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at Remembrance Service
From Lavanga-manjari dd
On September 11, 2002, His Grace Ravindra Svarupa Dasa took part in a special Interfaith Service of Remembrance at the Washington National Cathedral. As a national leader in ISKCON, Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu was invited to participate in the one-and-a-half-hour-long program as the representative of the Hindu tradition. The ceremony, which featured other prominent speakers, most notably Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, commemorated the first anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
In the service, the opening hymn, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past," was followed by readings from the holy writings of world faiths. The five readings— from Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian traditions— were initiated by Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu, who offered the following verse in Sanskrit, then in English:
"This is a reading from Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 5, Chapter 18, Verse 9:
"svasty astu vishvasya khalah prasidatam
"May the entire universe be blessed with peace and hope. May everyone driven by envy and enmity become pacified and reconciled. May all living beings develop abiding concern for the welfare of others. May our own hearts and minds be filled with purity and serenity. May all these blessings flow naturally from this supreme benediction: May our attention become spontaneously absorbed in the rapture of pure love unto the transcendent Lord."
Speaking afterwards to some devotees, Ravindra Svarupa explained his choice of this text: "This is Prahlada Maharaja's prayer to Lord Narasimhadeva for universal peace. It is extremely potent. I became especially devoted to this prayer in 2000. That year, I was GBC chairman, and I decided to perform, especially for the welfare of ISKCON, a vrata of chanting sixty-four rounds a day during the month of Karttika. During that vrata, before beginning each set of sixteen rounds, I recited this prayer. I also recited the Upanishadic prayer to Narasimhadeva that precedes it. I realized more and more that this is an especially wonderful and potent prayer, filled with powerful benedictions.
"Then, on the Sunday directly following September 11, 2001, when everyone was still in shock, I passed out the same prayer to our congregation in Philadelphia and led everyone in the chanting of this prayer.
"So when I got the opportunity to participate in the service at the National Cathedral, I knew immediately which text I would recite.
"There was, for me, a great sense of fulfillment in being able to utter this verse, this mantra, at this place on this occasion. The ceremony was in every way a state occasion. It overflowed with aishvarya, quite befitting the United States of America, I felt. From the height of the pulpit I could look all the way down the vast nave of the cathedral, packed with the Washington establishment. I recognized the Attorney General John Ashcroft sitting with his family in the first pew.
"I said the prayer first in Sanskrit. It felt wonderful to send Prahlada Maharaja's words, beginning with the auspicious word ‘svasti’ out into the enormous volume of sculptured cathedral space. I followed with an English translation. To suit the demands of the place, the occasion, and the audience, I made my own translation, but based it scrupulously on Prabhupada's own."
The program later included prayers of faith, described like this: "Prayers are now offered by national leaders of world faiths." (There were eleven prayers, supposed to be each no more than one hundred words.) Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu offered this:
"The Vedas proclaim, ‘isavasyam idam sarvam yat kinca jagatyam jagat.’ Everything in this universe animate and inanimate is owned and cared for by the Lord. O Lord, please reveal the import of this. Then we shall know: In Your care for Your creatures, You have provided sufficiently for each one. Insufficiency arises when someone, insufficiently aware of You, encroaches upon another's share. Inspire us with remembrance of You, so we care for one another as You care for all. Then we shall see Your fullness mirrored everywhere. The shattered image of this world will be repaired. Loving You wholly, our love will include everyone and everything. Please bestow that supreme devotion upon us. Hare Krishna."
Video footage, photos and a downloadable pdf of the interfaith service program booklet can be found at the cathedral's website http://www.cathedral.org/cathedral/worship/020911.shtml.
For more information about His Grace Ravindra Svarupa dasa's preaching efforts, including lectures and seminars, please visit, www.rsdml.com.
© CHAKRA 23 September 2002
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