Sacramento, California, 29 August, (Asiantribune.com):
California State Senate here heard its first Hindu opening prayer on Monday in its 157 years history, when famous Hindu chaplain, Rajan Zed, recited Gayatri and other ancient Sanskrit mantras.
Starting with "Om", the mystical syllable containing the universe, which in Hinduism is used to introduce and conclude religious work, he read from Rig-Veda, the oldest scripture of the world still in common use, dated from around 1,500 BCE. He also delivered from Brahadaranyakopnisad, Taittiriya Upanisad, and Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord), all ancient Hindu scriptures. He ended the prayer with last mantra of Rig-Veda, "samani va akutih", before concluding with "Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti", which he then translated as "Peace, Peace, Peace be unto all".
Before starting the prayer, he sprinkled Gangajal (holy water from river Ganga in India) on the podium, which is traditional in Hindu worship.
Wearing saffron colored attire, a ruddraksh mala (rosary), and traditional sandalpaste tilak (religious mark) on the forehead, Zed, after reciting the original lines in Sanskrit, then read the English translation of the verses. Sanskrit is considered a sacred language in Hinduism and root language of all Indo-European languages. Full text of the prayer will be recorded in the Daily Journal of the Senate, which is a permanent public record.
Reverend Canon James D. Richardson, Chaplain of California State Senate, introduced Rajan Zed while Don Perata, Senate President pro Tem; Senator Christine Kehoe (San Jose) and Senator Elaine Alquist (San Diego) personally welcomed him.
One of the paragraphs of this Hindu prayer read in Sanskrit was "Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrityor mamrtam gamaya", which was translated in English as "Lead me from the unreal to the Real, Lead me from darkness to Light, Lead me from death to immortality."
Zed was accompanied to the California Senate by his community volunteer wife Shipa Zed; son Navgeet Zed, recipient of Nevada Peacemaker of the Year award; and a group of other supporters, including Jassi Cheema, Paradhyeya Das, Chaitanya Dasi, etc., many of whom came out of town.
"This day of August 27, 2007, is an esteemed day for all Californians and momentous day for us when opening prayers from ancient Hindu scriptures are being read in this majestic hall of democracy," Zed remarked.
Rajan Zed, affiliated with World Congress of Faiths-London and listed in "Who's Who in America" 2006, volunteers as a chaplain in various hospitals, serves on various Boards of Directors, and is very active in interfaith dialogue. He created history on July 12 last when he opened the United States Senate session in Washington DC with Hindu prayer for the first time in its 218 years history. City of Reno issued him a proclamation and he received various honors from different organizations in this country and abroad.
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has no datable beginning but some scholars put it around 3,000 BCE. It has no founder, no one authoritative figure, and no single prophet or holy book. One of its scriptures, Mahabharata, is the longest poem ever written, comprising over 100,000 couplets. Hinduism in North America was introduced in 1830s with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau studying Hindu scriptures like Upanisads and Bhagavad-Gita. Vivekananda made a strong impression at World's Parliament of Religion in Chicago in 1893 and he then founded Vedanta Society. Protap Chunder Mozoomdar of Brahmo Samaj delivered his first American address on September 02, 1883 in Concord, Massachusetts.
California ranks eighth in Gross Domestic Products in the world, higher than Canada, Spain, Russia, India, Australia, etc. California State Senate has 40 Senators, with each Senator representing 846, 791 Californians. Current Senate Chaplain Richardson, an Episcopal Priest, is the 47th chaplain since 1897, when this office began. Generally he offers the opening prayer but guest chaplains are also invited from time to time.
The prayers are offered to God on behalf of the Senate in recognition that our freedom and our abundance are gifts from God, according to Senate Chaplain Webpage.