Talking of God

Rajan Zed is a Hindu chaplain and is involved in the interfaith dialogue in the region.

It was supposed to be very simple on July 12. I was to read a universal, 90-second prayer at the opening of the United States Senate in Washington, D.C., and then the senators would begin their routine, and everybody else would go his or her own way.

It was the first Hindu prayer to open the U.S. Senate since its formation in 1789. When I started to pray, there were some loud protests in the visitors’ gallery followed by arrests. The world media covered the arrests, and the protests made the headlines in most of the media in India. Then You Tube, blogs and the Internet took over, accompanied by e-mails, phone calls and letters, which still continue. If somebody typed my name in Google or Yahoo, it brought about 120,000 results. That such a simple, short prayer would bring so much reaction was unprecedented.

The imbroglio started a debate about prayer, religion, God and related issues. Here is what I feel:

We are all interconnected and interdependent. We have more in common than we have in discord. Spiritual treachery on the part of one of us affects us all.

It is very human to compare the ideal version of one’s own religion with the visibly defective truth of other religions. It is very alluring for us to believe that others’ is the “ordinary” way to salvation, while our religion shows an “extraordinary” way to salvation.

The essence and original teachings of relgions may be virtuous, but how they develop fall short of the model version, like any other human institution.

We all must take religion seriously. Honest enquiry should be encouraged.

Sacred texts can be misused through selective reading and interpretation.

Convictions, locked with absolute truths, can sometimes lead us to see ourselves as God’s agents. We start seeing ourselves as the sole proprietors of the truth and guardians of the “absolute truth.”

We are all looking. In our shared search for answers, we can learn from each other, and thus come closer to the truth.

Rumi (Jalal ad-Din), a Sufi theologian, says:

Rest now my soul
Leave behind your religion
And your empty show of faith.
Remember when you had no religion?
Remember when all you had was Him?

The existence of different faiths shows sign of God’s bountifulness and benevolence. The beliefs, tenets and faiths of a particular tradition are valid within its framework. Remember in sports, we do not apply rules of one game to another.

Dialogue brings us mutual enhancement and makes us spiritually richer.