Parliament of Religions

Definition - What does Parliament of Religions mean?

Parliament of Religions was an event that first took place in Chicago in 1893 and had a profound effect on the spread of yoga in the West. The event was planned as part of the Chicago World’s Fair, which celebrated the 400-year anniversary of Columbus arriving in America. It was intended as a way of bringing together representatives of many world religions as part of a move toward greater universalism and unity.

Since the seminal Parliament of Religions, the event has grown, and is still held with the intention of cultivating harmony between different religious and spiritual traditions.

Yogapedia explains Parliament of Religions

This original Parliament of Religions was attended by Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Jains and representatives of the Shinto and Zoroastrian traditions. A replica of the Liberty Bell rang 10 times as the Parliament began, to honor each of the 10 major religions present.

Parliament of Religions was not without opposition, and some religious leaders declined to attend. However, those who did attend drew on the universal elements of their faith and found commonalities on which to build foundations. It is now regarded by some as the event that began a formal international dialogue between religions.

Swami Vivekananda — a Hindu monk and spiritual teacher — was one of the most popular speakers of the event, inspiring his audience with a message of universal convergence of spirituality and morality. His words valued the best qualities of each religion and encouraged his listeners to see the ultimate religion as charitable work, doing good because of the love of God rather than because of any fear of punishment or desire for rewards. This speech was the first introduction to Hinduism for a large American audience, and it paved the way for the dissemination of both Hindu and yogic teachings in the West.

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