The Month of Joyful Awareness
March 22 – April 30, 2022
EXCURSION THREE: DISCOVERING JOY EVERYWHERE
If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. – William Blake
We will discover more about cleansing the doors of perception this month through the practice of becoming Joyfully Aware, as we continue our journeys of transmuting the wonders of one of our earthly rivers into a River of Joy.
A brief catch-up and review:
Our first month found us exploring the traditional four rivers of Paradise, as these four appear in the Judeo-Christian traditions, as well as many others. Seeking Sources of Joy, we traveled on individual versions of Noah’s Ark.
The Month for Joyful Beliefs brought us to Nile – up and down and back again in our feluccas to touch into possibilities of believing in joy, and experiencing joyful beliefs, one of which for me as a denizen of the Northern Hemisphere, is that it’s possible for a several thousand mile long river to run every one of those miles toward the North. And bring riches and delights as it does so.
As we travel into this third month of the Joy Calendar year, we awaken to the possibility that becoming ever more aware of beauty, bravery, and creation can itself “cleanse the doors of perception.”
Simply allowing our breath to guide us into gratitude and joy while
• noticing the subtlest shade of glistening amber in a bird’s dark wing,
• hearing the flicker of a breeze through the maple tree,
• touching so delicately a violet making its gallant way through the muddy snow,
• hearing the kind neighbor call cheerfully “Good Morning,”
• tasting, really tasting, that first glass of water in the morning
it doesn’t only cleanse the sensory doors of perception, but also incites us to become a forager for joy. We seek it everywhere — in the glory and mystery of the world, in the creativity of the universe and our friends and our friends’ children, and in the sheer courage of people managing to hold on in the midst of war and injustice. Finding profound joy in the sheer aliveness bursting forth in even the most difficult circumstances is one of the potent teachings from the sages of India and throughout the world influenced by such thinkers and such practice.
Our assignment this month is thus: to heighten our awareness of joy as infinite — infinite in all directions, in all circumstances. To assist in this enterprise, we will imagine ourselves pilgrims to India, traveling on what has been honored as the most sacred river of the world, the Ganges, in a typical river craft, carrying pilgrims.
As pilgrims our task is to offer thanks and praise to the river as we discover and rediscover countless reasons for joy. Particularly joy in our capacity to sense the sacred power inherent in all being.
From its birthplace in the glaciers of the Himalayas, the river’s power has given it the form of a great goddess, Ganga. Imagine Her joy as she sang forth from the sacred mountains to nourish and bathe her people. Infinite in all directions.
On this voyage, we pilgrims visit four holy cities that have grown up along the banks of the Ganges: Haridwar, Allahabad (now carrying the Hindu name Prayagraj), Varanasi (Benares) and Calcutta (known today as Kalkata). (Archeologists studying the layers of life in Varanasi estimate it as one of the oldest inhabited cities on earth.) As we open to enjoyment of this river as a river of joy we find ourselves making offerings and prayers at temples, and most important of all, bathing in the sacred river. This releases all our sins and opens us to great blessings.
We come first to Haridwar, “gateway to the Gods,” one of the seven sacred cities, resting near the foothills of the mountains from which the Ganga pours forth. Its name honors both the gods Shiva (Har) and Vishnu (Hari). Here pilgrims gather Ganga water, to carry home and offer to their local gods. We are invited to gather joy and carry it across the world, pouring it forth from an endlessly full vessel.
Our second stop honors the ancient city of Allahabad, known today as Prayagraj. Mentioned in Hindu scriptures, it sits near the powerful confluence of three sacred rivers, the Ganges, the Yamuna (tributary to the Ganges,) and the mythic river named Sarasvati. As its earlier Moslem name implies, it was also a center for the Mughal empire (1526 to 1761).
Varanasi is our next holy city. Here we hear classical Indian music, stop to shop for silken carpets, listen to teachings at one of the many Sanskrit colleges, as well as honor the belief of millions of Hindus that to die in this holy city and have one’s ashes given to the river assures the ultimate spiritual release.
A short road trip takes us to Sarnath, the legendary Deer Park, where with attuned ears we can listen for echoes resonating among the trees of the Buddha’s very first sermon, “Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Dharma.”
Our voyage of opening to Joyful Awareness ends at Kalkata (once known as Calcutta, first capital city of the British empire). Its name in Bengali means “Field of the goddess Kali, whose temple we visit to honor Her, her great devotee, the saintly Ramakrishna, and Her avatar, Sarada Devi. Their teachings travelled the world with the amazing Swami Vivikananda.
A favorite quote:
“As different streams having different sources all mingle their waters in the sea, so different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to God.”
And the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, whose words bring this part of our journey to a close.
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
Joyful Awarensess. Infinite in All Directions.
Praise. Praise. Praise.
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