Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Create in me a pure heart

In the past few days, I have had a number of people contact me about some of the earlier postings, and submit requests.  One request that has come again and again has been to do a follow-up on that simple bit of analysis of the Tablet of Ahmad.  Not being sure what to do about that, I went to the Feast tonight with an open mind (I mean open to the idea of finding something else to write about.  Of course my mind is open when I go to a Feast).

That inspiration came during the devotions, as inspiration is often wont to do.

As the opening prayer was being said, I found myself drifting along with it, being lifted into the heights, feeling the refreshing cool breeze on a hot summer afternoon blowing across my face, and, oh I could go on, but let's go on instead.

You already know the prayer which was said:

Create in me a pure heart, O my God, and renew a tranquil conscience within me, O my Hope! Through the spirit of power confirm Thou me in Thy Cause, O my Best-Beloved, and by the light of Thy glory reveal unto me Thy path, O Thou the Goal of my desire! Through the power of Thy transcendent might lift me up unto the heaven of Thy holiness, O Source of my being, and by the breezes of Thine eternity gladden me, O Thou Who art my God! Let Thine everlasting melodies breathe tranquillity on me, O my Companion, and let the riches of Thine ancient countenance deliver me from all except Thee, O my Master, and let the tidings of the revelation of Thine incorruptible Essence bring me joy, O Thou Who art the most manifest of the manifest and the most hidden of the hidden!

Now, let's take a closer look at it.  As it was being recited, I found the words seperating themselves into two columns, and those columns each had their own path, so let's try that.   Please note that this is only one way to dissect this prayer, and there are, of course, many others.

The first selection consists of:
  • create in me a pure heart
  • renew a tranquil conscience
  • confirm Thou me in Thy Cause
  • reveal unto me Thy path
  • lift me up unto the heaven of Thy holiness
  • gladden me
  • breathe tranquillity on me
  • deliver me from all except Thee
  • bring me joy
This, to my eye, reads like a path, or a journey, of faith.  It all begins with the heart.  We find this theme over and over in the Writings.  Baha'u'llah's "first counsel" to us is to "possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart".  In another popular prayer He begins by asking God to "unite the hearts of (His) servants" and concludes by asking Him to "cheer their hearts by (His) love".  That prayer begins and ends with the heart.  Even the true seeker, He counsels, "must, before all else, cleanse his heart..."

The Writings abound with references to the heart, and often speak of it in terms of beginning.  It is no wonder that it is the first in this list.

A pure heart then seems to lead us to a tranquil conscience.  Once the conscience is tranquil, we can then become confirmed in the Cause.  This step in itself can lead to a whole study on its own: how can we become confirmed?  An answer is alluded to in the Tablet of Ishraqat, in which He says that He exhorted His relatives to confirm the friends in "that which would bring peace to the hearts and tranquillity to the souls".  Note the reference, again, to the heart and to tranquility.  Do you think this is a coincidence?  Studying His Tablets to those relatives may assist in that study.

Once we are confirmed, the path is then revealed.  When the path is clear, and you know what it is that you need to do, you feel like you are in heaven.  Nothing is greater than that, for your particular path of service becomes evident and walking it is truly wonderful.  You are not concerned about whether or not it is the "right" path, vacillating instead of acting.  You act with confidence and reflect upon those actions to ensure that they are leading where you want to go, while ensuring that you are not violating the spirit of Baha'u'llah's teachings.

You are not stalled in your work as you worry over what others may think.  You act with certainty, and are therefore rewarded with gladness.  This transforms into tranquility again, but not the same tranquility as above.  Earlier it was just a tranquility of conscience, almost like a freedom from the paralyzing burden of guilt.  Now it is a deeper tranquility, one with a purpose, a direction, an action.  As we act, there will be resistance, for this is a law of nature, Newton's Third Law of Motion.  The greater the action, the greater the resistance.  But we will be delivered from any concerns and learn to rely only on God.

And that is when we achieve a state of joy, the joy that is described in Ruhi Book 2, in which joy is clearly understood to be a spiritual state, and not just an emotion.  It is a deep state of being which pervades our very soul.

This is a mighty path, a path of power and wisdom, leading us to the heights of service and dedication, transforming our very being into something more worthy.  This, to me, is part of the power of this prayer.

But what about the second column, which I mentioned?  Where does that fit in?  It is as follows:

  • O my God
  • O my Hope
  • O my Best-Beloved
  • O Thou the Goal of my desire
  • O Source of my being
  • O Thou Who art my God
  • O my Companion
  • O my Master
  • O Thou Who art the most manifest of the manifest and the most hidden of the hidden!

 As with all things, this path begins with God.  But the God that is mentioned here is just that: God.  There is no further description, and in fact can be a very shallow understanding of our Creator, if we let it be.

But we know there is more: this is our dearest hope.  He becomes our dearest Hope.  And as we begin to perceive the magnificence of our Creator, and strive to better know Him, He becomes our Best-Beloved.  Note that this description occurs as we are asking to be confirmed in His Cause.  The parallels between these two lists is not something to be skipped over.  Correlate them and you will see how they build upon each other.

As the path becomes clear, for instance, God is referred to as "the goal".  As we recognize Him as our "Best-Beloved", our goal is like that of any love: to be nearer and to better understand, to spend more and more time talking with Him, as we would with any lover.

Then, the more we love God, and the closer we try to get to Him, the more we will come to understand the depth of the concept of Him as the "Source of (our) being".  He is not just this distant thing that has created the universe in which we happen to be born, but is far more directly involved in the actual creation of our very selves.  Our distinguishing features, those virtues and attributes which make up our very character are, in point of fact, poor reflections of that Mighty Template.  We are only stained mirrors attempting to reflect the image of our Creator, and we think of Him as seperate from ourselves, without realizing that our reality is that reflection.

Now He becomes even greater in our sight.  He is no longer some distant God to be called upon in times of dire need, but a closer, living part of our very life, our daliy life.  He has, in my eyes, gone from being some far off God to being "my God", as my life begins to center around Him.  He is now the companion on my journey through life, growing as I grow with every step.  Note that a companion is with you at every step, reminding you of the need to always be aware of yourself and your surroundings.  He doesn't leave you when things get hard, doesn't make unreasonable demands upon you, is there as your support when you need him, while not allowing you to become co-dependent, and helping you move along your own path of growth and develpoment.

But of course, God does not grow.  All that grows is my ability to appreciate His greatness.  And as I do, I recognize that He is more than just a companion: He is my Master.  I no longer need to be reminded of His presence.

As I follow His bidding, trying to conform my thoughts with His ways, trying to better understand the vision He has laid bare before me, I begin to realize how evident He is in all around me, and yet even more how inaccessible He really is.  He is becoming, to my growing vision, even more manifest, and yet even more hidden.

And now the mystery begins to unveil itself before my eyes: He is "the most manifest of the manifest and the most hidden of the hidden".

And I am fast becoming the most tired of the tired.  It is time to lay down my head and meditate upon these thoughts as I fall asleep.

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