“Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It would have been absolutely different if the word was not translated as repent, if it was left to the original return. That is what Patanjali says in his Yoga Sutras: that pratyahar is returning to oneself. That is what Mahavira means when he says to move withinwards: pratikraman, to go in.
The word teshuvah has a totally different meaning from repent. The moment you say “repent” it seems that man is a sinner: a deep condemnation comes in. But if you say “return,” there is no question of sin, no condemnation enters. It simply says that you have gone far away, you have played too long – please come back. The child has been playing outside and the evening is descending. The sun is setting and the mother calls, “Please return.” A totally different quality, a totally different connotation. There is no condemnation in it, just a deep love call: “Return!”
Just listen to the sentence if I say: “Return ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” All condemnation, all sin, and the whole nonsense that has created guilt in man disappears just by a single word translated rightly. A single word can be significant, but the whole of Christianity will disappear if you translate repent as return. All churches – the Vatican – everything will disappear because they depend on repentance.
If it is a question of return – and you are not condemned and you have not committed any sin – then guilt disappears. And without guilt there cannot be churches, without guilt the priest cannot live. He exploits the guilt, he makes you feel guilty – that is his trade secret. Once you are made to feel guilty you have to seek his help because he will ask for forgiveness for you, he will pray for you; he knows the way to pray. He is in a deeper relationship with God. He will defend you, he will persuade God for you and he will show you the way not to be a sinner again, how to be virtuous. He will give you the commandments: do this and don’t do that.
All the churches of the world are founded on the word repentance. If it is only a question of return, the priest is not needed; you can return home. It is not a question of condemnation: nobody is needed to purify you; you have never been wrong. You had gone a little farther away, but nothing is wrong in it. In fact, it could not have been so if God were not willing for you to go so far. There must be something in it: that going far must be a way of coming back. Because when you have gone too far and then you come back home, for the first time you realize what home is.
It is said that travelers in foreign countries realize for the first time – as you must be realizing in Pune – how beautiful home is. It is difficult to realize when you are at home, everything is taken for granted. But when you go away, now everything is difficult. It is no longer a home, you cannot take anything for granted. There are a thousand and one inconveniences, discomforts – and nobody is there to look after you, you have to look after yourself. Nobody cares; you move in an alien world, a stranger.