Impressions of the Parliament

W. T. S. Thackara

While the hallway and elevator "parliaments," and those at mealtimes and at the co-sponsor booths in the Exhibit Hall, provided some of the richest and most meaningful exchanges, two aspects of the 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions stand out in my mind as having positive significance for the future. One is epitomized by an incident at the Theosophical University Press exhibit booth where a theosophist said she was crushed to learn there was more than one Theosophical Society. How could a movement espousing universal brotherhood and the unity of all life be divided? Never was I so grateful as when able to reach for the blue "Theosophical Presentations" program on the table beside me and show her the listing of theosophical co-sponsors at the Parliament, representing the three main streams worldwide. These organizations, I added — though differing in structure, emphasis, approach, and in some teachings — share common objectives; and they had cooperated jointly to prepare and present this program. In this the movement had achieved a primary goal of any true parliament: a recognition of pluralism and diversity of approach, and — without seeking to forge organizational union — to set an example of how we may deepen our insight, and draw strength from the friendly exchange of viewpoints towards solving the universal problems.

There is an important place in human life for symbols of what is possible — and it is a pity that the news media did not include coverage of the Friday evening plenary rather than concentrate on the very few sectarian flare-ups earlier in the week. Entitled "The Next Generation" (and organized by a theosophist, Tony Lysy) this penultimate session was hosted and presented by youth from the many faith traditions at the Parliament. These children and young adults understand that sectarian differences need not divide humanity against itself, nor provide excuses for war, bigotry, or any other sort of inhumanity. If the world could have seen their final performance — over 100 representatives of the next generation from all traditions singing in harmony and in friendship for peace on earth and goodwill to all — what more impressive symbol and reminder could we have of what is possible?

(From Sunrise magazine, October/November 1993; copyright © 1993 Theosophical University Press)

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