His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was a key speaker, urging people and communities of faith, spirit and goodwill to “Make a World of Difference” in the midst of the challenges facing the global community.
The 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions features more than 1300 world-class speakers and breathtaking performers from Australia and around the world. The event has drawn together more than 650 programs under the theme Make a World of Difference: Hearing each other, Healing the earth.
Nine blessings will signify the beginning of event – Zoroastrian, Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Bahai.
Other performers and speakers included:
• Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra
• Melbourne University Choral Society and Melbourne Percussion Ensemble
• A range of Aboriginal performers including Western Creation
• Professor Joy Murphy Wandin, AO
• Dr. Sakena Yacoobi
• Dr Haruhisa Handa
• Rabbi David Saperstein
TEXT OF His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s speech:
The purpose of religion is to bring enlightenment to the individual, and happiness in society, and to move from limited individual identity, to universality and communion with the Divine. When at a time these ideals are far from reality, congregations such as these where people of all faiths gather together have great responsibility to ponder on the pressing issues, it is a necessity for survival of our planet. Faith and Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) are a powerful tool of transformation in society. Though we have moved away from the blemish of medieval conflicts to a more tolerant and co-operative society, FBOs have the responsibility to make a happy society.
As I listened to the symphony this evening, I looked at these beautiful singers and artists, all playing their own tune, but all looking at the conductor.
All religious leaders have to take on this role. We cannot lose sight of that one Divinity, which has created this beautiful diversity. Otherwise we won’t have a symphony, we will have a chaos.
The world has witnessed so much chaos, now let’s focus on one conductor – GOD – Generator, Operator and Destroyer. Focus on one aspect, but play your instrument. There is no threat to any tradition, to any culture, if we are all uplifted in human values, in communion of one, which is in the heart of each and every one of us.
I am reminded of Kumbh Mela, which has been going on for thousands of years. When I was at last Kumbh Mela, I saw something amazing. 30 million people congregate there, and yet there is no crime, no violence, no stealing. Imagine, that people can have this faith.
Once at Kumbh Mela, it was very cold in the night, it was January. We went out to distribute some blankets. We saw a young boy, who had just crossed his 20s – he was wearing some shorts, underclothes, and we offered him a blanket. He said, “I don’t need it, I can manage, but under the bridge there are many elderly women, they need it more than me. Please give it to them.”
That sense of belongingness with each other, helping each other, only FBOs can bring this feeling on this planet.
Once again, I congratulate all of you for venturing on this noble work of reforming society and uniting with the ever-present being within all of us.
We need to ponder on issues relating to the environment, children, agriculture. The word “Parliament” is really scary! Rather, I would call this a family reunion, because there is more conflict in parliament. A reunion of all faith based organizations to deal with the problem of depression.
WHO has said that depression will soon be the second biggest killer in the world. Popping Prozac is not enough. It was so painful to hear from our sister from Afghanistan that a whole generation if suffering from depression. 92% of Palestine is depressed. 160 billion Euros is being spent on mental health care in the EU alone.
We need to get out of this vicious circle. Many have good cars, good jobs, but if depressed, it’s like dressing a corpse, putting a make-up on a corpse.
We need to attend to the human values, and how we can elevate the spirit to move out of this deep depression and anxiety, and violence.
Let’s all brainstorm something concrete, to bring back to every nook and corner of this planet.