Chapter 9: The Laughing Buddha
There are millions of people whose tears have dried. Their eyes have lost luster, depth. Their eyes have lost water - because they cannot weep, they cannot cry, tears cannot flow naturally. If laughter is crippled, tears are also crippled. Only a person who laughs well can weep well. And if you can weep and laugh well, you are alive. The dead man cannot laugh and cannot weep. The dead man can be serious. Watch, go and look at a corpse - the dead man can be serious in a more skillful way than you can be. Only an alive man can laugh and weep and cry.
These are moods of your inner being, these are climates - enriching. But by and by, everybody forgets. That which was natural in the beginning becomes unnatural. You need somebody to poke you into laughter, tickle you into laughter - only then do you laugh. That’s why so many jokes exist in the world.
You may not have observed, but Jews have the best jokes in the world. And the reason is because they have lived in deeper misery than any other race. They had to create jokes, otherwise they would have been dead long before. They have passed through so much misery, they have been tortured down the centuries so much, they have been crushed, murdered - they had to create a sense of the ridiculous. That has been a saving device. Hence, they have the most beautiful jokes, the funniest, the profoundest.
What I am trying to show you is this: we laugh only when there is some reason which is forcing us to laugh. A joke is told, and you laugh - because a joke creates a certain excitement in you. The whole mechanism of a joke is that the story goes in one direction, and suddenly it takes a turn; the turn is so sudden, so drastic, that you could not have imagined it. Excitement grows and you are waiting for the punch line. And then suddenly, whatsoever you were expecting is never there - something absolutely different, something very absurd and ridiculous, never fulfilling your expectation.
A joke is never logical. If a joke is logical it will lose all its sense of laughter, the quality of laughter, because then you will be able to predict. Then by the time the joke is being told, you will have reached the punch line because it will be a syllogism, it will be simple arithmetic. But then it will not have any laughter. A joke takes a sudden turn, so sudden that it was almost impossible for you to imagine it, to infer it. It takes a jump, a leap, a quantum leap - and that’s why it releases so much laughter. It is a subtle psychological way to tickle you.
I have to tell jokes because, I am afraid, you are all religious people. You tend to be serious. I have to tickle you so sometimes you forget your religiousness, you forget all your philosophies, theories, systems, and you fall down to earth. I have to bring you back to the earth again and again, otherwise you will tend to become serious, more and more serious. And seriousness is a canceric growth.
Much you can learn from Hotei.
In the Tang dynasty there was a stout fellow who was called the Happy Chinaman.