Suisun City council to have first Hindu invocation

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 - 7:45 am

For the first time, the City Council of Suisun City will start its day with Oms.

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed will read from ancient Sanskrit scriptures and deliver an English translation in a three-minute prayer on Aug. 27.

But he'll start and end with Om, the mystical Hindu syllable said to contain the universe.

Mayor Pete Sanchez said Zed is the council's first religious guest in many years. He can't remember an invocation delivered by anyone other than the city manager – and occasionally another city official like himself – in his 19 years on the council.

"When you hear the same prayer over and over, you start praying for something else," he said.

If Om sounds familiar, it might be from yoga lessons.

"People know a little about Hindus because of yoga," Zed said, noting symbols and images sometimes used as decoration. But Zed said people should know more.

Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, travels the country regularly from his Nevada home to educate people about his religion, which is said to be the oldest and third largest in the world with 3 million practitioners in the United States.

In 2007, Zed became the first Hindu to lead the U.S. Senate in prayer as its chaplain, and he did the same at the California Legislature later that year.

For Zed, these prayers are to educate leaders about Hindus.

"We should understand our neighbors," he said. "We must understand each other to work together more effectively."

Zed will recite from Rig-Veda, Brahadaranyakopanisha and Bhagavad-Gita, and he said he'll urge council members to keep the welfare of others in mind – a message in Suisun's typical invocation as well.

Sanchez foresees Zed's invocation as the first of many from different groups.

"Every group wants to be heard," he said. "Hopefully this will start a new thing here and other city councils will do the same."

The Aug. 27 meeting takes place at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 701 Civic Center Blvd.

Call The Bee's Janelle Bitker, (916) 321-1027. Follow her in Twitter @JanelleBitker.

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