The sacred Vedic Shanti Path or peace prayer was recited by a Hindu priest in the Rose Garden of the White House on the occasion of National Day of Prayer Service to pray for the health, safety and well-being of everyone affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
At the invitation of US President Donald Trump, Pujari Harish Brahmbhatt from the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in New Jersey joined religious leaders from other faiths offering prayers on the occasion of National Day of Prayer Service.
"In these troubled times of COVID-19, social distancing and lockdown, it is not unusual for people to feel anxious or not at peace. The shanti prayer or peace prayer is a prayer that does not seek worldly riches, success, fame, nor is it a prayer for any desire for heaven," Brahmbhatt said in his brief remarks from the Rose Garden podium.
"It is a beautiful Hindu prayer for peace, shanti. It is a Vedic prayer derived from Yajurveda," he said before reciting the prayer in Sanskrit. Thereafter, he translated it in English.
"The prayer translates into onto the heavens be peace. Onto the sky and earth be peace. Peace be onto the water. Onto the herbs and trees be peace. Onto all the crops be peace. Onto Brahma and onto all be peace. And may we realise that peace. Om peace, peace, peace," Brahmbhatt said.
Trump thanked Brahmbhatt for his prayer recitation.
In his remarks, the president said on the National Day of Prayer Service, America is engaged in a fierce battle against a very terrible disease.
"Throughout our history in times of challenge, our people have always called upon the gift of faith, the blessing our belief, the power of prayer, and the eternal glory of god. I ask all Americans to join their voices and their hearts in a spiritual union as we ask our lord in heaven for strength and solace, for courage and comfort, for hope and healing, for recovery and renewal," he said.
First Lady Melania Trump extended her deepest sympathy to the families of those who have lost their loved ones to COVID-19.
"Let us pray for the ill come out the ones who are suffering, and those serving on the frontlines," she said.
"When evil darkens our world, give us light. When despair numbs our souls, give us hope. When we stumble and fall, lift us up. When doubts assail us, give us faith. When nothing seems sure, give us trust. When ideals fade, give us vision. When we lose our way, be our guide that we may find serenity in your presence and purpose in doing your will," Melania Trump said.
Describing America as a nation of prayer, Vice President Mike Pence said the American people have long believed in the power of prayer.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln urged Americans to pray so that in his words, the united cry of the nation would be heard on high and answered with a blessing and since 1952, every president has issued a proclamation in the honour of the National Day of Prayer, he said.
"And today, President Donald Trump continues that tradition here in the Rose Garden. And as we gather here, I know we all feel that it is especially fitting that we do so this year during this time. In these times of hard ache for tens of thousands of American families and hardship for tens of millions, now more than ever it is important that we take time to pause and pray for America," Pence said.
This is probably the first time that a priest from the BAPS Swaminarayan Temple in Robbinsville, New Jersey attended and recited prayers at the White House. The BAPS temple in Robbinsville is one of the largest Swaminarayan temples outside India.