Chapter 5: The Risk Is Worth Taking
And the Japanese are even more earthly. When Buddhism reached Japan via China, its very color, texture, its very fragrance changed. It became tremendously multidimensional, creative, more life-affirmative. Laughter came in. The Japanese masters transformed the very seriousness of Buddha into its opposite.
But in India the effort has never been made. In India Buddha has remained old, for twenty-five centuries.
My effort here is to make him alive again. And to make him alive means to make him a contemporary, to help him to speak to you the way you would like to be spoken to, the way you will be able to understand him. He has to be brought from his heights. The earth has its own beauty and any height has to be based on this very earth.
So, Nirupa, forgive me, because speaking on Buddha something of him is bound to come in; that is unavoidable. I try my best to give new colors to his colorless way of expression, to give him more liveliness, but still, I cannot go too far from his sutra. Although I take enough rope, I go as far as it is possible - nobody has gone so far as I have been trying to go - but still the point of reference remains his sutras.
I love the man - he has a beauty of his own - but there is no need to be so serious. But it was the way in India in those days, and it is the way even today, to be serious. Religion is thought to be a very serious phenomenon.
I may be the first person in the whole history of India who is mixing religion with jokes. Let us start with a few jokes.
Pierre, a Frenchman, Tonio, an Italian, and Stash, a Pole, were traveling through the country when their car broke down.
They found lodging at a farm, and in the course of the night the Frenchman decided to sneak into the farmer’s daughter’s room.
The farmer heard him walking up the stairs and said, “Who is it?”
Thinking quickly, Pierre whispered, “Meow, meow..”
Twenty minutes later, Tonio made the same attempt. As he neared the farmer’s daughter’s room, the girl’s father shouted, “Who is there?”
The Italian also imitated the feline sound, “Meow, meow..”
Stash decided that he, too, should make an attempt. Just as he got to the girl’s room, the farmer shouted, “All right, who is it?”
The Polack replied, “It is me, the cat.”
Benson and his dog were sitting at a bar. He ordered two martinis. Benson handed one to the dog, who promptly drank it, then ate the glass until only the base and the stem remained. Then he left.
“That’s the craziest thing I have ever seen,” said the bartender.