ISKCON is set to contribute significantly to the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, held from December 3rd to 9th at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Melbourne, Australia.
The world’s largest global interreligious event, the Parliament of the World’s Religions (POWR) sets up camp in a different city every time it convenes—once every five years. The Melbourne Parliament will bring together more than 7,000 people from around the world for an inspirational program of speakers, workshops, panel discussions, artistic performances and art exhibitions.
Representatives from all the major religions, indigenous groups, and new age and spiritual organizations will attend, as well as many world famous figures such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Shri Ravi Shankar, Cardinal Pell, Rabbi David Rosen, the director of Christian Meditation UK Fr. Laurence Freeman, and the Senior Aboriginal Woman of the Wurundjeri people, Professor Joy Wandin.
Representing ISKCON—and nominated as an ambassador for the Parliament—is Bhakta Dasa, ISKCON Melbourne’s interfaith director and a part-time priest at the temple.
An ISKCON devotee since 1978, Bhakta Dasa had a keen interest in religion since early childhood. He served as a Christian missionary in New Guinea, sampled every popular seventies guru, religious organization and institution, and studied Transcendental Meditation before finally finding the answers he was looking for in the books of one A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.
“It is vitally important that ISKCON has a presence at the Parliament, as this is a harmonious, friendly open forum for religious and spiritual dialogue,” he says. “Every religion and spiritual group will be there, as will several thousand seekers looking at each group and wondering, ‘Is this for me? Is this the truth?’”
“If we don’t have a strong presence to offer the personal Krishna conscious alternative,” he adds, “Those souls may miss out on the joy and satisfaction of devotional service to the Supreme Lord presented to the world by Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental literature and teachings.”
The Parliament Committee, obviously agreeing that ISKCON has something to offer, have asked Brisbane devotee Taraka Dasi to present a prayer for the opening of the event on Friday December 4th, after which Bhakta Dasa will lead a short kirtan chant.
Bhakta Dasa and Taraka Dasi will also present ISKCON’s only panel discussion at the Parliament, “Krishna Consciousness and the Environment,” on Friday morning along with Bhaktivedanta College principal Yadunandana Swami.
The next day, ISKCON will attend the POWR Hindu Community Night at the Shiva Vishnu Temple in a Melbourne suburb, organized by the Hindu Community Council of Victoria.
“ISKCON is a major part of this newly formed Hindu representative body created specifically for POWR, but which has hopes to continue post POWR,” says Bhakta Dasa, who was elected vice president of the council. “This body has already received a lot of support from the government—in fact, we received a grant from the Multi Cultural commission of $20,000 for our activities during the Parliament.”
ISKCON will also be catering for the Hindu Community Night, as well as for a post Parliament event at Latrobe University on December 13th. Unfortunately, the Society will not cater the main event, since this year the Parliament has contracted a major catering company instead.
Devotees will, however, distribute show bags filled with transcendental goodies at the Parliament festival, including a Higher Taste cookbook, incense, a Hare Krishna Today booklet, business cards advertising ISKCON restaurants and Food For Life programs, and two bags—one savory and one sweet—of prasadam snacks.
ISKCON will also have a booth at the Parliament’s Exhibition Centre, where it will present Krishna conscious philosophy through Prabhupada’s books, as well as a general display of local and worldwide Hare Krishna activities.
Perhaps most notable, however, is ISKCON guru Indradyumna Swami’s receiving top billing as the main entertainment attraction at the Parliament, with his troupe of international performers.
“Le Carnaval Spirituel,” a ninety-minute show that has been tried and tested in Poland for many years, will be performing on each of the festival’s seven days. It’s even been described in the Parliament’s official program as “a joyful, colorful and intriguing tapestry of theatre, dance, music, yoga, martial arts and meditation” that “provides a message of hope and reconciliation.”
All in all, Bhakta Dasa is positive about ISKCON’s contribution to the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions.
“The time has come, in this new millennium, for ISKCON to outreach to the general public, being proud of our Founder Acharya and the transcendental legacy he left us,” he says. “To present Krishna consciousness openly in the public arena, and allow the movement to grow and be influential for thousands of years to come.”