Laugh your way to God

Osho on Laughter




religion has been missing one very fundamental quality: the sense of humor. It has been very unfortunate because it has made religion sick. The sense of humor is part, an essential part, of the wholeness of man. It keeps him healthy, it keeps him young, it keeps him fresh. And for centuries the sad people have dominated religion. They have expelled laughter — from the churches, from the mosques, from the temples. The day laughter enters back into the holy places they will be really holy, because they will be whole. Laughter is the only quality that distinguishes man from other animals. Only man can see the ridiculous, the absurd. Only he has the capacity and the consciousness to be aware of the cosmic joke that existence is. It IS a cosmic joke; it is not a serious affair.

Seriousness is a disease, but seriousness has been praised, respected, honored. It was absolutely essential to be serious to be a saint; hence only pathological people became interested in religion, people who were incapable of laughter. And people who are incapable of laughter are subhuman, they are not human yet — what to say about their being divine? That is impossible — they have not yet become human. And to be human is the bridge between the animal and the divine. Hence I have tremendous respect for the sense of humor, for laughter.

Laughter is far more sacred than prayer, because prayer can be done by any stupid person; it does not require much intelligence. Laughter requires intelligence, it requires presence of mind, a quickness of seeing into things.

A joke cannot be explained: either you understand it or you miss it. If it is explained it loses the whole point; hence no joke can be explained. Either immediately you get it…. If you don’t get it immediately then you can try to find out the meaning of it; you will find out the meaning, but the joke will not be there. It was in the immediacy. Humor needs presence, utter presence. It is not a question of analysis, it is a question of insight.

Amitabh, as far as humor is concerned, to be a little bit Jewish is very good — everybody should be a little bit Jewish! For enlightenment it will prepare the ground, it will make you more alive. Enlightenment is becoming totally alive. Laughter brings life to you. And if you can laugh totally there are a few more things to be understood. In deep laughter the ego disappears, it is not found at all. You can’t have both laughter and the ego. If the ego is there it will keep you serious. All egoists are serious people, and all serious people are egoists. To be able to laugh, you need to be like a child — egoless. And when you laugh, suddenly laughter is there, you are not. You come back when the laughter is gone. When the laughter is disappearing far away, when it is subsiding, you come back, the ego comes back. But in the very moment of laughter you have a glimpse of egolessness.

There are only two activities in which you can feel egolessness easily. One is laughter, another is dancing. Dancing is a physiological method, a bodily method to feel egolessness. When the dancer is lost in his dance he is no more — there is only dance. Laughter is a little more subtle than dance, it is a little more inner, but it has also the same fragrance. When you laugh…. It has to be a belly laughter. It should not be just superficial, it should not be just polite, it should not be just a mannerism.

I have heard:

One typist was leaving her job. This was her last day in the office, and the boss was telling the old jokes that he had always been telling. Everybody was laughing, except the typist. The boss asked, “What is the matter with you? Can’t you get the jokes?”

She said, “I got them long ago. You’ve been repeating them a thousand and one times, but I need not laugh anymore. Anyway tomorrow I am leaving. These fools are laughing because they have to laugh — you are the boss. So whether the joke is worth laughing at or not doesn’t matter. They have to laugh, it is part of their duty. But I’m leaving, what can you do to me? I’m not laughing, you cannot make me laugh at all those rotten jokes.”

If you laugh out of duty or out of a sense of mannerism, out of politeness, then it is not a belly laughter, then it is just superficial; on the circumference, you are managing it. You will not understand what I am saying about laughter then. Laugh so that your whole body, your whole being becomes involved, and suddenly there will be a glimpse. For the moment the past disappears, the future disappears, the ego disappears, everything disappears — there is only laughter. And in that moment of laughter you will be able to see the whole existence laughing.

Indians don’t have the sense of laughter. In India we don’t have any Indian jokes. All the jokes that are told in India are borrowed, there is no such thing as an Indian joke. Indians are serious people, very religious people, holy people. How can they descend to such low things as joking? They talk about God, they talk about moksha, they talk about nirvana… they can’t laugh. These are not laughing matters! You cannot laugh about God. But if you can’t laugh about God you will never understand God.

The Indian statues of Buddha are totally different from the Chinese or the Japanese statues of Buddha. You must have noted the difference; the difference is great. The Indian Buddha has a very athletic body. His belly is very small, almost nonexistent. He never had a belly laugh. If there is no belly how can you have a belly laugh? But the Chinese Buddha has a big belly, and not only a belly — even on the statue you can see ripples of laughter on the belly. Even in marble you can see he is laughing, the belly is laughing. No Indian will agree with the Chinese statue. He will say, “This is not right, Buddha was not like this, with such a big belly….” The Chinese Buddha looks like a clown — but I have great respect for the Chinese Buddha. The Chinese Buddha has absorbed Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu. He is pregnant with Lao Tzu, that’s why that big belly. Inside his belly there is Lao Tzu. And you cannot keep Lao Tzu quiet. He must be laughing and kicking and doing things; hence the ripples on the belly.

Lao Tzu has the sense of humor. Maybe because of that Lao Tzu could not become the founder of a great religion. There exists no religion in his name. Yes, a few rare people have followed his path, but there is no organized church, for the simple reason that Lao Tzu seems so nonserious. He used to ride on a buffalo. Now, can’t you find a horse? Anybody could have afforded at least a donkey — but a buffalo…? And that too, not in the right position, but sitting backwards! The buffalo is going one way and Lao Tzu is looking the other way. He must have created laughter wherever he passed. People must have gathered to see the scene, what is happening. And Chuang Tzu far surpassed his master. There has never been such a beautiful man as Chuang Tzu. All that he has said is utterly absurd, ridiculous! — but with profound meaning. First you will laugh and then slowly you will see the point that he is indicating, in a very joyful way, towards certain truths which can only be indicated in a joyful way. If you are serious you cannot make people understand the beauty of existence, the celebration of existence.

Life is not a tragedy, it is a comedy. It is not tragic. But religious people have depended on the very idea of life being tragic: it is misery, utter misery — what is there to laugh at? Hence they attracted the people who are incapable of laughter, of living, of loving. My effort here, Amitabh, is just the opposite.

I want you to learn as much from Buddha, as much from Lao Tzu, as much from Krishna, as much from Chuang Tzu as possible. I would like you to absorb all the great experiences that have happened in the past, so that a higher synthesis becomes possible. In that higher synthesis laughter is going to be one of the most essential qualities. With truth, courage and virtue, laughter also has its own place.

In that sense Jews are beautiful people. They have the greatest sense of laughter in the whole world. They are on the one extreme; on the other extreme are the British people. So many letters I have received, angry: “Beloved Master, you don’t understand the British.” Who cares to understand? And why should I understand the British, for what? Is nothing else left to understand?…Amitabh, the only problem with the Jews is when it comes to the question of price. Then they will go on haggling for centuries. Enlightenment will be just in front of them, but they will haggle for the price. So that is the problem, Amitabh; there you have to be aware.

A Scot went into a tailor’s and asked to see a suit.

The Jewish proprietor came back with a nice Harris tweed. “Look at this,” he said, “and it’s not fifty pounds, not even forty. Thirty pounds and it’s yours.”

The Scot examined it carefully. “I wouldn’t give you twenty-five pounds for it, not even twenty. My price is eighteen pounds.”

“Right,” said the Jew. “That’s the way I like to do business — no haggling.”

Then there were the two Jews who bumped into each other after forty years, and rushed to the nearest pub to celebrate.

“It will be magic to have a drink together after all these years,” said one.

“Yeah,” said the other, “but don’t forget, it’s your round.”

The rich widow needed a blood transfusion, so a Jew donor saved her life. She was so grateful, she gave him a hundred pounds, but after a relapse she needed another one and this time gave the donor fifty pounds.

The third time he saved her life she had so much Jewish blood in her that she just thanked him very much.


This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune. 

Discourse Series: The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 11
Chapter #10
Chapter title: Laugh your way to God
20 April 1980 am in Buddha Hall


Osho has spoken on Laughter, intelligence, prayer, bellylaughter, egolessness, existence, dance, religionin many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. Come, Come, Yet Again Come
  2. A Sudden Clash of Thunder
  3. Hari Om Tat Sat
  4. The Path of the Mystic
  5. YAA-HOO! The Mystic Rose
  6. The White Lotus
  7. The Secret
  8. Beyond Enlightenment
  9. The Messiah, Vol 2
  10. The Beloved, Vol 2
  11. Vedanta: Seven Steps to Samadhi
  12. My Way: The Way of the White Clouds
  13. The Book of Wisdom
  14. The Hidden Splendor
  15. The Razor’s Edge
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