Very few spiritual teachers diverge from ancient techniques to guide the masses. But one Guru was different and contemporary. Though many of his teachings and methods were ‘heterodox’, they have made head way as mainstream spiritual practices in the modern world. One such spiritual practice that this Guru put on the holy radar was “Laughter’. He was Osho - one of India’s most luminous mystic Guru whose birth anniversary falls on Dec 11.
If laughter is the best medicine, this best medicine was certainly not extensively prescribed by religious teachers, bar a very few like Osho a.k.a. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Osho said that laughter can be a great medicine and it can cure many tensions, anxieties, and worries if it is total and unconditional.
A good sense of humour has never been recognized by any religion as a religious quality. Though there have been instances of using ‘laughter’ as a spiritual practice especially by a Japanese Zen master called ‘Hotei’ (the laughing Buddha), it was mainstreamed to the masses by Osho. He made seekers realise that only human beings can laugh, no other species is gifted with this amazing capacity. The ability to laugh is a great honor.
Osho succeeded in transforming and directing the usual human urges towards a higher goal. Laughter is one such urge made sacred by Osho to transform seekers into a higher realm of consciousness.
How is laughter connected to our spirituality? Says Osho “To be able to laugh, you need to be like a child – egoless. And when you laugh, suddenly laughter is there, “you” are not. “You” come back when the laughter is gone. When the laughter is disappearing far away, when it is subsiding, “you” come back, the ego comes back. But in the very moment of laughter you have a glimpse of egolessness.’
However there is a quality to this laughter, which is important. To this Osho remarks “When you laugh.... It has to be belly laughter. It should not be just superficial, it should not be just polite, it should not be just a mannerism. In deep laughter, suddenly trees and birds and animals, and the sky and the earth, join together with you. It is an invitation, an opening“.
Was Osho himself humorous? Osho’s mesmerizing pravachans (discourses) which are now available in many formats worldwide has an abundance of anecdotes and cutting jokes which are clearly his hallmark. Be it the delightful take on hoodwinking politicians or religious hypocrites, his jokes were a class apart. Says his disciples Deva Jayapal & Anand Savita in an online posting, “Osho could tell a bawdy joke with the instinctive timing of the best of stand-up comics, yet behind each joke was a dual lesson”.
To ‘why’ he told so many jokes more than any enlightened master, Osho would say: "I have to tell jokes because you are all religious people, you tend to be serious. I have to tickle you sometimes so that you forget your religiousness, your philosophies, theories, systems, and you fall down to earth. One of my contributions to religion is a sense of humour which no other religion contains. And one of my basic statements about it is that laughter is the highest spiritual quality.” He insisted that we should laugh our way to God. “I don't say pray your way to God, I say laugh your way to God. If you can laugh you will be able to love. If you can laugh you will be able to relax. Laughter relaxes like nothing else. So all jokes to me are prayers -- that's why I tell them.”
So what makes laughter a sacred spiritual practice? Osho saw that in spontaneous laughter the noise of the mind stops for a few precious moments, allowing us to experience ‘no-mind’ or mindlessness or meditation, however transiently.