See also the final version of my review of Kim Dieu's talk
The introductions to this morning's symposium lectures was a white delegate from Central Africa. The delegates from Africa are, from what I've seen so far, a good mix of black, white and Indian. I met the delegates from Ghana personally and they followed the world cup (won by Spain yesterday) as fervently as people in Europe have. About the world cup final: About 20 people watched it in one of the hotel bars. When Spain finally scored a goal the furore was decidedly muted - in respect one has to think - for the Dutch people present.
Anyhow. On to the symposium. Symposium means, in the context of TS congresses, that there are several speakers in a row.
Biting the bullet was the best of the three - from the perspective of the ability of lecturing in English: Tran Thi Kim Dieu from the French Section. She's done a lot of work for theosophy in Europe in general of course.
She started out holding up three fingers in a W sign: for work. She noted that someone had told her: There is more brotherhood outside the TS than in it. She had responded: Good. She explained: There are less than 30.000 members of the TS in the world. For the sake of humanity it is a good thing that there is more brotherhood out there than in the TS.
Putting a pastoral spin on it, she noted that brotherhood is not a finished thing. It is forming, it's a labour, it is work.
The main question she asked was: is there honesty in any relationship? She gave the example of someone paying your plane ticket: is he then automatically your friend? If someone gossips about you, are they automatically your enemy? Are we being polite, flattering each other, merely to get by? Is that brotherhood?
Commenting on the theme of the congress (Universal Brotherhood without distinction: a road to awareness) she asked: is it that brotherhood leads to awareness, or does awareness lead to brotherhood?
There is a difference between skill in action and hypocrisy... Do we know when the one turns into the other?
Then she quoted Jiddu Krishnamurti. Unfortunately I was not able to get the quote in time for this post (I'll get it later and correct it here):
Of what use is that court of people who always compromise, are always uncertain, frightened and doubtful? (my approximation of the quote)
She turned that quote into a question for each of us: do we always compromise? Are we uncertain, frightened and doubtful?
Excellent question, I thought. Also - the reference to someone paying one's air-fair is apt: Most of the Brazilian section had their trip payed for by either the Brazilian section itself or one of its prominent members. People have flown to Brazil - expenses paid - as well. Where does generosity end and paying for influence begin?
Having now spelled out what Kim Dieu only hinted at - I still have to recognize that in referencing it at all she was more explicit about some of the real issues the TS is facing than any other speaker before her. I told her so and she responded - Did I offend anybody? I don't think she did. Perhaps that IS a reasonable limit to outspokenness, but theosophists generally don't come near that limit on the stage.
BTW : this thing about the plane tickets was heard through the grapevine. It is only fair to add now that I also heard through the grapevine that the Brazilian section has simply been well organized. They negotiated a group discount, because they had been working on getting this congress promoted for years. And of course, if you come with a group of over 75 people, any travel agency is going to give you a discount. So many people were able to come.
The other two speakers were not nearly as good - mainly because they were just harder to understand.
Lisette Arrayo from Mexico said one good thing:
The road is made by working.
Ing-Britt Wiklund from Sweden said:
We must turn outward and practice what we have read.
She also quoted a spiritual teacher who had said (perhaps echoing Blavatsky who said something similar):
I am not the one who you think I ought to be.
This is true for all of us: we have to take the responsibility to be who we think we have to be, not who the world thinks we ought to be. And we have to generously allow others the same freedom. It's a fundamental truth that each of us has their own path.
For future reference btw: Previous world congresses were held in:
Nairobi, Brazil, Sydney Australia and this one is in Rome, Italy. Ing-Britt Wiklund attended each of these four. Of course there were world congresses before that, but I'll leave that for someone with a love for archival work to delineate.