A global Hindu and interfaith leader will provide the invocation at the North Dakota Legislature in February using mantras from the world’s oldest existing scripture.
Having non-Christian invocations is not new to the North Dakota Legislature. News stories over the past decade show that invocations were delivered by Native Americans, Jewish Rabbis and a Muslim cleric
Sen. Terry Wanzek, R-Jamestown, said that as a Christian, he believes in and strives to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. He said he is also an American citizen who believes in the Constitution and the rights and freedoms of the First Amendment.
“The First Amendment prevents the government from establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion,” Wanzek said. “As a state senator, I have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution. Therefore, I will pay them my due respect when they say the opening prayer in the North Dakota Senate. It will not shaken my resolve or my Christian beliefs.”
Rep. Jim Grueneich, R-Jamestown, said he was also supportive of allowing different faiths to share in the invocations.
“I think it is a sign that we recognize the diversity within our state as we grow and prosper,” said Grueneich.
Rajan Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism, based in Reno, Nev., will deliver the invocation of the North Dakota Senate on Feb. 21 and the House of Representatives on Feb. 22. Zed’s announcement said he will recite scriptures in English after reciting in the original Sanskrit language, which is considered sacred in Hinduism.
Zed will also recite from the Rig-Veda, the oldest scripture still in common use, followed by the Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord) scriptures. The Bhagavad-Gita is in part to urge elected officials to keep the welfare of others always in mind, Zed said.
Zed will also recite the Brahadaranyakopanishad prayer which he said translates to “Lead us from the unreal to the real, lead us from darkness to light, and lead us from death to immortality.”
The invocations will start and conclude with an Om prayer, which in Hinduism is considered a mystical syllable containing the universe and used to introduce and conclude religious work, Zed said.
Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion in the world with about 1.1 billion followers including 3 million Hindus in the United States, Zed said. In addition to North Dakota, Zed has offered invocations at several city councils nationwide and at state legislatures in Nevada, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Indiana, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Utah and Alaska.