Indonesia 31 January: Nusa Dua, Bali - Kuta, Bali

A day of happiness, fulness, oneness

Thursday 31 January was an extraordinary day for the Peace Run in Bali. Just days after the launch of the round-the-world Torch Relay which will visit every nation of the Southern Hemisphere in an epic 10-month journey, the Peace Torch and international team were welcomed to two most significant events, which symbolised the profound importance and embodied the tremendous power and promise of blossoming peace in our lives.

PUJA MANDALA

This auspicious day began with a visit to “Puja Mandala”, a remarkable place of unique importance not only in Bali, but in the culture of world interfaith harmony. In one compound, Puja Mandala includes side by side, places of worship for Catholic, Protestant, Islam, Buddhist and Hindu faiths. Sri Chinmoy, founder of the Peace Run, was delighted to visit Puja Mandala in 2004.

The gathering commenced with a welcome and introduction from Dr Agraha Levine, the program coordinator of the international Sri Chinmoy Centre. Dr Levine introduced the special guests and spoke of Sri Chinmoy’s dedication to interfaith harmony.

The Sri Chinmoy Centre choir sang a song composed by Sri Chinmoy for Indonesia, the lyrics of which specifically laud this nation’s commitment to interfaith harmony ...

“Islam, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, all faiths
Have built a oneness-tower.”

Dr Levine quoted from Sri Chinmoy's book, "Yoga and the Spiritual Life":

“Spirituality is not merely tolerance. It is not even acceptance. It is the feeling of universal oneness. In our spiritual life, we look upon the Divine, not only in terms of our own God, but in terms of everybody's God. Our spiritual life firmly and securely establishes the basis of unity in diversity. Spirituality is not mere hospitality to others' faith in God. It is the absolute recognition and acceptance of their faith in God as one's own.”

Pragati Pascale, also of the Sri Chinmoy Centres International, who has worked at the United Nations headquarters in New York for many years, pointed out the significance of this event coming at the start of the UN Interfaith World Harmony Week – an annual observance in the first week of February first proclaimed in 2010: “Puja Mandala is the perfect place to observe this”.

All the speakers were ably assisted by Suhasini Septiarini as our Indonesian interpreter and local organizer.

Ms Pascale went on to speak of Sri Chinmoy’s decades of spiritual work for peace at the United Nations, in particular the twice-weekly non-denominational meditations conducted at UN Headquarters since 1970; as well as Sri Chinmoy’s role at successive Parliaments of the World’s Religions. She also remarked on the inclusion of interfaith harmony among the “Pancasila Principles” which guide the constitution and foundation of the Republic of Indonesia.

Dr Levine then introduced Professor Haryono Suyono, Head of Damandiri Humanitarian Foundation, who had formerly served as Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare and Poverty Alleviation as well as Population. Now officially retired, Professor Suyono is actively engaged in numerous projects for the welfare of the people, especially in the villages of Indonesia. Professor Suyono spoke of his personal experiences with Sri Chinmoy and the importance of the message of interfaith harmony.

Prince Dipo Kusumo of Suryakarta (Solo, Java) told of the profound effect of Sri Chinmoy’s presence and spiritual influence in Indonesia at a time of great turbulence and upheaval in 1999, and in particular the relationship between Sri Chinmoy and his father, His Majesty Sinoehoen Pakoeboewono XII.

I Wayan Solo, Head of the Puja Mandala Association, spoke eloquently as he took this “golden opportunity for us to explain what Puja Mandala means – Puja is an offering to the Gods; Mandala is a circular place to worship God in oneness.” He pointed out that Puja Mandala is unique in the world; a “world icon of interfaith worship.” Commenced in 1993, with the first worship services conducted the following year, Puja Mandala is built on land donated by the Government, while each of the houses of worship were constructed and financed by the communities of each respective faith.

Salil Wilson, the CEO of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, spoke briefly of the history of the Peace Run since its inception in 1987, as an inspirational global event bringing together the common yearning for peace, hope and love. He spoke of the Peace Run as a vehicle for the multifarious expressions of aspiration, rooted in the foundation common to us all, of yearning for a better world.

Gathering around the Peace Torch as the central and unifying symbol, all the dignitaries and interfaith leaders then came together for photographs.

The Peace Torch was lit from a votive candle.

Led by the Peace Torch, the whole gathering then began a pilgrimage in miniature ...

... visiting each place of worship in turn.

In front of the Mosque ...

... Haji Soleh intoned a beautiful prayer and singers sang “Salam, Salam” by Sri Chinmoy.

Haji Soleh was then presented with the Peace Run Torch-Bearer Award for his dedicated service both to his own community and to the Puja Mandala ...

... followed by gifts including a “Jharna Kala” artwork print by Sri Chinmoy, bouquets of flowers and fruits. This award and gifts were then presented in turn to each of the leaders of the 5 faiths represented here today.

The Peace Torch is passed in ceremony to the next faith, from Muslim to Catholic...

Next, Romo Venus offered a prayer before the Catholic Church, followed by the song “Jishu Kristo”, one of several lyrical songs by Sri Chinmoy in praise of Jesus Christ.

From Catholic to Buddhist...

Ibu Vesha presided outside the Buddhist Temple, chanting a moving invocation which led into a rendition of Sri Chinmoy’s haunting song “Namo Namo Namo Buddha Deber”.

From Buddhist to Protestant...

Ibu Pendeta Kadek Mastra represented her congregation of the Protestant House of Worship with a supplication to God, followed by the singers offering Sri Chinmoy’s setting of Christ’s immortal words: “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

From Protestant to Hindu...

Lastly, I Wayan Solo chanted some soulful shlokas at the Bali Hindu Temple, after which Sri Chinmoy’s sublime bhajan “Rama Raghava” was sung.

Final photos, gifts and goodwill were exchanged, followed by refreshments for all as the gathering dissolved in an atmosphere of hope, enthusiasm, heartfelt smiles, soulful goodwill and the promise of continuing and expanding interfaith understanding and cooperation.

SMP “SUNARI LOKA” SCHOOL, KUTA

The students and staff of “Sunari Loka” hosted a remarkable reception for the international Peace Run team this afternoon at their school in Kuta. Everyone who was fortunate to attend this wonderful event will remember it for as long as we live.

A trio of students met the Peace Run team at the parking area and after a moment’s silence with the Peace Torch on the street, escorted us along the bustling Kuta sidewalks to their school.

A Guard of Honour was standing ready to greet the team in the reception area with individual hand-made garlands, numerous banners of welcome ...

... and a beautiful, heartfelt welcome dance.

Next there was a choreographed demonstration of the school’s recycling program.

Then the team were led inside the courtyard where delicious fresh welcome drinks and cakes awaited. A massive Peace Run Welcome banner, designed and created by the students, hung from the second-floor balcony over the playground.

Once the team were seated, a parade of students offered a banner presentation of the provinces of Indonesia. The Peace Torch was placed in a ceremonial holder in pride of place, front-of-centre on the stage while a student boys’ duo performed in perfect synchrony.

Two student girls performed the role of dual comperes for the program, speaking with perfect diction, welcoming the international team as “missionaries of peace” before introducing the school’s mascot dance ...

... an astonishing performance of grace and perfection offered by 5 girl dancers with boys gamelan orchestra.

The 5 dancers symbolise the 5 goddesses bringing light and wisdom to earth.

The audience was wrapt.

A superb girls choir then offered a selection of peace songs including “Imagine” ...

... followed by another mixed dance troupe of “Salam Suloku” with "peace vibrations".

The official welcome speech was written and offered in Indonesian by 13-year old Dian Ari Anjani ...

... with the English version of the speech given by 14-year-old Sulthan Rafi PS. After recounting a brief history of the school, Sulthan described the purpose of their school as “a fertile place for the colourful growth of life in harmony and in a beautiful togetherness.” He introduced the school motto which is “Think good, do good, be good.” He continued:

“Your visit is a blessing for us to strengthen awareness that peace is beautiful and needed in life. Our prayer and hope is that the missionaries of Peace Run will always be blessed with health, enthusiasm and strength in spreading the vibrations of peace continuously and extensively on this earth for the realisation of a peaceful new world.”

The goddesses were now in the audience.

Salil Wilson, CEO of the Peace Run was introduced, and spoke of the essential message of the Peace Run, that peace begins in and spreads from our hearts. He thanked the school for their extraordinary welcome and read some of Sri Chinmoy’s comments about the significance of Bali, describing Bali as “Heaven on earth.”

The team then sang Sri Chinmoy’s Peace Run song.

Various members of the team offered clues in mime or riddles as to their countries of origin – the students were lightning-fast to correctly name every single country, whereupon the team sang another of Sri Chinmoy’s songs, the “World Harmony Run”, complete with actions to the words.

Students were invited to feel peace in their own hearts in a brief meditation on the motto “Peace Begins With Me.”

A Certificate of Appreciation and gifts were offered to the students and staff of this outstanding school community who had worked so hard and with such heartfelt dedication and commitment for the creation of such a memorable occasion.

The Principle presented a trophy from the school to Salil Wilson who accepted on behalf of the Peace Run team.

Another girls choir then sang Sri Chinmoy’s song “A New World of Peace” in a moving, heart-stirring performance in 3 languages of English, Balinese and Indonesian, while a parade of boys lined the sports ground with their own home-made peace torches ablaze.

The Peace Torch was passed around the gathering.

The local organizer for the event was Kanyaka Arini (pictured right), working with Tilvila Hurwit (not shown).

The entire ensemble – staff, students and Peace Run team – then jogged with the Peace Torch around the playground several times in a mood of soulful festivity to complete a wonderfully satisfying, inspiring, energising and uplifting afternoon.