When we come together in consultation, we are able to see the whole world around us more clearly, and understand it more deeply, than we would be able to do on our own. We see the unity of God’s creation and its harmony, and we become more united in our own thoughts. Sometimes it takes a lot of talking for us to find a united way forward; sometimes, not much. The more we consult, the better the plans we can make, and the more we can get done.
In the same way that the strength of many people is greater than the strength of one person, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us, it is better to have the views of many people than just one. When the views of many people come together, solutions are revealed, and truth can be seen.
Prayers/readings for study
“Say: no man can attain his true station except through his justice. No power can exist except through unity. No welfare and no well-being can be attained except through consultation.” (Baha?’u’lla?h, Consultation: A Compilation, no. 2, p. 1.)
The story of the flooded village, from Ruhi Book 3, Grade 2, Set 7, Lesson 20.
Consultation Means Finding Out, by Roberta Christian and Eugene Babcock. A sample mp3 is available on the Core Curriculum website. Lyrics are also available elsewhere.
Have the children draw their impression of the story of the village. They could choose several different scenes to portray: a before-and-after view, with one panel showing the village during the storm and another showing the village after the Bahá’ís arrived with the seeds; the Bahá’ís in consultation, with word or picture balloons above their heads showing the topics they are discussing; or everyone working together to load corn seeds onto a truck.
Have the children act out the story of the village, as detailed in Ruhi Book 3, Grade 2, Set 7, Lesson 20.
One useful way to explore consultation with children is to model a talking circle, a method used by many First Nations/Native American cultures to resolve conflicts and solve problems. Like Bahá’í consultation, participating in a talking circle is a sacred act, like saying prayers. Before starting a talking circle, the teacher should explain a few simple rules (it may be useful to write these down and display them prominently during the class): 1. Only one person speaks at a time. To make it easier to tell who has the right to speak, a “speaking token” such as a stick, a feather, or some special object is used. Whoever holds the token has the right has the right to speak.2. Speak “from the heart”, i.e. frankly and openly. Everyone should feel free to fully express themselves and their ideas, keeping in mind the need to be respectful, kind, truthful and courteous.3. Listen respectfully. When one person is speaking, others show respect with reverent attention and silence.4. Each contribution is sacred. After each person has spoken, we show respect for their contribution and refrain from criticism. Outside the circle, we refrain from gossip or backbiting—what is said in the circle stays in the circle.
Consultation bestoweth greater awareness and transmuteth conjecture into certitude. It is a shining light which, in a dark world, leadeth the way and guideth. For everything there is and will continue to be a station of perfection and maturity. The maturity of the gift of understanding is made manifest through consultation. (Bahá’u’lláh, From a Tablet translated from the Persian)
Man must consult on all matters, whether major or minor, so that he may become cognizant of what is good. Consultation giveth him insight into things and enableth him to delve into questions which are unknown. The light of truth shineth from the faces of those who engage in consultation. Such consultation causeth the living waters to flow in the meadows of man’s reality, the rays of ancient glory to shine upon him, and the tree of his being to be adorned with wondrous fruit. The members who are consulting, however, should behave in the utmost love, harmony and sincerity towards each other. The principle of consultation is one of the most fundamental elements of the divine edifice. Even in their ordinary affairs the individual members of society should consult. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, From a Tablet translated from the Persian)
Regarding thy question about consultation of a father with his son, or a son with his father, in matters of trade and commerce, consultation is one of the fundamental elements of the foundation of the Law of God. Such consultation is assuredly acceptable, whether between father and son, or with others. There is nothing better than this. Man must consult in all things for this will lead him to the depths of each problem and enable him to find the right solution. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, From a Tablet translated from the Persian)
… The first condition is absolute love and harmony amongst the members of the assembly. They must be wholly freed from estrangement and must manifest in themselves the Unity of God, for they are the waves of one sea, the drops of one river, the stars of one heaven, the rays of one sun, the trees of one orchard, the flowers of one garden. Should harmony of thought and absolute unity be non-existent, that gathering shall be dispersed and that assembly be brought to naught. The second condition: they must when coming together turn their faces to the Kingdom on High and ask aid from the Realm of Glory. They must then proceed with the utmost devotion, courtesy, dignity, care and moderation to express their views. They must in every matter search out the truth and not insist upon their own opinion, for stubbornness and persistence in one’s views will lead ultimately to discord and wrangling and the truth will remain hidden. The honoured members must with all freedom express their own thoughts, and it is in no wise permissible for one to belittle the thought of another, nay, he must with moderation set forth the truth, and should differences of opinion arise a majority of voices must prevail, and all must obey and submit to the majority. It is again not permitted that any one of the honoured members object to or censure, whether in or out of the meeting, any decision arrived at previously though that decision be not right, for such criticism would prevent any decision from being enforced. In short, whatsoever thing is arranged in harmony and with love and purity of motive, its result is light, and should the least trace of estrangement prevail the result shall be darkness upon darkness…. If this be so regarded, that assembly shall be of God, but otherwise it shall lead to coolness and alienation that proceed from the Evil One…. Should they endeavour to fulfil these conditions the Grace of the Holy Spirit shall be vouchsafed unto them, and that assembly shall become the centre of the Divine blessings, the hosts of Divine confirmation shall come to their aid, and they shall day by day receive a new effusion of Spirit. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Cited in a letter dated 5 March 1922 written by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, published in “Bahá’í Administration: Selected Messages 1922-1932”, pp. 22-23)