Friday, September 23, 2011

Free to be Happy !

Ages ago, a spiritual seeker asked a master mystic to initiate him into the hidden wisdom. The mystic inquired whether it's the same to him if someone praises him or insults him. The seeker responded that he loves praise and hates insults. The master bid him a good day explaining that he's not ready until he feels the same whether praised or insulted.

~ adapted from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's "Meditation and Kabbalah"  

For over twenty years, I was under the impression that the mystic master was possibly requesting from the seeker stoicism.  It wasn't until recently that it dawned on me that the master was not requesting stoicism as the "great emotional equalizer" of events. He was requesting intense happiness, possibly bordering on (spiritual) ecstasy to be that "emotional equalizer". 

Normal life conditioning often leads people to link their happiness with events going their way. They think to themselves that they need X, Y and Z to happen in order to be happy. Until then, they have no reason to be happy. Their  happiness is held hostage to a certain set of beneficial occurrences, whether it's love, friendship, approval, spiritual achievement, career advancement, good food, a nice home, a new gadget, a special life cycle event, etc. This is all a self delusion! It's possible to cut the rope and set one's happiness free.

This is like a person who talked himself into setting up residence in a prison on his own volition. He thought that he wasn't deserving of anything better. He didn't know that legally he was a free man.  After many years, someone kindly enlightened him about legal rights. Though he's already conditioned into thinking of prison as home, he can muster up the strength to walk out with little outer resistance. If he encounters any difficulty, it's only in his own mind.

 Similarly, people are conditioned to think their happiness live in prison. It can only emerge for brief appearances when the inner jailer is paid his ransom in the currency of certain favorable events. Even then, it’s on a leash ready to be choked back at the slightest hint of difficulty.  What is often not realized is that the inner jailer's power is illusory. He can be stripped from rank at the slightest whim, disappearing with barely a whimper.

Events do not have to go our way for us to be happy. Happiness and life occurrences are two distinct phenomena. Their whole linkage to begin with is artificial. It's possible to be high on life without reason, “just because ...” Happiness is simply a soul sensation. Souls are naturally happy. We can just allow the happiness to flow.

Part of the Kabbalistic goal of "Repairing the World" is to change around what's linked to what. Some things just don't belong linked together and maintaining their artificial linkage blocks their growth. Other things do belong together, like a good marriage, and bringing them together enhances their growth. The link between happiness and beneficial occurrences is unhealthy. It's an exile for each. When the rope is cut, happiness can be our constant self and difficult events can be more easily sorted through and addressed. As long as personal happiness is on the line, the situation is too emotionally entangled and efforts to resolve them are often compromised. The separation creates a win/win situation. 

 Now it's possible to appreciate why the mystic master requested such deep happiness from the seeker before initiating him into the mysteries. It's the ultimate indicator of a free soul, ready to spiritually advance.



  1. A comment from a Brooklyn based Kabbalah teacher, noted for expertise in Shaar HaKavanot and Sifrei Rashash, on the following essay, "Thanks for the essay, it is true and brings out the point well."

  2. This was a proto-version of the essay, posted as a Face Book status update, along with comments:

    "Today, I realized that I have to stop linking my happiness with events going my way. Why do events have to go my way for me to be happy, can't they be distinct phenomena? It seems to me that I've been living in a self delusion that I can only be happy if x, y and z happen - as if someone held my happiness hostage to certain occurances. It's time to cut the rope and set my happiness free!"
    TR: That sounds good Choni, difficult but good.

    TC: That actually sounds like fun!

    Choni Elchonon Kihleel: For myself, it's a necessary next step in spiritual growth. Part of Tikkun Olam, in the real Kabbalistic sense of the notion, is to change around how things are linked. Somethings don't belong linked together and maintaining the artificial linkage blocks growth. Other things do belong together, like a good "shidduch", and bringing them together enhances growth.

  3. Face Book comments on the full essay:

    EG: This is interesting and very deep. I only know one person who shows this happiness. In the Bible perhaps only Job met this criterion... interesting essay :)

    Choni Elchonon Kihleel: Who is this person? He or she must be very special and worthy of learning from. Besides, Job there are stories in Jewish tradition of other people who had this happiness. Often Chassidic Rebbes were (and sometimes still are) noted for this happiness. Shavuah Tov :)

    EG: Shavua tov, ve shana tovah! (he's a special guy!)

    Choni Elchonon Kihleel: Shavuah Tov! V'Shana Tova U'mitukah. I'm glad you know such a person. Keep on learning from him. :)