Parliament Day Four: The Halls

by Moira Ashleigh

Both the Exhibition hall, where we have our booth, the actual convention center, and the sidewalk outside halls are full of people speaking of and demonstrating their traditions. The traditional dress is colorful and there is a lot to pay attention to so as not to offend other beliefs.

Displays here are generally open positive statements. We do have one small group of protestors that stand outside, except on Sunday, with banners saying “Jesus is the only way to God” and “Don’t trust religions trust Jesus Christ Only”.

There is a second protestor in the entrance to the Exhibition Hall doing a one man growing art protest on oil consumption and devastation of the environment. Each day he comes and lays out his growing installation of cloths, speaking for the environment and for Peace and then dons a protest costume and a gas mask – then just stands all day. Several of our group have thanked him for his work.

In one hall there is a very long brown paper roll, where people are invited to write messages to be sent to the Copenhagen summit on the Environment. The creator of the initiative is Shekhar Kumat of Brahma Kumaris. He spoke to us of how hard he lobbied to be allowed to do this piece at the parliament and that only at the last minute did he get permission. He does not know how it will get to Copenhagen, but would be very willing to go with it. What is most lovely is to see the mix of languages and the growth of the piece. Most of us have added our words of encouragement and strong incentive to the paper.

A little further up the same hall are the Tantrayana Buddhist monks. Who stand still in meditation postures all day except for one demonstration of religious drumming and music with procession. This happens every afternoon and sounds like thunder rolling through the entire conference. Speaking to one of the monks, I learned that they hold themselves in meditation all of the time even when talking, they constantly connect upward through the top of their heads.

Upstairs in the actual meeting room halls there are two notable groups. First the Jainism art display and table. This is one of the three religions born in India. The art depicts their 24 Tirthankaras or great souls who “ferry you across” the ocean of life and death. They are giving away free coloring books of their art to all participants.

Finally in the back corner of this hallway are the Guyoto Monks of Tibet. They are the followers of his Holiness the Dalai Lama. They have a booth where one can buy scarves and beads plus a growing sand painting done by the monks in real time. It is fascinating to watch them work so close to this beautiful Mandala. The colors are bold and the detail precise as they work in meditation and cooperation.

Today is another less busy day where we will be working making connections in these halls. Tomorrow MotherTongue will be doing the Morning Observance. Many warm wishes to those of you at home preparing for Yule, from your community here at the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

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