Joy plays a very important role in spiritual life. It’s said in the Torah that one should serve God with joy. When people serve without joy, they don’t receive the benefits of serving. In fact, they sometimes get the downside.
What does it mean to serve God with joy? There are different levels of this (being that there are five levels of the body and five or six levels of the mind depending on the tradition). The highest level (the sixth level) of the mind is called hiranyamaya kosha. At the level of the hiranyamaya kosha there is a non-causal love. Here there is a natural non-causal joy, natural non-causal peace, natural compassion, and non-causal contentment. What ultimately happens when we are serving – when we are living in sanatana dharma (the natural way of living that leads to liberation rather than being separate from one’s sadhana practice) is that these non-causal inner experiences begin to manifest as your normal way of life. These inner experiences are characteristic of liberation, however this is not liberation itself. It is a step before the breakthrough. These begin to slowly open up in your inner and daily experience. It’s important to be sensitive to that unfolding of these layers of the mind.
If you have an idea that being miserable helps you to wake up, this is contrary to the teaching of both the Torah and the Yoga traditions. In these traditions, it is taught that suffering separates you from God. Feeling guilty separates you from God. However, it is the inner expression moving outward that is a very important part of spiritual life. This is why you hear me say that spiritual life is fun. It is not a deprivation. It is a not a time to be miserable. Even when things are coming up like old thought forms and negativities, it is a time to be grateful that they are coming up to be released. It’s the angle of how we look at it.
On the physical plane, sanatana dharma has certain guidelines about uplifting the web of life on the planet. This is one of the reasons why there is a dividing line with regards to spiritual nutrition and the teaching of no spilling of blood. Why is this? When an animal is killed and eaten, the eater takes in its fear, its misery, and its pain, and it begins to clog the subtle channels (called the nadis, of which there are 72,000 in the physical body). It also begins to fill the layers of the mind with pain, misery, sadness, and fear. We shouldn’t be so naïve to think that animals don’t feel these things, because they certainly do. (Even plants feel these, however not to the same extent because plants do not have an astral body, but rather a subtle body. The astral body has a deeper level of emotional intensity.)
Now we’ll look at it from another angle and that is relationships. If you know that the source of love is the Divine expressing through you, you are far less likely to think that the other person in the relationship is the source of your love and of your joy. You are then far less likely to get into a co-dependent relationship. The other person adds to your love and adds to your joy, but he or she is not the source of it. So when you understand and experience this you begin to know the spark within youself. When you live by the Six Foundations of Spiritual Life (1-spiritual nutrition & fasting; 2-sacred silence, meditation, chanting & prayer; 3-building nefesh/chi/prana; 4-service & charity; 5-working with a spiritual teacher; and 6-the transmission of energy, known as s’mecha m’shefa or shaktipat) you begin to open up more and more to the true source of joy within. It is the love and joy inside where spiritual joy begins to happen. Because we purify the five levels of the body (the physical, subtle, emotional, mental, and spiritual bodies), the joy that is our natural state begins to shine through more strongly. This is why the teaching is to serve God with joy. This is not out of rote habit or obligation, but rather because we feel the deep oneness and the deep joy that is within us that allows us to align with the bigger picture and allows us to align with the will of God. It’s inherent when we are truly aligned with the will of God that we also experience the inner joy that’s associated with be aligned with the will of God and that is the meaning of serving God with joy.
May everybody be blessed that we are indeed able to align ourselves with the Divine will so we naturally then begin to serve God with joy.