I love the Bible, the poetry of it, but I am not a Christian. Neither am I a Hindu, nor am I a Jaina. I am simply me. I love the poetry, but I sing it in my own way. Where I should emphasize what, is finally decided by me, not by the Bible. I love the spirit of it, not the letter. And the word that I translate sometimes as repent, sometimes as return and sometimes as answer means all three things. That is the beauty of old languages. Sanskrit, Hebrew, Arabic – all the old languages are poetic. When you use a poetic language it means many things. It says more than the words contain and it can be interpreted in different ways. It has many levels of meaning.
Sometimes the word means repent. When I am talking about sin and I use the word repent, it means repent. When I am talking about God calling you, then the word repent means answer, it means responsibility: God has asked, you answer. And when I say that the kingdom is at hand, the word means return. All three meanings are there. The word is not one-dimensional, it is three-dimensional. All the old languages are three-dimensional. Modern languages are one-dimensional, because our insistence is not on poetry, but on prose. Our insistence is not on multi-meaningfulness, but exactness. The word should be exact: it should only mean one thing so that there is no confusion. Yes, that’s right. If you are writing about science the language has to be exact, otherwise confusion is possible.
It happened in the second world war: the American general wrote a letter to the emperor of Japan, before Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The letter was in English and it was translated into Japanese which is more poetic, more flowery – and one word means many things.
A certain word was translated in a certain way. It could have been translated in some other way also; it depended on the translator. Now they have been inquiring about it, and they have come to the conclusion that if it had been translated in the other way that was also possible, there would have been no Hiroshima and no Nagasaki.
The American general meant something else, but the way it was translated it was felt to be an insult. The Japanese emperor simply declined to answer it; it was too insulting. And Nagasaki and Hiroshima happened, the atom bomb had to be thrown. If the emperor had replied to it, then there would have been no need for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Just a word translated in a different way and one lakh people died within minutes, within seconds. Very costly – just a single word. Words can be dangerous.
In politics, in science, in economics, in history, words should be linear, one-dimensional. But if the whole language becomes one-dimensional, then religion will suffer very much, poetry will suffer very much, romance will suffer very much…because for poetry a word should be multi-dimensional, it should mean many things so that the poetry has a depth and you can go on and on and on.
That’s the beauty of old books. You can go on reading the Gita every day, you can go on reading the gospels every day, and every day you can come upon a new and fresh meaning. You may have read the same passage a thousand times and it never occurred to you that this can be the meaning. But this morning it occurred, you were in a different mood – you were happy, flowing – a new meaning arises. Some day you are not so happy, not so flowing – the meaning changes. The meaning changes according to you, according to your mood and climate.