That Quest for Inner Joy

She was different than any average “happy” person I knew. It seemed her joy truly came from within, and I knew why.

Her joy expressed to me that she was genuinely comfortable and accepting of her self.

Last weekend I traveled to a neighboring state and met a peer, a few years older than me, whose joy was radiant and genuine. A pleasure to meet and talk to, she treated me as an equal, and I appreciated her kindness and trust.Hers was an easy-going kind of joy, not flashy or pretentious. She was confident in her identity, comfortable in her own skin, with her own education and her own set of skills. I felt that there was nothing she felt ashamed of; nothing held her back. Her joy made her truly beautiful. Impressed, I thought about what I might need to do in order to feel that comfortable with my own self, too. This passage from Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha helped me clarify that—

“The Buddha went quietly on his way, lost in thought. His peaceful countenance was neither happy nor sad. He seemed to be smiling gently inwardly. With a secret smile, not unlike that of a healthy child, he walked along, peacefully, quietly… his face and his step, his peaceful downward-hanging hand, and every finger of his hand spoke of peace, spoke of a completeness, sought nothing, initiated nothing, reflected a continuous quiet, an unfading light, an invulnerable peace…

I have never seen a man look and smile, sit and walk like that, he [Siddhartha] thought. I, also, would like to look and smile, sit and walk like that, so free, so worthy, so restrained, so candid, so childlike and mysterious. A man only looks and walks like that when he has conquered his Self. I also will conquer my Self…

…he [the Buddha] has given to me Siddhartha, myself.”

I find texts on Eastern tradition and meditation to be comforting. Isn’t it a nice thought, to be able to smile like that? Gently, peacefully? Constantly content? These monks (Jain, as well as Buddhist) seem to be constantly in touch with and aware of certain realities– impermanence, death, samsara (cycles of suffering and attachment that occur in life). No matter what faith a person is, awareness of reality will, no doubt, keep her grounded—will make her more accepting of things she cannot change or influence.

Buddhist monks feel that, even for those most dedicated to meditation, it takes more than one lifetime to reach nirvana. As my peer grew up, she remained grounded enough, in touch with reality, enough, that she learned to be comfortable and accepting of her self– one of, I think, the first and best strides a person can take toward a peaceful, unselfish life. Like Siddhartha, she wouldn’t have become that way overnight. It probably took her years of conditioning, of comfort; of maturing.

I can’t say for sure how far my peer may go in this spiritual journey, but after the Buddha learned acceptance of self, he learned acceptance of other people, of events and situations. Of life.

Hesse, Hermann. “Gotama.” Siddhartha. Cutchogue, New York: Buccaneer, n.d. N. pag. Print.

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