There’s a joke I enjoy sharing about a traveler who found himself lost in an unfamiliar countryside. Luckily, he spied an old farmer standing by the side of the road surveying his fields.
Approaching the old man, the lost traveler asked, “Excuse me. Do you know the way to Smartsville?”
The laconic farmer paused for a while, and then replied, “Well, when ya’ come to the fork in the road, turn left. . . . Nope, that won’t work.” He started again, “Continue on straight until ya’ come to the bridge. . . . Nope, that won’t work either.”
Finally, shrugging his shoulders, he concluded, “Ya’ know, ya’ can’t get there from here.”
This little story actually has some interesting spiritual implications. Recently we had a satsang with friends in India on the theme “How to Find More Joy in Daily Life.” As I thought about the topic, I realized that this was a contradiction in terms. You can’t find more joy in daily life, because there really isn’t any true joy to be found there.
The sages of all religions tell us that this world isn’t real in and of itself. It’s God’s dream, maya, or delusion, created by the interplay of dualities: light and shadow, joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, birth and death.
To try to find joy in this ever-shifting world is like trying to freeze in time the movements of a bird’s flight. The constant is change. One day everything will be going well for you, and you think that will last forever. The next day, however, everything changes for the worse, and you don’t understand what happened.
In truth, it has to be this way, because in the end the alternating waves of duality balance out to zero. This is the nature of daily life. So to look for true, lasting happiness in outer experiences is an impossible task: “Ya’ can’t get there from here.”
But this is not to say that life is hopelessly devoid of any fulfillment or joy. Quite the contrary! The message of the spiritual masters of all religions is one of hope, and much more: It’s a promise that God’s joy is the only reality, and that it can and must be found within one’s self.
The secret is to seek joy not in our daily life, but through it. In other words, try to see the hidden presence of God beneath the endless waves of changing experiences. During the good times, try to feel God’s joy shining beneath the surface; during difficulties, see God’s smile encouraging you onward.
Paramhansa Yogananda put it so beautifully in one of his prayer-demands from Whispers from Eternity: “O Father, behold me through the pores of the sky. Smile at me through the twinkling stars. Strengthen me through the sun; calm my feelings through the moon. Caress me through the breeze. Love me through my love. Throb in me through my heart. Breathe Thine immortality through this mortal frame of mine. Speak through my voice. Help others through my hands. Use my mind to inspire them. Breathe through my breath. For within this fragile viol Thou alone canst sing Thy complete, eternal song.”
God is the ever-new joy we are seeking through all of life’s experiences. Unlike the old farmer, true spiritual teachers show us the path to find Him, and tell us: “You can get there from here.”
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