Return to Joy
by Andrew Harvey and Carolyn Baker

Nothing is more important for the future of humanity than a global return to joy. At a moment of profound sadness regarding the state of the world, Andrew Harvey, in a dream vision, was given a message that changed his life. A golden banner was unfurled in the sunlit sky above, and on that banner were written these words: Joy is the power.

Immediately he understood, viscerally and cellularly, that the tremendous challenges we all face at this time cannot be met by grief or heartbreak or despair alone. What is needed for all of us is to find the way back to what all spiritual traditions know as the essence of reality—the simple joy of being that is the indispensable foundation for all meaningful living and all truly effective action.

We live in a civilization that has lost the essential truth of reality as it has been known in all the mystical and indigenous traditions. In the third decade of the twenty-first century, civilized humans are madly engaged in what is portrayed to them as a pursuit of happiness, but in most cases, they have little experience of joy as the ultimate nature of reality.

The obvious question that arises from this statement is: What is the difference between happiness and joy? Joy is the ultimate nature of reality. Happiness is circumstantial; it is a state that, as everyone knows, comes and goes. The joy of which we speak is not predicated by shifts of fate or the play of emotions.

Knowing this makes clear to everyone that the true task of life is to uncover this primordial joy in oneself and then live from its peace, energy, radiant purpose, and embodied passion. This of course demands a lifetime commitment to working with all the forces in oneself that occlude the sun of this joy and becoming clear about all the forces in the world—and especially within our culture—that do not believe this joy is real and sometimes have a conscious agenda to destroy its manifestation.

Living in sacred joy not only reflects the truth of absolute reality but is the ultimate achievement a human being is capable of and the ultimate sign that someone has awoken to their fundamental divine nature and its responsibilities in the world. When asked what the true sign of a great teacher or an authentically awakened person is, His Holiness the Dalai Lama replied, “He or she radiates joy in whatever circumstances arise.” This radiation of joy has nothing to do with our current banal understandings of happiness, but has everything to do with a rigorous discipline of seeing through the illusions that govern and distort human behavior—and seeing through even the illusion of death, because what is revealed in awakening is the inner divine self that no defeat or ordeal or even death itself can touch or destroy.

True joy is born from this realization. Reading about this or even thinking deeply about this is just the beginning. What has to be undertaken is the challenging and demanding journey toward knowing this viscerally and beyond any doubt.

If you want to live in the joy that is actively creating all the universes and is your own true father/mother, then you have to undertake the journey of allowing the illusions that prevent you from living in the constant sun of your real nature to die.

We see the reality of this awakened condition emanating from the presence of the Dalai Lama, shining in the noble face of Nelson Mandela, vibrant in the witness and grace of Jane Goodall, and radiating in the patience and compassion of hundreds of thousands of nurses, doctors, aid workers, environmental activists—ordinary, extraordinary beings of all kinds who have turned up in often very difficult circumstances to commit themselves to the work of love and justice.

These are examples that anyone can relate to, and it is very important to understand that if joy is the ultimate nature of reality, the journey toward it can be undertaken by anyone, whatever they have done and however dark with despair their lives may have become. For example, Milarepa became the greatest saint of Tibet after being a black magician who caused the death of 150 people. Luis Rodriguez, former gang member and prison inmate, is today an award-winning poet on a spiritual path, an urban peace activist who ran for California governor in 2014.

Andrew has worked with men recently released from prison, gang members and murderers who have decided to transform their lives and serve. Is this not the essence of the story of Jesus, who associated with criminals and prostitutes? No one shows this more clearly than Jesus himself, who scandalized the hypocrites of his day by surrounding himself with those whom society had condemned or rejected.

Horrific experiences need not annihilate your opportunities to live in joy. In fact, for some human beings, they can be the crucible in which a commitment to live in embodied joy is made final.

If you want to live in the joy that the great teachers and servants of humanity have lived in, then four things are required:

  • First, you must accept at the deepest level possible that ultimate reality is sourced from a boundless joy.
  • Second, you are called to do the rigorous work of understanding the shadows of your past and the psychological labor of clearing the clouds from your essential sun.
  • Third, you cannot avoid that to which all spiritual traditions call us: uncompromising and calmly relentless spiritual work to align yourself, in all circumstances and as much as possible, with the powers of divine light.
  • Fourth, one must commit themselves to the amazing and dangerous task of embodying and enacting divine truth in the world, as all spiritual traditions know, the greatest joy is only known by those who have not merely tasted divine truth but who have pledged themselves thusly.

Excerpted with permission from Radical Regeneration, Sacred Activism and the Renewal of the World.

Andrew Harvey is an internationally renowned religious scholar, writer, spiritual teacher, and the author of more than 30 books. The founder and director of the Institute for Sacred Activism, he lives in Chicago, Illinois. Carolyn Baker, Ph.D., is a former psychotherapist and professor of psychology and history. The author of several books, she offers life and leadership coaching as well as spiritual counseling and works closely with the Institute for Sacred Activism. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.





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