Hinduism and Christian Mystics on Joy in Work and Ritual

The Bhagavad Gita speaks to joy when it declares that when one realizes the Supreme Brahman one becomes fully joyful.  He never laments or desires to have anything.  He is equally disposed toward every living entity.  In that state he attains pure devotional service unto me.We are instructed that in every state devotional service is joyful.  And the Lord who is called the “Supersoul” and Overseer is also called the Transcendental Enjoyer.  

Sadhguru on joy. Video created by Mystics of India. Originally posted to YouTube.

The Bhagavad Gita promises joy to those who find goodness in others.  Those who have the powers of their soul in harmony, and the same living mind for all; who find joy in the good of each being—they reach in truth my very Self.  Compare this teaching to that of Meister Eckhart who asks: “Who is a good person?  A good person praises good people.”

The Katha Upanishad warns that there are two paths that present themselves to human beings.  

Image of youth jumping and enjoying life. Taken from Theodore Richard and the Chicago Wisdom Project.

There is the path of joy and there is the path of pleasure.  Both attract the soul… The two paths lie in front of every person.  Pondering on them, the wise person chooses the path of joy; the fool takes the path of pleasure. 

The Upanishads speak of elderhood, or the third stage of human existence, as a time for spiritual practice and reflecting.  They say it is also a time of deep enjoyments.

In the Vedas, the mood of worship is anything but gloomy.  “Worship, like song and poetry, is an overflow of the joy of the soul.”

Agni, the joyous, much beloved….We worship with joyous hearts. 

The celebration of the Ganpati Festival in Mumbai, India. Photo by Abhishek Upadhyay on Unsplash.

Like joyous streams bursting from the mountain

The hymns of prayer have proceeded to the Deity.

Sing, sing forth your sons, O Priyamedhas, sing!

Let children also sing!

Song of him like the strong castle:

Now loudly let the violin sound,

Let the lute send its resounding voice,

Let the string send its tunes around;

To God is our hymn upraised.

We worship with joyous hearts the joyous Deity, dear to all, effulgent, holy, purifying.

A Commentator remarks: 

There is a sacredness in our highest joy, corresponding to the infinite joy in the Divine.  Hence a medium of approach to the Divine is the joy of the soul.  Man is not borne gown under the burden of sin.  His is not a worship in penitence.  It is the opening of the flood-gates of a joyous soul before the radiant glory of the Source of all joy.  Vedic poetry is typical of this joyous outpouring of a lofty spirit.

“Let my prayer arise like burning incense”
Ps. 141 Photo by Anup Ghag on Unsplash.

Consider these words of Hildegard of Bingen:

Be not lax in celebrating.

Be not lazy in the festive service of God.

Be ablaze with enthusiasm.

Let us be an alive, burning offering before the altar of God!  

And the Bhagavad Gita exclaims:

Who in all one’s work sees God, that one in truth goes unto God:

God is that person’s worship,

God is that one’s offering, offered by God in the fire of God.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 255-257; Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work, p. 255.

Banner Image: Joy Lives Here” by Nnaemeka Ugochukwu [CC BY-SA 4]

Do you see God in all your work?  Is your work also your worship therefore?  Are you beyond being lax in worship as Hildegard advises us to be?

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

Natural Grace: Dialogues on Creation, Darkness, and the Soul in Spirituality and Science 
by Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake

Natural Grace, a 208 page inspired dialogue between theologian Matthew Fox and scientist Rupert Sheldrake, unites wisdom and knowledge from unconventional angles. Considering themselves heretics in their own fields, Matthew and Rupert engage the conversation from postmodern and post-postmodern perspectives, deconstructing both religion and science—while setting the foundation for a new emerging worldview. Having outgrown the paradigms in which they were raised, both Fox and Sheldrake see it as part of their life missions to share the natural synthesis of spirituality and science rooted in a paradigm of evolutionary cosmology.

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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