Deepening: The process of studying the Holy Writings (usually Baha’i but sometimes those of other religions as well). From the Baha’i Glossary on bahai.us, courtesy of Planet Baha’i.
Going back to the basics can be an interesting exercise, especially when we find that even the basics have been re-shaped as a result of what we’ve been doing in the meantime.
Yesterday the author attended a deepening with some other young adults in the Homewood neighborhood of Baltimore City. Some were students at Johns Hopkins, others simply residents of the city. We met, said a few prayers to start the gathering, ordered some pizza, and then dove into the ocean of Baha’u’llah’s Holy Words. For this first gathering, the hosts decided to study the Tablet of Ahmad, one of the most famous of Baha’u’llah’s Writings. (Read a previous post on Ahmad.)
This deepening was qualitatively different from many of the deepenings that took place in years past, before we began a culture shift in the Baha’i community. One of the elements of the developing new Baha’i culture is to study the Writings in a manner systematic and informed, where each person is able to engage with the Word and to think about its meaning, application and implication. This typically isn’t achieved with someone preaching, doing all the talking, which often characterized many deepenings in years past. Yet for those attending, learning how to study takes training. This training comes from taking the Ruhi courses as study circles. So as we read the paragraphs and discussed the meaning, application and implications in a relaxed yet systematic manner, each person was able to learn and share, contributing to the general understanding of the tablet.
Additionally, when a Muslim friend joined the group, the discussion was merely enhanced. No adjustments were necessary, no ‘interpretation’ required, as she simply read along with us, and contributed her own insights. Having participants of other faiths in study circles has created a more outward orientation for the community, fostering a greater understanding that Baha’u’llah’s Revelation was brought for all of humanity. That anyone can deepen on His Word is proof of this.
Attending a study circle is a wonderful activity in and of itself. But, as we are finding, it is a tool and a stepping stone for the development of the Baha’i community. On one level, it trains participants as human resources. It also shapes our thinking and actions. For some, it helps them take ownership of their study of the Word. For others, it helps us make room for other voices, enhancing our own understanding.
While deepenings have been accorded less attention in the past ten years as we focused on multiplying study circles, stepping away and then coming back to them as different Baha’is has been worth it. For as a result, the way we study the Word feels to be just that much more closely aligned with the intent of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation.
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