Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.
We cannot cure the world of sorrows,
But we can choose to live joyfully.
In April 2015, two extraordinary spiritual and political world leaders met in Dharamsala, home of the Nation of Tibet in Exile, led by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who, along with Nelson Mandela, led South Africa out of decades of bitter apartheid, flew all the way to Dharamsala in Northern India to honor his close friend on the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday.
Most of both men’s lives were spent fighting oppression and alienation. The Dalai Lama had lost his country when the Chinese invaded it, destroying thousands of monasteries and killing over a million people.
Bishop Tutu struggled under a virulent form of racism that subjected the majority population of Black people to permanent status as marginalized, third-class citizens in their own country.
Both men forgave their enemies to a truly remarkable degree. While Nelson Mandela won freedom for Black people throughout South Africa, the Dalai Lama failed, despite decades of effort, to free Tibet. Despite all this, the Dalai Lama has successfully recreated his nation outside Tibet, becoming a global citizen and making Tibetan Buddhism a household word. No one alive today is more popular or holds greater influence.
Spending a week together, both leaders exhibited a playfulness and exuberant joy rarely seen anytime, anywhere. They constantly teased each other, literally dancing around in their advanced years. They shared their secret to the world in YouTube videos, as well as in The Book of Joy, by Douglas Abrams.
Both luminaries have constantly emphasized that true joy does not depend upon circumstances, but is, rather, a deliberate choice.
Joy is our natural condition. Life is a precious gift. People are more good than evil. There is no one out there beyond the need for, and the power of, forgiveness.
Your well-being is not totally dependent upon what is out there. It is achievable through inner growth and discipline. Joy is always in the moment. It is always waiting there for us as we learn to let go. While Desmund Tutu believes in God and the Dalai Lama practices kindness as a religion, they both share Mahatma Gandhi’s view that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.
Humor is redemptive. No situation, how grim, even climate change, is above wit and laughter. Bishop Tutu believes that God is giving us a practical education in divinity by forcing us to spread our wings and fly. Making it too easy for all of us would have been a severe disservice to humanity.
Most of us continually seek happiness, and cannot but hope that things work out according to our own agenda, that we get our way all the time, that we control our destiny with a snap of the fingers. When we undergo a series of setbacks and reversals, we begin to doubt ourselves, and our dreams.
The word “happiness” implies happenstance, favorable circumstances. If we only get a break, then it will be all right. Happiness is usually measurable in terms of dollars and cents. Power, fame, wealth and romance sum it all up for most of us. Some of us even cherish the feeling that money is god, the next best thing to happiness, itself.
Inner bliss is on the level of our very being. Life, itself, even in the midst of pain and suffering, is an incomparable celebration. We are ultimately privileged to be here and hold a vital role in this time-bound stage. This is the final mark of a saint. As Saint Peter put it, “Joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
Unconditional joy is the mark of profound transformation and enlightenment. It floods every cell of our body. As Jesus Christ put it in the Gospel of John, “Out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” As Saint Paul put it, “Love, joy and peace are the fruit of the Spirit,” of divine consciousness. When you partake of that consciousness, you cannot NOT feel boundless joy.
Today, we are beginning to realize that no spiritual tradition has a monopoly on it. The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu are from very different paths, but they are far more alike than different. There is no one and nothing to stop their love, joy and peace.
When you stop putting conditions around what it takes to be happy, when you decide that life, itself, is enough, you become deeply inspiring and truly free. You stop seeking temporary happiness, because you have direct access to something infinitely more fulfilling.
Every moment, we have a choice to enjoy our experience, whatever is brought before us. As we gently guide our monkey mind through hours of practice to be fully in the Eternal Now Moment, we discover endless vistas of pure delight. I have experienced bliss in Southern France waiting at the edge of a highway to hitch a ride while smog was filling my lungs.
We can consistently choose to interpret our experience in the best light possible.
Sales people who are optimistic enjoy their job more, sell more and find themselves luckier than those who are pessimistic. The glass is ALWAYS half full IF we choose to see it that way.
I have a Christian Science friend who is deeply grateful for the least attention and sees every moment as a fresh opportunity to live in the spirit. Abundance is found in God, and God is never very far away from her. She keeps on choosing to live it and share it, to live it and share it, to live it and share it.
Buddha taught us that life inherently involves suffering. We not only get what we don’t want, but we stop getting what we do want. As a consequence, we habitually cling to that which is forever passing.
The moment we let go, that which we seek has a way of coming back to us.
The Noble Eightfold Path is an elaborate discipline to develop what Jiddu Krishnamurti called choiceless awareness. This is good. That, too, is good. It’s all good. We need simply plunge into the heart of life and totally experience it, rather than merely conceptualize about it.
It is very natural for most of us to be profoundly attached, to frantically insist that things turn out a certain way. This is OK. We simply need to observe our attitudes and behavior. The closer we observe, the more they will begin to peel away.
Jesus Christ ultimately had a supremely simple message. To realize God, forgive everyone. If someone offends you 20 times in a given day, forgive him the 21st time. There is no limit to God’s forgiveness, because His is Infinite. Since we are all His children, we can do no less.
Most of us have taken this as a solemn injunction, rather than seeing it as the most powerful spiritual practice that has ever been devised. If you can forgive, bless and pray for someone totally committed to doing you in, what power does he or she have over you?
Even more to the point, if you truly love someone, you will fast lose the appetite to gain the upper hand. You will take more joy in their triumph and success than in your own. Who can long resist such love and forgiveness? The fact that this very faith conquered the Roman Empire is no accident.
We might be tempted to say that this is all well and good for those who lived in past societies, but today’s global civilization is too cut-throat. There are just too many of us. We have chosen a suicidal direction in human affairs. We have abandoned our Mother Earth, and there is no turning back… Why even try?
Yet, we all know better. When we see and hear people making a difference in the world, even billionaires, such as Sir Richard Branson, we find our hearts leaping to their invitation to join them in making a difference.
You can make a difference in the world today by practicing the eternal truths that were forged thousands of years ago. Mahatma Gandhi encountered two exceptional thinkers, Henry David Thoreau and Count Tolstoy, along with the Sermon on the Mount. Nobody in history before Gandhi was able to apply this successfully from the bottom of society on a national scale. The fallout of his brilliant experiment was the British Empire.
Nothing is impossible.