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Humor

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Humor (parihasa) is the characteristic of something that evokes laughter. Having a sense of humor is the ability to see the funny side of things or the knack of being able to make other laugh. The Buddha had a poor opinion of the humor of his time, probably because most of it was rather course – slapstick, ribaldry or based on sexual innuendos. He also must have noticed, as many have since, that a lot of humor is derived from making fun of and ridiculing others and thus contains an element of cruelty. Ancient Indian actors (nata) and comedians (hasaka) believed that because they ‘use both truth and falsehood to entertain and amuse the crowd’ that they would be reborn in the heaven of the laughing gods. The Buddha had a different idea. He said that they would be more likely to be reborn in the purgatory of laughter (S.IV,306). Such was his belief in the importance of speaking the truth that he told his son Rahula, ‘Do not lie, not even in jest’ (M.I,415). This same idea is referred to several times in the Jataka (e.g. Ja.I,439; V,481).

Nonetheless, the Buddha seems to have approved of humor that would raise a smile or lighten the mood because the Tipitaka contains many examples of his urbane, subtle humor. His discourses are full of puns (silesa), a pun being the use of a word that has two different meanings or two words that sound the same, for humorous effect. For example, brahmans were also known as ‘reciters’ (ajjhayaka) because they chanted the Vedas. The Buddha joked that they were really called this because they couldn’t meditate (ajhayaka, D.III,94). Another way of evoking humor is by juxtaposing two connected but incongruous things, something the Buddha often did this in his similes. Having good intentions but wrong practice, he said, will no more leads to Nirvana than pulling a cow’s horn will give milk (M.III,141). He said that a fool does not benefits from his association with a wise person any more than a spoon tastes the soup (Dhp.64). Occasionally the Buddha used parody (parihapajja) to critique certain persons or ideas, particularly the pretensions of the brahmans. Once an arrogant young brahman insisted to him that brahmans are superior to other castes because ‘they are borne from the mouth of Brahma,’ an idea found in the Vedas. The Buddha quipped, ‘But surely brahmans are born from the womb of their mothers’ like everyone else’ (M.II,148). In the Digha Nikaya he gently parodied the idea of a supreme god in a way that can still raise a chuckle in the modern reader (D.I,17-18; 220-222).

Laughter is sometimes called ‘the best medicine’ and the Buddha would have agreed that humor can sometimes have a therapeutic value. On those occasions where a particular way of thinking has made a problem look unsolvable or a burden appear unbearable, making a joke of the situation can sometimes open up a different way of looking at it and suggest a solution. Humor can also trigger a catharsis, a therapeutic release from anxiety, tension or fear or lift one out of depression. The Buddha occasionally used it to this end. On one occasion, King Ajatasattu went to visit the Buddha and asked him if he could tell him one advantage of the monk’s life that could be seen in the present life. The king had only recently murdered his father and was starting to feel increasingly regretful and uneasy. The Buddha asked the king what he would do if one of his slaves ran away and became a monk and he later came to know where he was staying. Would he, the Buddha inquired, have the monk arrested and returned to slavery? ‘No’, answered the king. ‘On the contrary, I would stand up for him, bow to him and offer him alms.’ The Buddha replied, ‘Well there you are. There is one of the advantages of the monk’s life that could be seen in this life’ (paraphrase of D.I,51-61). This expectedly whimsical answer to a serious question must have at first surprised the king, but then made him either smile or laugh. Having lightened the king’s mood and put him at his ease, the Buddha then proceeded to answer his question more seriously.

The Great Brahma story

In one discourse the Buddha tells this story: "Once, Kevatta, this train of thought arose in the awareness of a certain monk in this very community of monks: 'Where do these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder?' Then he attained to such a state of concentration that the way leading to the gods appeared in his centered mind.

[. . .This monk goes through meeting a long list of gods with no luck, and finally . . .]

"Then the monk attained to such a state of concentration that the way leading to the gods of the retinue of Brahma appeared in his centered mind. So he approached the gods of the retinue of Brahma and, on arrival, asked them, 'Friends, where do these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder?

"When this was said, the gods of the retinue of Brahma said to the monk, 'We also don't know where the four great elements... cease without remainder. But there is Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be. He is higher and more sublime than we. He should know where the four great elements... cease without remainder.

"But where, friends, is the Great Brahma now?

"Monk, we also don't know where Brahma is or in what way Brahma is. But when signs appear, light shines forth, and a radiance appears, Brahma will appear. For these are the portents of Brahma's appearance: light shines forth and a radiance appears.

"Then it was not long before Brahma appeared.

"So the monk approached the Great Brahma and, on arrival, said, 'Friend, where do these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder?'

"When this was said, the Great Brahma said to the monk, 'I, monk, am Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be.'

A second time, the monk said to the Great Brahma, 'Friend, I didn't ask you if you were Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be. I asked you where these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder.'

"A second time, the Great Brahma said to the monk, 'I, monk, am Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be.'

"A third time, the monk said to the Great Brahma, 'Friend, I didn't ask you if you were Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be. I asked you where these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder.'

"Then the Great Brahma, taking the monk by the arm and leading him off to one side, said to him, 'These gods of the retinue of Brahma believe, "There is nothing that the Great Brahma does not know. There is nothing that the Great Brahma does not see. There is nothing of which the Great Brahma is unaware. There is nothing that the Great Brahma has not realized." That is why I did not say in their presence that I, too, don't know where the four great elements... cease without remainder. So you have acted wrongly, acted incorrectly, in bypassing the Blessed One in search of an answer to this question elsewhere. Go right back to the Blessed One and, on arrival, ask him this question. However he answers it, you should take it to heart.' DN 11 i 215 - 223.

Sariputta's Lion's roar

Sariputta: Lord Buddha, I declare that you are the wisest, best, perfectly enlightened sammasambuddha of the past, present, and future and that there will never be another as good as you in the past, present, and future.

Buddha: Oh really? Have you met every sammasambuddha of the past, present, and future?

The above is a paraphrase of:

Once Sariputta remarked, “Venerable sir, I have such confidence in the Blessed One that I believe there has not been nor ever will be nor exists at present another ascetic or brahmin more knowledgeable than the Blessed One with respect to enlightenment.” The Buddha responds, “Lofty indeed is this bellowing utterance of yours, Sariputta, you have roared a definitive, categorical lion’s roar. Have you now, Sariputta, encompassed with your mind the minds of all the Arahants, the Perfectly Enlightened Ones, arisen in the past and known thus: Those Blessed Ones were of such virtue, or of such qualities, or such wisdom?” Sariputta responds, “No, venerable sir.” Samyutta Nikaya 47.12

How many light bulbs?

How many meditation teachers does it take to change a light bulb?

Fifty. One to actually do the work, and forty-nine to offer reflections on it.


How many joss-stick Buddhists does it take to change a light bulb?

Why bother? Kwan Yin will do it for us.


How many monks does it take to change a light bulb?

They can’t. There’s no light bulbs in the Vinaya.


How many vipassana meditators does it take to change a light bulb?

No need. Just mindfully note: ‘darkness, darkness, darkness’.


How many tantric adepts does it take to change a light bulb?

Two; but they have to do it in full lotus posture.


How many Nagarjunas does it take to change a light bulb?

Since there’s no Nagarjuna and no light bulb, how can there be any change?


How many Buddhist scholars does it take to change a light bulb?

An internationally respected committee of academics, after deliberating all night, conclusively failed to agree on the meaning of the wordlight bulb’. Meanwhile, the sun came up.


How many Zen masters does it take to change a light bulb?

The peach blossoms fall softly on the warty old frog.


How many Zen masters does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Only two - but how did they get in there?


How many Ajahn Brahms does it take to change a light bulb?

The light bulb just has to get into jhana, then it’ll glow by itself.


How many Abhidhamma scholars does it take to change a light bulb?

There are 20W light bulbs, 40W light bulbs, 80W light bulbs, 100W… 200W…

There are 6V light bulbs, 12V light bulbs, 120V light bulbs, 240V light bulbs…

There are incandescent bulbs, fluorescent bulbs…

There are clear light bulbs, pearled light bulbs, colored light bulbs…

There are screw-in light bulbs, bayonet light bulbs…

There are 20W light bulbs that are 6V, there are 20W light bulbs that are 12V… 120V… 240V…

There are 40W light bulbs that are 6V… 240V…

80W… 100W… 200W…

There are 20W light bulbs that are 6V incandescent…

There are 200W light bulbs that are 240V, florescent, colored, and bayonet.


How many arahants does it take to change a light bulb?

One.

References

Source

dhammawiki.com