Where do we find joy?

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

Dear members and friends,

In a way, the teachings of Buddha may be summarized thusly: all things and matters in the physical world are not worth keeping in heart, thus you free yourself by cooling off the burning desires rising within. This is because Buddha perceived the human condition as one of suffering. However, the suffering is not caused by any demon or fallen divine being, but by one’s own desires to possess and control matters and things. Therefore, enlightenment is a solitary journey in which other humans play little to no role. However, the teaching of Jesus is different from Buddha in that he perceived the human condition as being loved and cared for by the eternal and unchanging Divine Being, the Creator. Thus, the cause of human problems is the rejection of this divine blessing that is innately available to all. This rejection occurs through acts of cruelty to each other, and selfish and harsh judgement levied on each other. Therefore, obtaining the joy of heaven from the Creator, according to Jesus, can be obtained by means of cultivating one’s heart to live a life of kindness, gentleness and love toward one’s neighbors. In other words, Jesus teaches that living with others is essential to achieve one’s true purpose and eternal bliss.  

Personally, I related more closely to the teaching of Buddha – acknowledging the solitary nature of spiritual cultivation and the necessity of working alone – until I married Heejoung and Roiy came into our lives. Until that time, I had a hard time understanding Swedenborg’s illustration of joy as “when the heart, and in consequence the thought also, is full of joy, it pours itself forth in singing.” In that context, understanding what it meant to be joyful was a big challenge in my life since the beginning. But one day after my marriage, I found myself humming a song while my heart was filled with a strange but pleasant feeling simply by watching Heejoung. Later, I acknowledged that this strange feeling was joy! Afterwards, I found myself having this feeling many times over the course of my life with Heejoung, Roiy, and Joan, and even other people, beings, and things. I realized as if knowing it for the first time that my life was indeed filled with joy, yet in the exact opposite way I ever expected or desired. With this knowledge, I found myself remembering having similar joyful feelings throughout my life, even as early as three years old when I was chasing after a butterfly! 

At times, we personally and narrowly define what it means to be joyful, and thus refuse all other pleasant feelings. Yet, as the Creator is present in all matters, things, and humans, all pleasant feelings are an inner blessing from the Creator, which causes joy in our hearts. 

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee