Buddhism and humour

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
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LolCat
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Buddhism and humour

Post by LolCat »

What does Buddhism have to say about humour? Is it a coarser form of enjoyment which is abandoned as one progresses on the path? Or would it come under joy, one of the four immeasurables? Are there any examples of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas joking around in the sutras?
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dzogchungpa
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Re: Buddhism and humour

Post by dzogchungpa »

There is not only nothingness because there is always, and always can manifest. - Thinley Norbu Rinpoche
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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Buddhism and humour

Post by Kim O'Hara »

:good:
That article covers the ground pretty well.
One point from it that I would perhaps make more strongly is that humour which is fundamentally cruel or offensive can never be Right Speech.
One point it doesn't touch upon is humour as a teaching tool in modern traditions. Zen is famous for it, other schools less so. I've heard it said that Tibetan monks are more likely to be happy, amiable, jokey people than Theravadin monks but my contact with any of them is so limited I can't really say whether it's true.

:namaste:
Kim
DGA
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Re: Buddhism and humour

Post by DGA »

LolCat wrote:What does Buddhism have to say about humour? Is it a coarser form of enjoyment which is abandoned as one progresses on the path? Or would it come under joy, one of the four immeasurables? Are there any examples of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas joking around in the sutras?
It's been argued that Buddha Shakyamuni's way of teaching is, itself, a kind of humor. In what sense? In the sense that it has the structure of a joke. This is Brook Ziporyn's argument in Being and Ambiguity. Here's how it works:

First, a pattern is established; a situation is created. Three guys walk into a bar... Then, the teacher introduces some new content that makes a new kind of sense out of the established pattern, and also makes a kind of opening possible for those who are hearing and following along. Except here, instead of three guys walking into a bar, it's more like three carts are promised to three kids in a burning house:

http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... 61&start=0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

but they get something else entirely. Think about it: Shakyamuni spent sixty years of his life teaching the Shravaka path, and at the end he comes around and says... maybe that's not the final answer after all? Joke: punchline. Many of the parables in the Lotus Sutra break down this way as well. And the practical teaching situation has this kind of quality quite often. Read the Blue Cliff Record and put yourself in the shoes of someone getting shouted at or beaten by Lin Chi, and you might suspect it's an ancient Chinese anthology of Kafka stories. But if you're in on the gag, it looks like well-timed slapstick. (frankly much of Kafka looks like well-timed slapstick.)

I'm not saying Buddhism is a joke and shouldn't be taken seriously. Mark Twain was right: humor is very serious business; it has a certain capacity to reach people that no other kind of discourse has. Nor am I saying that Buddhism is reducible to this joke-punchline structure. My point is rather that realized beings will do whatever it takes to knock some sense into sentient beings, and this is visible even in some of the most serious and canonical scriptures.
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dzogchungpa
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Re: Buddhism and humour

Post by dzogchungpa »

From a book review by Lindtner entitled "Madhyamaka - The Philosophy Of Great Humor?":
Personally, at the risk of being taken too seriously, I find that Madhyamaka presents itself as a “system of great humor.” Humor has to do with an awareness of opposites. Here it is more than just an occasional attitude; it is rather a deep sentiment, a Lebensgefühl. A Madhyamika has, to begin with, a belief in (or experience of) some absolute values, but like all of us, he is also confronted with the everyday world of plurality and relativity. One can very well say that it is his sense of “great humor” that enables him to overcome the opposites and incompatibilities of life, or, as he himself would say, to follow a middle path between extremes. “Great humor”, when having to express itself in communication, is sensitive to the inexpressibility of the absolute, and finds a certain satisfaction in expressing itself in paradoxes and negations. It achieves a certain dynamics, or agility, which is the very soul of a “spiritual” attitude adverse to any sort of dogmatic, clinging mode of behaviour. Madhyamaka texts are full of sarcasm and sophistry, but it should not be forgotten that they are always the outcome of “great humor” that has its deepest basis in a belief in absolute values.
I've often thought that a 7th perfection, the "perfection of humor" or hasyaparamita, should be added to the traditional list.
See also: http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additi ... uture.html
There is not only nothingness because there is always, and always can manifest. - Thinley Norbu Rinpoche
plwk
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Re: Buddhism and humour

Post by plwk »

Are there any examples of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas joking around in the sutras?
Thereupon, the Venerable Sariputra had this thought:
"There is not even a single chair in this house. Where are these disciples and bodhisattvas going to sit?"

The Licchavi Vimalakirti read the thought of the Venerable Sariputra and said,
"Reverend Sariputra, did you come here for the sake of the Dharma? Or did you come here for the sake of a chair?"

Sariputra replied, "I came for the sake of the Dharma, not for the sake of a chair."
Vimalakirti continued, "Reverend Sariputra, he who is interested in the Dharma is not interested even in his own body, much less in a chair.

Vimalakirtinirdesa Sutra

Then Ven. Sagata went to the hermitage of the coiled-hair ascetic of Ambatittha, and on arrival — having entered the fire building and arranged a grass mat — sat down cross-legged with his body erect and mindfulness to the fore. The naga (living in the fire building) saw that Ven. Sagata had entered and, on seeing him, was upset, disgruntled, and emitted smoke. Ven. Sagata emitted smoke. The naga, unable to bear his rage, blazed up. Ven. Sagata, entering the fire element, blazed up.
Then Ven. Sagata, having consumed the naga's fire with his own fire, left for Bhaddavatika.

"Then the Blessed One, having stayed at Bhaddavatika as long as he liked, left on a walking tour to Kosambi.
The lay followers of Kosambi heard, 'They say that Ven. Sagata did battle with the Ambatittha naga!'

"Then the Blessed One, having toured by stages, came to Kosambi. The Kosambi lay followers, after welcoming the Blessed One, went to Ven. Sagata and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As they were sitting there they said to him, 'What, venerable sir, is something the masters like that is hard for you to get? What can we prepare for you?'

"When this was said, some group-of-six bhikkhus said to the Kosambi lay followers, 'Friends, there is a strong liquor called pigeon's liquor (the color of pigeons' feet, according to the Commentary) that the bhikkhus like and is hard for them to get. Prepare that.'

"Then the Kosambi lay followers, having prepared pigeon's liquor in house after house, and seeing that Ven. Sagata had gone out for alms, said to him, 'Master Sagata, drink some pigeon's liquor! Master Sagata, drink some pigeon's liquor' Then Ven. Sagata, having drunk pigeon's liquor in house after house, passed out at the city gate as he was leaving the city.

"Then the Blessed One, leaving the city with a number of bhikkhus, saw that Ven. Sagata had passed out at the city gate.
On seeing him, he addressed the bhikkhus, saying, 'Bhikkhus, pick up Sagata.'

"Responding, 'As you say, venerable sir,' the bhikkhus took Ven. Sagata to the monastery and laid him down with his head toward the Blessed One.
Then Ven. Sagata turned around and went to sleep with his feet toward the Blessed One.

So the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying, 'In the past, wasn't Sagata respectful to the Tathagata and deferential?'
"'Yes, venerable sir.'

"'But is he respectful to the Tathagata and deferential now?'
"'No, venerable sir.'

"'And didn't Sagata do battle with the Ambatittha naga?'
"'Yes, venerable sir.'

"'But could he do battle with even a salamander now?'
"'No, venerable sir.'"

A Vinaya account on intoxication

Others:
Runna Sutta
Talaputa Sutta
The Ten Funniest Scenes from the Pali Canon
What is there to laugh about in Buddhism?
Simon E.
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Re: Buddhism and humour

Post by Simon E. »

Kim O'Hara wrote::good:
That article covers the ground pretty well.
One point from it that I would perhaps make more strongly is that humour which is fundamentally cruel or offensive can never be Right Speech.
One point it doesn't touch upon is humour as a teaching tool in modern traditions. Zen is famous for it, other schools less so. I've heard it said that Tibetan monks are more likely to be happy, amiable, jokey people than Theravadin monks but my contact with any of them is so limited I can't really say whether it's true.

:namaste:
Kim
The Theravadin Ajahn Munindo ( a New Zealander ) is one of the wittiest people I have met. And its real wit too.
He can set the room on a roar with non malicious bon mots.
“You don’t know it. You just know about it. That is not the same thing.”

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to me.
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Mkoll
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Re: Buddhism and humour

Post by Mkoll »

AN 3.108 wrote:It is lamentating, bhikkhus, in the discipline of the noble ones, to sing. It is being out of one's mind, bhikkhus, in the discipline of the noble ones, to dance. It is childish, bhikkhus, in the discipline of the noble ones to laugh excessively showing the teeth. Therefore, bhikkhus, having given up{1} singing, having given up dancing, it is suitable for you who delight in the Dhamma to smile moderately mindful smiles.
Note that these are his instructions to bhikkhus (monks), not to lay people. Even in the eight precepts that very serious lay people may take, there is no precept against laughing.

:lol:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
odysseus
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Re: Buddhism and humour

Post by odysseus »

Buddha himself did never laugh, but of course he could handle a joke. Besides this, any monk or layman can laugh and tell humour if he wants to.
Is this issue a bigger deal than it really seems like?
LolCat
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Re: Buddhism and humour

Post by LolCat »

Thank you for all the replies, some went deeper than I really expected for this topic and were thought provoking.
odysseus wrote:Buddha himself did never laugh, but of course he could handle a joke. Besides this, any monk or layman can laugh and tell humour if he wants to.
Is this issue a bigger deal than it really seems like?
I wasn't worried about whether humour is allowed or not, even if it weren't, I think I would have far heavier faults to correct before this one. To tell the truth, I was more curious about whether laughter played any significant role in the teachings, I have read in several places that the Buddha's disciples were really joyful, but couldn't really imagine the Buddha with his perfect equanimity cracking a joke and laughing. It does seem that there are rules about laughter for monks though.
odysseus
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Re: Buddhism and humour

Post by odysseus »

odysseus wrote:Buddha himself did never laugh, but of course he could handle a joke. Besides this, any monk or layman can laugh and tell humour if he wants to.
Is this issue a bigger deal than it really seems like?
LolCat wrote:I have read in several places that the Buddha's disciples were really joyful
I think the old Buddhists had a lot of fun, myself. :hi:
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