Japanese Language Verison Here / 日本語記事
Reimagining Interfaith - the Basics
I was in Washington, D.C. from July 29 to 31 to take part in the conference of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF). I was able to take part in this international interfaith conference as a delegate from the Rissho Kosei-kai Buddhist Community, of which I am a member.
The conference was held at the George Washington University Marvin Center and my estimate is that about 400 people attended. There was a large delegation from Japan -about 1/3 to half of all attendees. Others came from the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, France, India, Pakistan and from the West to East Coasts of the United States.
The Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Sikh, Shinto and other Japanese denominations, Pagan, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist / Free Religious Congregation religions were represented (I may have missed a group). Secular Humanists also had a small delegation present.
Theme and Programs
The theme of the conference was "Reimagining Interfaith." Interfaith work has been about building bridges and fostering cooperation among religious / spiritual communities to work together for common goals. In that light, the theme was chosen to look at the bridges that the interfaith community has not been so good at building.
Further, the conference also addressed current topics such as immigration, racism, Islamophobia, climate change, discrimination in general and other timely topics. Several panels were held to touch on these issues.
For example, one panelist has been very involved in immigration issues and spoke about how the interfaith community has been rallying to protect immigrants -both legal and illegal. The recent actions of the Trump administration were discussed. Someone also pointed out that, although Trump's immigration policies are troubling, the USA has a long history of treating undocumented immigrants poorly.
Conversation was also held on Human Rights issues around the world and right here in the United States too.
We also broke off into smaller groups for more discussion. My group included Buddhists, a UUA member, a Pagan and members of the Free Religious Congregation from Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.
On the morning of July 30 the Japanese delegation led a prayer service. Priests from the Shinto, Buddhist, Konkokyo and Ittoen Japanese faiths gave traditional prayers and rituals.
This was my first time attending a program of the IARF. As an international relations undergrad student and as someone who has long been interested in world religion, this was a great experience. I was particularly glad that I was able to meet and discuss with Japanese Shinto and Buddhist priests as I have a deep interest in Japanese spirituality.
Having lived in Japan and been to many temples and shrines, I am very grateful for this opportunity. Also, the fact that such a large number of Japanese people were present put my Japanese language abilities to the test! So, overall it was a wonderful experience.
I thought that much of the discussion was good and timely. It is important for various religious communities to work together on shared areas of concern.
寺院は1986年に建てられました。シュリー・スワミー・サチナンダーは創業者です。シュリー・スワミ・サッチャンダはヒンドゥー教の司祭だった。 彼は1914年から2002年に住んでいた。彼はインドで生まれ、1960年代にアメリカに来た。寺院は世界の宗教と平和に捧げられています。寺院はヨガヴィルの町の一部です。 ヨガヴィルは1980年に建てられました。
これらは：神道, 仏教, キリスト教, イスラム教, シク教, ヒンドゥー教, ジャイナ教, バハーイー教, ネイティブアメリカン宗教, アフリカの宗教, ゾロアスター教, 道教, ユダヤ教, 太平洋島の宗派。
寺院の内部は非常に大きいです。 世界の宗教のための祭壇があります。内部には多くのライトがあります。 とても美しいです。 私は寺の内部で瞑想しました。 私は世界平和のために祈りました。
シヴァのために造られた小さなガラスの寺院があります。 シヴァはヒンドゥー教の神です。 シヴァは創造と破壊の神です。シヴァ寺院で私は世界平和と幸福のために祈った。LOTUS寺院は美しいです。 ヨーガビルは平和な場所です。 私はLOTUS寺院を訪問してとても幸せです。
In July my mother and I took a summer trip to Virginia where, among a number of places, we pulled into the visitor parking lot at Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville (commonly called Yogaville). I can not remember how or when I first heard about this place. Although it was several years ago that I first heard about it, I never forgot about it and when we were planning our trip we added it to our itinerary.
Yogaville is a community founded in the 1980's by Sri Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002) who had a lotus shaped interfaith temple built on the site and dedicated it to world peace and inter-religious cooperation in 1986. The temple is named LOTUS which stands for Light Of Truth Universal Shrine.
Sri Swami Satchidananda was born in India and came to the United States in the 1960s. He was the opening speaker at Woodstock in 1969. He authored several books and traveled throughout the USA. He died at Yogaville in 2002.
In addition to the lotus shaped temple, there is a Hindu temple and a special temple that enshrines the ashes of Sri Swami Satchidananda. There are also severals houses, apartments, a community hall, a hotel, a school and a library, as well as a farm and many gardens.
The temple is located at the bottom of a hill from the Yogaville community and sits next to a large lake. Forests surround it on all sides. My mother and I walked through the gates, down a path complete with fountains and Hindu artwork to the main entrance of LOTUS.
We entered the shrine on the first floor, which houses a small museum dedicated to a number of religions. We went to the second level which houses the shrine room itself. Twelve altars (Judaism, Native / Indigenous Faiths, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, Islam, African Religions, Sikhism, Taoism, Other Known Faiths, Faiths Still Unknown) were set up along the walls. A pillar of light shot up from a central altar.
The museum's displays were interesting. Each had articles and photos from various faiths with some information on the items and the religion in general. In all there were large displays for Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikh, African Traditional Faiths, Native American Religions, Shinto and Taoism. In addition to these there were small displays for the Baha'i Faith, Pacific Island religions, Zoroastrianism and Jainism. There was also a display for secular /humanistic ethics and principles.
At the topic of a hill that overlooks the LOTUS is a small temple dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu deity of creation and destruction. I paid my respects to the statue for what it represents: people's faith. My mother and I took in the view from the hilltop. The hills and mountains reminded me of Ome City, Japan, where I lived a few years ago. The whole view was amazing.
All in all, visiting Yogaville was worth the trip. I am glad we were able to include a stop here on our vacation. I have been interested in world religion and spiritual beliefs for many years, so coming to an interfaith lotus shaped temple in the countryside is something that was special for me.
The people we met at Yogaville were very friendly and the whole community had a peaceful feeling to it. If you are planning a trip to Virginia, if you can include Yogaville, do it! It offers a unique experience. PEACE!
Robert C. Piemme is an undergraduate student (international relations) and avid gardener, hiker and writer.