I’ve just gotten back from the Parliament of World Religions, a massive gathering of people from all faiths and religions with more than 5000 delegates and speakers. After spending 7 days down in Melbourne I thought I needed some time to reflect on the experience.
Overall it was a great experience. With so many important leaders coming together to talk about how to solve the worlds problems of poverty, climate change and peace, no doubt the world would be changed even in a little way. Every timeslot had about 20 things happening concurrently so it was a true struggle to pick out the one you wanted to goto the most.
The sessions which had the most effect on me were actually the indigenous sessions. Wisdom was found in Chief Oren Lyon’s presence. When someone asked whether there was separation between church and state with the Native Americans, he responded by saying “There is no church or and no state. There is only a state of being. There is no religion, it is a way of life.” Makes us think about how we practice religion these days, as something we might do on a Sunday, or when we sit down to meditate, or prostrating to the Buddha. Religions these days have been separated out into institutions, when once before it was lived and breathed, not as something called religion, but embedded into everyone’s values system, and were constantly connected with the spirit of the earth. What I found quite touching was the way indigenous people related to the land. Consciously or unconsciously we have a tendancy to view indigenous peoples of our contry as primative: incarcerated and intoxicated, or dressed in their loin clothes dancing. It makes us feel safer and superiour knowing that we are the “civilisated” ones looking after the “primatives”. Little do we recognise the wisdom that these people posses. They have been the custodians of this land for 60,000 years, making them the oldest people on this earth. Western civilisation on this continent of a little more than 200 years doesnt even raise a blimp. The land to them is sacred. The spirit is in this land, their spirits, our spirits. The laws of the land are contained in their song and stories, and they have knowledge passed on from generation to generation. Yet when the colonisers came, their knowledge culture and heritage was systematically wiped out… and we continue to rape what is sacred to them today.
I had always wondered what the point of all this multifaith stuff was about. Maybe it makes sense to have it in Israel, areas of conflict, or even between Muslims and Christians in Australia, but Buddhists? After speaking to Petr, one of the PWR organisers earlier this year about it, he did make a good point. Religion is something people tend to keep private, we practice it ourselves, but day to day we are actually live these values which also manifests into real consequences in society, so until the day we start understanding each other openly in dialogue. You can think of it as insurance…. don’t apply it when its too late.