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Joy Is and Is Not in Objects
Seeker: Hi, James. There is one aspect pertaining to the “joy is not in the object’” teaching which eludes me. It is a question of logic. I totally get the essence of the teaching. My confusion has to do with the following sequence of logic:
That if joy was “inherent” in the object, then the same object would give everyone joy. So granny would enjoy bungie jumping and her young nephew would be happy knitting jumpers, to use your examples.
Sweetness is the essence of sugar. This is the same for everyone. It has to be or we could not say that sweetness was the essence of sugar. However, that same sweetness is a danger to a diabetic and a treat to those with normal blood sugar levels. Because the sweetness causes the diabetic to pass out and spit out the proffered sweet in disgust, but the four-year-old to have a rajasic sugar high, does not negate the essence of sugar. One cause, one “essence,” has multiple effects.
So assuming for a moment that the joy is in the object, and again, I know we are going through this logical exercise to negate that belief – just by pure logic why does the “joy” in an object have to give or yield the same joy effect to all who come in contact with it? Sugar is sweet. It does not create the effect of pleasure or enjoyment for all who partake in it. That does not negate its essence as sweet. So similarly, joy could be in the object (I know it’s not) but it causes different effects for different jīvas.
The joy is not in the object is such an important teaching. So I am asking for your help in sorting out what for me is an apparent weakness (weakness because I don’t understand it) in the logic of this one tiny aspect of the teaching. What am I not seeing, not understanding?
James: The point of the teaching is not to point out that the same object causes different effects for different people – which it does – but to simply point out that the self is the source of all joys. If the self is the object (and it is presented as an object – “vastu” is the word in scripture) it will give the same joy to anyone who is in touch with it because its nature is anandam, bliss. But at the beginning stage of inquiry this teaching is only useful to wean the seeker off objects and direct attention to the subject.
At the beginning stage, the inquirer does not know that there is no joy in objects, that they are insentient and therefore value-neutral. He or she thinks that objects do contain happiness. It is a matter of experience for him. It does not matter to us that the experience-based conclusion that objects do contain joy is wrong, only that the inquirer be convinced that the search for object happiness is futile.
In fact, there are teachings in Vedanta that say that there is joy in objects; the word is vishayananda. Vishaya means “objects.” I also teach it. I say even if the joy is in objects, it is temporary joy and that temporary joy is equivalent to suffering.
So it does not matter whether there is joy or no joy in objects. Conclusion? Seek the self. You need to put these two teachings together so the ego is not left with any other option than to seek the self.