I’m back in my hotel, getting ready to fly home tomorrow. The Parliament goes through tomorrow, but I need to get back–so my Parliament is over. So this will be my last post, and serve as kind of a wrap-up.
Let me start with a few miscellaneous pictures. I think I mentioned [and included a picture] of the sand mandala that the Tibetan monks were building–here it is again, much closer to completion. I won’t be here for it, but tomorrow there will be a service where it is destroyed, and some of the sand distributed to the audience, and then the rest poured into the nearest body of water. [At least, that is what usually happens.] It is really amazing to watch: such painstaking, patient work.
Speaking of Buddhism, I went back to the Shin temple this morning for the chanting service. [This is a special area of research for me, so I wanted to take the rare opportunity of having a temple in walking distance.] It was a very beautiful service, and I appreciated having the chance to study the service book more closely, and learn more about the traditional liturgy. Then I went to a session on Buddhist/Christian dialogue.
I went to the Langar again today–this time, I wanted to show the replica of the Golden Temple in Amritsar that was constructed, and also the group of Sikhs singing kirtan. The Sikhs had a very strong, visible presence at this Parliament; it was interesting to notice which groups were represented in force, and which groups were absent almost altogether [Confucianism and Taoism, for example].
One of the most interesting sessions I attended today was on the Yoruba tradition. The two presenters were both Yoruba priests–a married couple, Wande Abimbola and Ajisebo Ogunninhun Abimbola. [They were the ones who were supposed to do the ritual yesterday morning, too–but I didn’t hold it against them!] Wande has his Ph.D. in Yoruba literature, and was installed as Spokesperson of Ifa for the world by a council of Babalawos [high priests] in 1981. Ajisebo is also an Ifa priest. They introduced the Yoruba religion, and also shared some traditional chants with us. One of the things they said that I really liked was that the number of Yoruba divinities traditionally is said to be “400 + 1”: the “plus one” refers to the inclusive nature of the religion, and the fact that it is always open to learning about another’s god. I also appreciated what Wande said about reading and writing. He challenged the traditional idea that people who can’t read and write are “primitive.” Instead, he said, it’s reading and writing that makes you “dumb,” because you write things down instead of internalizing them [memorizing them] and making them part of you. He has a point….
I finished my day with a plenary on climate change: concern about the environment has been a hallmark of the Parliament from its inception–at least beginning in the 20th century.
So, overall, I have to say it was a great few days. In particular, I am appreciative of the opportunity to hear and learn from voices I so rarely get to engage–voices from the various indigenous communities, for example. But even more importantly, I feel it is gratifying and enriching to be around not only scholars but also practitioners who are committed to dialogue, and believe in the power of religion to be a force for good in the world. Being here reminds me that I am part of a large, global community; and the gifts I bring as a Lutheran Christian complement and are complemented by the gifts others bring. I always come away grateful for religious diversity, but also grateful for my Lutheran tradition and theology. They seem contradictory, but they really go together.