Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Duties of the Heart | Bahya Ibn Paquda



What is meant by wholehearted devotion to God alone? It means that in every act, public and private, the aim and purpose should be purely work for God’s sake, to please Him only, without winning the approval of other people. How achieve wholehearted devotion to God alone? In ten ways. If these are firmly set in your heart and you clearly make them the basis of your actions, then your devotion to God will be complete. Then you will turn to no one else, set your hope on nothing else, and mold your will to none other than God’s.

First is wholehearted acceptance that only God fills the universe;

Second, that God is the source of all reality and is endlessly good;

Third, that your goal is to work for God;

Fourth, that you should rely on God alone and not physical beings;

Fifth, that you get no ultimate gain or loss from physical beings, but only from the Creator;

Sixth, that you should maintain evenness of mind regardless of whether people praise you or blame you;

Seventh, that you should not make a show of spiritual activities to impress other people;

Eighth, that you should not be caught up in personal gain when you are working for eternal life;

Ninth, that you should hold God in reverence and be humble before Him;

Tenth, that you should use your mind to master your senses and use them with care and discrimination.


Transmitted by Bahya ibn Paquda, a Jewish Mystic from Muslim Spain in the eleventh century, this passage is enduring proof of the beauty and power that can result when great cultures meet in the heart of a man or woman of God. Though written by a Jewish moral philosopher, “Duties of the Heart” was modeled on similar works of Muslim mystics and was meant to counterbalance the emphasis on ritual and ethical observances in the Jewish community. The original was written in Arabic and translated into Hebrew by Judah ibn Tibbon in 1161. The above translation is by Rabbi Harvey Spivak.
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