2. DELEGATES WHO ATTENDED THE PARLIAMENT IN 2023:
There were 15 delegates representing Divine Life Society of SA: 12 from South Africa, one from the US, and 2 from New Zealand.
Internationally: In excess of 7,000 attendees from 95 countries and 210 traditions, explored the halls of the Lakeside Center. It was 130 years since the Parliament of the World's Religions was convened in Chicago. It was extremely heartwarming to meet a devotee, Mr Bala Aurobindo, who said that his grandfather assisted Swami Sivananda (then Dr Kuppuswamy) in dispensing medicines in Malaya.
Parade of Faiths
The Parliament of the World's Religions 2023 commenced with the inaugural "Parade of Faiths" on Sunday, 13 August in the vicinity of Lakeside Convention Center, where more than 1,000 representatives from twenty diverse faith organisations walked the city streets. Divine Life Society of South Africa had been accorded the honour of 2nd position in the Parade. The displays from different cultures was a sight to behold! Regrettably, due to flight delays by 24 hours, we were not able to participate in the Inaugural Parade of Faiths. We had a glimpse of the tail end of this parade, and it was quite spectacular.
i. Religious Observances: Akhanda Kirtan, Bhajan and Mantra Chanting—How sacred Chants and
Mantras benefit the world.
ii. A workshop on the Glory of Agnihotra—the fires of Heaven, and a recital of the Sri Hanuman
Panel Discussion: A Revival of our International Magna Carta. Presentations were well received. Hundreds of parallel sessions were held each day and in view of this, attendance was not as large as anticipated in most sessions.
There was great interest in the Sri Hanuman Chalisa also, with one Black American lady constantly asking to be pointed to the correct line being sung; another white lady enquired if the Hanuman Chalisa was going to be sung as soon as she entered; these demonstrated the universal appeal of the Sri Hanuman Chalisa.
The segment demonstrating our 'dining room kirtan' was extremely well received, with attendees displaying their ecstasy at the walking and chanting.
A lady with a child having Down Syndrome readily purchased an Agnihotra kit.
4. BOOK STALL
• Our Book Stall had an attractive display of the Master's books, Agnihotra packs, picture frames, USBs with Kirtans, Bhajans, Slokas and readings from the Peace Series, Sunlit Path Series and the Book Question & Answers, by our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda. As it was a corner booth, the exposure to our books on 2 sides was very encouraging.
• Delegates from across the world showed an interest in our literature and the work of Divine Life Society of South Africa. Many commented on the excellent humanitarian work of the Society and contributed voluntarily.
• The Society compiled high quality audio-visual presentations, namely our service activities, an Agnihotra demonstration, a Yoga Asana demonstration, and a power-point on the books, which were aired at the book stall. Banners highlighting our service activities were also displayed. The interest by viewers was encouraging. The Society achieved its objectives in promoting the Master's literature, highlighting our service activities and creating awareness and interest in Yoga Asanas and Agnihotra.
• Our books went to the following countries: India, Kenya, Mexico, South Africa, Germany, Taiwan, China, Canada, United States of America, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Dubai.
• Delegates worked harmoniously and in a spirit of cooperation, diligence and camaraderie, from the inception of planning, during travel, and until the closure of the booth and return to South Africa.
6. HINDU INSTITUTIONS VISITED IN CHICAGO:
• BAPS Swami Narayan Temple: on Sunday, 13 August. The exquisite architecture and the accurate sculpturing of the deities captured on marble and lime cement. This institute caters for the spiritual education and recreation of all groups from children up to senior citizens, based on a structured syllabus.
• Sri Ganesha Temple: on 14 August. We had a 30-minute programme comprising of Bhajans and Kirtans, and a message from DLS SA. Light refreshments were served after Satsang.
• Sri Hanuman Temple of Greater Chicago: On 15 August we made our way to the beautiful Mandir where we also had a 30-minute programme, and supper thereafter. Their Bhav for Sri Hanumanji was unparalled!
• Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center: on Wednesday 16 August. This group has great Bhakti for our Master. All enjoyed the 90-minute programme, and a sumptuous meal. Bharata, the Head of the Institution, accorded a warm welcome to our group.
We are deeply appreciative of the hospitality of the above-mentioned organisations that hosted our delegates, provided refreshments/meals, and allowed our delegates to set up book stalls at their Satsangs. Free literature was also distributed.
Our deep gratitude to the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, based in London, for providing free lunch Prasad daily to all attendees at the POWR.
We received visits/Darshan from a few at our book stall:
• Amma Sri Karunamayi: Her Holiness, Amma Sri Karunamayi, who is widely revered as a symbol of unconditional motherly love, gave us Darshan at our bookstall. After perusing our books for about 10 minutes, she was full of praise for the work done by Swami Sivananda, and DLS SA publications. Amma also commented that our success is due to Guru Kripa. At the end of the last day, she later sent her senior assistant to purchase one copy of all the remaining books. Amma expressed the desire to visit South Africa one day.
• Swami Yatidharmananda of Divine Life Society, Uttarkashi,
• Savithri of Urban Foundation based in Kenya said she would like to honour Divine Life Society of South Africa for its humanitarian work.
• Many pastors and representatives of other organisations graced our book stall.
The team felt really blessed and deeply humbled by the blessings and Darshan received at the bookstall.
Our delegates, who filled in the pledge form, recited the Sri Hanuman Chalisa 11 times daily for the duration of the Parliament.
Participation in the Parliament of World's Religions in Chicago in 2023 was a great spiritual experience for the delegates, and the Society achieved its objective in attending the Parliament, namely, distribution of Sri Swami Sivananda's teachings, his message and literature. This was complemented by the three presentations, the content of which was wholly from our Master's literature, and the sale of the Master's books. Delegates place on record their profound appreciation and gratitude to our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda and Pujya Swami Sahajananda for their inspiration and omnipresence at all times, their guiding light, the opportunity to participate, and the opportunity to spread the message of our Divine Master throughout the world.