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Hope for the new year
by Andrea Tyrell
Jan 01, 2014 | 1811 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rajan Zed (left) poses with Sparks mayor, Geno Martini, at a reception given in Zed's honor in February 2013. Zed organizes interfaith events all over the Truckee Meadows, bringing together members of different faith in order to discuss religion and moral principals.
Rajan Zed (left) poses with Sparks mayor, Geno Martini, at a reception given in Zed's honor in February 2013. Zed organizes interfaith events all over the Truckee Meadows, bringing together members of different faith in order to discuss religion and moral principals.
It has been a busy year for Rajan Zed, a local Hindu spiritual leader and president of the Universal Society of Hinduism. Wearing his saffron-colored garments — a color that symbolizes apathy and benevolence toward greed — Zed lectured thousands in the Truckee Meadows this year about compassion and theology. He stresses the importance of selflessness, no matter anyone's age, race, gender or creed.

     "It's wonderful to help someone in distress," said Zed. "I was driving to Redding and passed Susanville. It was getting dark outside when my tire blew out. I did not know how to change a tire. A man in a truck saw me and asked if I needed help. He changed my tire in 15-20 minutes and left. We didn't exchange names. I'm impressed with that kind of selflessness."

    Zed immigrated from India. He received his undergraduate degree in communication from San Jose State and his MBA from the University of Nevada, Reno. In July 2007, Zed was invited to the U.S. Senate to deliver a Hindu prayer before the start of the assembly. He was the first person to say such a prayer, which sparked an outcry from Christian protestors and caused several demonstrations, with individuals criticizing Zed's faith and the religious words he spoke before the Senate.

     After praying at the Senate, Zed was invited to deliver Hindu prayers in various states as a guest chaplain. He prayed with the Sparks City Council before their meetings, asking God for harmony, strength and universal welfare as he prays from the Rig- veda, the oldest book of scripture in Hinduism. He has another prayer scheduled with the city council in February

    Zed also organized several interfaith meetings, bringing different religious groups together to talk about faith. He was especially excited to talk to local high schoolers about their views on God and religion.

     "There were Catholics, Jewish people, Mormons, Bahá'í, Muslims," said Zed. "The kids were open-minded and very curious. Many of them didn't know anything about eastern religions. I told them to continue researching about different religions, look at information online, see what speaks to you and make up your own mind. Faith is personal. It's important to ask questions. One religion says that they're the true religion. Another one says that they're the true religion. We don't know for sure but we can choose to follow one."

     After the shooting at Sparks Middle School, Zed lead the community in a candlelight vigil, honoring those who were injured and lost their lives.

     Zed also organized events for adults. He coordinated the local memorial service for Nelson Mandela earlier in December.

     "About 125 people came to honor Mandela, which was good since we planned it all in short notice," said Zed. "Mandela, symbolized the victory of the human spirit and made huge contributions toward creation of just society and pursuance of social justice."

     Other prospective events for 2014 include a special discussion about Martin Luther King on his reserved holiday, a religious debate at UNR in April, and a traditional Aztec dance for Cesar Chavez Day on March 31.

     Zed believes in helping your neighbor, especially the ones in dire situations, from the local homeless population to minority groups living abroad. The Roma population in eastern Europe has been Zed's main focus over the last couple of years.

     "They are being persecuted and evacuated from their homes," said Zed. "People don't treat them well at all."

     Zed actively addresses the media about the problems the Roma are having and helps bring awareness the American public, urging them to help in any way they can.

     "Sometimes, the local people can't speak. I help those minorities," said Zed. "These people are not asking for much; just for equality, respect and religious freedom to practice whatever they choose. If I speak from here in the United States, no one can hurt me."

     Zed hopes that the local public will responded to the need of the 15 million displaced Roma people. He understand the challenges of assisting this group but continues the good fight.

     "I receive hate mail, saying that I'm wrong," said Zed. "You must make up your mind about what's happening and how to react to that."

     Despite all the hate mail, Zed continues to preach humanity and humility. Earlier in the year, Zed was in his car, in the middle of a line of vehicles waiting to turn out of a parking lot and merge into traffic. He did not realize that he left his gas cap open. Then noticed a woman run up to his car to close it and she quickly ran back to her car. That simple gesture meant a lot to Zed. He tells that story to his audience, explaining that anyone can make a difference, large or small.

     "We all need to set an example and learn from each other." Zed said.

     For more information about Rajan Zed, call (775) 391-0604.
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