Communication is challenging enough but it gets even more complicated when it involves different languages.
When it comes to religious texts, some mistranslations tragically led to centuries of violence. For example, the word “deva” or “devi” in sanskrit got translated as “god” or “goddess,” leading to the impression that Hindus worshiped many different gods. According to Gandhi, however, that word would have been more accurately translated as “angels.”
That would have been a game changer, but even that word is not fully accurate. It’s difficult to find perfect translations. I grew up straddling both religions – Christianity and Hinduism – and my understanding is that Hindus do believe in one Supreme God. They understand that Supreme Being to be so unfathomable, however, that they have thousands of names and images for its infinite expressions.
But why does this even matter?
Why is it so difficult for some people to accept that others have different beliefs or religious practices? I know that one or two lines of scripture are often quoted as the reason for judging others as wrong, but as we mature spiritually, that line of reasoning leaves many of us feeling unsatisfied.
How can it be right to force your views onto others, when your message comes from someone who taught us that we are not in a position to judge others? What if centuries of religious persecution, wars and violence were all based on a misunderstanding?
Mystics are often misunderstood. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan monk and author makes the claim that the message of a mystic can never truly be understood by a non-mystic. A popular way of saying that these days is, you can’t speak butterfly language to caterpillar people.
What if Jesus was a butterfly and his words were misunderstood by caterpillar people? What if “spreading the good news” simply meant, spreading love, but was misunderstood as needing to make others believe what you believe?
Might there be some relief in just letting others be and focusing on your own spiritual journey? There would certainly be more peace. My mom went to church with my dad and Dad went to the temple with Mom, always with their five kids in tow. We celebrated Christmas, Diwali and Easter. That was my normal. My parents never had a problem with living both faith traditions. Neither one of them felt the need to make the other one wrong. It was a beautiful aspect of my childhood, to grow up in an atmosphere of acceptance and respect for both religions. It gave me an open-mindedness toward all faith traditions. When I engage with people who have different beliefs than mine, I am able to feel curious rather than threatened.
Only the ego mind wants to be right. The soul is open to ever-expanding, to learning, growing and even finding out that what it once believed was mistaken. Every step toward finding truth is worth taking.
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