Sense of Humor: Essential of Life
YOU SPOKE RECENTLY ABOUT THE TOTALITY OF LAUGHTER, AND OF HOW ALL THE ACTIONS OF AN ENLIGHTENED BEING ARE TOTAL.
A QUESTION THAT STILL REMAINS FOR ME IS IN CONNECTION WITH WITNESSING AND BEING TOTAL IN AN ACT — AND LAUGHTER SEEMS A GOOD EXAMPLE. I FIND I CAN OCCASIONALLY WATCH ANGER, HURT, FRUSTRATION; BUT LAUGHTER HAS ALWAYS COME UPON ME BEFORE I REALIZE IT AND CAN WATCH IT.
WOULD YOU PLEASE TALK TO US ABOUT WITNESSING IN THIS RESPECT?
Laughter is in a way unique. Anger, frustration, worrying, sadness — they are all negative and they are never total. You cannot be totally sad, there is no way. Any negative emotion cannot be total because it is negative. Totality needs positivity. Laughter is a positive phenomenon — that’s why it is unique — and that makes it a little difficult to be aware of laughter, for two reasons. One, it comes suddenly. In fact, you become aware only when it has come. Unless you are born in England… there it never comes suddenly…
Laughter naturally comes as thunder comes — suddenly. That is the very mechanism of a joke, any simple joke. Why does it make people laugh? What is the psychology of it? It builds up a certain energy in you; your mind starts thinking in a certain way as you are listening to the joke, and you are excited to know the punch line — how it ends. You start expecting some logical end — because mind cannot do anything else but logic — and a joke is not logic. So when the end comes it is so illogical and so ridiculous, but so fitting, that the energy you were holding in, waiting for the end, suddenly bursts forth into laughter. Whether the joke is great or small does not matter, the psychology is the same.
In a small school the woman teacher has a beautiful doll. She is going to give it as a reward to the boy or the girl who answers right. After one hour of teaching she is going to ask a single question, and anybody who gives the right answer will have the beautiful doll. And for one hour she persistently tells the boys and the girls about Jesus Christ in this way and that way — stories about him, his philosophy, his crucifixion, his religion, that he has the greatest following in the world — everything condensed in one hour. And then in the end she asks, “I would like to know, who is the greatest man in the world?”
A little boy stands up and says, “Abraham Lincoln.” The boy is an American.
The woman said, “It is good, but not good enough. Sit down.”
For one hour she has been talking about Jesus Christ, and this American fellow comes up with Abraham Lincoln! It is good that the joke is old; otherwise he would have come up with Ronald Reagan.
A little girl puts her hand up when the teacher asks again, “Who is the greatest man in the world?” The girl answers, “Mahatma Gandhi.” She is an Indian.
The teacher was feeling very frustrated. One hour’s effort! She said, “It is good, but still not good enough.”
And then a very small boy was waving his hand very frantically. The teacher said, “Yes, you tell who is the greatest man in the world.”
He said, “There is no question… Jesus Christ.”
The woman teacher was puzzled because the boy was a Jew. He won the prize, and when everybody was leaving she took him aside and asked, “Aren’t you a Jew?”
He said, “Yes, I am a Jew.”
“Then why did you say Jesus Christ?”
He said, “In my heart of hearts I know it is Moses, but business is business!”
Any joke ends with a turn that you were not expecting logically. Then suddenly the whole energy that was building up in you explodes in laughter.
In the beginning it is difficult to be aware, but not impossible. Because it is a positive phenomenon it will take a little more time, but don’t try hard; otherwise you will miss the laughter. That is the trouble. If you try hard to remain aware, you will miss the laughter. Just remain relaxed and when the laughter comes, just like a wave coming in the ocean, silently watch it. But don’t let your watcher disturb the laughter. Both have to be allowed.
Laughter is a beautiful phenomenon. It has not to be dropped. It has never been thought of this way. You don’t have any picture of Jesus Christ laughing, or Gautam Buddha laughing, or Socrates laughing — they are all very serious. To me, seriousness is a sickness. A sense of humor makes you more human, more humble. The sense of humor — according to me — is one of the most essential parts of religiousness. A religious person who cannot laugh fully is not fully religious. Something is still missing. So you have to walk almost on a razor’s edge. Laughter has to be allowed completely…
So first take care of the laughter, that laughter is allowed completely. And watch. Perhaps at first it will be difficult — laughter will come first, and then suddenly you will become aware. No harm. Slowly slowly the gap will be smaller. Just time is needed, and soon you will be able to be perfectly aware and totally in laughter. But it is a unique phenomenon; you shouldn’t forget that no animal laughs, no bird laughs — only man, and then too only intelligent man. So it is part of intelligence to see immediately the ridiculousness of some situation. And there are so many ridiculous situations all around. The whole life is hilarious; you just have to sharpen your sense of humor. So remember: go slowly, there is no hurry, but laughter should not be disturbed. Awareness with total laughter is a great achievement.
Other things — sadness, frustration, disappointment — they are just worthless. They have to be thrown out. There is no need to be very careful about them. Don’t handle them carefully; just be fully aware and let them disappear. But laughter has to be saved. Remember why Gautam Buddha and Jesus and Socrates are not laughing — they forgot. They treated laughter the same way as negative emotions. They were so insistent on awareness that even laughter disappeared. Laughter is a very fine phenomenon and very valuable. As sadness disappeared, misery disappeared, suffering disappeared with awareness, they became more and more rooted in awareness and forgot completely that there may be something that has to be saved — and that was laughter.
My feeling is that if Jesus had been able to laugh Christianity would not have been such a calamity as it proved to be. If Mohammed had been able to laugh, then Mohammedanism would not have been such a cruel, violent religion. If Gautam Buddha had been able to laugh, then the millions of Buddhist monks after him would not have been so sad, so dull, so without juice, so lifeless. Buddhism spread all over Asia, and it turned the whole Asia pale.
It is not incidental that Buddhism has chosen a pale color as the color of the clothes of their monks, because pale is the color of death. When fall comes and trees become nude, their leaves become pale and they start falling and there are only branches. That paleness is like when a man is dying and his face becomes pale. He is dying — already the process of death has set in, and within minutes he will be dead. Then if you cut his skin you will not find blood, but only water. The blood has separated, it is no longer red. It started separating while he was dying; that’s why he was looking pale. In fact, we and the trees are not different. We behave the same way.
And Buddhism made the whole of Asia sad.
I have been searching for jokes which have their origin in India. I have not found a single one. Serious people… always talking about God and heaven and hell and reincarnation and the philosophy of karma. The joke does not fit in anywhere. When I started talking — and I was talking about meditation — I might tell a joke. Once in a while some Jaina monk or a Buddhist monk or a Hindu preacher would come to me and say, “You were talking so beautifully about meditation, but why did you bring in that joke? It destroyed everything. People started laughing. They were getting serious. You destroyed all your effort. You did something for half an hour to make them serious, and then you told a joke and you destroyed the whole thing. Why in the world should you tell a joke? Buddha never told a joke. Krishna never told a joke.”
I would say, “I am neither Buddha nor Krishna, and I am not interested in seriousness.” In fact, because they were becoming serious, I had to bring in that joke. I don’t want anybody to become serious.
I want everybody to be playful. And life has to become, more and more, closer to laughter than seriousness.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
The Path of the Mystic
Chapter title: The thought of silence excites nobody
24 May 1986 am in Punta Del Este, Uruguay
Osho has spoken on ‘Laughter, witnessing, humor, religion’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses: