The search for God, peace, love or enlightenment may be a serious business,
but we have to lighten up as well as enlighten up along this great way of
awakening. Joy is an important part of life and necessary component of spirit.
If we take ourselves too seriously, life ain’t much fun. My old girlfriend
used to call me Serious Das, but I was older then. That was in the Seventies.
A laugh closes the distance between a speaker and an audience. A smile is
the shortest distance between two strangers. I have found that humor is one
of the best teaching tools, and I never leave home for a lecture or
teaching tour without it.
Wit is worth little unless grounded in insightful wisdom. “Humor is not a
trick. Humor is a presence in the worldlike graceand shines on
everybody.” (Garrison Keillor) If Buddha was alive today, I believe he’d
add Right Humor to his eight-fold prescription for enlightened living known
as the Noble Eight Fold Path. Right Exercise might be the tenth, like a
necessary extra inning.
The Tibetan tradition of crazy wisdom-defined as a higher form of lucidity
that see through everything– tells us that what the world calls sane,
those with clear vision most often consider insane. Is it any wonder then
that what the world calls insane, the tricksters and jesters, the holy
fools and eccentric yogis and siddhas consider normal? Irreverent saints
have said the world is mad, but we are all mad; but let us be mad for the
Divine rather than for that which so swiftly passes away.
Since time immemorial, iconoclastic crazy wise masters and enlightened
pranksters such as the Middle East’s Mullah Nasruddin and Drukpa Kunley of
Bhutan have poked fun at hypocrisy and pretence, deflating pomposity and
breaking through complacence, and reflecting knowledge to us our own
foibles and flaws, with the mask of comedy sweetening the pill of
self-knowledge. Through their rambunctious and inspired foolishness, I
personally have been freed from inhibitions and other mind-forged manacles
deleterious to living spirit and free flowing energy.
I adore Benjamin Franklin, Groucho Marx, Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen and their
progeny for carrying on that indispensable tradition. My friend Wes Nisker
has written a fine book on this subject, called “Crazy Wisdom”.
“Clown and guru are a single entity: the satiric and the sublime sides of
the same higher vision of life,” wrote social critic Theodor Roszak.
Contemporary Zen master Bernard Glassman Roshi today carries on the
tradition of master as clown, has been to clown college, and is training
“Who is wise?”
He that learns from everyone.
Who is powerful?
He that governs his passions.
Who is rich?
He that is content.
Who is that?
— Benjamin Franklin
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