Study circles are a form of distance learning designed to systematically bring education about spiritual concepts to the grassroots level. Because they are intended to be sustainable and reproducible on a large scale, study circles shy away from formally taught classes, opting instead for participatory methods. They are usually led by a tutor whose role is not to act as an expert but rather to facilitate the rhythm and pace of the study circle. In this way, attendees of study circles are expected to become active participants in their own learning process.
Another foundational principle of study circles is a heavy emphasis on the Writings as a means of finding unity of vision and action by focusing on the essentials of Bahá’í belief.
The most common curriculum used in study circles was originally developed at the Ruhi Institute in Colombia but is now used in Bahá’í communities all over the world.
The curriculum of the Ruhi Institute aims, in its entirety, at achieving three overall objectives: providing insights into spiritual matters, imparting knowledge about the Bahá’í Faith, and helping to develop specific acts of service. There are currently seven books in the first sequence of courses, with two more in development. Each book is broken up into 3 units comprised of 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 training. For example, the third book trains people to give children's classes, and the practice is to give an actual class. Also encouraged throughout the books is the practice of memorizing passages and prayers.
Reflections on the Life of the SpiritThe first book in the sequence of courses is largely concerned with the question of identity. What is the real identity of the “I” in the sentence “I walk a path of service”? Three aspects of identity from a Bahá’í perspective are explored in the book: “The reality of my existence is my soul which passes through this world to acquire the attributes it needs for an eternal and glorious journey towards God. My most cherished moments are those spent in communion with God, for prayer is the daily nourishment that my soul must receive if it is to accomplish its exalted purpose. One of my principal concerns in this life is to study the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, strive to increase my understanding of His teachings, and learn to apply them to my own daily life and to the life of the community.” The book consists of the units “Understanding the Bahá’í Writings”, “Prayer”, and “Life and Death”.
More to follow ......