Radiant heart

I struggled with this entry. I reflected in the preceding posts on purity of heart and kindness of heart, the first two attributes Bahá’u’lláh mentions in the first Hidden Word, but what about the third attribute, radiance of heart? Who would expect radiance in a martial arts setting? But perhaps I need to step back and ask, just what is radiance of heart?

I returned to the Ruhi children’s curriculum to find some examples. This is what I found:

“Radiance of heart: 1. When I feel sad, my mother always cheers me up and makes me happy. My mother possesses a radiant heart.

“2. Obuya became ill and has to spend all his time in bed. He says many prayers, does not become sad, and continues to show forth happiness. Obuya possesses a radiant heart.”

I continued to reflect on the matter, and then finally, in the middle of the night, it came to me.

The head instructor of the first dojo I studied in was a woman fine-boned and strong-willed, extremely private. (She is these things, actually–I’m speaking in the past tense due to my geographical distance from her dojo.) She was nearing retirement when we met; to this day, I’ve never seen anyone make a hakama and gi look more beautiful.

Touching her was like touching water, the spirit of water, she moved so smoothly, so effortlessly. Techniques with big round throws were the best, just like watching water glide over stones and falls–just like being water gliding over rocks and falls.

Along with the other instructors, she introduced new students to aikido, year after year, students fresh off the farm and from little rural towns and from cities around the world. And she could rescue you from boisterous terror with such nonchalance, such serenity, that fear stomped off the mats, plunked down on a folding chair, crossed its arms, and pouted.

I liked walking the dog with her, late at night, although she also walked him early in the morning, at times of day before I’m even contemplating what my name is. I’m a private person too, but as we walked through the dark and quiet streets, past the neat rows of modest, Victorian-style houses and tall deciduous trees, she would listen to long streams of my conversation, and she would laugh and sparkle. The dog would trot cheerfully out in front, a bushy, mocha-orange explosion of fur with pointy-up ears and feathery, curled tail.

As I reviewed my practice notes from those years, and saw all my references to her, I thought, “Boy, this is redundant. Is a reader going to become tired of this?” Over and over I noted that she was radiant. A teacher’s pleasure, I called it. Although her calm expression seldom changed, her face would seem to glow with satisfaction at whatever level of success I managed. Absolutely radiant.

And my notes of practice with her are full of encouragement. “You can do this.” “You already know how to do this.” And that’s all. Judging by my notes, to encourage was about the only time on the mats she said anything, outside of explaining techniques.

But before entering that world of uniform and silence, she would paint her toenails shiny purple, blue, or green. We had a chance to enjoy this individuality often. Well, I have the impression of looking at her feet a lot. From up close. Just before everything blurred.

While I was a member of the dojo, someone fell on her foot in practice. She handed her teaching responsibilities to the other instructors for a short while and then returned to teaching. I walked with her from the locker rooms to the dojo.

“Is your foot healed?” I asked.

“Not quite.”

“Oh!” I was discomfited.

“It’s okay.”

“I admire you for practicing through the injury.”

“Every time I step on the mat, I practice with an injury,” she said mildly.


Year after year.

Once I thought about it, I knew it was true.


光明的心 (guāngmíng de xīn) radiant heart



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

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