Ode to Joy
A while back, every musician in the UK was invited to join the National Youth Orchestra, pick up their instrument and share a massed performance of Beethoven's “Ode to Joy,” as a gesture of community and solidarity dedicated to the people in society who might be in need of a musical pick-me-up. This was one of the countless worldwide spontaneous surges of empathy with the challenge that humanity is currently facing.
Aren’t we all in need of a “musical pick-me-up,” a divine musical pick-me-up? If the music of this world can lift up our hearts, how much more can the eternal Music do so? Music and joy. We are not talking here of the transient joy that we may feel when the script of our lives includes “good times,” but of the ineffable, permanent joy that fills the heart which is seeking the Divine. “Joy,” says Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” For Mother Teresa, “joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love,” and as our masters, like all mystics, repeatedly remind us, God is love, and therefore God is joy.
The message of the mystics, of the lovers of God, is a message of joy. The spiritual path is a path of joy. Hazur Maharaj Ji assures us that Sant Mat is a path “of joy, success, and eternal bliss.”1 These realized souls know that in each one of us there is a treasure. This treasure cannot be described in words, because how can you describe a light that is more radiant than a million suns and moons? A sound so utterly captivating that it takes your breath and your self away? An intensity of love that obliterates all feeling of separateness and impurity? A presence so enthralling, so energizing, and so enveloping that you merge into an ocean of bliss beyond time and space? These lovers show us the path that leads to that treasure because the One who is that light, that sound, that love, that presence and bliss has sent them for this very purpose. Their mission is to bring us to the realization that this treasure is not only within us, it is who and what we are in reality. The drop is of the same essence as the Ocean.
The Master tells us that this joy is not to be found in the outside world, but within us, in the stillness of meditation, when we are in communion with our Creator. And perhaps this is what the unknown psalmist in the Bible refers to when he marvels with gratitude:
Lord, lift up the light
of your countenance upon us.
You have given more joy to my heart
than they have,
whose grain and wine are increased.2
In order to taste this spiritual joy, compared to which all the worldly designs and inventions are insignificant and valueless, we need to train our mind to let go of our worries, of our preoccupation with family and friends, with past and future, with worldly affairs. We need to concentrate at the eye centre, absorb ourselves in the simran that our master has taught us, absorb ourselves in the inner presence of the master and tune in to the voice of God within. We need to attach ourselves to the Word and thereby detach ourselves from the world. As our concentration increases, as our consciousness leaves the body and rises into the realms of superconsciousness, we will get more peace and greater joy, because our soul is getting nourished and regaining its original freedom.
In the Diwan-i Shams-i-Tabrizi, Rumi assures us:
If you can manage to detach yourself
from the worries of the world,
you will feel joy and pleasure
in the garden of eternity.3
Yes, we all have our worries in this world, in one way or another, but as Hazur urges us:
We have to rise above all these things... Even one in the weakest state of health can do simran and bhajan... One day we all have to leave this world when our time here is finished, and will have to leave all the loves and attachments behind. Please keep in mind that this precious gift of human life has been conferred upon us by the Lord for the sole purpose of giving us the opportunity to return to our true home of everlasting peace and bliss.4
Can there be greater comfort for us than the reply he gives in the following letter?
You have been given the passport to go back to your own Home where your Supreme Father is waiting to receive you. What greater joy, blessing or bliss can one have in this world of misery and suffering? In fact, no other person should be so happy in this world as an initiate who is on the path. He should always keep his final goal in sight – the treasures, the joys and the bliss that await him in his true home... Keep your thoughts in simran and bhajan and see what happiness you will find within yourself. Do not worry about anything in this life, which is all an unpleasant dream.5
In The Way of Illumination, Hazrat Inayat Khan relates that once he was with a man who was in the habit of meditating and while they were sitting near the fire and talking about things, his companion went into the silence, and he had to sit quietly until his friend opened his eyes. He then asked him, “It is beautiful, is it not?” to which the friend replied, “It is never enough.” Inayat Khan concludes, “Those who experience the joy of meditation, for them there is nothing in this world that is more interesting and enjoyable. They experience the inner peace and joy that cannnot be explained in words; they touch perfection, or the spirit of light, of life and of love – all is there...”6
Right now, with so many of us experiencing the pain of being physically separated from our Master, Hazur’s words, as he explains the passage in Saint John where Jesus prepares his disciples for the next phase of their spiritual development, may reach deeper places in our hearts:
I am so much in love with you that my love will always be pulling you to my level... Your happiness will know no bounds when you meet me within yourself. Then you will absolutely forget all your trials and sorrows. You will be so filled with love, joy, and indescribable happiness that there will be no room for anything else.7
If we are in need of a musical pick-me-up, aren’t we all musicians too? Someone has written that “every man is a golden instrument of the divine orchestra from which arises the melody of the Spirit.” By giving us this human form, the Creator has chosen us to be His instruments. It is up to us to pick up our instrument, our consciousness, to tune it perfectly and play His music, His Ode to Joy.
- Quest for Light, letter 310
- Bible, Psalms 4:7–8
- Eva de Vitray-Meyerovitch & M. Mokri, Odes mystiques 959, p.275
- Quest for Light, letter 106
- Quest for Light, letter 340
- Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Inner Life, p. 97, in The Sufi Message: The Way of Illumination. Barrie Books, London, 1960
- Light on St John, Discourse on John 16, p. 266