Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lama and Swami

The Parliament ended yesterday. I feel a little sadness and a great and deep satisfaction. This was truly a momentous event for me. I was able to see the Dalai Lama, first as he enter the Hilton hotel where we were webcasting our interviews, and later when he spoke to the whole Parliament. I happened to be standing in the lobby of the hotel when I noticed the staff lining up. I said to a friend, "There must be someone important arriving." I got out my camera and in walks the Dalai Lama. I had expected an Aura, but in fact he is a charming man who is rather approachable. I watched as he greeted various people and one of his monks stepped aside to let me get a better shot. He has a beautiful smile and a gracious way about him. I was excited, but not awestruck.

I was actually more moved by meeting and hearing Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji. He has a presence about him and a warmth that exudes from his eyes. This picture was taken in the same lobby, but yesterday we were able to webcast him, and I ran the camera and spoke with him personally. He has an energy and a wisdom that is impressive. I began to feel that this must have been what it was like to listen to Jesus when he spoke. There was joy and urgency in his teaching. There was simplicity and depth. He spoke of finding the truth of mind and heart that is already within each of us, and living from that truth. - Nothing earth-shaking, and yet the way he spoke conveyed a power. He told a tale of his own overcoming fear as a child of 9 when he was sent into the woods for a year to be initiated with nothing more than a simple mantra (no worries) and an image of god (one of thousands of images of the unimaginable God of Hinduism). He too was clearly a man, but a man who embodied the wisdom mind he taught. I told him of my desire to bring meditation into the schools, and he told me "first bring peace from within yourself, then they will hear you."

I also met a Buddhist monk from Bangladesh who is a member of the indigenous Chakma people who are being wiped out by the government of Bangladesh. He showed me some art work which expressed his experiences of destruction and loss. We heard a number of similar stories of indigenous peoples around the world that are being or have been displaced and their religions eliminated in the name of "progress", by "more enlightened religions like Christianity and Islam.
It will take me a while to integrate what I ahve experienced here. But I am convinced that I need to continue to learn and to act. The Dalai Lama spoke of the value of conversation but the greater value of action. The new leader of the Counsel for the Parliament of the World's Religions announced the beginnings of a new way of connecting and mobilizing. - I suggest you check out that website. Through it, those of us who attended this Parliament can keep in contact with those we have met here, and you can find out more about how you can join in the journey that is ahead and upon us to bring the change we need to have on this Planet.
The theme of this Parliament was "Hearing Each Other - Healing The Earth" - The Parliament is over, but the work has just begun.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Opening night

The Parliament began tonight with a series of blessings and speeches from a variety of spiritual traditions, from Shinto to Baha'i. It was quite impressive, albeit overlong. The music ranged from didjeridu to Sikh. The theme of this Parliament is "Hearing Each Other - Healing The Earth". There is a special emphasis on the issues of the Aboriginal culture as well as other indigenous peoples. I felt that the Australian Speakers made an obviously forced effort to honor the "original peoples" of the land - The Aboriginals have lived on this island for over 40,000 years, and havene of the oldest spiritual traditions on the planet. And yet, they are marginalized and, until recently, considered sub-human and either persecuted or ignored.

On the other hand, Victoria, and especially Melbourne is wonderfully diverse culturally. Walking down the streets is an education in the variety of humanity.

The actual discussions and forums begin tomorrow. Every I spoke with is complaining about too many choices. And each of us has to make a number of decisions each day, partly on the basis of interest and partly on the basis of our "sub-plot" of seeking to webcast as much as we can, which requires several of us to pick a forum more on the basis of timing than interesy. But I hope to meet people and schedule separate times to interview them. We'll see how that works.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


After a bumpy 14 hour flight to Sydney from San Francisco, and a smoother flight to Melbourne, I arrived at my hotel actually invigorated. Everything is going smoothly and wonderful things are happening. On the bus from the airport to downtown Melbourne (The Bus station is only 2 blocks from my hotel) I met a woman who wasn't going to the Parliament but was involved with a women's gathering prior to the Parliament that was working on the situation posed by the Australian Government's forced reclamation of aboriginal villages in the Northern Territories. This is a complicated situation similar, in some ways, to the US's relationship the the native Americans. Apparently, in Australia, the government's attempt to reclaim the land is not as hostle as it might seem but is an attempt to be helpful and kind. But it is raising the profile of the "aboriginal question" which has been ignored for eons. It happened that the people behind me, who happened to be Wiccans, were very concerned about the disappearance of indigineous spiritualities around the world. The dialogue that followed was amazing for the breadth and variety of concern. No answers were forthcoming, but what struck me was that these kinds of discussions can take place with such openness. Each person was trying to learn what the other person saw so as to expand the understanding. I felt that this was but the beginning of the kinds of conversations I have to look forward to at the Parliament which begins in earnest Thursday evening.

After a shower, and a conversation via Skype between several people in different hotels here in Melbourne and the technician for the webcasting in San Jose where we continued to work out the details of the webcasting we hope to do, I and several of us wandered the side streets of Melbourne searching and finding a pub where, over lagers and platters of appetizers, we had conversations about our spiritual journeys and issues about science and religion and "religious science". Soon I will go to bed in preparation for tomorrow's webcast experiements, if we can get the press passes we have been promised and scope out the convention center and solve some of the technical problems before we begin the actual webcasting.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Parliament of the World's Religions - almost there

Hi! This is David Rickey. I'm still planning my packing before I get packing to Australia. I hope to write short articles about my experiences at the Parliament and in Melbourne - perhaps spiritual and "spirit-ual" since I hope to visit a number of pubs while I am there. If I learn the technology, I hope to post some HD video here as well. But this is all an experiment, an adventure to begin Advent. I hope you will comment back, ask questions, suggest areas (and pubs, if you know of any) to explore. And by "areas" I also and more deeply mean spiritual areas of exploration. This Parliament will host as many as 10,000 people from as many as 500 different spiritual paths. I'm already feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Thank you for joining me on this "TRIP".