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Prerequisites and Conditions of Baha'i Consultation

What makes Bahá’í consultation different from other types of group decision-making is its spiritual dimension. People involved in the Bahá’í consultative process require certain spiritual prerequisites and conditions. Such requirements are defined in a Tablet by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.


Baha'i Consultation

Prime Prerequisites for Baha'i Consultation

As previously mentioned, Bahá’í consultation is a spiritual process. This requires that those who consult possess specific spiritual qualities. These have been referred to by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as the prime prerequisites for those that consult and include:

 

  • Purity of motive—This is means we must overcome egotism. The intention of all the participants should be to find a solution to the problem at hand without considering any self-interest or hidden agenda.

  • Radiance of spirit—This is the ability to find, nurture and share happiness with others during consultation.[1]

  • Detachment from all save God—This means setting aside all the personal and emotional attachments to an issue during consultation and submitting our will to the Will of God.

  • Attraction to Bahá’u’lláh’s Divine Fragrances—This is sincere love of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh and any matter relating to it.

  • Humility and lowliness—This means that in Bahá’í consultation no one should feel superior to others. Each person offers all his or her talents and energies for the service of God.

  • Patience and long suffering in difficulties—This implies the use of self-control to patiently endure difficulties while working to solve them.

  • Servitude to the Threshold of Bahá’u’lláh—This means that one is free from ambitions and self-desires and has no aim but complete servitude to the threshold of Bahá’u’lláh.

 

‘Abdu’l-Bahá then promises that:

“Should they be graciously aided to acquire these attributes, victory from the unseen Kingdom of Bahá shall be vouchsafed to them.”[2]

 

Two Conditions for Baha'i Consultation

In addition, two important conditions should govern Bahá’í consultation:

 

“The first condition is absolute love and harmony amongst the members of the assembly. They must be wholly free 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.”[3]

 

“The second condition … they must, when coming together, turn their faces to the Kingdom on High and ask aid from the Realm of Glory.”[4]

 

The first condition requires genuine unity and love among the participants. This is different from uniformity and agreement. The examples made by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá clearly illustrate this idea. The waves of a sea are all different, but in reality their function and aim are all the same. The flowers of one garden should be different in colour and form to create a beautiful garden. These differences, however, are not the cause of conflict and disunity. The flowers of one garden complement each other in absolute unity and harmony, and work together to enhance the beauty of the garden.

 

The second condition creates the energy required for the synergy of the opinions and views of the individuals. In the same way that without heat the different elements of the cake do not blend to produce the cake, without assistance from the Abhá Kingdom the synergy of thoughts and views will not take place. However, to receive such assistance, the participants in the consultative process should turn to Bahá’u’lláh and sincerely ask for it.

 

Five Rules of Baha'i Consultation

In the same Tablet, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says that after fulfilling the prerequisites and achieving the two conditions, the participants must start the consultation “… with the utmost devotion, courtesy, dignity, care and moderation to express their views.”[5]

 

Devotion is religious fervour, loyalty and love for God and for Bahá’u’lláh. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá describes devotion as the first rule as it ensures that our views and comments are given for the sake of God and out of respect for His Covenant and not for personal interest.

 

Courtesy should govern both our attitude and behaviour to avoid offending other people and be the cause of disunity, and hence prohibit synergy-taking place.

 

Dignity is a reflection of how an individual feels about himself. Hence, the views expressed should reflect a respect for God and the other members.

 

Care has vast implications on the nature and views expressed by an individual. Every point presented by an individual should be carefully examined for its correctness, thoroughness and its impact on other people.

 

Moderation requires that an idea be expressed with assertiveness but without forcefulness. Hence we tailor our views to be expressed in a kindly manner, with good will and tact.


[1] John E. Kolstoe: Consultation: A Universal Lamp of Guidance, George Ronald, England,

pp. 16–18.

[2] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, no. 43, p. 87.

[3] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, no. 45, pp. 87–88.

[4] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, no. 45, p. 88.

[5] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, no. 45, p. 88.

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