On Thursday, July 7, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed will open Layton's city council meeting with a prayer. Layton, like many other communities and cities, begins meetings with prayer. However, Mayor Steve Curtis and Layton administrators seek diversity with the prayers, inviting denominations of different religions to send a representative to offer prayer.
It's a great way to defuse the tensions that come with having prayer in a public meeting. Rather than having a consistent Christian-based prayer that could be considered exclusionary to some people, the variety of prayers work because they stress the diverse difference that make up communities. Instead of being exclusionary, the prayer becomes an instrument of inclusion. Also, having prayers from distinct faiths is a teaching tool -- it provides an education of world beliefs.
Zed, who is president of the Universal Society of Hinduism and a contributor to the Washington Post's "On Faith" section, plans to read from the Rig-Veda, which are ancient Hindu scriptures. After reciting the prayer in the ancient language of Sanskrit, Zed will read an English translation.
Translated, Zed's prayer will read in part, "Lead me from the unreal to the real, lead me from the darkness to light, and lead me from death to immortality."
As mentioned, Layton works to get diverse religious figures to offer prayers. Each year, Mayor Curtis e-mails various local congregations with an offer to deliver prayer at a city council meeting. Sanskrit has been spoken at Layton meetings before, when monks from the Buddhist temple in Layton have offered prayers for the city.