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Parliament Honored to Welcome Dr. Arun Manilal Gandhi to Parliament Board

Through elections held November 15 by the Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, author, scholar, and founder of the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Non-violence, Dr. Arun Manilal Gandhi, is now beginning a 3-year term as a Parliament trustee. A grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, Arun brings an unassuming spirit and illuminating gumption to the Parliament in a partnership for a peaceful, just, and sustainable world.

“If there is anything I have learned from Gandhi’s writings and the lessons he taught me as a young boy entering his teens is that humankind is inexorably dominated by a Culture of Violence,” Arun shares in On Enemies and Debates, a forthcoming Parliament of World Religion’s article. He continues, “over generations the roots of this culture have run deep dominating every aspect of human life — from parenting at home to governing nations. The salvation, according to Gandhi, lies in each of us “becoming the change we wish to see in the world.”

Parliament Board Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid smiles on the news stating, “Gandhi was not known for his silence, and neither is his grandson, Dr. Arun Gandhi. He is doing his best to keep the flag of Satiagraha alive in America, as well as in India, where the voices of hate and anger sometimes seem to be drowning out the voices of truth and humanity. It is our honor to have Dr. Arun Gandhi on the board of the Parliament. We feel enriched with wisdom and connected to an important legacy of our time.”

Born 1934 in Durban South Africa, Arun was sent by his parents to India when he was 12 years old so that he could live with and learn from his grandfather, Mohandas Gandhi. It was then that young Gandhi learned the principles of non-violence that he continues to espouse until today.

Dr. Gandhi spent much of his adult life in India working as a journalist and promoting social and economic changes for the poor and the oppressed classes. Along with his wife, Sunanda, he rescued about 128 orphaned and abandoned children from the streets and placed them in loving homes around the world.

Dr. Arun Gandhi and a statue of his grandfather.

Together they began a Center for Social Change which transformed the lives of millions in villages in the western state of Maharashtra. In 1987, Arun came to the United States, and in 1991 started the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee, which was moved to the University of Rochester, New York in 2007.

Arun resigned from the Institute the following year to begin the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, with its mission to build basic education schools for the very poor children of the world. The first school will soon open in a depressed village in western India (

Arun Gandhi has taken the message of nonviolence and peace-making to hundreds of thousands of high school and university youth around the United States and much of the Western world.

Publications by Arun Gandhi include The Legacy of Love; The Forgotten Woman: The Life of Kastur, wife of Gandhi, and several others.

Ears to the Ground, Parliament Ambassador Conducts India Listening Session

A Listening Session conducted by Parliament Ambassador Sanchay Jain in Jaipur, India brought together eleven members of the Hindu community at the Children’s Peace Palace, Anuvibha, Rajsamand.  As many gathered were professional educators, the participants agreed that “humanity is the supreme religion to be taught to children,” rather than imparting one-sided stories of religiosity to children.

The Parliament encourages listening sessions around the world to give the Interfaith advocates across borders the chance to share important issues in their region within the interfaith or religious community context, and how it is desired that the Parliament can incorporate both their values and challenges into the planning of the next major Parliament.

Jain reports that important facts discussed within the group included challenges they face and challenges all face in global society today. The role of religion, spirituality and convictions were also addressed to overcome these challenges (caste system, tensions between Hindu and Muslim Indians, and extremism) as well as the role of the Parliament by improving the capacity to organize religious leaders around the world for a peaceful coexistence. As a result these listening sessions help the Parliament peer into the lens through which the smaller groups view Interfaith as a model to achieve peace, justice, and sustainability in our world.

Ambassadors like Sanchay Jain conducting listening sessions serve their community and the Parliament in vital areas. When attendees are mobilized to attend a Parliament, it is helpful to guarantee their voices have been considered and included in the planning process.

” When someone deeply listens to you, the room where you stay starts a new life and the place where you wrote your first poem begins to glow in your mind’s eye. ” – John Fox


Vivekananda resurrected: A 3-D recreation of 1893′s Parliament of Religions

As part of 150th Birth Anniversary Celebrations of Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India and Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi has recently released a new 3D Movie “9/11 – The Awakening” . This short 3D Movie is about Swami Vivekananda’s historic speech “Sisters and Brothers of America” delivered at Parliament of Religions in Chicago on September 11th, 1893. The movie portrays Swami Vivekananda’s trip to the west, his visit to 1893 World’s Columbian Expo and his Chicago address at Parliament of Religions (Art Institute) in 1893.

9/11: The Awakening – a Trailer from the Vivekananda House:

The entire Chicago Expo has been re-created based on 1893 Chicago Archive Maps and a virtual setup of the Parliament of Religions stage with an audience of 7000 members has been built. The Empress of India ship that Vivekananda undertook during his journey to the West has also been re-created.

A realistic 3D Model of Swami Vivekananda with real skin shaders has been created and improvised based only on his photographs in the absence of any video reference of Vivekananda. Only a few Hollywood-animated movies like Polar Express (2004), Beowoulf (2007) have attempted realistic models for living personalities, but for Vivekananda it makes it all the more challenging since a 3-D body scan cannot be performed (as he is not alive). To create smoother animation for the 3-D movie, Motion capture has been performed with an actor playing Vivekananda’s role.

Monastic members of Ramakrishna Mission, Delhi and Ramakrishna Math, Chennai worked with GISR (Global Institute for Stereo Vision and Research) team to make the movie.

The movie is currently screened at the 3D Theatre in Vivekananda House, Chennai and Ramakrishna Mission, Delhi.

For more info on the 3D Movie, please visit (Please use Google Chrome/Safari/Firefox to access the site




World Congress of Religions 2012

The World Congress of Religions 2012 is being organized by the Institute of World Religions (of the Washington Kali Temple), Burtonsville, Maryland, in association with the Council for A Parliament of World Religions, Chicago, Illinois.

Washington DC: Former (US) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Martin Luther King III, Professor Sakena Yacoobi, Dr. Katherine Marshall, Rabbi Neil Goldstein, Dr. Rajwant Singh, Dr. R. Drew Smith and 15 other eminent leaders are scheduled to speak at a 3-day conference focusing on respect and understanding between world religions, cultures and nations; efforts to eradicate poverty; promoting human rights; education and the empowerment of women.

The event commemorates the 150th birth anniversary of India’s visionary monk, Swami Vivekananda, who addressed the Parliament of World’s Religions in Chicago in September 1893, passionately calling for both tolerance and universal acceptance as a path to eliminate the evils of sectarianism, bigotry and fanaticism and engage all the world’s religious and spiritual community leaders in efforts to forge a new global civil society.

The World Congress of Religions 2012 offers an opportunity to pave the path for a new era of cooperative action among the world’s religious and spiritual communities as well as civil and political societies. Such a gathering is urgently needed in the present context of the global interreligious movement and the striving for world peace.

The World Congress of Religions 2012 is being organized by the Institute of World Religions (of the Washington Kali Temple), Burtonsville, Maryland, in association with the Council for A Parliament of World Religions, Chicago, Illinois.

Use the code D7D8 for $20 off the registration price.

For more information and to register, please visit

Jains Start Fasts, Prayers as Paryushana Begins Today

Photography credit to Dinodia Photo Libary.

Digambra Jain Paryushana celebrations at a temple in Bulawadi, Mumbai.

from The Times of India
by Barkha Mathur

For the extremely religious Jain community, the next eight days are significant for fasting, praying and asking for forgiveness. Paryushana, which means self cleansing by removing all negativity like raag, dwesh, moh and maya, begins on the Bhadrapada Shuklapaksh Chaturthi. It is sacred as it marks the beginning of the eight days when the dashalakshana vrata is undertaken by devout Jains.

The two Jain sects, Shwetambar and Digambar, follow this period on different days. As the calendar this year has an adhik maas, there is a gap of nearly a month between the Paryushana of the two sects.

As these eight to ten days fall during Chaturmaas most saints settle in one place. This gives the community an opportunity to listen to their sermons. Describing it as a time for performing dharma, city businessman Nikhil Kusumgar says temple visits and attending sermons is an essential part of the prescribed rituals. “We follow the dincharya suggested by Lord Mahavir. This includes fasting and satsang.”

Click here to read full article

August 14th, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Dalai Lama Taps American to Bridge East and West at Tibetan Monastery

Nicholas Vreeland, newly appointed abbot of Rato Monastery in Southern India.

by Kim Lawton
from The Washington Post

The Dalai Lama has given Nicholas Vreeland, director of The Tibet Center in New York, a daunting new assignment. On July 6, Vreeland will be enthroned as the new abbot of Rato Monastery in southern India, one of the most important monasteries in Tibetan Buddhism. He will be the first Westerner to hold such a position.

In making the appointment, the Dalai Lama told Vreeland, “Your special duty (is) to bridge Tibetan tradition and (the) Western world.”

“His Holiness wishes to bring Western ideas into the Tibetan Buddhist monastic system, and that comes from his recognition that it is essential … that there be new air brought into these institutions,” Vreeland told the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.”

Click here to read full article


July 1st, 2012 at 10:55 am

Coffee Shop Religion: Interfaith of the Everyday

Author Saumya Arya Haas. Photo from Google Images.

by Saumya Arya Haas
from Huffington Post

I never learned much about religion until I started hanging out at Muddy Waters Coffee Shop on the corner of Lyndale and 24th in Uptown, Minneapolis.

I was raised to be a priestess (of Hinduism), grew up surrounded by world scripture and philosophy, and was taught by learned scholars and mystics. But my religious education didn’t really begin until I started talking — and listening — to other people from other ways of life. I had a great foundation but it had to evolve beyond what I could experience as an individual. Understanding is a journey, and it’s nice to have company if you can get it.

When Muddy’s opened in the late 80s, it was grungy, grubby and the bathroom was frightening. The only food on the “menu” was Pop-Tarts and SpaghettiOs. Punks, goth kids and all the other wonderful misfits of Minneapolis risked splinters from the rickety picnic tables to enjoy caffeine and conversation in precious Midwestern sunlight. I would come with my friends but talked to everyone. I got over my fear of homeless people and started seeing them as just people. Some reminded me of the wandering sages of my almost-native India, people who lived by choice or necessity on the fringes and accumulated hardship wisdom the rest of us shied away from.

All the scriptural education in the world is not worth one good hour-long conversation with a stranger about their beliefs.

Click here to read the full article

Hindu Priest Lays Foundation Stone for Muslim Building in Kutch, India

by DV Maheshwari
from DNA: Daily News and Analysis, India

Another chapter was added to the history of communal harmony in secular Kutch last week when Acharya Purushottam Priyadasji Maharaj, chief of the Maninagar (Ahmedabad) Swaminaryan Gadi Sansthan, laid the foundation stone of a Muslim community hall in Kera village.

The community hall is being built in the Swaminarayan Nagar area of the village by non-resident Indian Salim Molu, a Khoja (Ismaili) Muslim philanthropist based in Mombasa, Kenya. Molu has also announced a donation of Rs50 lakh to the Aga Khani Ismaili Khoja community of the village.

Molu had met Acharya Purushottam Priyadasji last year during the latter’s visit to Kenya and the United Kingdom.

The foundation-laying ceremony took place amid a large presence of people from both the Patel and Khoja communities, which are in almost equal number in Kera. The community hall is expected to be ready by this time next year. According to Prem Patel, solicitor of Molu Firms in the UK, it will also be inaugurated by Acharya Swami.

Click here to read the full article

Polishing Shoes for Communal Harmony in India and Pakistan

by Sabur Ali Sayyid
from Common Ground News Service

Islamabad – Hunched on the floor of Gurdwara Sis Ganj, a Sikh temple in New Delhi, Khurshid Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s Deputy Attorney General, earnestly polished the shoes of devotees flocking to him either in delight or amazement. To him, polishing shoes served as penance for the brutal killing of a Sikh man at the hands of the Taliban two years prior in Pakistan. Engaging in this lowly act, for him, relieved the burden on his conscience about the problems that minorities face in his region. He believes they deserve a better life, free of intimidation and coercion.

Some may disagree with Khan’s philosophy of redemption. Khan, himself a Muslim, took time out during his visit to India to shine the shoes of devotees at places of worship, regardless of whether they were Sikh houses of worship or Hindu temples. In doing so, he wanted to show his respect for humanity and for other religions.

No one would dispute the fact that communal harmony in South Asia – particularly in India and Pakistan, where each year a large number of people are killed in the name of religion – is far from satisfactory. And no significant progress can take place in this area unless it is backed by the introduction of a multipronged approach to bring about greater communal harmony.

The genesis of Hinduism and Sikhism lies in South Asia. It has been welcoming to Muslims, Christians and people of other faiths, such as Jainism, Taoism and Shintoism. Peaceful coexistence has been a hallmark of this region. Though there have been instances of great strife, this tradition of coexistence is equally a part of the region’s history.

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‘I Heart Turbans’: Sikh Student’s Apparel Designs Spark Interfaith Dialogue

by Arezou Rezvani
from the Times of India

If the spheres of fashion and religion seem disparate and distant, it is 22-year-old Jagmeet Sethi’s Connecticut-based apparel company TurbanInc that has brought the two seemingly distinct worlds together.

“The power of fashion is universal and when we dress ourselves, we often think, ‘What am I saying to the world when they look at me today?’” said Sethi. “With that in mind, we wanted to combine one of our most routine methods of expression with confidence, self-love and pride in being Sikh.”

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Sethi, who was among the 500,000 Sikhs then living in the United States, was consistently the mistaken target of discrimination stemming from the lack of knowledge and ensuing confusion of Sikhs with Muslims or Arabs. That confusion is what ultimately led to the death of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh who was the first person believed to have been murdered in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks. More than a decade later, in December, another bloody assault on a 56-year-old Sikh preacher in Fresno confirmed that the group remains a mistaken target of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.

“Kids who were once best friends of mine all of a sudden stopped talking to me right after the attacks took place,” said Sethi. “There was a period of time where I was getting into physical fights with classmates of mine almost every week.”

Although much of the prejudice settled when Sethi’s family moved to Connecticut in 2004, his outward display of faith, first through the topknot in middle school and then the full size turban later in high school drew judgment well through college, where during his senior year Sethi wore an “I Heart Turbans” T-shirt that his then budding company had designed. Created to invite classmates to engage with his appearance, Sethi spent much of that day explaining his religious background, practices and rituals to friends, professors and hallway strangers.

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