The Parliament of World's Religions was held between the 13th and 18th of Aug 2023 in the town of Chicago where it had its first session in 1993. The first Parliament of World Religion's was most famous (at least in India) for the impact a young Indian sannyasi made in the gathering with the simple words uttered with a great amount of prayer and meditation behind, Swami Vivekananda. It broke not just the stereotypical way in which the audience must have been addressed until then and created an universal message sans sectoral divides. It appealed to everyone cutting across religious barriers because, here was a young sannyasi, representing a form of Hindu philosophy that seemed to have an appeal which is universal and in which everyone's effort can achieve its fruition without having to leave their own practice or faith!
Since then, the Parliament of World's Religion has been a gathering that has inspired participation from every possible new age Hindu sannyasi from India wanting to emulate Swami Vivekananda. The Parliament started to gather every four years since 1993, i.e., 100 yrs since its first edition. In the recent edition, Samanvaya was happy to launch the Dharma Institute during the previous Parliament of World's Religions at Toranto in 2018. A small booklet titled, Dharma Unplugged by Chief, Samanvaya was released during this programme as well. More details here.
When the 2023 Parliament of World Religion's was announced as to be hosted in the city of Chicago, it had a special appeal. Afterall, this is the place where Swami Vivekananda gave his great speech. Why not attend the programme in this city itself? That's when my friend since the first visit, Quaker thinker, teacher, activist and philosopher, Gray Cox from Maine got in touch with me. He had wanted to challenge (he has been for some time now) the Golden Rule of Christian Ethics that stated, ''do Unto others as you would want them to do unto You''!! stating that this is deeply Colonial and may not fit into a context of recognizing multiple cultures and cultural sensitivity based engagement with the world. He had discussed it with me during a long drive in the previous visit to the USA and this time he had written a book, with this as one of the subjects as well ("Smarter Planet to Wiser Earth?", Gray Cox).
Gray wanted to have a session in the Parliament of World Religions to challenge the Golden Rule. The Parliament had its Ethical framework drawn from diverse backgrounds and did acknowledge the Golden Rule, so, it was going to be tricky. He invited me to join him as a panelist to bring an Indian perspective into the dialogue.
To participate in the Parliament of Religions in Chicago, give a talk against a Colonial Golden Rule, and to
meet friends like Gray and get to spend quality time with them, was too good to miss as an opportunity. Gray had been extremely generous as a host as well, picking me up at Rochester where I had stayed on after delivering a lecture at the Gandhian Centre for Non-Violence there and organizing accommodation not far from the massive venue, the McCormick Place in the centre of the city. Being there for the inauguration of the PoWR gave us an idea about the overall drift of the conference which had focus on Human Rights. It was great to meet all kinds of people at the PoWR this time.
Of course it is the global super market of religions, there are those who come and out of habit were trying to sell their religions, others were there to go back and tell people stories about what they did there, and there were others who were there to raise genuine issues related to religions on Human Rights as well as Human Rights violations in the name of religions. It was the dialogue amongst the last mentioned that was by far the most interesting and productive.
My presentation at the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago on the Golden Rule is available as a presentation as a self-running slide show below
A detailed note on the presentations and further Q&A are available in Gray's website here.
My two articles that have been published since in the Vedanta Kesari are reproduced in the links provided below -
The art of Feeding with Care - a note on the free langar managed by the Sikh community during the PoWR through which people of all faith were provided free lunch every day of the event by this amazing community.
Seva for Culture as Dharma Practice - A note on the amazing Service rendered as their cultural duty by the diaspora community in several religious and charity institutions in American.