Joy and Pleasure

What is the difference between joy and pleasure? I mean between “the joy of being alive” and “a life of pleasure”. I use the word joy as a synonym to bliss. A quote from Joseph Campbell:
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”

Are joy and pleasure each others synonyms or each others antonyms? Is one good and the other bad? Does one lead to happiness while the other to misery?

Helen Keller said: “Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

Interesting question. I gave this a little thought, and my uneducated gray matter tossed the following onto a sheet of scrap paper.

• Internalized
• State of mind
• Close to contentment
• Willingness to pursue (key-word) continuance of current state

• External
• Physical state, or mental state via physical stimuli
• May be byproduct of joy
• May lead to “addiction” reducing Joy or even Pleasure

Not sure how that will hold up to more educated responses.

I agree :smiley: . Pleasure is having instant gratification. That is the trap that many people who retire fall into. Watching TV and eating pop corn. Reading detective stories all day long. Having cocktail parties. Talking weather and how nice everything is (but not meaning it). Having that cake. Eating a nice dinner. As you observed pleasure may lead to addiction and to less pleasure. Pleasure drains us of energy. It’s no coincidence that Pinocchio went to “Pleasure Island”.

Joy on the other hand, does not lead to less joy. On the contrary it leads to deeper joy. Joy generates energy. Joy comes from things like, doing exercises, writing that book, cleaning up the apartment, playing with your children or your grand children (or your cat).

When you are about to do some action ask yourself. Does this action lead to more pleasure or more joy? If it leads to more pleasure, skip it. If it leads to more joy, do it immediately. :smiley:

Using a more technical definition of carnal, we can say that pleasure is carnal and joy is spiritual. This is furthered by the idea that significant indulgence in spiritual things self-perpetuates while significant indulgence in carnal things self-destroys. This subtle but extremely important detail is critical to being a “whole” person when it comes to spirituality. Specifically that the carnal disciplines do not build the spiritual, but the spiritual build the carnal.

This is one of my peeve’s with many forms of religion. You can not achieve a spiritual state though a carnal method. While I believe that the carnal can influence the spiritual it is the self-perpetuating spiritual that must be altered to change the self-destroying carnal. In my opinion many religions attempt to alter the spiritual by manipulating the carnal which I have seen lead to deeper spiritual “issues”.

Back to the question at hand, pleasure can be derived from joy, but the inverse is not true. Joy can not derive from pleasure.

Then again, what do i know?

Dr Thynn Thynn (a Buddhist, meditation teacher) said “Happiness is like the space between your fingers”

To explain the analogy in context:
If your emotion are the fingers - sadness here, anger there, pleasure there etc. then true happiness is the space inbetween - it requires nothing for it to exist; it just is.

It is not an absence of emotion, but not being thrown off course by it.

I know I don’t explain a distinction, but I felt like throwing it out there anyway.

Good illustration Sebbi. It reminds me of the zen story (see thread “Do you know any zen story”) when monks asked a young monk who had attained enlightenment how he felt. “As miserable as ever” answered the young monk.

a feeling of great pleasure and happiness

a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment


You can take pleasure in something that brings no joy. Therein lies the difference.

I would put it succinctly: Joy is to Love as Pleasure is to Lust.

Both can be easily confused with the simple reactive counterpart of which the deeper mental structures have many manifestations; pleasure and lust can be some of them, respectively.

Well said Amber :smiley: . In Kundulini Yoga there are 7 chakras (levels). The first chakra is down at the base of the body, and it is about eating, sheer survival. The next chakra is at the level of sex organs and has to do with lust and erotics. The third chakra is at the level of the naval and has to do with power and agression. Animals live on these three levels and most humans. It’s all about health, wealth and progeny. Most movies, books and TV programs are about these three levels. The fourth chakra is at the level of the heart and this is about love. Observe that love (joy) is very different from erotics (lust). At this level we become aware of compassion and it is at this level the we are born again (this time spiritually, hence the talk of virgin birth). The fifth chakra is at the level of larynx. At this level the art dwells: writing, painting, scientific discovery, cooking as art, and so on. The sixth chakra is at the level of our eyes. At this level we become aware of the God. I mean not that we have heard the name God, but that we actually are aware of him/her/it. The seventh chakra is at the top of our head. This is so sophisticated and advanced state that no words or images can convey it. This is nirvana, tao, the ultimate truth, but no words can describe it. As Tao Te Ching says: “The Tao that can be described is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be given to it is not it’s real Name.”