“The Joy of the Atman ever abides, But not that which seems pleasant to the senses. Both these, differing in their purpose, prompt man to action. All is well for those who choose the joys of the Atman, but they miss the goal of life who prefer the pleasant.
“Perennial joy or passing pleasure? This is the choice one is to make always. The wise recognize these two, but not the ignorant. The first welcomes what leads to abiding joy, though painful at the time. The latter runs, goaded by their senses, after what seems immediate pleasure.
“Well have you renounced these passing pleasures so dear to the senses, Nachiketa, and turned your back on the way of the world which makes mankind forget the goal of life.” ~The Katha Upanishad
The joy of the Atman is different from that of the average person. But the Atman is not the only type who finds joy in what other don’t consider pleasant. The lazy person finds joy in avoiding work, but there are people who taker great joy in hard work. They enjoy it because they know that in the end that hard work will get them a better job, make them stronger and healthier, and other benefits.
There are people who choose what to eat based entirely on taste with no regard at all for good nutrition. They get short-term pleasure from eating junk food,but illness, rapid aging, and early death as their long-term reward. The smart person can eat good tasting food, but also wants it to be nutritious. It may not be quite as pleasant when eating it,but it very pleasant to not have the headaches, stomachaches, and even cancers caused by eating junk.
There are people who pursue fame, money, and power on a material level. But when they die, they have nothing. The Atman doesn’t do that. He pursues those things which help people on a physical and spiritual level. And when it is necessary to choose, he will choose to be helpful on a spiritual level rather than the physical. His Atman joy comes in knowing he has helped an immortal soul rather than a temporary body.
The Wise and The Ignorant
The wise recognize that there are two kinds of pleasure: the temporary and the permanent. The ignorant person generally doesn’t. But this isn’t ignorance in the usual sense. We are not talking about someone who lacks book learning. This is not someone who never attended school. It means those who are ignorant of spiritual truths and values. Those who know Atman joy know the difference. Not only do they know the difference, but they prefer the permanent joy of an eternal life to temporary pleasant things on the physical level.
Not only does the Atman see beyond the temporary joys to the permanent ones, he also sees beyond the illusions of matter. He sees that feeding the soul is more important than feeding the body. The Atman knows that protecting the spirit and soul is far more important than protecting the physical body. It is why martyrs of many religions have chosen physical death over the corruption of their spirit and soul. The Atman joy comes from knowing that one who develops his spiritual self will live in eternal joy in Heaven. So much greater than the joy of a doughnut or a piece of jewelry.