Joy and the Godhead, Joy and Ritual

In the Hindu Upanishads we are instructed that joy comes from God. 

A Hindu Priest taking a break from his nearby Shiva temple
has time for a chat, a laugh and a photo. Photo by Brett Davies on Flickr.

Who could live and who could breathe if the joy of Brahman filled not the universe?… “Father, explain to me the mystery of Brahman.”  Then his father spoke to him of the food of the earth, of the breath of life, of the One who really sees, of the One who really hears, of the Mind that knows, and of the One who truly speaks…. Then he saw that Brahman is joy (ananda, bliss) for from joy all beings have come and unto joy they all return.

Thomas Aquinas in the West says that “sheer joy is God’s and this demands companionship.” 

In other words, the universe exists because of the divine joy and all beings are meant to be participants in that joy.  Indeed, “joy is the human’s noblest act.”

In the Upanishads, we read that “He who knows the joy of Brahman fears no more.”  Joy wipes out fear.  Bliss (ananda) and Brahman go together and undergird all reality, all relationships

Wedding of Prince Rama and Princess Sita as depicted in ‘The Ramayana’. Public domain image posted to Flickr by Infinite Eyes

Bliss pervades all objects; that is why there is attraction between husband and wife, parents and children, creature and creature, God and man.  Furthermore, Brahman is bliss because it is infinite. 

Hindu teacher, Ma Ananda Moye, says:  

Laugh as much as you can…. It is important that your laughter come from the deepest place of your heart; it should go from head to foot…. Your laughter will diffuse joy everywhere.

Meister Eckhart says:

Do you want to know what goes on in the heart of the Trinity?  There the Father laughs and gives birth to his Son; the Son laughs back at the Father and they give birth to the Spirit; the whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to creation.

Smiling nun, Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Photo by Bryon Lippincott on Flickr.

Joy comes from contemplation, so much so that the Maitri Upanishad tells us that 

words cannot describe the joy of the soul whose negative habits are cleansed in deep contemplation—who is one with her Atman, her own Spirit.  Only those who feel this joy know what it is.

Joyful contemplation is carried into everyday life including the life of worship.  Popular worship in India is generally pervaded by a spirit of joyousness and merriment. 

Nikhilananda describes it this way: 

It is associated with worship of images and with symbols, music, singing, dancing, processions, prayer, joyousness, merriment, feasting, fasting…. The atmosphere of the temple is not gloomy or heavy but is filled with song and shouts of joy.  This is mainly because a Hindu really feels in the temple the presence of the Deity, who is the embodiment of Bliss. 

PunarPusam festival procession, Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman Temple in Singapore, 2013. Photo by budak on Flickr.

The overall theme of the Hindu Scriptures is a call to joy.  Says Nikhilananda:

Life depicted in the Vedas and Puranas, major texts of Hinduism, is a joyous affirmative, optimistic and creative life.

And Abinash Chandra Bose:

Divinity is not only Existence, not only Intelligence, but also Joy.
By attaining him, the Essence,
One is filled with joy.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 255f. 

And from Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality.

Banner Image: A devotee brings a fire offering to the goddess Annai Parasakthi during the Dusshera festival at the town of Kulasekharapattinam, India.

Do you bring joy to worship and ritual?  Do you receive more joy by your presence and participation?  How important is that?

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. 
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

Upcoming Events

Mirabai Starr and Matthew Fox teach a 7-week course: Julian of Norwich: A Bold Gentle Visionary on Living in a Time of Pandemic. Beginning Wednesday, December 2, 2020 and running through January. On The Shift Network, Wednesdays at 8pm ET and 5pm PT (GMT/UTC-8). Registration is open until December 15: enroll HERE.

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