Subtler joys aren’t smaller – they are just softer
Affection can be conveyed by both a long, tight hug as well as by a quick, gentle squeeze of the shoulder. To appreciate the affection in the soft touch, we need to look for the substance of affection, not its appearance in effusive displays.
To grow spiritually, we need to similarly focus on the substance of pleasure, not its appearance. Instead of equating pleasure with gross sensuality, we need to become open to subtler joys.
Consider another example. A class that features many jokes may have everyone laughing. Another class may contain many life-changing insights or heart-enriching narratives, but no laugh-out-loud jokes. Observers may feel that the first class is more enjoyable, but hearers will experience the second to be more sublimely joyful. Whereas the first offers a few light moments, the second guides towards a life of joy. To experience that joy, observers need to become hearers.
Similarly, to access spiritual happiness, we need to shift from being comparers to becoming connectors. We need to go beyond comparing sensual and spiritual pleasures based on appearances and connect with spiritual reality by practicing yoga. That inner connection will lead us to unending satisfaction (Bhagavad-gita 05.21).
By progressive spiritual realization, we will understand that we are parts of an all-attractive Lord, Krishna, who loves us eternally; we are meant for a life of endless love; every activity done in a devotional mood takes us closer to our eternal Lord. Realizing these truths gives us subtle yet sublime fulfillment.
Of course, devotional spirituality also includes visibly enjoyable activities such as Krishna-centered singing and dancing. Still, bhakti’s overall trajectory goes towards subtler pleasures. Initially, we may find materialistic activities more visibly enjoyable. But if we use our intelligence to go beyond appearances, we will enter a whole new universe of subtler yet greater joys.
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