Purity of heart

Now let’s begin again.

As you may know, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892) is the prophet-founder of the Bahá’í Faith. I first learned about the Faith while studying in central China in the early 1990s. I have studied and tried to practice the Teachings ever since.

Around 1858, while He walked along the banks of the Tigris River in Baghdád, Bahá’u’lláh revealed a book called The Hidden Words. It is a brief work, composed of 71 verses in Arabic and 82 in Persian. The first verse reads,

“O Son of Spirit! My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly, and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable, and everlasting.”

Here is the verse again, in Chinese, just because I love the Chinese language:

靈 性之子啊 !
我首要的訓言是這詳的:
要有一顆純潔,仁慈而光明的心,
如此,亙古,不滅和永恆的國度方能屬于你 。

What does a “pure, kindly, and radiant heart” look like? U.S. culture, at least, does not often talk about these attributes. I had a chance to gain some insight into these qualities while helping to teach children’s virtues classes. Here are the examples of purity of heart given in the Ruhi Institute’s children’s curriculum:

“Cathy became angry and screamed at Susan. Susan was sad but quickly forgave Cathy. Susan possesses a pure heart.

“Jorge likes to share his cookies with all the children, even with Gustavo, who throws stones at him. Jorge possesses a pure heart.”

Would I share cookies with someone who threw stones at me? Beyond this, would I like to?

I think of purity of heart as I step onto the aikido mats. As my foot touches the mats’ cool, smooth surface, I wonder, am I carrying with me my irritation from having been in traffic? Or frustration from phone calls, paperwork, red tape, general chaos? What about disappointment, surprise, and confusion? The reflection that life doesn’t seem to be turning out as I expected it to? What about all the injustice in our world, that it’s going to take the diligent effort of generations (including our own) to make right?

In the face of all this and whatever else, can I step onto the mats with a totally pure heart, joyful for the gift of this single moment of life, for the gift of the other souls that are present in this single moment with me? Through this purity, can I also become kindly and radiant, and share this kindness and radiance with my companions?

Then there is the rest of the first Hidden Word: “Possess a pure, kindly, and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable, and everlasting.” I’m sure this has many meanings, most of which I will never even imagine. But I think of my aikido instructors’ repeated admonitions:

If you intend to throw uke down, you will not succeed at aikido. You must reconcile yourself, then you will succeed. Reconcile yourself, and you will be able to protect all things.

References

Bahá’u’lláh. (1932/1990). The hidden words (Shoghi Effendi, Trans.). Wilmette, IL: Bahá’í Publishing Trust.

Ruhi Foundation. (1987). Teaching children’s classes grade 1. West Palm Beach, FL: Palabra Publications.

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