Ruhi Institute

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The Ruhi Institute is an educational institution, operating under the guidance of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'í Faith in Colombia. Practices of the institute have roots in the 19th century and have been nurtured by Baha'is especially since the 1970s with the goal of involving more individuals in study leading to action. A focus of the Institute is to couple an evolving appreciation of virtues with processes of community development. After some decades of development, Baha'i leadership has adopted Ruhi as a key component of the evolving nature of Bahá'í life. Studies continue to research its impact and effectiveness.

History[edit]

The format of group adult learning such as that in a Bahá'í study circle, the normal setting of a Ruhi Institute meeting, has occurred in previous contexts, such as in the United States Chautauqua developments in the 1870s, "using ideals of democracy, participation, and equality."[1]:p46 This approach was adopted in Swedish culture in the 20th century.[2]:p27

Moreover, the Bahá'í community has used the term "institute" in various ways over time. A 1927 report in Baha'i News refers to an "institute", the "Institute of World Unity" held at Green Acre.[3] A 1935 letter of Leroy Ioas noted a reason to promote small group meetings, "firesides", as a central method to promote the religion was to overcome the community's relative introversion that he believed came from thinking that only special Bahá’ís could "teach".[4] A 1950 reference to "Conference Institutes" was reported at the US Bahá'í national convention.[5] There was also a 1958 reference to institutes being held on college campuses.[6] In 1961 a conference in American Samoa was called a "training institute"[7] and another in Korea in 1963.[8] The term was adopted with the beginning of the Nine Year Plan (starting in 1964) designated by the Universal House of Justice, the international governing institution of the Faith. The institute or training institute served the needs of the thousands who began entering the religion in areas where large-scale expansion was taking place. Such places needed a physical facility to which group after group of newly enrolled believers would be invited to attend courses that helped them deepen their knowledge of the principles of the Faith. Over the years, both in conjunction with and independent of these institutes, various courses —e.g., weekend institutes, five-day institutes, and nine-day institutes — were developed for the purpose of promulgating the fundamental verities of the religion.[9] Growth of the religion into viable communities has presented challenges to Bahá’í institutions.

Bahá'í leadership envisioned a holistic process of education reflecting on "civilization and progress – that is to say, government, administration, charitable works, trades, arts and handicrafts, sciences, great inventions and discoveries and elaborate institutions, which are the activities essential to man” and "the education of all members of society."[10]:pp1–2 Arbab, Correa, and de Valcarcel first establihed FUNDAEC in Colombia to express such goals in a new curriculum in the 1970s. A key component of their work was founded on the basic tenet that the essence of humankind is spiritual and that helping individuals acquire spiritual attributes would lead to the advancement of civilization.[1]:p47

From these roots the Ruhi Foundation (named after Farzam Arbab’s father,[1]:p47) evolved as part of a wider process of community building among the Bahá’ís[1]:p47 in Colombia centered first in the town of Puerto Tejada, near Cali[11]:p83 in the department of Cauca. The Ruhi Institute eventually fell under the guidance of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'í Faith in Colombia. Since 1992 it has been registered as the “Ruhí Foundation,” a legally independent non-profit organisation.[12] Ruhi courses appeared in a wide range of study circles in various other countries. Early participants provided feedback to the authors and then over several years the first official release of books took place.[1]:p48 As a result, materials include examples from several cultures which helps diverse participants relate to some of the cultural content of the materials.[1]:p51 Since the late 1990s the Ruhi institute process has developed as an additional way to advance communities.[11]:p78

The current head of the religion, the Universal House of Justice, has noted the progress of the work since the early 2000s.[10]:p4 They mentioned that “the great majority of National Spiritual Assemblies have chosen to adopt the course materials devised by the Ruhi Institute.”[10]:pp4–5 Especially in recent years, its training programs have been adopted by an increasing number of localities worldwide,[13] promoting a "culture of learning" among its participants.[1]:p47 By 2012 the Ruhiresources.org web site—operated by volunteers who are Ruhi tutors—allowed Ruhi tutor-created materials to be freely shared.[1]:p51

Principals, goals and methods[edit]

The goal of the Ruhi Institute courses is to "evoke a transformative learning experience through a learner-centered, experiential, and collaborative approach facilitated by a tutor rather than an instructor, a teacher, or an expert."[10]:p38 Academics have identified the practice as an instance of praxeology.[14][15] The tutor roles "refer to functions we perform at a given time and not to positions we (sic) hold in the community.'"[10]:p38 Indeed Ruhi restructures societal norms, roles, and goals of education "…to re-vision societal images and systems of education as part of the design of new systems of learning and human development that are consonant with the emerging global world-view."[14] The courses are designed to be run with organically developed groups of learners, using "critical reflection, interactive thinking, activities designed to transform theory into practical action".[10]:p6 Tutors who facilitate courses are to reflect on their motives and encouraged to perform their role as virtuous service.[10]:p40 Tutoring is not a position of authority but a service to the community - an explicit factor in training of tutors, seeking to foster “beautiful behaviors”[1]:p49 to function as "friends teaching friends".[1]:p49 The course "applies the concept of 'being and doing' and incorporates 'action and reflection' as a key learning strategy."[1]:p46 Priorities folded into the process of the courses and their refinement include "Projecting a systemic, global world-view"; "ensuring the right to learn and the right to know"; "nurturing the development of diversity"; "providing the competencies to make interdependence a social reality"; (and) "providing for social and cultural evolution."[14]

Any group that goes through a course would be encouraged to pursue a service project as a means of putting their learning into action [1]:p51[11]:pp83–4 Such projects typtically comprise organizing devotional meetings, developing skills in raising the quality of discourses on social concerns, and becoming a teacher of children. Community service is framed by the contexts the individuals bring to the group and their sense of purpose about it - and through several courses the suggested projects grow in complexity.[15] Some have grown into their own local NGOs.[11]:p84 The transcending goal is spiritual and moral empowerment to serve the society and the Faith by cultivating attributes such as a "humble posture of learning, dedication to the application of the teachings, a responsibility for one’s own personal growth, and growth of the Bahá’í community."[1]:p50 The progress of individuals in learning virtues like humility, patience and tact advanced amidst a feeling of empowerment.[1]:pp52–3 A kind of citizenship.

The materials prepared by the Ruhi Institute focus on the Bahá'í writings by assisting participants to understand the texts on three different levels. The first level is that of basic comprehension — understanding the meanings of the words and sentences. The second level relates to the application of the texts to various real-world situations. Finally, the third level deals with the implications of the various quotations on other aspects of Bahá'í belief and action.

Results[edit]

The goal of a universal sense of active and observable citizenship in the Faith has remained elusive.[11]:pp81–2 Although membership in the religion has been growing, not everyone has actively participated in social activities. Researchers have reviewed the limitations of traditional pedagogies in the West, but some contend similar problems exist world-wide.[14][15] Since 2008, various academics have reviewed the Ruhi program.[10] In the words of one researcher it is "…becoming the core of Bahá’í community life worldwide as the outcome of a process that has sought to nurture the spiritual life of individuals and families and to establish social foundations for the vision and practice of religious world citizenship."[11]:p94

Academic studies have measured different aspects of Ruhi.[2]:pp26–7 One doctoral thesis examined the Ruhi courses [10] using a combination of academic approaches to reflective and critical learning, experiential learning, and moral/ethical contexts.[10]:pp42,117 Mortensen interviewed participants before and after a series of courses.[10]:pp51,62 Over a 6-month period, the study started with participants in the Midwestern United States and in a later phase was expanded to areas in Canada, Iran, Ethiopia, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.[10]:p116 Mortensen included recommendations in his thesis.[10]:pp122–4 and hoped his results would be considered in adjusting the courses.[10]:p51 He found a significant minority of participants took the course based on the mandate of the Universal House of Justice and small number were not Bahá’ís and came as a result of being personally invited by friends or family.[10]:p61 A majority liked that the curriculum was built around social or group learning, having a chance to learn from other people as well as bring their own experience to the study circle,[10]:p77 and appreciated the natural laughter that arose.[10]:p78 All the non-Bahá'ís interviewed went on to take additional Ruhi classes, none of the participants voiced disappointment or dissatisfaction with the Ruhi method of education itself; the majority underscored what was to them the unusual component that much of the work and learning of a study course was done in a community setting.[10]:pp117–8

In another review, workers in adult education "found harmony between the concepts developed in the Ruhi Institute and adult education principles."[1]:p53 Another set of researchers found positive results using the Ruhi model including some of the content mixed in a more poly-religious set of quotes in studies with all non-Bahá'ís.[2]:pp29–31 A review in China and neighboring communities investigated practices of "religious citizenship" as a result of the Ruhi Institute.[11]:pp78,80 The Ruhi formula resulted in "nonhierarchical, self-initiated, self-organized small groups engaged in study, teaching, and action",[11]:p79 which is transforming the broader Bahá'í culture to one of small group community building among natural networks of family and friends, a format that is politically viable in China and adaptable to space limits in Hong Kong.[11]:p80

A published case study compared developments in three instances of Bahá'ís fostering development among indigenous cultures - a Guaymí cultural center in Panama, a regional socio-economic development committee of Kivu, Zaire, and the specific original development of the Bahá'í Ruhi Institute in Colombia:[15] "They demonstrate the importance of evolutionary guiding images, of the conceptual support of actions, evolutionary competence, the contribution of second-order actions and the purposeful design of the system of interactive dimensions that operate on individual and societal levels to the design of human systems.… (by those) who are so often considered marginal, irrelevant, and ignorant of the challenges of an interdependent world society."[15] The reviewers saw two implications - "The motivating force which empowered participants, provided a vision, and nurtured evolutionary competence was in every case a powerfully felt commitment to Bahá'í religious beliefs" and each of the three was "designed and carried forward by the efforts of a small group of highly motivated individuals whose leadership style is characterized by such evolutionary values as cooperation, service, interdependence, humility, and the like."[15]

Three cycles of main courses[edit]

The Ruhí Institute's sequence of courses “has been conceived in terms of three cycles, each one concerned with the spiritual and moral empowerment of the believers from a particular perspective”[16]

  • The first cycle is "centered on the practice of the freedom the individual has to undertake acts of service within the framework of the teachings of the Faith and the guidance provided by its institutions"[16]
  • The second cycle is dedicated to the individual and the community.
  • A third cycle is planned and would cover the individual and society.

Main sequence of courses: first cycle[edit]

Minding this is an area of active effort, as of 2016 there are currently eight books in the Institute's main sequence of courses, with more courses in development. Each book is broken up into three units each with many sections. Tutors are encouraged to apply the arts, using music, games, crafts, and such during the training. Each book has one or more practices that can be done outside of the meeting. Also encouraged throughout the books is the practice of memorizing passages and prayers.

It is suggested to take the books in their numbered order.

Book 1: Reflections on the Life of the Spirit[edit]

Ruhi 1.jpg

This first and shortest book of the sequence is divided into three units with different themes:

  1. Understanding the Bahá'í Writings
  2. Prayer
  3. Life and Death

This book can be used as an introduction to people investigating the Faith, or as a study of fundamental principles by people already familiar with the teachings.

One practice for this book is to visit two people, and study a prayer with them.

Book 2: Arising to Serve[edit]

The second book in the sequence involves community life and teaching. Units include:

  1. The Joy of Teaching
  2. Deepening Themes
  3. Introducing Bahá'í Beliefs

This book aims at developing specific acts of service. Providing tools to raise up human resources capable of fostering the growth of the Bahá'í Community with efficiency and love.

One practice for this book is to visit a few people and practice one of the deepening themes learned in the second unit.

Book 3: Teaching Children's Classes, Grade 1[edit]

The third book in the sequence is designed to develop the capabilities needed to conduct children's classes. The units include:

  1. Some Principles of Bahá'í Education
  2. Lessons for Children's Classes, Grade 1
  3. Conducting Classes for Children

This book reviews the importance of education, and gives tools for teachers. The classes include games, songs, and various arts and crafts. The practice for this book is to offer a children's class.

Book 4: The Twin Manifestations[edit]

The fourth book in the sequence is taken to acquire a thorough understanding of the lives of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh.

  1. The Greatness of this Day
  2. The Life of the Báb
  3. The Life of Bahá'u'lláh

This book reviews the importance of the Bahá'í revelation, and retells many of the famous stories of the two founding prophets of the Bahá'í Faith.

One practice is to visit a friend, and share a story from the book.

Book 5: Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth[edit]

The fifth book in the sequence trains individuals to facilitate Junior Youth groups, which are for ages 11–15. Individuals who complete the book and go on to facilitate a Junior Youth group are called animators, thus named because they animate the endeavors of the junior youth. After completing book five, animators use a separate strand of books to work with the junior youth. This books main units are:

  1. Life's Springtime
  2. An Age of Promise
  3. Serving as an Animator

Book 6: Teaching the Cause[edit]

The sixth book in the sequence is a continuation of the theme of the second book, which is teaching.

  1. The Spiritual Nature of Teaching
  2. The Qualities and Attitudes of the Teacher
  3. The Act of Teaching

This book is intended to enhance the participants' understanding of the spiritual significance of teaching, and the attributes that a teacher of the Cause should strive to acquire.

One practice is to participate in a teaching campaign.

Book 7: Walking Together on a Path of Service[edit]

The seventh book of the sequence is designed to give its participants the ability to tutor their own study circles for the first six books.

  1. The Spiritual Path
  2. Becoming a Tutor of Books 1-6
  3. Promoting the Arts at the Grassroots

This book teaches of the spiritual dynamics of service. It gives tools and practice to those people interested in becoming tutors.

The practice of this book is to tutor a study circle.

Main sequence of courses: second cycle[edit]

Book 8: The Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh[edit]

The eighth book of the sequence is designed to further study the covenant of Bahá'u'lláh.

  1. The Center of the Covenant and His Will and Testament
  2. The Guardian of the Faith
  3. The Universal House of Justice

Book 9: Gaining an Historical Perspective[edit]

This book is in development in 2015-6. It deals with the Bahá'í view of God's covenant with mankind.[16][17]

Book 10: Building Vibrant Communities[edit]

This book is currently in development as of summer 2016,[18] and has units entitled:

  1. Accompanying one another on the Path of Service
  2. Consultation

Branch Sequences[edit]

Branching out from some of the main sequences of courses are some branch courses.[19] By 2016 only books 3 and 5 have branch courses.

Book 3 Branch Courses for children's class teachers[edit]

  1. Teaching Children's Classes, Grade 2
  2. Teaching Children's Classes, Grade 3

Book 5 Branch Courses for Junior Youth (aged 12 to 15)[edit]

In the program for spiritual empowerment of junior youth, various topics are discussed in the youth groups. The materials focus on forming a strong moral identity and developing the capacities of youth, such as language skills, the power of expression, and rational thinking. Also included are subjects with which adolescents often struggle, preparing them to make difficult choices and adapting to social change. The courses are being developed around the world (more titles will be added in future): [20][21][22] [23]

Book Title For ages Subjects included (among others)[20]
1 Breezes of Confirmation 11-12 Making an effort and receiving confirmations.
2 Glimmerings of Hope 11-12 Understanding the forces at work in society.
3 Thinking About Numbers 11-14 Applying mathematical concepts to day-to-day life.
4 Spirit of Faith 12 Bahá’í-related subjects: Includes free will; fate; the power of the intellect; evolution.
5 Walking the Straight Path 12-14 Conveying moral concepts through twenty stories from different cultures; vocabulary building.
6 Learning about Excellence 13-14 Love; cooperation versus competition; making choices for the future; arts and crafts; the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of excellence.
7 Observation and Insight Forthcoming.
8 The Human Temple 14 The powers of the human spirit; the power of human utterance.
9 The Power of the Holy Spirit Bahá’í-related subjects.
10 Drawing on the Power of the Word 14 The power of expression; the moral implications of speech and action; social change.

Though the moral concepts in these books find their source in the Bahá'í teachings, they are not of a religious nature and they don’t discuss topics that are specifically Bahá’í (exception: Spirit of Faith and The Power of the Holy Spirit).[21]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Rosemary Blosson; Sylvia B Kaye (March 14, 2012). "Learning by Doing: Preparation of Baha'i Nonformal Tutors". New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. 2012 (133): 45–57. doi:10.1002/ace.20006. Retrieved March 3, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Pedro S. Cabrales; Mae F. Villanueva; Abigail M. Cabaguing; Dennis G. Cosmod (January 2014). "Effect of Study Circle on Moral Attitudes of Filipino College Students". International Journal of Social Science Studies. 2 (1): 26–37. Retrieved March 5, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Next Green Acre season" (PDF). Baha'i News (16). March 1927. p. 4. Retrieved Aug 6, 2016. 
  4. ^ Dahl, Roger M. (1993). "Three Teaching Methods Used during North America's First Seven-Year Plan" (PDF). Journal of Bahá’í Studies (in English and French and Spanish). Association for Bahá’í Studies. 5 (3). Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  5. ^ Charlotte Linfoot (June 1950). "Convention Report - 1950". Baha'i News (232). pp. 3–4. Retrieved Aug 6, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Plan Institutes on college teching at 12 universities" (PDF). US Supplement Baha'i News (7). September 1958. pp. 3–4. Retrieved Aug 6, 2016. 
  7. ^ Nivoleava P. Tuataga (December 1961). "Let a bird depart with its fish; impressions of the first Samoan Teachers' training institute". Baha'i News (369). p. 18. Retrieved Aug 6, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Teacher institutes haston expansion in Korea". Baha'i News (390). September 1963. p. 2. Retrieved Aug 6, 2016. 
  9. ^ Universal House of Justice; Department of the Secretariat (December 1998). "Extracts From Messages Written By The Universal House Of Justice On The Four Year Plan Related To Training Institutes". The Bahá'í Community of Guelph: 1. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Stephan Z. Mortensen (May 2008). PhD - The Ruhi Institute curriculum: A qualitative study (Thesis). Capella University. ISBN 9780549615446. UMI 3311298. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i David A. Palmer (2013). "From "Congregations" to "Small Group Community Building"; Localizing the Bahá'í Faith in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland China". Chinese Sociological Review. 45 (2): 78–98. doi:10.2753/CSA2162-0555450205. ISSN 2162-0563. 
  12. ^ Molineaux, P. (1996). Projects of FUNDAEC. Cali, Colombia.
  13. ^ Ruhi Institute (1991). Learning about Growth - The Story of the Ruhi Institute and Large-scale Expansion of the Bahá'í Faith in Colombia. Cali, Colombia: Palabra Publications. p. 55. (registration required)
  14. ^ a b c d Janet A. Khan. "Creating an evolutionary image of new systems of learning and human development". In Wojciech W. Gasparski; Marek Krzysztof Mlicki; Bela H. Banathy. Social Agency: Dilemmas and Education Praxiology. Praxiology Series. 4. Transaction Publishers. pp. 195–207. ISBN 978-1-4128-3420-9. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f Holly Hanson; Janet A. Khan. "Design of Evolutionary Education Systems by Indigenous Peoples: Three Case Studies in the Baha'i Community". In Wojciech W. Gasparski; Marek Krzysztof Mlicki; Bela H. Banathy. Social Agency: Dilemmas and Education Praxiology. Praxiology Series. 4. Transaction Publishers. pp. 251–262. ISBN 978-1-4128-3420-9. 
  16. ^ a b c Ruhi Institute (2003). Book 7: Walking Together on a Path of Service. Ruhi Institute (reprint ed.). West Palm Beach, Florida: Palabra Publications. ISBN 1-890101-07-9. 
  17. ^ "Programs and materials". The Ruhi Foundation. 2016. Retrieved May 28, 2016. 
  18. ^ Material in Development, Palabra Publications 2009-2016. All rights reserved.
  19. ^ Universal House of Justice. Letter from the to all National Spiritual Assemblies (12 December 2011).
  20. ^ a b DL Publicaciones (DLP), Colombia: Materials.
  21. ^ a b Ruhi Institute. Junior youth spiritual empowerment program
  22. ^ The material has been developed by: Development Learning Press, Colombia; Ruhi Institute, Colombia; The Badi Foundation, Macau; William Mmutle Masetlha Foundation, Zambia.
  23. ^ See for example of course development: Canadian Bahá'í International Development Agency (CBIDA): Preparation for Social Action (PSA) Training Programme for Youth in Africa. (archived)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]