My wife Darcia and I were fortunate enough to be part of a Winnipeg delegation that visited Louisville, Kentucky recently to experience Louisville’s initiatives as a ‘compassionate city’. In the process, we took part in an interfaith conference and attended presentations made by His Holiness the Dalai Lama around the theme of engaging compassion.
It was all very inspiring. One of the takeaways from the experience was a greater understanding of the world’s religions and the fact that, at their core, there is a common theme of compassion perhaps most easily distilled to the Christian ‘Golden Rule’.
One of our fellow travellers to Louisville was a Hindu woman named Manju Lodha who invited us to visit her temple in Winnipeg to meet some members of her community. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to attend the temple on the weekend of her invitation. But, the following weekend there was an important Hindu ceremony occurring in Winnipeg and, after being exposed to the Hindu faith in Louisville, I decided to attend. I took my unsuspecting Lutheran-raised sister along for company and my wife joined us later.
As fate would have it, Manju was in attendance along with many members of the Hindu community, including two Swami’s – one of whom was travelling from Toronto. India’s High Commissioner to Canada was also in attendance along with local dignitaries.
We happened to be sitting beside the leader of Manju’s temple. He was invited to the front row for the main festivities. Being a gracious man, he asked us to follow him. So there we were – a Ukrainian Catholic and a Lutheran with front row seats at an incredibly rich and significant Hindu ceremony, marking the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.
The event took place in what at first appeared to be the most unlikely of settings. We were at the old CPR railway station on Higgins Avenue which is now the Aboriginal Centre. We were there for the unveiling of a bust of Swami Vivekananda.
This revered Swami had a connection to Winnipeg. In 1893, he travelled through Winnipeg by train on his way to Chicago to attend the World Parliament of Religions. His mission was to build a bridge between the cultures of the East and the West. The Swami spoke to all who would listen encouraging us to become broad in our outlook and to try to see religions as methods to reach the goal of experiencing one’s own inner Divinity.
The aboriginal people of Canada and the people of India share an experience of being colonized. Therefore, they experienced what it was like to have their spirituality suppressed. But, in “making room” for the Hindu religion and for the statue of the Swami, the aboriginal people demonstrated their own spirituality and showed compassion and generosity to those who have different beliefs. The impressive bust of the Swami is now prominently on display in the Aboriginal Centre beneath a painting of an eagle and symbols of aboriginal spirituality.
The Swami, who espoused unity in diversity, harmony in faiths, the divinity of souls and service to humanity in the worship of God, has a fitting home from which to carry on his uplifting message. Winnipeg is now not only the home of a beautiful statue of Gandhi at the Forks, but also the home of a wonderful bust of one of India’s great Swami’s at the Aboriginal Centre. Both are worth the visit and a moment of reflection.
TOWARD A COMPASSIONATE WINNIPEG
Recently, a delegation from Winnipeg traveled to Louisville, Kentucky — in November 2012 and again in May 2013 — to learn how city leaders there began Compassionate Louisville. From schools to government, healthcare to policing, Louisville is proving that a lasting, positive impact is created when compassion informs the day-to-day life of a city.
Community News Commons encourages anyone to imagine what Winnipeg could become if we followed the lead of Louisville and made compassion an integral part of our community life.
Click on the links below to read other CNC articles on creating a compassionate Winnipeg:
Friendship blossoms for Sikhs, Mennonites in North Kildonan
Knowing more about others creates greater compassion
Compassion helps take back the streets
Golden Rule unites world religions
The hard work of living a compassionate life
Winnipeg encouraged to adopt Golden Rule
Delegation seeks compassion, will hear Dalai Lama speak
Winnipeg delegation looks to compassionate Louisville
Forum on compassion asks: Does Winnipeg care?
Is Winnipeg a compassionate city?
You can also type the word ‘compassion’ into the search bar at the top of this page to access more stories on this subject.