Santee City Council has opened meetings with invocations by Rabbis, Buddhist monks, Wiccans, Falun Gong, Unitarians and has even put the call out for an atheist invocation, but on Wednesday the meeting opened with Hindu mantras for the first time.
The Hindu invocation on September 25 contained verses from world’s oldest existing scripture. Hindu statesman Rajan Zed delivered the prayer from ancient Sanskrit scriptures before the City Council. After Sanskrit delivery, he then read the English translation of the prayer. Sanskrit is considered a sacred language in Hinduism and root language of Indo-European languages.
It has been tradition to begin Santee City Council meetings with a nonsectarian invocation since the founding of the city.
"We ask that because of court precedence a Christian Pastor not end with 'In Jesus Christ's Name,'" said Mayor Randy Voepel. "No other faiths have a restriction."
Santee City Attorney Shawn Hagerty has said the legal issue is clear- "Legislative invocation is part of the governance structure of the United States and has always been."
Zed, who is the President of Universal Society of Hinduism, recited passages from Rig-Veda, the oldest scripture of the world still in common use, besides lines from Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord), both ancient Hindu scriptures. He plans to start and end the prayer with “Om," the mystical syllable containing the universe, which in Hinduism is used to introduce and conclude religious work.
Reciting from Brahadaranyakopanishad, Rajan Zed said “Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrtyor mamrtam gamaya,” which he then translated as “Lead me from the unreal to the Real, Lead me from darkness to Light, and Lead me from death to Immortality.” Reciting from Bhagavad-Gita, he urged councilmembers to keep the welfare of others always in mind.
Zed is a global Hindu and interfaith leader, who besides taking up the cause of religion worldwide, has also raised huge voice against the apartheid faced by about 15-million Roma (Gypsies) in Europe. He has bee bestowed with a World Interfaith Leader Award; Zed is Senior Fellow and Religious Advisor to Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, Spiritual Advisor to National Association of Interchurch & Interfaith Families.
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in the U.S.
A press release contributed to this post.