Auckland’s active interfaith movement was recently on show when the Sri Chinmoy Centre organised a memorable and inspiring evening of music on Monday, May 28, 2018. Ten local performing groups representing various spiritual traditions came together for a free concert of peaceful, meditative music at the Fickling Centre in Mt Eden. Singers and instrumentalists from Sikh, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Tzu Chi and various other musical traditions shared an evening highlighting both the diversity of Auckland’s cultures and their spirit of co-operation. The evening concert – ‘Sounds of the Sacred’ – was filled to overflowing and offered an experience of inner peace through music.
Interfaith initiatives have a long history. The 1893 Parliament of World Religions, where the great Swami Vivekananda spoke and came to prominence, is often regarded as the birth of the modern interfaith movement and the most inclusive gathering of people of all faiths and traditions in history. Yet initiatives go back much further, even to the 16th century and beyond when in Mughal India, the Muslim Emperor Akbar promoted and encouraged tolerance and respect for other faiths and controversially married a Hindu princess.
Encouragingly, in our modern world there is a growing accommodation and a widening acceptance and goodwill towards the many faces of religion, and sporadic extremism and religious wars only remind us of their folly and cruelty.
Sri Chinmoy, who for four decades led the inter-denominational ‘Peace Meditations at the United Nations’, spoke of the need for ‘oneness’ and of the loving quality of the human heart:
“In religion, just as in all other aspects of our life, the feeling of our oneness-heart has to prevail. If we live in our oneness-heart, we will feel the essence of all religions, which is love of God. True religion has a univ
ersal quality. It does not find fault with other religions. Forgiveness, compassion, tolerance, brotherhood and the feeling of oneness are the signs of a true religion.”
Interfaith efforts are evident in many world forums including the United Nations, where the promotion of tolerance, peace and mutual respect is enshrined in the UN Charter and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United Nations also has interfaith breakfasts, sports competitions and cultural programs, and includes spiritual activities as well, such as the ongoing ‘Peace Meditations at the United Nations’ bi-weekly program for UN delegates and staff.
Speaking of the inner, spiritual dimension of world peace, Sri Chinmoy writes:
“There must be a great synthesis between the inner life and the outer life. The inner life wants love, and the outer life wants power. Now we are all exercising the love of power. But a day will come when this world of ours will be inundated with the power that loves. Only the power that loves can change the world.”
‘Sounds of the Sacred’ was also supported by the Auckland Interfaith Council, and included among the performers were local Mt Eden duo Monk Party; an instrumental/vocal women’s group from the Sri Chinmoy Centre; choirs from St Marks church groups; Sikh Youth performers; the Sathya Sai International NZ organization; and musicians from the Family Federation for World Peace.