DES MOINES, Iowa — The president of the Universal Society of Hinduism opened the Iowa House and Senate with prayer to a false god on Monday.
“We meditate on the transcendental glory of the Deity Supreme, who is inside the heart of the earth, inside the life of the sky, and inside the soul of the heaven. May He stimulate and illumine our minds,” said Rajan Zed, quoting from the Gayatri Mantra.
“Lead us from the unreal to the real. Lead us from darkness to light. Lead us from death to immortality,” he also stated, reciting from the Brahadaranyakopanishad.
The recitations were delivered in both Sanskrit and English, and were opened and closed with the traditional “om,” which Hindus believe is a sacred sound and encapsulates the universe. Zed additionally sprinkled water from the Ganges River of India, which Hindus consider to be holy, prior to the invocation.
He bore a customary sandal paste tilak on his forehead, and was presented by Senate President Jack Whitver.
The following day, Zed also opened the Illinois Senate with a Hindu invocation, posting about the event on Twitter.
“Starting & ending with #Om, I opened the #IllinoisStateSenate in #Springfield on February 27 with prayers in #Sanskrit/English from ancient #HinduScriptures #RigVeda, #Upanishads & #BhagavadGita; after sprinkling few drops of #HolyGangaWater,” he wrote.
As previously reported, in 2007, when Zed was asked by Senate Majority leader Harry Reid to open the U.S. Senate with prayer, the occasion was met with protest from attendees in the balcony, as a man could be heard declaring, “Lord Jesus, forgive us for allowing the prayer of the wicked. This is an abomination in Your sight. This is an abomination! You shall have no other gods before Me!”
Police escorted the protesters out of the room, and later charged them with disrupting Congress, a misdemeanor.
In 2015, when Zed delivered an invocation before the Iowa House, several lawmakers refused to attend.
“I chose to do a more vocal form of protest because I don’t want to be seen as Idaho endorsing that,” Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, told reporters. “I don’t want to be seen as our country moving away from our Judeo-Christian traditions toward Hindu traditions by elevating him and this religion in that way.”
Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, said that Hinduism is not representative of the people of Idaho, and denounced it as a false religion.
“Hindu is a false faith with false gods,” she told IBN Live. “I think it’s great that Hindu people can practice their religion, but since we’re the Senate, we’re setting an example of what we, Idaho, believe.”
Mainstream Hinduism espouses a belief in millions of gods and goddesses, such as Shiva, known as the destroyer, and Kali, known as the “mother goddess” being the consort of Shiva, or “the goddess of blood.” Its book, the Bhagavad Gita, is a compilation of writings said to reflect dialogue between a warrior named Arjuna and the Vishnu Hindu god Krishna as they discuss the “universal order.”