Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday, December 7, interlude at the 2009 Parliament in Melbourne – Visiting Iran, India, and Tibet

After some extended post-panel analysis with the Australians, Anna and I went off to visit some of the information booths in the Exhibit Hall.  I was quite taken with the triple size booth maintained by the Religious arm of the Iranian government.  They had a beautiful setup with carpets, a sitting room for guests, a small kitchen churning out Persian pastries, a bookshop, and more.  They were giving away a CD on Iran and a small book on religious diversity in Iran (notably excluding Baha’is, unfortunately).  I was admiring some books of mosque architecture when a gentleman came up to help me.  I asked if they had any books on the early Prophets, especially on Nabi Idris (PBUH) [aka Hermes Trismegistus].  We got in to a short discussion and the gentleman seemed surprised at my knowledge of Islam.  He gave me a DVD that they normally sell, containing several reference works on Islam.  He gave me his card and said that if I had any further questions, I should contact him.  He is Mojtaba Soltani, Senior Adviser to the Secretary General of the the Ahl-ul-Bayt (a.s.) World Assembly, the central administration for Shia Islam.  I thanked him and gave him my card, explaining who I am and that I represent CoG.  He asked me to send him any information that I thought the Ahl-ul-Bayt should have to educate their people on religious diversity.  This is an interesting connection to have made.  I’ll have to consider the likely consequence of follow-up when I get home.

On the way out, we passed by the booth maintained by Hinduism Today magazine. These folks are Americans and have expressed an interest in identifying as “Pagans” and working more closely with us.  I think this is great and Hindus have always been involved in any interfaith events I organized under the label “Pagan”, but it might require some reconsideration of the “Pagan” = “European” paradigm in use at this Parliament.  We’ll see.

Gyuto_Monks.jpg Back upstairs, but a little early for the next program, Anna and I visited the lobby area set aside for the Gyuto Monks, which included explanatory panels, and area for services and meditation featuring a photo of the Dalai Lama, are for sale, and a large sand mandala that the monks painstakingly constructed over the course of the Parliament.  I chatted with one of the monks, asking if the square platform on which the sand mandala was made was oriented to the directions or just conveniently placed in the room.  He explained that it was the latter, and that in their view the mandala was a microcosm of the universe, so the directions oriented themselves around it.  We agreed that everyplace is the center of the universe (or, as Buckaroo Banzai would say, “Wherever you go, there you are.”).

More to come…

Don Frew
National Interfaith Representative

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