Toronto, Canada

Parliament of World Religions - November 1-7, 2018

Parliament of World Religions – Toronto November 1-7, 2018

The Parliament of World Religions (PoWR) met in Toronto from November 1 to 7, 2018. The first PoWR met in 1893 in the city of Chicago, and was the first organized interfaith gathering.  It was at this very gathering that Swami Vivekananda addressed the gathering and introduced Hinduism at the opening session on September 11, 1893. Though initially nervous, Swami Vivekananda bowed to Goddess Saraswathy and began with his famous speech with salutation, "Sisters and brothers of America!” To these words, he got a standing ovation from a crowd of seven thousand, which lasted for two minutes. When silence restored, he began his address. He greeted the youngest of the nations on behalf of "the most ancient order of monks in the world, the Vedic order of sanyasins (monks), a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance." In 2004, Amma was a keynote speaker at the PoWR in Barcelona, Spain. The 2018 gathering in Toronto saw an attendance exceeding 10,000 persons of faith and conscience from 80 nations and more than 200 unique spiritual backgrounds.

In late September, Toronto Satsang was asked to create a booth at the 2018 PoWR.  We were invited to the Parliament because of Amma’s work with GreenFriends (GF) and Embracing the World (ETW).  With Amma’s grace and love, this project came together beautifully and we were able to showcase how Amma globally promotes harmony and peace. Under the capable hands and leadership of Mark Vishwan Wingard, Keerti Freeman from USA, Natasha Mann, Krishna Darbha, and Canadian volunteers, this seva was well received by all who attended the event.

A booth was created for the Family Festival Area, to showcase Amma, GF and ETW. An activity was specially made for children and their parents. The booth’s theme was Diwali – The Light Within You.  The team displayed how Amma brings light to the world with all her projects under Embracing the World, and how we can bring light to the world by following Amma’s teachings and performing actions.The team created a Diwali-based activity to teach kids about Sanatana Dharma. There were lists of good actions the kids can do, such as meditate, smile, serve others selflessly, plant trees, or reduce plastic. The actions were all focused on creating peace within us, peace around us, and peace in the world. If the kids had done any of the actions on a list, they could push a button, which would illuminate a light on the Diwali lamp. There were three lights and buttons, and when all three were lit, the top light would come on too. The team hoped to give the kids and their parents concrete ideas of how they can create peace in their lives. 

In addition to the Diwali-based activity, there were also posters showcasing ETW on one side of the booth. On the other side, there were more posters showcasing Amma’s teachings. There was Green Friends banner and Three Step Plastic Challenge poster, along with a plastic challenge display displaying many alternatives to single-use plastic and highlighting the problem with plastic. Finally, the booth promoted tree planting by giving away little biodegradable pots of dirt with basil seeds inside, covered with Amma’s logo on paper towel (all plastic-free). The kids could thus bring something with them that would enable them to start a tiny garden at home. 

The booth was blessed by visits from Swami Samarpananda Saraswati.  Swamiji had recently visited and spoken to Amma in Munich before arriving at the Parliament.  Another guest at our booth was Dr. T.V. Muralivallabhan who is the Academic Coordinator, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Arunapuram, Pala, Kerala, and a regular contributor to Matruvani Magazine.

The team humbly laid this project at Amma’s feet, so that we may be able to spread Her message of peace, love, and selfless service.