President’s Diary

Printed in theSpring 2017  issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Boyd, Tim"President’s Diary" Quest 105.2 (Spring 2017): pg. 42-43

Tim BoydIn mid-October my wife, Lily, and I traveled from Adyar to the Indo-Pacific Federation’s conference in Auckland, New Zealand. Every three years the get-together takes place in a different part of the region. The last one in 2013 was in Bali, Indonesia. The geography for the region is quite large, stretching from Japan, Korea, the Southeast Asian region, including Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand down through Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, then back east to India and Sri Lanka.

In a normal year the event attracts sixty to seventy members. This year the organizers had to close registration early. They had allowed for around 120 people at Auckland’s Rose Park Hotel, but well before the start of the conference all spots were taken. I found myself joking that the Indo-Pacific was the largest region in the world because this meeting had delegates coming from Brazil, the U.S., and France, in addition to more local members. The conference featured speakers from throughout the region, including Vic Hao Chin from the Philippines, Linda and Pedro Oliveira and Dorothy Bell from Australia, John Vorstermans from New Zealand, me, and others.

During the conference I got a chance to talk with the delegation from Singapore led by Sanne and Lily Chong. The group in Singapore is remarkable. Not too many years ago the membership was dwindling. Problems had arisen with the property that had been the longtime home for the lodge, and energy seemed to be waning. The membership had sunk to seven members. Today, thanks to the work of Sanne and Lily, and the strong sense of cooperation that has been fostered among their members, membership is more than 400 in that single lodge.

  YTsfrom India
  From left: Young Theosophists Aditya Mathur from India, Lara Sell from New Zealand, Prachi Mathur (Aditya’s older sister), and Angelique Boyd—all under twenty-five—at a reception at Adyar following the international convention.

I had wanted to talk to the group about hosting the Theosophical Society’s World Congress. The World Congress can be held every seven years. The last one was in Rome in 2010. Except for the second congress in 1925, which was held at the international headquarters in Adyar, there has never been a World Congress in Asia. They have been held in Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Australia, but not Asia. After some initial deliberation, the Singapore group embraced the project wholeheartedly. So in August 2018 the eleventh World Congress will be held in Singapore. I have no doubt that it will be a wonderful event.

In addition to the normal program, there were two nights of entertainment that included members, and on the first night there was a professional classical flutist. On both nights we had a performance by a musical family of members from Bangalore, India who call themselves “The Bangalore Cousins.” Each night they had the audience singing and dancing in the aisles.

While in New Zealand we visited with three of the groups. The first stop was in Wellington, on the southern tip of the northern of the nation’s two main islands. Then we visited with the group in Christchurch, on the southern island, before returning to spend some time with the Auckland branch.

After we returned to Adyar the next stop was a visit to Delhi in the north. Several months earlier I had been invited to address a meeting of the Indian Council on Cultural Relations (ICCR). The ICCR is a government-funded organization focused on cultural diplomacy, which operates worldwide promoting relationships based on India’s cultural heritage. I had been invited to say something about the TS. It was an invitation-only event and involved around seventy diplomats and academicians. The title of the talk was “The Theosophical Society: India’s Gift to the World.”

The current president of the ICCR is a truly phenomenal man named Professor Lokesh Chandra. Author of no less than 600 books, he is something of a cultural icon within India. After the talk, he and I and a group of ten other professors and diplomats had dinner together. During the meal Professor Chandra spoke most highly of the work of Annie Besant in India and made an offer to the TS [r1] to publish her collected works. During my talk I had highlighted her role and the influence of the TS in India’s independence movement. He made a statement which was startling to me, coming from someone of his level of study and understanding of India’s history. He said that Annie Besant’s role in India was more important than Gandhi’s, and he gave reasons for his belief. It was a stimulating evening, and the council has asked that I address them again next year.

Every year at Adyar, as around the Theosophical world, November 17 is celebrated as Foundation Day—the anniversary of the 1875 founding of the TS in New York City. This year we had invited a special guest to take part in the occasion. Phillip Min, chief consul for the U.S. consulate in Chennai, was our main guest. The consulate in Chennai is actually the busiest U.S. consulate in the world. For some reason, more visas are processed here than anywhere else. Consul Min joined us for a tree-planting ceremony prior to the evening talks. During that time he and I had a chance to revisit memories of our mutual hometown, New York. In addressing the gathering, Consul Min chose to focus on the American cofounder of the TS, Colonel Henry Olcott. He gave a talk that was insightful, accurate, and highly appreciative of Olcott’s life and work. He also used the occasion to talk about some of the things going on currently in U.S.–India relations. All in all, it was a fascinating evening.

YTsfrom India   
 Prairie School students enjoy an audience with Santa at the 2016 Christmas party.

In late November we returned to the U.S. to celebrate the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Every year at Olcott, we get together with the kids from the Prairie School, our staff, and volunteers for our Christmas party. It’s always a fun time, with stories, songs, games, and jokes—especially when our national secretary, David Bruce, is the master of ceremonies. As in previous years, Santa Claus made an appearance— truly the most authentic Santa you could ever see. For whatever reason, our head of maintenance and grounds, Mark Roemmich, has never seen this Santa. Each year Mark seems to be out of the room when Santa arrives. I will say no more.

While holiday celebrations were going on in the U.S., across the ocean in Adyar preparations were under way for the 141st International Convention. On December 11 and 12 a powerful cyclone made landfall directly on the city of Chennai. Cyclone Vardah did extensive damage throughout the city and at our Adyar campus. Over 200 trees were uprooted; roads within the campus were impassable; and electricity was out for three days. The immediate aftereffects of the storm were disheartening. With convention less than three weeks away, the situation was dire. Somehow our workers, with help from a number of volunteers, managed to clear the roads and move the fallen trees away from critical areas. Remarkably, no one was injured and no buildings were severely damaged.

On December 30 the annual all-day meeting of the General Council took place. The next day it was followed by the opening of the convention. The convention is filled with traditions including the prayers of the religions, the Besant lecture, the Theosophy-Science Lecture, the opening of the Vocational Training Center stall, and the inauguration of the Indian Convention. As in the past two years, all convention talks were live-streamed and archived. Videos of all the convention events can be found at ts-adyar.org; for a look behind the scenes see the President’s Blog for December 2016 at https://youtu.be/LHTzQHuiVUo.

Last year we had invited leading representatives from some of the other Theosophical groups to address the convention. Although I had not given it any thought at the time, Herman Vermeulen, leader of the Point Loma TS in The Hague, made the point in his talk that it was the first time that a leader of another TS organization had spoken to the convention. This year we continued the new tradition, inviting Carolyn Dorrance from the United Lodge of Theosophists, and Barend Voorham, from the Point Loma group, to address the convention. Featured TS-Adyar speakers included Vic Hao Chin, Linda and Pedro Oliveira, Professor R.C. Tampi, John Vorstermans, Trân-Thi-Kim-Diêu, and others.

One memorable event during the convention was the first ever performance of the Global Rhythms Children’s Choir. The choir is the brainchild of Srinivasan (Srini) Krishnan, an international music educator. Along with a group of prominent local supporters, he put together a group of more than 500 children to perform music from around the world. Some of the finest musicians in India took the stage to accompany the children, with the help of Srini’s  close friend A.R. Rahman (Academy Award–winning composer for the movie Slumdog Millionaire). The 564 children surrounded the audience of Theosophists and sang songs that ranged from Sufi ballads to Bollywood classics to songs by pop vocalist Adele to their rousing and unexpected finale, “We Will Rock You.” Old members and new, Westerners and Indians, were moved to tears, laughter, and vigorous applause at the precision, vitality, and innocence of these kids.

Tim Boyd

 

 


Image
Theosophical Society PoliciesTerms & Conditions • © 2019 The Theosophical Society in America