- Before enlightenment, a whoopee cushion is
funny; when you realize enlightenment a whoopee cushion isn't funny;
after enlightenment a whoopee cushion is funny again.
IS IS SURELY
an odd thing to those who have never investigated Buddhism that a
religion can have at its inception the gloomy pronouncement by Gautama
Buddha that The First Noble Truth is the fact that we suffer.
Dhammapada, a collection of the Buddha's essential teachings, offers us
this truth in these sobering words:
- How can you find delight and mirth
Where there is burning without
In deepest darkness you are wrapped!
Why do you not seek for
Look at this puppet here, well rigged,
A heap of
many sores, piled up,
Diseased and full of greediness,
And, yet, Buddhism, too, offers an escape from suffering, described,
simply, as a cutting off of the three fetters of egoism, being possessive
and believing oneself to be important. Accompanying this sloughing off of
the fetters is joy, happiness and felicity.
The Dhammapada goes on
Felicitous is the emergence of the enlightened, felicitous is the
teaching of truth. Felicitous is harmony in the community, felicitous
the austerity of those in harmony.
Let us live most happily, possessing nothing; let us feed on joy,
like the radiant gods.
Thomas Cleary, the eminent translator and commentator of scores of
Buddhist texts, believes the phrase “feed on joy” means that when one is
transcendentally happy, one should savor “the taste of abstract
contemplation instead of savoring thoughts of ambition and
But how does humor figure into all of this? How
should we consider humor in the path’s procession? Indeed, is humor a part
of the joy, happiness and felicity that is alluded to? And if not, how are
we to understand the aspect of the Laughing Buddha [a.k.a., Maitreya or
“the Coming One”], frequently captured in statuary as fat and guffawing,
who is promised as the next Buddha, due 2500 years hence. He is described
at the China Pages website as “a symbol to remind everyone that in every
human heart there is the potential to be enlightened. This Buddha ...
sends rays of love into the world of darkness.”
As an aid to better
understand the connection between humor and enlightenment, I have gathered
up sage words from five prominent online followers of the teachings of the
Buddha whose appreciation of humor is evident in their writing. Each
responded to an open-ended survey that sought wisdom as to how humor
conects with one’s practice. Throughout the remainder of this article, you
will see quotes from the five panelists, listed below.
Chade-Meng Tan [“Meng”], is webmaster of the venerated website What do you think, my friend?, which has been
online since 1995. He is currently a graduate student at UC Santa
• David Lourie, the author of the much-honored Dharma the Cat
cartoon strip which appears online and runs in monthly dharma newsletters
and magazines in 16 countries, where it is translated into at least eight
• Dinty W. Moore, is a recipient of a 1992 NEA
grant and is (in his words) a “writer, teacher, editor, human being and
lawnchair buddhist.” He wrote "The Accidental Buddhist", and is webmaster of a comprehensive guide to his
work---The Dinty W. Moore Virtual Databank, plus a website devoted to
concise literary nonfiction, Brevity.
His most-recent book, "Toothpick Men," is a collection of his short
• Douglas Imbrogno is editor and webmaster of
Hundred Mountain, the publication you are now reading, which he describes
as “an offbeat, Buddhist-oriented journal of the spirit and the arts,” a
publication that has been online since November, 1998. His day job is as
feature editor of the Charleston Gazette newspaper in Charleston,
• Jeff Wilson, who was until recently an editor at
Tricycle, the Buddhism Magazine, and webmaster of their website, the Tricycle Hub. He
is continuing his association with Tricycle as a consultant while he works
on a book for St. Martin’s Press about Buddhism in New York City.
PAGE 2: What
is this thing called humor?