A search for joy
I have felt particularly ‘connected’, ‘centred’, ‘present’. The qi-gong practise was moving both physically and emotionally. With my eyes closed, in movement, alive to experience the subject of joy arose. Normally I wouldn’t post such a reflection but seeing as the very next communication was in this field and again in a conversation the previous evening, It seems the subject is relevant and is asking to be expressed.
I should say that a lot of this is from my own experience and may not be conventionally Buddhist. With that caveat and that I am not saying I am right, here we go…
It seems to be that there is joy that is derived from having our desires fulfilled, there is joy derived from spiritual practise and there is, for want of a better word, ‘transcendental’ joy, transcendental as it is ‘above and beyond’ that of the first two ‘joys’. The first two are clearly dependent upon conditions where as the latter, as far as I can see, is not. The first two come at a price the later does not.
Joy derived from having our desires met is probably the most superficial, the most temporary, the most unreliable. With a little effort, joy derived from spiritual practise is deeper, available more readily, not subject to the vagaries of externals in quite the same way and thus a little more reliable. The third order of joy is a joy derived from all experience irrespective of it being internal or external, conventional or through spiritual practise, and therefore not dependent (or a least, less dependent) upon conditions. Indeed, a way of looking at the enlightened experience might be that all the conditions previously experienced are still present the only condition no longer present,in enlightened experience, is that of suffering. The first two are something we work for, something we quite actively do, the later more a shift of perspective. Paradoxically it seems when one lets go of seeking both mundane and spiritual joys one opens to transcendental joy.
Joy of any of the three orders is not necessarily a bad thing. It seems that the search for joy is what drives all human beings. It’s what people crossed mountains for, what people crossed seas for.
In my early life and seemingly mirrored in other individuals lives too, is the seeking of satisfaction of sense desire, largely through getting something from ‘out there’ money, wealth, status, sex, drink, drugs and yes, rock and roll 🙂 . Even having obtained some degree of conventional joy there still seemed something missing, something ultimately unsatisfying with this. So, with training, guidance and intuition, we may choose to do things a little differently. Over time we may begin to stop looking ‘out there’, we may see that some of our pleasure choices are ultimately self defeating, over time we turn to more spiritual pleasures characterised by higher states of consciousness.
At least in my case, this level of joy arose primarily through meditation, or occasionally communication. This level of joy was ultimately more satisfying, less dependent on externals thus a more stable source of joy. Unfortunately, it was most definitely, for me, dependent upon conditions and although ultimately more nourishing and satisfying there was still this sense of unsatisfactoriness as when the conditions where not present I no longer experienced such states. S,o the search for joy continued.
Maybe ironically it was when I let go of the search for joy that another level of joy arose. Rather than being characterised by a higher state if conciousness it was/is simply the quality of awareness itself.
There seems to me a very simple, direct joy that arises from awareness rather than the contents of awareness. A real beauty from just being. Even things that may seem conventionally unpleasant and to be avoided seem to have this quality of joy, if seen in this way.
Thus, to the degree I can be this way mundane and spiritual joy, internal and external joy, joy derived from self and joy derived from other all dissolve into this all encompassing joy of simple awareness. There is for me, here, the end of my search for joy.