The Provo Municipal Council opened for the first time with a Hindu invocation from a worldwide Hinduism advocate at the opening of Tuesday night’s meeting.
Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, opened the Provo Council meeting encouraging the Municipal Council to maintain the welfare of the city, quoting from ancient scriptures such as the Bhagavad-Gita, which are Hindu scriptures more popular in the West.
He began each part in Sanskrit and then translated what he said into English.
“Fulfill all your duties; action is better than inaction,” Zed prayed. “Selfish action imprisons the world. Act selflessly, without thought of personal profit.”
He also quoted a central scripture to Hindus from the Brihadaranyakopanishad as important counsel:
“Lead me from the unreal to the real,” Zed prayed. “Lead me from darkness to light. Lead me from death to immortality.”
Provo is not the only place Zed has opened a meeting with a Hindu prayer. Zed has given invocations at many U.S. state legislature meetings, including Utah’s, and even prayed at the U.S. Senate. When asked why he decided to focus on the United States to spread awareness of Hinduism, Zed explained that Hindus, although a minority, play a large role in everyday America.
“In U.S. universities if people are in the business department or in the engineering department you will see professors from India,” Zed said. “We are not even one half percent of the population, but we are doing something good. We are the most educated group in the US. We have the lowest divorce rate. (Mormons are second.) We are the second richest group in the U.S. We are doing good in the U.S. Our kids our doing good.”
Zed said that promoting good through Hinduism is part of what the Universal Society of Hinduism does. “It is a worldwide organization. If there are ever any Hindu issues, I take care of them,” Zed said. “My job is to bring the Hindus together so that we can raise other issues and create more awareness for Hinduism and do some interfaith dialogue as well.”
As part of this interfaith dialogue, Zed got a chance to tour campus with BYU’s chair of religious studies, Professor Brent Top, before he prayed at the municipal council meeting.
“I thought it was a wonderful opportunity for him to meet some of our world religion professors and to meet some of our students here at BYU,” Top said. “They had lots of very good questions, and then we had lunch with several of our faculty, and they were able to ask questions and just talk about how we can learn from each other and gain greater understanding.”
Top believes BYU is a unique place for Zed to visit. “With the number of return(ed) missionaries that we have on this campus, we have lots and lots of students that have been exposed to lots of different cultures and different religions, and so we are interested in those kinds of things. And so this was just a great opportunity.”
Top says that leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have taught for years that we should seek truth everywhere. “There’s a wonderful statement from Brigham Young,” Professor Top said, “where he says ‘as Latter-day Saints all truth is part of the gospel, and that we should seek after all truth, whoever has it.’”
Professor Top continued, “In the very essence of our world religions classes is the 1978 statement of the First Presidency that declared that God has poured out a portion of his word and his truth to all peoples and into all times, and great religious leaders and philosophers and great reformers … were doing God’s work in their own way, and that we recognize that men and women of faith in all different times and dispensations have been doing God’s work in their own way, and we honor and respect that.”