassed 5,000

How has this been achieved and what can we be grateful for?

  • with gratitude for the bounties bestowed by the Abhá Beauty

What is the task that now confronts the Bahá’í world?

  • strengthening the process of growth in every cluster where it has begun
  • extending further an enriching pattern of community life

What will be arduous?

  • the sustained effort required

How has the potential outcome been described?

  • profoundly significant, even epoch making

What adds up to a great distance travelled?

  • Small steps, if they are regular and rapid

How can we do much to bring our goals for the full five years within reach?

  • by concentrating on the advance that must be made in a cluster in the six cycles occurring before the first of the bicentennial anniversaries

Bonus Question:  What is the first of the bicentennial anniversaries and when is it?

With what is each cycle vested?

  • fleeting opportunities for a stride forward
  • precious possibilities that will not return

Paragraph Five

In society at large, alas, the symptoms of an ever-deepening malaise of the soul multiply and worsen. How striking that, as the peoples of the world suffer for want of the true remedy and turn fitfully from one false hope to another, you are collectedly refining an instrument that connects hearts with the Word of God eternal. How striking that, amid the cacophony of fixed opinions and opposing interests that grows everywhere more fierce, you are focused on drawing people together to build communities that are havens of unity. Far from disheartening you, let the world’s prejudices and hostilities be reminders of how urgently souls all around you need the healing balm that you alone can present to them.

What is happening in society at large?

  • the symptoms of an ever-deepening malaise of the soul multiply and worsen

What is the striking contrast?

  • as the peoples of the world suffer for want of the true remedy and turn fitfully from one false hope to another, we are collectedly refining an instrument that connects hearts with the Word of God eternal
  • amid the cacophony of fixed opinions and opposing interests that grows everywhere more fierce, we are focused on drawing people together to build communities that are havens of unity

Instead of becoming disheartened, of what should we remind ourselves?

  • let the world’s prejudices and hostilities be reminders of how urgently souls all around you need the healing balm that you alone can present to them

DISCUSS

  • How are we collectively “refining an instrument that connects hearts with the Word of God eternal”?
  • How are we building communities that are havens of unity?
  • What does the Universal House of Justice tell us to do with “the world’s prejudices and hostilities”?

Paragraph Six

This is the last in a series of consecutive Five Year Plans. At its close, a new phase in the evolution of the Divine Plan will open, set to propel the community of Bahá’u’lláh towards the third century of the Bahá’í Era. May the friends of God in every country appreciate the promise of these few years ahead, which will be rigorous preparation for the even mightier tasks yet to come. The present Plan’s broad scope enables every individual to support this work, however humble one’s share. We ask you, cherished co-workers, adorers of Him Who is the Best-Beloved of the worlds, to spare no effort in applying all you have learned and every God-given ability and skill you possess to advance the Divine Plan into its next essential stage. To your own ardent supplications for heavenly assistance we add ours, offered in the Holy Shrines, on behalf of all who labour for this all encompassing Cause.

What is unique about this plan?

  • this is the last in a series of consecutive Five Year Plans

What will happen at its close?

  • a new phase in the evolution of the Divine Plan will open

To what will it propel us?

  • towards the third century of the Bahá’í Era

What are we asked to appreciate?

  • the promise of these few years ahead which will be rigorous preparation for the even mightier tasks yet to come

What does this plan’s broad scope enable every individual?

  • to support this work, however humble one’s share

What is the House of Justice asking us?

  • to spare no effort in applying all we have learned and every God-given ability and skill we possess to advance the Divine Plan into its next essential stage

What prayers are being offered in the Holy Shrines, on behalf of all who labour for this all encompassing Cause?

  • ardent supplications for heavenly assistance

DISCUSS

  • How do we “spare no effort in applying all” we “have learned”  “to advance the Divine Plan into its next essential stage”?
  • How do we apply “every God-given ability”  “to advance the Divine Plan into its next essential stage”?
  • How do you apply “the skills you possess to advance the Divine Plan into its next essential stage”?

 [signed: The Universal House of Justice]

Exemptions from Fasting

One of my readers wrote:

I have been fasting for about five years now. The middle three were very easy, however, this fast there have been heat-waves and the common cold making it more difficult. And then came that time of the month. What suggestions you have for dealing with a broken up fast? I feel like I need to start the fast all over again with four days to go.

I replied:

You’re exempt from fasting in both those situations (b and f)!

Exemption from fasting is granted to:
(a) Travellers

  • Provided the journey exceeds 9 hours.
  • Those travelling on foot, provided the journey exceeds 2 hours.
  • Those who break their journey for less than 19 days.
  • Those who break their journey during the Fast at a place where they are to stay 19 days are exempt from fasting only for the first three days from their arrival.
  • Those who reach home during the Fast must commence fasting from the day of their arrival.

(b) Those who are ill.

(c) Those who are over 70.

(d) Women who are with child.

(e) Women who are nursing.

(f) Women in their courses, provided they perform their ablutions and repeat a specifically revealed verse 95 times a day.

(g) Those who are engaged in heavy labour, who are advised to show respect for the law by using discretion and restraint when availing themselves of the exemption.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 38)

The prayer you can say during your period is described in the Aqdas:

God hath exempted women who are in their courses from obligatory prayer and fasting. Let them, instead, after performance of their ablutions, give praise unto God, repeating ninety-five times between the noon of one day and the next ‘Glorified be God, the Lord of Splendour and Beauty‘. Thus hath it been decreed in the Book, if ye be of them that comprehend.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 23)

If claiming the exemptions isn’t clear enough, try these!

The law of the Fast is ordained for those who are sound and healthy; as to those who are ill or debilitated, this law hath never been nor is now applicable.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting)

In truth, I say that obligatory prayer and fasting occupy an exalted station in the sight of God. It is, however, in a state of health that their virtue can be realized. In time of ill-health it is not permissible to observe these obligations; such hath been the bidding of the Lord, exalted be His glory, at all times. Blessed be such men and women as pay heed, and observe His precepts. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 134)

God doesn’t want you to push yourself beyond your limitations:

Some people lay stress on fasting. They affirm that in augmenting the weakness of the body they develop a spiritual sensibility and thus they think to approach God. Weakening one’s self physically does not necessarily contribute to spiritual progress. Humility, kindness, resignation, and all these spiritual attributes emanating from great physical strength are acceptable to God. That an enfeebled man cannot fight is not accounted a virtue. Were physical weakness a virtue the dead would be perfect, for they can do nothing. If a man be just, kind, humble and merciful and his qualities are acquired through the will-power—this is Godlike. A child cannot kill a man; but a Bonaparte can abstain from war, from shedding blood, from devastating countries. A dumb person will not speak ill of any one, a paralyzed hand cannot strike; but a strong arm can refrain from striking. Justice, love and kindness must be the instruments of strength, not of weakness. Exaggerated fasting destroys the divine forces.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 98-99)

You don’t need to extend the Fast because of the days you missed.  You’re exempt!

If during the Fast period a person falls ill and is unable to fast, but recovers before the Fast period is over, he can start to Fast again and continue until the end. Of course the Fast, as you know, can only be kept during the month set aside for that purpose.  (Shoghi Effendi: Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 9-10)

Vowing to fast (in a month other than the one prescribed for fasting) is permissible. Vows which profit mankind are however preferable in the sight of God.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 38)

God has the power to count you among those who have kept the Fast:

Shouldst Thou regard him who hath broken the Fast as one who hath observed it, such a man would be reckoned among them who from eternity had been keeping the Fast.  And shouldst Thou decree that he who hath observed the Fast hath broken it, that person would be numbered with such as have caused the Robe of Thy Revelation to be stained with dust, and been far removed from the crystal waters of this living Fountain.  (Baha’u’llah, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 261)

You can ask for this, and also to receive the benefit of the virtues for each hour of the Fast:

These are, O my God, the days whereon Thou didst enjoin Thy servants to observe the fast . . . Thou hast endowed every hour of these days with a special virtue, inscrutable to all except Thee, Whose knowledge embraceth all created things. Thou hast, also, assigned unto every soul a portion of this virtue in accordance with the Tablet of Thy decree and the Scriptures of Thine irrevocable judgment.  (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 143)

For more ideas on what you can do when you’re exempt:

9 Ways you Can Fast When you Can Eat

What’s the Baha’i Fast Like—When You’re Exempt?  

Prayer Requests and Virtues Acquired During the Baha’i Fast

Meditations on the Long Fast Prayer

 What would you add to this question of exemptions?  Post your comments below.

Why Do We Overeat During the Fast?

Nabil Moghaddam is in his final year of a three-year program in Homeopathy, Health Sciences and Nutrition through the Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine who are regulating the homeopathic profession in Ontario, and his thorough training matches the competencies required by the College of Homeopaths of Ontario.  He’s combining his knowledge of the Writings, with the learning he is getting in his program.  It’s the first time I’ve seen anyone attempt to balance science and religion on this topic.

Here is what the Writings have to say about homeopathy as a scientific discipline:

One of the friends of Persia wrote to Shoghi Effendi and asked this question: “Is it true that ‘Abdu’l-Baha has said that biochemical homeopathy, which is a form of food medicine, is in conformity with the Bahá’í medical concept?” The beloved Guardian’s reply to this question in a letter dated 25th November, 1944 was as follows: “This statement is true, and the truth thereof will be revealed in the future.”   (Shoghi Effendi and Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 485).

Staying Up Late & Sleeping In During the Fast

Nabil Moghaddam is in his final year of a three-year program in Homeopathy, Health Sciences and Nutrition through the Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine who are regulating the homeopathic profession in Ontario, and his thorough training matches the competencies required by the College of Homeopaths of Ontario.  He’s combining his knowledge of the Writings, with the learning he is getting in his program.  It’s the first time I’ve seen anyone attempt to balance science and religion on this topic.

Here is what the Writings have to say about homeopathy as a scientific discipline:

One of the friends of Persia wrote to Shoghi Effendi and asked this question: “Is it true that ‘Abdu’l-Baha has said that biochemical homeopathy, which is a form of food medicine, is in conformity with the Bahá’í medical concept?” The beloved Guardian’s reply to this question in a letter dated 25th November, 1944 was as follows: “This statement is true, and the truth thereof will be revealed in the future.”   (Shoghi Effendi and Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 485).

Transferring Attachment During the Fast

Nabil Moghaddam is in his final year of a three-year program in Homeopathy, Health Sciences and Nutrition through the Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine who are regulating the homeopathic profession in Ontario, and his thorough training matches the competencies required by the College of Homeopaths of Ontario.

He’s combining his knowledge of the Writings, with the learning he is getting in his program.  It’s the first time I’ve seen anyone attempt to balance science and religion on this topic.

Here is what the Writings have to say about homeopathy as a scientific discipline:

One of the friends of Persia wrote to Shoghi Effendi and asked this question: “Is it true that ‘Abdu’l-Baha has said that biochemical homeopathy, which is a form of food medicine, is in conformity with the Bahá’í medical concept?” The beloved Guardian’s reply to this question in a letter dated 25th November, 1944 was as follows: “This statement is true, and the truth thereof will be revealed in the future.”   (Shoghi Effendi and Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 485).