I suspect most of us have flipped past this a thousand times. I suspect the combination of Hindi language, no translation, and fear of the unfamiliar keeps us away.
And it’s too bad. Because not only is this a beautiful lyric, but it’s a beautiful and catchy melody. Take a listen:
Isn’t that great? It’s got such life and spirit.
I did struggle to find a translation until I realized that Jacqui James provided one in Between the Lines:
Please bestow upon us O Supreme Soul, the gift of devotion
please bestow upon our souls [the gift of] purity.
Come in our meditation, O God, reside in our eyes.
Come into our dark hearts, arouse the Supreme Light.
Flow the river [Ganges] of love in the hearts, O Ocean of Love,
Teach us, O God, to live together in harmony.
Let service be our creed, let service be our action,
Make us earnest servers whose service is ever honest.
That is amazing.
Sure, it uses the spiritual imagery of Hinduism, and some of those ideas are harder for UUs to wrap their minds around than others (we’re great with service being our creed but struggle with devotion and purity). But that’s okay. I think it’s a blessing for us to challenge our notions of religious concepts when engaging a conversation with other religions. Learning the language of reverence from other faiths helps us better understand our own.
Plus, yanno, “let service be our creed” is a place where we can connect.
Here are the Hindu lyrics:
Daya kar daanot bhakti ka, hame paramatma dena,
Daya karna hanari aatma me shuddh ta dena.
Hanare dhya n me aao, prabhu aan khon me bas jao,
andhere dil me aa kar ke, pa ram jyoti jaga dena.
Bahade prem ki ganga, dilo me prem ka sa gar,
hame aapas me miljulkar, prabhu rehna sikha dena.
Hamara dharm ho seva. Hamara karm ho seva,
sada eeman ho seva va sevak char bana dena.
I recommend you give it a listen and try to sing along. It’s catchy and beautiful, and I can’t think of a better prayer to start my day with today.
The photo was taken at a Holi festival – a spring festival of color, renewal, life, and a bit of wild spirit.
Check out First Unitarian Church of Oakland’s recording of this hymn on their compilation album, Wake Now My Senses, streaming on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, etc.