Graduating with Virtues: Baha’i spiritual ed class holds ceremony in La Jolla

Some 30 members of the Virtues and Spiritual Education class “graduated” from its spring program June 13, during a ceremony at La Jolla Rec Center, where they’ve met in recent months.

Although based on Baha’i principles and prayers, the classes teach virtues that span all faiths, including truthfulness, service, love, patience, kindness and peace. There are two levels: the younger class (ages 8 and under) explores the virtues, and the older class (ages 8-10) studies the histories of different world faiths.

Held Saturdays at the Rec Center, classes are free and open to the public. Each class focuses on one virtue, and uses stories, games, songs, prayers and activities to illustrate that virtue. Classes take a break for summer and resume in the fall.

“It’s separate from a religion, we are not preaching a particular god, we are preaching spirituality,” said Baha’i teacher Tandis Arjmand. “We come from the perspective that there is a god, whatever entity you want to call that god, and god sent down different messengers at different times in history and we share what their message was. We teach the children about Jesus Christ, Buddha, Muhammad, Abraham, Moses and the founder of our faith, Baha’u’llah. But it’s all about oneness of religions and the common virtues they profess.

“This is a safe place where we don’t say my prophet is better than your prophet or my holy book is better than your holy book.”

When asked what she learned during her studies, 6-year-old Nura Zabihi, said, “You should say prayers every day and always tell the truth, be a good friend and be patient. God made us all and it doesn’t matter what skin color we have or what language we speak.”

Added 8-year-old Nina Yamini, “We also learned about all the virtues and about different prophets. We learned that the prophets all came to teach us to be kind and be of service to people.”

During the summer break, students will engage in service projects like beach cleanups. “We’re trying to get children away from the me, me, me of life, which can be hard because schools are so competitive — I have the better backpack, my parents have the better car, I have the better house — and instead teach them spirituality and kindness and service to each other,” Arjmand said.

Although using prayers to teach these concepts, participants do not have to say Baha’i prayers and Arjmand said several mixed-faith families send their children to these classes as a way of laying the foundation for whatever their religion or spiritual practice may be.

Mina Jam, who is of the Baha’i faith, said her husband is Catholic and her children attend Stella Maris Academy.

“I still want them to come to these classes to learn about the virtues that the faiths share,” Jam said. “Commonalities such as kindness, service and generosity complement what they are learning in school. And it doesn’t confuse them. My kids can come here and learn about virtues and don’t get a conflicting message from their Catholic school.”

Parent Maryam Nami said, “I love this program because of the spiritual quality and the fact that the children explore different faiths, and are taught to be good human beings. Everyone is equal here. I live in Carlsbad, but I drive all the way here every week.”

On the Web:

— Teachings of Baha’i

Baha’i originated in Iran in the mid-19th century and focuses on three principles:

■ Unity of God, there is only one God who is the source of all creation;

■ Unity of Religion, all major religions have the same spiritual source and come from the same God;

■ Unity of Humanity, all humans have been created equal, and the diversity of race and culture are worthy of appreciation and acceptance.