Mulla Nasruddin is a Sufi figure, one of the oldest figures of Sufi anecdotes, and he shows whatsoever I have been saying here: that the world is a cosmic joke -- he represents that. He is a very serious joker, and if you can penetrate him and understand him, then many mysteries will be revealed to you.
Mulla Nasruddin illustrates that the world is not a tragedy but a comedy. And the world is a place where if you can learn how to laugh you have learned everything. If your prayer cannot become a deep laughter which comes from all over your being, if your prayer is sad and if you cannot joke with your god, then you are not really religious.
Christians, Jews and Mohammedans are very serious about their god; Hindus are not, they have joked a lot. And that shows how much they believe -- because when you cannot joke with your god you don't believe in him. You feel that through your humor, your joke, he will be insulted. Your belief is shallow, it is not deep enough. Hindus say that the trust is so much that they can laugh; the trust is so much that just by laughing it cannot be broken.
One Buddhist, Bodhidharma, one of the greatest followers of Buddha, used to say to his disciples, "Whenever you take the name of Buddha immediately rinse out your mouth, because this name is dangerous and it makes the mouth impure." Another Buddhist monk, Bokuju, used to tell his disciples, "While meditating, if this fellow Gautam Buddha comes in kill him immediately, because once you allow him then he will cling to you and it will be difficult to be alone."
And they were great followers, they loved Buddha -- but they could laugh. Why? The love was so intimate, so close, that there was no danger that something might be taken wrongly. But Christians have always been afraid, so immediately anything becomes blasphemy -- anything. They cannot take anything humorously, and if you cannot take anything humorously, if you cannot laugh at yourself, at your god, then you are ill, you are not at home, and your god is something to be feared.
In English we have a word, God-fearing, for religious people. A God-fearing person can never be religious, because if you fear God you cannot love him. Love and fear cannot exist together. With fear, hate can exist, love cannot; with fear, anger can exist, love cannot; with fear you can bow down but you cannot surrender; with fear there can be a relationship between a slave and a master but there cannot be a love relationship. Hindus, Buddhists have a totally different attitude, and that attitude is different because they think the whole existence is a cosmic play, you can be playful.
Sufis are very playful; they created Mulla Nasruddin. And Mulla Nasruddin is an alive figure, you can go on adding to him -- I go on adding. If some day he meets me there is bound to be difficulty, because I go on creating around him. To me he is a constantly alive figure, in many ways symbolic -- symbolic of human stupidity. But he knows it and he laughs at it, and whenever he behaves like a stupid man he is just joking at you, at human beings at large.
And he is subtle enough. He will not hit you directly, he hits himself; but if you can penetrate him then you can look at the reality. And sometimes even great scriptures cannot go as deep as a joke can go, because the joke directly touches the heart. A scripture goes into the head, into the intellect; a joke directly touches the heart. Immediately something explodes within you and becomes your smile and your laughter.
Nasruddin must have attained enlightenment, or he is already an enlightened figure, there is no need to attain. I go on using him just to give you a feeling that to me religion is not serious. So I go on mixing Mulla Nasruddin with Mahavira -- which is impossible, poles apart. I go on mixing Mulla Nasruddin with the Upanishads, because he gives a sweetness to the whole serious thing. And nothing is serious, nothing should be serious.
To me, to laugh wholeheartedly is the greatest celebration that can happen to a man -- to laugh wholeheartedly, to become the laughter. Then no meditation is needed, it is enough.
Vedanta: Seven Steps to Samadhi, Chapter-13
Everybody is born with it. It is not a talent, it is intrinsic to human nature. But the society tries to destroy it; it is afraid even of the sense of humor. We teach children to be serious. Seriousness is praised, highly praised. In fact, seriousness is a kind of disease; it should be condemned.
Every child brings a sense of humor in the world, but we destroy it, at least we repress it. We don't allow him to enjoy it; we don't allow him to share it with us. We don't encourage him to help it grow because we are afraid; if he becomes too non-serious then he will become dangerous to the serious society. Then he will start rebelling against many things, because a sense of humor is an essential part of intelligence.
You don't see donkeys laughing, you don't see buffaloes enjoying a joke. It is only man who can enjoy a joke, who can laugh. Your saints are like buffaloes and donkeys! They have fallen below humanity; they have lost something of immense value. Without laughter a man is like a tree without flowers.
But the society needs serious people: presidents, prime ministers, vice-chancellors, professors, popes, shankaracharyas, ayatollahs, imams, all kinds of priests, teachers, commissioners, Collectors, governors.... Everybody has to be serious. If they have a sense of humor the society is afraid efficiency will be lost. If they have a sense of humor they Will become human. They are expected to be just like machines.
The way Adolf Hitler walks is mechanical. Just see his pictures -- the way he stands, the way he walks, the way he takes the salute, the way HE salutes. It seems almost mechanical, as if he is not a man but a robot. His face, his gestures, all are robotlike, and he made the whole of Germany robotlike. He destroyed Germany more than he destroyed anybody else. But he created a very efficient army. The efficient army is possible only if people lose all intelligence and all that intelligence contains.
A sense of humor is one of the very essentials of intelligence. The moment you lose it you lose intelligence also; the more you have it, the more intelligent you are. There is no question of how to open the sense of humor; you simply remove the barriers. It is already there, it is already the case. You simply remove a few rocks which your parents, your society have put to prevent it. The society teaches you self-control, and sense of humor means relaxation.
Guida Spirituale, Chapter-3