pure in heart

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pure in heart

Postby anjali » Sat Jan 18, 2014 12:38 am

In the last couple of days I've had an interesting email exchange with a close friend who is Christian. We have some enjoyable conversations. Our conversation yesterday shifted to discussing the notion of people being fundamentally good vs fundamentally bad. She has a hard time accepting that people at their core could be good. Thought I'd share the reply I sent her today.
One of the beatitudes says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Purity of heart is an interesting thing. Back in ancient times, "heart" meant more than just emotions. It meant the core or essential part of a human, which included thinking, feeling and willing. If we follow through with the metaphor that hearts can be pure or impure, how are we to understand that?

Perhaps the easiest way is to think of a glass of dirty water. If we take a glass of pure water and stir in some dirt, we now have a glass of dirty water. In a certain sense, the water is inherently pure--the dirt is incidental and has never been a part of the essential nature of water. They are just mixed together. Hearts are similar. If it wasn't so, then our hearts could never be purified. In my opinion, the whole notion that people are inherently evil/flawed, is fundamentally problematic. If our hearts were inherently evil, they could never be purified. Our imperfections are part of our makeup, but not inherent to our essentially pure nature.

In the process of purification, we may need aid. I think of Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, and other great saints and sages as divine friends who remind us of our natural purity, and then help us along the way of purifying the heart. It is interesting that a famous quote of the Buddha is, "To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to purify one's mind—this is the teaching of the Buddhas." In the ancient Pali language, the word translated as "mind" is c(h)itta, which actually has a more general meaning of heart-mind. So, it could just as easily be translated as "purify one's heart", if this more general meaning of heart is used. I've always found that interesting.

Of course I totally ignored the whole "for they shall see God" part. Interestingly, just this evening I was reading Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's As It Is, Vol 1, and came across this quote: "Phenomena manifest in both pure and impure forms. Impure phenomena is what is experienced in this world. Pure phenomena is when there is no dualistic grasping." So, from a Buddhist perspective, one could say, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see pure phenomena." :-)
  • The object of the game is to go on playing it. --John Von Neumann
  • All activities are like the games children play. If started, they can never be finished. They are only completed once you let them be, like castles made of sand. --Khenpo Nyoshul Rinpoche
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Re: pure in heart

Postby smcj » Sat Jan 18, 2014 8:18 am

:namaste:
A human being has his limits. And thus, in every conceivable way, with every possible means, he tries to make the teaching enter into his own limits. ChNN
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Re: pure in heart

Postby lesliejoyB » Sat Feb 15, 2014 7:07 am

Nice heart. You can find few people with a pure heart.
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Re: pure in heart

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Feb 15, 2014 7:29 am

Beautifully said, and I quite agree with you. But you ought not to overlook the significance of the Christian doctrine of 'total depravity'. This originated with St Augustine but was greatly amplified by Calvinism. It is the idea that the will is so corrupted by the original sin, it can't even want what is good. Everything it wills for and wishes for is bound to end in its own destruction. One is saved solely by God's 'prevenient grace' which in Calvinism, is decided before you are even born. What you do, or omit to do, really has little bearing on it. Not all Christians accept such an idea - I don't think that Eastern Orthodox do, and I don't think it is generally accepted in that form by Catholicism - but it is very influential amongst Protestants and Evangelicals. It is a large part of what is the matter with Christianity, in my view, and not that I want to engage in sectarian polemics. But if your friend is coming from a US Protestant or evangelical perspective, my bet is that this is why she can't accept the idea of 'purity of heart'.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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