Joy of Self, Introduction

By Swami B.V. Tripurari, originally published in Joy of Self, Mandala Publishing, March 1997.

We cannot say that we do not exist. We cannot experience nonexistence. Although there are those who would argue for the joy of no self, this book was written primarily for those who sense that our individual existence is not something to do away with in the name of enlightenment. Joy of Self is about our identity in transcendence.

Recently a young man asked me about the ego. “If the ego is so bad,” he queried, “why do we have it in the first place?” I told him that the ego is not bad, for ego indicates identity. We all have an identity. We are all individuals. However, our present sense of individuality is based on our identification with matter in the form of our bodies, minds, and the extensions of these in all that we call “ours.” This identity is a false one, a false ego.

All of the major traditions of Eastern spirituality and many traditions of the West tell us in so many words that our present individual identity is based on material misidentification and is thereby false. What they do not tell us is what this book is about. They do not tell us that we have an individual identity to realize in transcendence once we have dissolved the false ego.
If material nature’s offer for lasting joy is but false advertising, seeing through this sham is to see deeply. By moving from negative numbers to zero, we will feel that we have progressed. The Buddhist notion of fullness in emptiness stops at zero. There is no doubt a fullness in realizing the emptiness of material life, but can we progress from zero to positive numbers? If so, we will have to look even more deeply into the mystery of our self. So doing, devotional Vedanta informs us that we can realize the joy of self, the pure self, free from the exploitation that is characteristic of the false self born of material identification.

This book is an introduction to the devotional Vedanta of Sri Chaitanya, Gaudiya Vedanta. Sri Chaitanya, the fifteenth-century Krishna avatara who personified a life of divine love, left in writing only eight Sanskrit stanzas. Yet his immediate followers churned these drops of nectar into an ocean of literature on divine love. This introduction draws from their writings and the sacred literature of spiritual India such that anyone can gain a well-rounded acquaintance with the foundational philosophical principles of Gaudiya Vedanta and thus come to know the potential for joy inherent in the self.

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