On October 19 and 20, I participated in an interfaith event organized by Amisrael, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) with international activities aimed at peace between peoples and nations.
The theme was, “The Agenda of Religions in the Postmodern World.” I participated in two panels – one was on “Religion and Globalization” and the other was on “Religion and Communications”.
When I spoke on “Religion and Globalization”, I raised the point that this was not the first globalization. I said that the Vedic texts report that there was a globalization thousands of years ago, with the difference that the center of civilization was then Southeast Asia. Europe and the Americas were mainly forests and grasslands, inhabited by simpler civilizations. I emphasized that the main difference is that in Vedic culture there is a natural understanding that God is seen differently by different people and that historically there are few cases of religious violence or wars motivated by religious hatred in this culture. This, I pointed out, is very different from what happened in Europe and the Middle East, the perpetrators of modern globalization, where religious hatred and intolerance was a dominant aspect of the expansion of their cultures. I concluded by saying that now, with the world having greater access to Vedic culture and the spiritual science of yoga, our hope is that this Vedic mentality, of religious tolerance and the understanding that there will always be different religious expressions, can be part of global consciousness, replacing the sectarian nature of the Abrahamic religions. The organizers and some of the participants told me they appreciated my presentation very much.
For the panel on “Religion and Communication”, each representative spoke a little about the communication efforts made by their religion. I was surprised with what I heard. A representative of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism said that of the 40 temples that they have in Brazil, 20 are closed. He said that they have no systematic communication work – they do not use websites, blogs, mailing lists… nothing. He said that practically all of the monks in Brazil (and they’ve been in Brazil for some 40 years!) do not speak Portuguese. As a result, not surprisingly, their mission is running the risk of becoming extinct. A representative of Islam said that they do not believe in using the Internet, mailing lists, blogs, etc. In their religion, he emphasized, only person to person communications count. He also said that one of the main problems of Islam in Brazil is that few of their missionaries speak Portuguese and Arabic well enough to do their work. The representative of Judaism showed that they were making use of mailing lists, websites, downloadable lessons, etc., but to me it didn’t seem very impressive. I confess that it was with some degree of pride that I explained how much we are doing in the Hare Krishna movement. I spoke of our thousands of websites, mailing lists, blogs, twitter accounts, etc. I said that in just a single website (www.iskcondesiretree.info) we have more than 29 thousand lectures for free download with more being added every day. I told them about our MP3 audio books for free download (in Brazil we have the SB First Canto, the Krishna Book and Sri Isopanishad), our video broadcasts online, and how an increasing number of our temples have live Internet video feeds. The presentation caused some surprise among the participants, who saw that our group, though so small and young compared to theirs, was taking full advantage of the modern means of communication.
I also had the opportunity to participate in interviews with the press, where I talked about Krsna consciousness and our vision of certain global issues.
At the event there were some important figures, such as the “Pope of Judaism”, Yona Metzger, the chief rabbi of Israel (in the picture with me here).