As a child, I was fascinated by the story from the Old Testament of the Tower of Babel. If you recall, it tells of the time shortly after the creation of mankind, when everyone in the world spoke only one language. With the presumption of youth, people began to build a tower that would reach all the way up to God. Not pleased with such arrogance, God decided to stop their efforts by making all the builders speak different languages. Unable to understand one another, they had to abandon the tower, and we’ve been separated by language barriers ever since.
Jyotish and I are now visiting Ananda’s community near Assisi, Italy, where diversity of languages is a part of everyday life. People from all over the world come here to meditate and learn Master’s teachings. Right now there is a group of Russians and Ukrainians here who are training to be Ananda Meditation teachers. Translation, translation, translation takes place all the time: from Italian to English, German to Italian, English and Italian to Russian, and on and on.
But unlike the builders of the Tower of Babel, we do find ways to communicate in spite of the linguistic differences. A few days ago we had a wonderful satsang with the Russian and Ukrainian devotees. As they asked us questions in their native language, we found that we could partially understand them if we listened not just with our mind, but sensitively with our heart. (We also had the assistance of a very good translator.)
A dear friend of ours, Sahaja, who lives in the Assisi community, is the chief Italian translator of Swami Kriyananda’s books. One of the techniques she learned over the years for accurately translating Swamiji’s words is always to ask if she isn’t sure of the meaning.
When she gave Swamiji the first book that she had translated for him, he opened it randomly, read a footnote, and told her, “You’ve translated the meaning exactly the opposite of what I wrote.” Mortified she replied, “It’s the only sentence whose meaning I wasn’t sure of, and that I didn’t ask about. I thought that because it was only a footnote, it wasn’t so important.”
Listening sensitively and asking for clarification are important tools in breaking down language barriers. But the final step is to intuitively perceive the vibration behind the words that are spoken, and to trust your intuition.
As I thought about these aids to communication, I realized that these are also stages that help us to communicate with God. First we must still our minds and listen to His whispers in our soul. Next we need to ask Him to clarify if we don’t fully understand. Finally we should try intuitively to perceive His answers and trust that He really is speaking to us.
I’ve come to understand that the symbolic meaning of the Tower of Babel is that when ego awareness makes us feel separate from others, we also lose the ability to tune in to greater realities. Communicating mind to mind requires words and translations, but communicating heart to heart needs nothing more than openness and love. If we can learn to humbly listen, ask, and trust, then we can build an inner tower that will reach all the way to God.
With joy and love,