The team of 11 devotees who represented the Society (9 from South Africa and two from New Zealand) are grateful to our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda and Pujya Swami Sahajananda for their bountiful blessings during the entire trip. The success of the trip can only be attributed to the Divine Grace which inspired also excellent team effort. It was observed that although many stalls were run by spiritual personalities and their disciples who had some contact with or guidance from our Divine Master, Divine Life Society of South Africa was the only stall that represented our Divine Master directly. Our team was able to fulfil Pujya Swamiji's wish that the Master's Name be promoted throughout the world.
There was a very keen interest in our Master's literature as delegates from all over the world poured over the contents of the books to purchase them. A devotee from Miami purchased a large consignment for free distribution in the US. All the books taken to the Parliament were sold. In addition, there are two potential bulk Book Orders pending. As we have inserted over 2 500 book order forms in our booklets, we are hopeful that orders will be forthcoming. The Salt Lake City Library has also agreed to purchase Yoga Lessons for Children and Science of Yoga online as such books are in great demand in the city. The special DLS Parliament booklets were a useful marketing tool also. Many were impressed with the contents and high quality of printing. The bags donated to the Society also played a part in promoting our Master's work. Many expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the inspiring saying by our Divine Master on the bags.
The following books/ items in great demand:
Peace Series, Yoga Lessons for Children, Peace Cards and Asana Charts.
Perhaps a single book covering all aspects of Hinduism, Yoga and meditation will appeal to the general public at the next Parliament.
What is most pleasing is that our Master's literature has gone to the length and breadth of America, Canada and other parts of the world thereby fulfilling Pujya Swamiji's divine wish. According to our Cash Register Records, attendees from the following cities/areas/ countries purchased our books: New York, California, Los Angeles, Bahamas, Houston, Chicago, Seattle, Miami, Eldorado, Washington, Arizona, Sacramento, St Louis, Utah, Idaho, Illinois, China, Japan, Malawi, Lisbon and Alaska.
Many religious and social institutions have agreed to look into our work and are keen to support our feeding programmes and other projects.
Our presentations being well rehearsed, contributed greatly in promoting our Master's Mission. The interactive sessions attracted more attendees. The presentation on Yoga and meditation, for example, was packed to capacity in the small hall (60).
In the presentation on "The Role of Youth in Reclaiming the Heart of Humanity through the application of the Principles of Hinduism" our young presenter concluded as follows: "This whole Parliament would have come to nothing unless we try and put even one idea into practise. Although the problems facing the world are vast, we the youth can make a difference. We are really the custodians of the future. We as youth cannot sit back and allow the world to disintegrate. If Nelson Mandela did not start his work as a youth, perhaps my country would not have been able to break the chains of apartheid. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln all started their missions when they were young. Swami Sahajananda, Spiritual Head of Divine Life Society of South Africa, started the first branch of the Society at the age of 24. Today, Divine Life Society of S.A. has many centres throughout the country. It has built over 500 projects to uplift the disadvantaged in South Africa. Thousands have turned to God through the writings of Swami Sivananda. They did so because one youth, with nothing but the will to reclaim the heart of humanity, started that single branch of Divine Life Society of South Africa in 1949. So youth, do not waste time in sense pleasures, in unconstructive activities, in drinking and gambling. Arise, awake! Use the powers that God has given you to make the world a better place. Greatness awaits you."
In "The Role of Divine Life Society of S.A. in Nation Building", our presenters emphasised that: Dissemination of Spiritual knowledge was the first priority of Swami Sivananda. He was committed to the spiritual awakening of all of mankind. He had the spiritual genius of bringing the highest knowledge within easy reach of the common man. As a result, his writings awakened a spiritual yearning in millions of readers all over the world. The DVD prepared at Reservoir Hills showing Pujya Swamiji serving the poor, was a resounding success.
In the panel discussion on: "Towards the World we wish for: Practical Ways to Live a Divine Life" lively discussions ensued between the participants and the panel. It was a successful programme and at the end participants came forward to acknowledge their appreciation.
The session on "Mother as Divinity in Promoting Peace, Goodwill and Harmony in the Family and in Society" was a multi-session, shared by two other speakers. Our topic focused on the Mother in terms of duties and responsibilities as outlined in the scriptures and complemented the various aspects covered by the other two speakers. Here again, discussions were lively and many participants expressed their appreciation at the end of the programme.
A unique feature of the Parliament has been the Women's Plenary.
Who says there is no free lunch in America? The Sikhs conquered the Parliament by sharing their langar tradition all five days. The langar attracted some 4000 participants daily. The sumptuous lunch preparations were hosted by the Sikh Foundation who served with such love, humility and dignity. One of our devotees, experiencing pangs of hunger at lunch time, asked to be excused to go for lunch as he "could not wait any langar". The Sikhs showed initiative and "finishiative". We learnt a lot from them.
SOME AMAZING STATISTICS
• The major news reports are echoing that "This was the best Parliament ever!"
• Nearly 10,000 participants
• It was the first Women's Assembly
• It was the first live streamed Parliament: 28,000 views
• The largest number of programmes with 1,800 presenters
• The largest number of exhibitors and films
• The original documents of Gandhi and pieces of art in the cultural hall
• The first Mayor's panel on compassionate cities along with the first panel of police chiefs
• Imam of Mecca for the first time attended the Parliament
Whilst experience played a valuable role in directing the project, the team agreed unanimously, that for the next Parliament, more youth should be incorporated into the programme as they will be the torch bearers of the Society in the future.
The beautiful banner prepared at SICC, attracted the attention of many attendees and allowed us to introduce our Master and the Society. One of the visitors to the stall, who had contact with Swami Venketesananda in her childhood, cried uncontrollably when she saw the picture of our Master, who she said was in her heart all the time. She wanted a picture of the Master and so we gave her the framed picture which we brought from South Africa. She promptly gave another donation.
A possible interactive programme for the future could be our drill programme, which could be taught to attendees.
Although it is important to take advantage of this unique chance to learn from diverse cultures, leaving the Parliament without making meaningful connections with people would be a tragically wasted opportunity. We are pleased to report that we made many new friends and made meaningful contacts, the effects of which will be felt over many years.
In our 2009 report, we mentioned that His Holiness, the Dalai Lama implored attendees in Melbourne to make sure the Parliament does not serve as just a conference, but as a springboard for action. We must be the change, he said! In the closing plenary session this year, Swami Chidananda Saraswati (Muniji), of Rishikesh encapsulated the same theme of the Parliament by saying that we should all strive to develop an "inner culture".
In the final plenary session, the Chairman of the Parliament, Mr Abdul Malik Mujahid announced that the Parliament will now take place every 2 years to further interfaith goals and address critical issues. Details will be announced shortly. He concluded with the following words: Consume less, waste less, share more.
As a team, we found the entire programme exhilarating and rewarding. We thank our Master and Pujya Swamiji once again for their bountiful Grace. Our deep thanks to the Board of Management for their supportive role as well as all others who assisted with the numerous arrangements and preparations.
RESPONSES FROM THE 2015 PARLIAMENT
It was very nice to meet you at the booth, and THANK YOU for the hard work and effort that you and your team of associates put into your projects. We met a lot of people from various parts of the world doing good "seva" work in various capacities, as contributing members to the society. The combined sincere efforts of people on this planet certainly gives everyone hope for a better life and future for our children, grandchildren and succeeding generations, since they are the future custodians of Mother Earth. Happy Deepavali or Diwali!
—Warm Regards, Anita Rangaswami, Phoenix, AZ
I am so happy to hear from you! I am so pleased to learn how very much the DLS has been helping the children! Meeting all of you at your booth was the highlight of my Parliament experience, and I absolutely treasure the framed picture you gave me of Beloved Gurudev Swami Sivananda!! That was so very kind! There has been a blank space on my wall that had been waiting for such a picture. I was also delighted to hear that you knew my Beloved Swami Venketesananda! I have only met one other person who knew him since I was a child, and had the Grace of his company.
I finished the book you suggested for me "From Man to God-Man", and will start reading it again. I am also enjoying the other book about the animal stories. Your books are just beautiful and so well written and inspiring! I was interested to look on YouTube and your website to learn more about the South African DLS projects and see some familiar faces from the Parliament. And I was very moved by the Sivananda Ghat building and All Souls Day prayers videos. Visiting your centres is on my list to do. I will see how to make that happen. It would be my reason to go to SA. I am sending all my very best wishes to you all and hope to see you again before too long!
—Suniai, Densmore Avenue, Seattle, Washington
If you ever have any service programs I will be more than happy to come to South Africa in the near future. Please let me know.
—Silpa Suryadevara, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Visiting your booth was one of my favorite activities at Parliament! Thank you for the invitation to visit you in South Africa. If I am ever there, I would definitely love to tour your centers. Blessings, Rachel Robinson
—Rachel Robinson, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
This is Landry Williams. We met at the Hindu Temple in South Jordan, Utah. Sorry for the delay in sending you an email, but I wanted to first of all thank you for your kindness and willingness to help me. It meant a lot to find a friend when I was feeling alone and confused. I had a couple questions, though, if you wouldn't mind answering them. I am writing an essay on my experience and was curious of some of your thoughts.
What is it like being Hindu in South Africa? Are most people accepting of your beliefs?
In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of Temple Worship or Satsangs?
What things do you find are most helpful in finding peace to hopefully reach Nirvana?
Again, thank you for everything. I truly enjoyed getting to know you. I hope your time in Utah was pleasant. I loved my experience at the Temple and hope to return soon.
—Landry Williams, Provo, Utah 84606
May your project attract all the funding it needs to expand its great work! Thanks for your invitation. Perhaps someday I will visit South Africa.
—Eric Odell, Seattle, USA
It is wonderful to see how everyone pulled together in the true Divine Life spirit and made this event a huge success for us. Thanks for the effort in making our Master's Name and books reach the international arena in a "big" way. I like the suggestions for improvement; it will also help us to reach greater heights for all future endeavours.
—MS, DLS OF SA
Thanks so much for sharing this! Lots of hard work has been put in by you and the rest of the WPR team. Congratulations on the success that was achieved! I can say that your efforts have paid huge dividends for Gurudev's mission. The seeds that were planted in the USA will surely bear great fruit.
I can only imagine how happy Swamiji would have been if we reported that Sri Gurudev's Name was represented on this world stage in such a great way. Perhaps one of Swami Sivananda's greatest gifts to the world and to Hinduism is the more than 250 books that he has written. How appropriate for this to be taken to the WPR!
—X, DLS of SA, DURBAN
It was a pleasure to meet with you last week. I hope that your visit to Utah was rewarding and enriching. Thank you for the information (about the work of Divine Life Society of S.A.). I have passed it on, along with your contact information, to our Regional Manager in South Africa. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors and in your work to serve the poor and needy in South Africa.
—Best wishes, Del L. Brady (LDS Church, Salt Lake City, Utah)
Indeed I remember well our meeting and discussion at the Parliament gathering. Thanks for sending me all the info here about your organization.
—With best wishes, Noor V. Gillani, D. Sc., Huntsville, AL, USA, President/Exec. Director, The PYAR Foundation
It is nice to hear from you. Thanks for taking time to share the details of your important work. I will share that information with friends and look into how we can contribute to this important effort.
—Best regards, Ahmet Tamirci, National Director, Intercultural Dialogue Institute
Thank you for everything. God bless.
—Satish Daryanani, MIAMI, USA
In the Parliament office, we are still basking in the excitement and we hope that you are too! The 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions in Salt Lake City was the most successful Parliament in our history. Nearly 10,000 people from 73 countries and as many as 50 different religious and spiritual traditions came together to learn, to teach, to be inspired, and to return to their homes with renewed energy to transform the world.
One of the highlights of the Parliament was the Exhibit Booth Marketplace. There was such an amazing energy as people walked through the array of exhibits ranging from educational institutions to vendors selling beautiful handcrafted jewellery and gifts. People will not soon forget this experience.
We are truly grateful for your presence as an exhibitor. You allowed the mission of the Parliament to come alive, inspiring thousands to become the agents of change toward peace, justice, and sustainability. We hope that your Parliament experience was as rich as the information and talents that you shared.
You made the 2015 Parliament a place of wonder and positive energy, and we simply cannot thank you enough. We could not have done this without you!
—Brian Savage, Parliament of the World's Religions, Chicago, USA
Thank you so much for contacting me. Yes I am interested in a couple of books. I am looking for books: "From Man to God-man" and "Mind its mysteries and control". Please recommend another book that is more like story telling style in the life of yogis and also books for children with good moral stories and pictures, vegetarian recipe book with pictures. Please let me know number of pages, author and wholesale cost and suggested retail price.
—Ritu, Annapolis, MD, USA
Thank you! Your presentation was definitely one of the best presentations of the entire Parliament!
—Jennifer Dreiske Sioux Fall, South Dakota, USA