Every object, every being, is a jar full of delight. ~ Rumi
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. ~ John 15:11
A book titled The Great Swan narrates moments from the life of the 19th century Indian saint, Ramakrishna, who was known for his ecstatic spiritual devotion. One day he traveled in a carriage through the busy streets of Calcutta, sitting in meditative silence. The next moment he was suddenly "leaning dangerously far out of the carriage window, embracing with ecstasy every passing detail of the city, crying out drunkenly to the patrons of wine shops and perfume stalls: 'Yes! You are experiencing a drop of Divine Bliss. But go further!'"
The pleasures of life delight the senses, but the essence of that joy does not arise from the object of delight, such as the wine or perfume — it arises from the divine within. As Ramakrishna knew directly, we can use those moments of joy to follow a path into the boundless delight of the transcendent itself.
A text from the yogic tradition, the Siva Sutras, offers the same advice, explaining that transcendental bliss ordinarily remains veiled, but can arise "for an instant like a flash of lightning." In these moments, the text instructs, one should "enliven oneself with" this bliss by "following more and more the awareness of that bliss which exists within." As we embrace the ordinary world more deeply, we find our way back to God's womb.
Jesus, in the Gospel of John, explains that he has given his teachings "so that my joy may be in you" thereby making our joy "complete." The joy experienced by a spiritual master is far different than any kind of ecstatic state that our mind might imagine. As our practices cultivate the ability to know what is beyond the mind, we are called back home to that Truth — the always-present embrace of boundless joy, love, peace, and compassion.
Love has taken away my practices
and filled me with poetry.
I tried to keep quietly repeating
No strength but yours,
but I couldn’t.
I had to clap and sing.
I used to be respectable, chaste, and stable,
but who can stand in this strong wind
and remember those things?
A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself.
That is how I hold your voice.
I am scrap wood thrown in your fire,
quickly reduced to smoke.
I saw you and became that empty.
This emptiness, more beautiful than existence,
it obliterates existence, and yet when it comes,
existence thrives and creates more existence!
The sky is blue. The world is a blind man
squatting on the road.
But whoever sees your emptiness
sees beyond the blue and beyond the blind man.
A great soul hides like Muhammad or Jesus
moving through a crowd in a city
where no one knows him.
To praise is to praise
how one surrenders
to the emptiness.
To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes.
Praise, the ocean. What we say, a little ship.
So the journey goes on, and no one knows where!
Just to be held by the ocean is the best luck
we could have. It is a total waking up!
Why should we grieve that we have been sleeping?
It doesn't matter how long we've been unconscious.
We are groggy, but let the guilt go.
Feel the motions of tenderness
around you, the buoyancy.