Blessings to you, the readers of this page, in Jesus Christ our Lord. May He guide you and protect you always.

 

 

 

Guidelines for Creating & Facilitating
a Workshop or Group Discussion on
The Golden Rule Across the World's Religions

A Do-It-Yourself Workshop

Compiled by John Milan & Paul McKenna

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Permission to reproduce this document
in print or electronic form:

We encourage the reproduction and use of this document for educational purposes.

The document may be abbreviated to fewer pages, but content may not be substantially changed without permission of the copyright holder. For permission to reproduce portions of the document for commercial use or for large-scale distribution, please request permission from
Paul McKenna at tel. (416) 261-7135 or e-mail: interfaith@scarboromissions.ca

Print or electronic reproductions must include the following notice:
Guidelines for a Golden Rule Workshop
Copyright © Paul McKenna 2002
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If we take the world’s enduring religions at their best,
we discover the distilled wisdom of the human race.  -
Huston Smith

 

Thirteen Sacred Texts


Native Spirituality
We are as much alive as we keep the earth alive. Chief Dan George

Baha'i Faith
Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you,
and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself.
Baha'u'llah, Gleanings

Buddhism
Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
The Buddha, Udana-Varga 5.1

Christianity
In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you;
for this is the law and the prophets. Jesus, Matthew 7:12

Confucianism
One word which sums up the basis of all good conduct....loving-kindness.
Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself. Confucius, Analects 15.23

Hinduism
This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. Mahabharata 5:1517

Islam
Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others
what you wish for yourself.
The Prophet Muhammad, 13th of the 40 Hadiths of Nawawi

Jainism
One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.
Mahavira, Sutrakritanga

Judaism
What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. This is the whole Torah;
all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.  Hillel, Talmud, Shabbath 31a

Sikhism
I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me.
Indeed, I am a friend to all. Guru Granth Sahib, pg. 1299

Taoism
Regard your neighbour's gain as your own gain and your neighbour's loss
as your own loss. Lao Tzu, T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien, 213-218

Unitarianism
We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence
of which we are a part.  Unitarian principle

Zoroastrianism
Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself.
Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29

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Why Create a Golden Rule Workshop?

At a dramatic pace, more and more regions of the world are becoming environments of multi-culture and multi-faith. This trend is having a profound effect upon public education, religious education, ethical education and education for social justice. Growing numbers of educators are discovering that religious and ethical education can no longer be conducted from the perspective of only one religion or culture. Indeed, religious educators of the future will call upon the wisdom and teachings of numerous religious and humanist traditions.

These guidelines are meant to be a small step toward this now-and-future direction. In this proposed workshop or group discussion experience, participants will be invited to reflect from the perspective of a universal moral principle – the Golden Rule – in its many and various expressions across the world’s religions.

People are often surprised and pleased to discover versions of the Golden Rule in so many religions and secular philosophies. In this workshop, you will be working with 13 expressions of the Golden Rule. It should be noted, however, that researchers have discovered versions in numerous other religious traditions. Because the Golden Rule crosses so many traditions and philosophies, it possesses tremendous moral authority and indicates a profound human unity.

This workshop has been tested in a number of environments and has consistently generated great enthusiasm, reflection and discussion. Any group or individual who decides to sponsor it can expect rich and varied responses. This workshop also aims to provide tools for reflection and action in terms of the great ethical and social issues of our time.

 

Preparation

This is a do-it-yourself workshop. The guidelines that follow are meant to equip an individual or group to sponsor, create and facilitate a Golden Rule Across the World’s Religions workshop. Any group interested in sponsoring this workshop would benefit by first forming a planning group.

The planning group can review the range of choices and options outlined in these detailed guidelines. Again, these are just guidelines. The planning group may want to change, adapt or shorten the proposed program. For example, the guidelines contain suggested time frames for various sections of the program. But these are just suggestions and can be varied.

You will note that there is a good deal of time allotted for the participants to do private reflection during the workshop. The developers of these guidelines have learned that the process of individual reflection deepens the experience of the participants. Again, the planning group may want to vary this component of the process.

The target audience for this workshop is both adults and youth. It is hoped, for example, that this program will be utilized in adult and youth education programs in mosques, temples, gurdwaras, synagogues, churches, meditation centres, spiritual fellowships, etc. In fact, on a given day, an adult workshop and a children’s workshop can be offered simultaneously in the same locale.

Please note that the constituency for this workshop can be a single-faith or a multi-faith audience. This workshop is also relevant to audiences that do not define themselves as "religious" or "spiritual" because the workshop content deals largely with ethics.

 

What you will need for the workshop

 

Workshop outline in 13 steps:

Here follows a framework of 13 steps to guide the planning group in developing and presenting its workshop. As an aid to the planning group and facilitator, these steps are listed in both short form and long form:

Step 1 - Welcome & Introduction
Step 2 - Distribution of Sacred Texts
Step 3 - Silent Meditation
Step 4 - Individual Reflection
Step 5 - Preparation for Group Discussion
Step 6 - Group Discussion
Step 7 - Plenary Discussion
Step 8 - Appropriation of Learnings
Step 9 - Sharing of Learnings
Step 10 - Facilitator’s Comments
Step 11 - Evaluation
Step 12 - Next Steps
Step 13 - Closing Prayer/Meditation


Step 1 - Welcome & Introduction

Facilitator welcomes the participants and outlines the program and process of the workshop. If the group is not too large, participants can be asked to introduce themselves and comment on what attracted them to this workshop.

Step 2 - Distribution of Sacred Texts

Facilitator provides each participant with a sheet containing the 13 written versions of the Golden Rule (this information can be downloaded from the opening section of this document).

Step 3 - Silent Meditation

All participants are invited to spend a few minutes in silence, reading and reflecting on the 13 Sacred Writings. Facilitator can explain that the practice of reflection and meditation on sacred texts in silence is common to many religious traditions.
Suggested time frame: 5 to 7 minutes

Step 4 - Individual Reflection

Workshop participants continue their private and silent reflection in response to two or three questions provided them by the facilitator. The questions can also be listed on a flipchart. Participants may wish to journal their reflections. Suggested time frame: 7 to 12 minutes.

Prior to the workshop, the planning group prepares two or three questions appropriate to its audience, to stimulate private reflection and group discussion. The planners may want to provide just one question. On the other hand, they may choose more than two or three questions, perhaps as many as five or six. By increasing the number of questions, the planners are able to provide more rich material for reflection. However, more questions may lead to overstimulation of the individual reflections and of the subsequent small group process and plenary. So again, this is a decision for the planning group.

If the constituency is a specialized group (e.g. hospital chaplains, teachers, teenagers, social justice activists), questions can be geared to its specific needs. If the constituency wants to deal with a specific issue (e.g. ecology, social justice, violence, compassion), the questions can likewise be oriented to such.

Numerous sample questions are listed below, in three categories:

a) the message of the Golden Rule,
b) the message of the Golden Rule for you,
c) the Golden Rule and its implications for society

The planning group may use the following space to write its chosen questions:

Question 1

Question 2

Question 3

Step 5 - Preparation for Group Discussion

Each participant prepares for the small group discussion by quietly reflecting for a few minutes on the fruit of her/his meditation in Step 4. To stimulate this reflection, the facilitator provides each participant with the following questions (please note that the purpose here is not to repeat or rehash the reflection of the previous step but to prepare the participant for the small group discussion.):

Journaling is optional. Suggested time frame: 3 to 5 minutes

Step 6 - Group Discussion

Participants break into discussion groups (4 to 7 persons per group). The planning group may want to designate group leaders in advance. Suggested time frame: 20 to 45 minutes

Step 7 - Plenary Discussion

Facilitator convenes all participants into a plenary. Participants are invited to give feedback by way of either group reports or spontaneous comments. It may be helpful to to record key elements of the feedback content on flip chart paper. Following the feedback, the facilitator stimulates discussion within the plenary. Suggested time frame: 20 to 45 minutes

Step 8 - Appropriation of Learnings

Facilitator asks each participant to take some quiet time (4 to 7 minutes) to reflect on her/his experience of and learnings from the program (journalling is optional). Some of the following questions can be used to stimulate private reflection:

Step 9 - Sharing of Learnings

Facilitator asks some or all of the participants to share one learning from the program. These could be recorded on a flip chart. Alternatively, these learnings could also be shared in groups of two.

Step 10 - Facilitator’s Comments

At this point, the facilitator may want to share some specific or general comments on the notion of The Golden Rule Across The World’s Religions. The facilitator may also want to comment on the feedback reports and plenary discussion and make a summary statement.

Step 11 - Evaluation

Participants are invited to evaluate the workshop process. The planning group may design evaluation forms in advance.

Step 12 - Next Steps

The facilitator and participants take some time to determine if they want to do any follow-up to this workshop. For example, would it be helpful to organize additional workshops? Or to integrate the themes and learnings of this workshop into other projects that the participants or planning group are involved in?

Step 13 - Closing Prayer/Meditation

Workshop could close with an experience of prayer/meditation/liturgy/song/poetry/chant related to the theme. One option is to have people meditate quietly for a minute on the Sacred Writings. Following this, 13 individuals can recite, one-by-one, in a rotation fashion, the individual sacred texts.

 

Sample questions for use in step 4

In Step 4, the participants are invited to do individual reflection in response to two or three questions provided by the facilitator. The planning group is responsible for creating these reflection questions. To aid the planning group in this task, numerous sample questions are listed below, divided into three categories:

a) the message of the Golden Rule

b) the message of the Golden Rule for you

        c) the Golden Rule & its implications for society

 

a) The message of the Golden Rule

b) The message of the Golden Rule for you

 

c) The Golden Rule’s implications for society

 

Other helpful hints for the planning group

1) Ideal number of participants for workshop: This workshop could be conducted with a handful of participants or with as many as 200 participants. Larger audience sizes will necessitate more sophisticated planning and more skills on the part of the facilitator.

2) Estimated time frame of workshop: A trimmed-down version of this workshop could be conducted in an hour. On the other hand, the workshop could be a day-long event.

3) An extra step: In Step 6 of the workshop outline, participants are invited to break into small groups (4 to 7 people). An alternative to this is to have participants work in groups of two.

4) Using the arts: To enrich the workshop, the planners may want to integrate music, art, dance, culture, etc. into the program.

5) Breaks: The number, positioning and duration of breaks are left to the discretion of the planning group and facilitator.

 

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There are realms of gold hidden deep
- Hindu proverb

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"We are interdependent. Each of us depends on the well-being of the whole, and so we have respect for the community of living beings. . . . We must treat others as we wish others to treat us. We make a commitment to respect life and dignity, individuality and diversity, so that every person is treated humanely, without exception."

--from Towards a Global Ethic - An Initial Declaration, signed by 300 representatives of the world’s religions at the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago

 

Resources

There are now literally thousands of "golden rule" websites on the Internet. Simply search under the category of "golden rule". Please note that some of these sites are merely companies which happen to have the words "golden rule" in their title description. Here a few key sites:

Golden Rule Solutions - http://www.goldenrulesolutions.com/

Committee for the Golden Rule - http://patriot.net/~bmcgin/golden.html

The Golden Rule - http://www.jcu.edu/philosophy/gensler/goldrule.htm

Teaching Values - http://www.teachingvalues.com/

Here are three important books in this field:

The Golden Rule, Jeffrey Wattles, Oxford Press, 1996

Formal Ethics, Harry Gensler, Routledge, 1996

Ethics - A Contemporary Introduction, Harry Gensler, Routledge, 1998

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The guidelines in this document were developed by John Milan and Paul McKenna in Toronto, Canada. John has a background in group process, social justice and spiritual direction. Paul works as associate interfaith co-ordinator at Scarboro Missions in Toronto. But the quality of this document is largely the result of consultation with a number of individuals, all of whom are committed to inter-racial, intercultural and inter-religious cooperation. These persons are: Joel Beversluis, Ellen Campbell, Gerald Filson, Fr. J.P. Horrigan S.J., Leslie Mezei, Tony Muhitch, Paul Nazareth, Patricia O’Connor, Fr. Ray O’Toole SFM, Charles Purdy, Joseph Romain, Ted Slavin, Kathy VanLoon, Beverly Vantomne, Sharon Willan, Larry Windland.

If you would like to contact the designers of these guidelines with suggestions for improvements of this document or for any other purpose, contact Paul McKenna at tel. (416) 261-7135 or e-mail interfaith@scarboromissions.ca  

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