Inspired by the teachings of Baha'u'llah and the guidance of the Baha'i institutions, Baha'is of Sri Lanka follow a systematic pattern of human resource development in a seamless fashion building capacities of individuals from different age groups and different walks of life to enable them to lead a life of service to the society. The experience and learning of the Baha'is of Sri Lanka, credence to the fact that human beings are born noble and that it is the word of God which is endowed with that regenerative power- understanding of which helps one to engage in an enduring path of spiritual and social transformation. The activities that drive this process are:
Members of the Bahá’í Community are working together with their neighbours and friends to promote and contribute to the well-being and progress of society. Whether it may be in urban centres and rural villages, in homes and schools’ individuals are participating in a dynamic pattern of life, taking part in activities, which are, at once, spiritual, social and educational. These activities include Participatory Group Study, The Spiritual Education of Children, Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment and Devotional Gatherings. All of which, offer opportunities to study and reflect upon spiritual topics, provide personal and social transformation, seek to develop essential virtues such as truthfulness, trustworthiness, honesty and sharpens their spiritual perception, whilst enhancing the powers of expression.
Bahá’u’lláh has drawn the circle of unity, (…)
Bahá’u’lláh has drawn the circle of unity,
He has made a design for the uniting of all the peoples, and for the gathering of them all under the shelter of the tent of universal unity. This is the work of the Divine Bounty, and we must all strive with heart and soul until we have the reality of unity in our midst, and as we work, so will strength be given unto us.
- Bahá’í WRITINGS
what baha’is do
Educational & Community Building
In a world where the joy and innocence of childhood can be so easily overwhelmed by the aggressive pursuit of materialistic ends, the moral and spiritual education of children assumes vital importance. One of the important teachings of The Baha’i Faith concerns the education of children. We are taught that children are the most ‘precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future’. It is the responsibility of families and the community to help children cultivate the gems they inherently possess, so they can be agents of positive change in the world now and in the future.
It is important to understand that Baha’i classes are not classes of indoctrination. The emphasis of the classes is on learning to think, to reflect and to apply spiritual laws to the life of the individual and society. Great attention is given to the development of spiritual qualities and to those beliefs, habits and behaviors that constitute the essential attributes of a spiritual being.
In Baha’i Children Classes lesson themes include:
Through developing the themes above, spiritual qualities such as trustworthiness, courtesy, generosity, kindness, perseverance, and cleanliness are fostered.
“The education of each child is compulsory. In addition to this wide-spread education each child must be taught a profession, art, or trade, so that every member of the community will be enabled to earn his own livelihood. Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship.”
- ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, on Divine Philosophy, p. 83
Throughout Sri Lanka, there are young people making significant impacts within their communities in countless of ways. However, there are still numerous young individuals who are often exposed to the forces of materialism in society and remain marginalized or disregarded. What each of us should be aware of is that Junior Youth are the future and the present. They have a significant role to play in transforming society. These individuals should be taken seriously as their contributions will create healthy and vibrant communities.
The Baha’i Community in Sri Lanka believes that it is essential to strengthen and support these junior youths to contribute towards:
This is done through The Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program (JYSEP). The Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program (JYSEP) is a global movement and is program that is open to all young people aged between 12 and 15. This is a crucial period of a junior youth’s life as they leave childhood behind and undergoes profound change. In addition, their consciousness is expanding and, day by day, they are becoming increasingly exposed to the forces of society.
Baha’is live in and work in many localities in every country, representing the diversity of the human race. All over the world, they engage in efforts to apply Baha‘u’llah’s teachings to the material and spiritual progress of their communities. This process raises the capacity of more and more people to take charge of their spiritual, social and intellectual development.
A study circle is an interactive study class with participants seeking to enrich their life and work towards the betterment of mankind. It consists of a small group of people that meets at least once or twice a week for few hours to study the course material. Anyone aged fifteen or older can participate regardless of their religious background. The group is brought together by a tutor, a person who is further along in their study of materials. A study circle is intended to develop the spiritual skills of the participants as a way to enrich one’s own spiritual life and to be of service to humanity. All individuals 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.
The materials used which are Ruhi books include passages from the Baha’i writings, that express the spiritual insights and the knowledge gained in the process of translating Baha’u’llah’s teachings into reality. The participants think about application of these passages to their individual and collective lives.
Some themes the Ruhi books are based on are:
“Training in morals and good conduct is far more important than book learning. A child that is cleanly, agreeable, of good character, well-behaved – even though he be ignorant – is preferable to a child that is rude, unwashed, ill-natured, and yet becoming deeply versed in all the science and arts…”
The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds, through commendable and seemly conduct.
Baha’is host devotional gatherings at homes and at Community Centers by reading Baha’i Prayers, passages from Baha’i sacred texts and other Holy Scriptures in an informal yet respectful atmosphere. This spirit of communal worship has no rituals and no individual has any special role. An environment of unity and harmony is generated in these simple gatherings, and this spirit begins to permeate the community’s collective endeavours.
Today hundreds of such regular devotional meetings are held in localities throughout the island in urban and suburban neighborhoods and villages alike.
“To be brief, it hath been decided by the Desire of God that union and harmony may day by day increase among the friends of God and the maid-servants of the Merciful One, in the West. Not until this is realized will the affairs advance by any means whatever! And the greatest means for the union and harmony of all is Spiritual Meetings. This matter is very important and is as a magnet (to attract or) for divine confirmation.”
- ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ, TABLETS OF ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ V1, P. 124-125
Globally, The Nineteen Day Feast may possibly assume different outward forms. However, the core program includes the reading of prayers, a portion devoted to sharing news and consulting on community affairs, and a portion for socializing is a consistent factor kept in all communities. The Nineteen Day Feast provides an opportunity for the community to gather and discuss its affairs, and for the Local Spiritual Assembly to keep well-informed of the concerns of the community and strengthen its relationship with it.
On a given day, every month, the Baha’is of Sri Lanka gather together in a spirit of love to pray, to think about their own spiritual growth, and to consult about their individual and collective efforts—modest though they may be—to improve the life of their communities.
“As to the Nineteen Day festivity, it is of the utmost importance that the friends should gather at a meeting where, in complete attunement and love, they should engage in the remembrance of God and His praise [...]”
- ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ, THE COMPILATION OF COMPILATIONS VOL. I, P. 427
“The beloved Guardian made it absolutely clear that the command to cease work during the nine Holy Days is a matter for conscientious obedience by every individual believer. In the case of businesses and other undertakings entirely even though non Bahá’ís may be members of their staffs.”
- SHOGHI EFFENDI,
LIGHTS OF GUIDANCE, P. 301
Naw-Rúz (March 20 or 21): Naw-Rúz is an ancient Persian festival celebrating the “new day” and for Baha’is it marks the end of the annual 19-Day Fast and is one of the nine holy days of the year when work is suspended and children are exempted from attending school.
Festival of Ridván: The annual Baha’i festival commemorates the 12 days when Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, publicly proclaimed His mission as God’s messenger for this age. The first (April 20 or 21), ninth (April 28 or 29) and twelfth (May 1 or 2) days are celebrated as holy days when work is suspended and children are exempted from attending school.
Declaration of the Báb (May 23 or 24): This Holy Day commemorates May 23, 1844, when the Báb, the herald of the Baha’i Faith, announced in Shiraz, Persia (now Iran), that He was the Herald of a new Messenger of God. It is one of the nine holy days of the year when work is suspended and children are exempted from attending school.
Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh (May 28 or 29): Baha’is observe the anniversary of the death in exile of Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, on May 29, 1892, outside Akko (also known as Akka or Acre), in what is now northern Israel. It is one of the nine holy days of the year when work is suspended and children are exempted from attending school.
Martyrdom of the Báb (July 9 or 10): The holy day commemorates the anniversary of the execution of the Báb (Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad), the herald of the Baha’i Faith, by a firing squad on July 9, 1850, in Tabriz, Persia (now Iran). It is one of the nine holy days of the year when work is suspended and children are exempted from attending school.
Twin Holy Birthdays: The Birth of the Báb and the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh. These Holy Days are celebrated on the first and second days of the eighth lunar month after Naw-Rúz, and may fall as early as October 20-21 and as late as November 11-12. They are two of the nine holy days of the year when work is suspended and children are exempted from attending school.
Day of the Covenant (Nov. 25 or 26): The festival commemorates Bahá’u’lláh’s appointment of His eldest son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, as the Center of His Covenant.
Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (Nov 27 or 28): Baha’is observe the anniversary of the death of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, son of Bahá’u’lláh and His appointed successor, on Nov 28, 1921 in Haifa, in what is now northern Israel.
Ayyám-i-Há or Intercalary Days (floats between Feb. 25 and March 1): Ayyám-i-Há, or “Days of Ha,” are devoted to spiritual preparation for the Fast, hospitality, charity and gift giving. They are celebrated during the four days (five in leap year) before the last month of the Baha’i year.
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