Laugh Your Way to Heaven
She stood captive in the little bookshop and it felt as though her laughter would never stop. The tears of hilarity poured down as she turned the pages. What was so funny?
The book was a catalogue of errors – a not uncommon source of humour. We often smile at verbal blunders or at newsprint mistakes. In this case a series of catering mishaps had been captured on camera, and the gap between the cook’s grand aspirations and woeful reality somehow touched a chord. Was it sympathy that made her laugh, or relief at not being alone – at recognizing that we’re all part of an all-too-susceptible human family? And in a flash she saw: you can either laugh your way through life or cry.
Looking up in a sudden moment of self-consciousness, she caught a few odd looks shooting her way from the other bookshop customers. She coughed a little as cover, embarrassed to be caught in a private world. Anyone seen laughing uncontrollably is likely to be hit with: “What’s so funny?” But then, she realized – really, what is there to be shy of? It’s good to laugh. She remembered her Master:
His laughter was spontaneous, vibrant, joyful and infectious. He would catch his lower lip in his teeth as though this were the only way he could stop himself laughing too much. Were he not himself to limit it, one felt his merriment might shake the whole world.
Maharaj Charan Singh as described in Legacy of Love
She closed the book and then, with an unconscious slight shake of her head, she put it back. No, she thought. It’s not just the book. You can laugh about anything. (There are even teachers, she’d heard, who will train you how to laugh about nothing at all.) The laughter comes from within. It’s a gift, she thought. Maharaj Charan Singh once said:
You see, except for humans, nobody laughs. I don’t think you have seen any bird laughing or any animal laughing. They may smile, but the privilege of laughter is given only to humans. So if we want to remain human, laughter has to be there, just to help us relax. But we have so much association with past species that we find it very hard to laugh. In spite of being human, we’re hardly human.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol III
Good for the body, good for the mind – good for the soul – laughter is an unbeatable gift, and yet, as so often with gifts, we forget to bring it out and actually use it. She remembered suddenly why she’d come to the bookshop: to choose a present. Something to convey her gratitude for everything her father had done for her, and still did. She was aware that she didn’t always show it – just as, she realized, we so often fail to show appreciation to our heavenly father.
Happiness, her grandmother used to say, is a form of gratitude. If we really understood what the Lord has done for us, is doing for us every day, then we would be joyful. And he does not like to see us unhappy – that’s reason enough to cultivate a more light-hearted attitude to life. She’d even heard her own Master say that we shouldn’t cry; we should laugh our way to heaven.
Ah, this would do: Light Vegetarian Meals for Late-in-Life Beginners. She headed for the cash desk, thinking how apt the title was – her father, although not exactly light in body, was certainly someone who took life lightly. She too would make an effort to cultivate such an attitude. After all, the reality of life as a satsangi is that we are going through our karmas and the Master is looking after us – so what reason is there to be unhappy? It is only our lack of understanding that makes us cry rather than laugh. Maharaj Jagat Singh advised:
Form the habit of clear thinking always and laugh away your troubles and sorrows. Even the devil himself can do nothing to a man so long as he can laugh. Does a laugh cost anything? It is as easy to laugh as to worry and fret. Only a little effort is required in the beginning. It becomes a habit after a time.
The Science of the Soul
As with everything in life, it was just about forming good habits. She might not be as jovial as some she knew, but surely anyone could foster a more light-hearted approach with the right effort. We don’t need much to get us giggling: we can laugh for no good reason at all and still feel the benefits. Even a few minutes pretending to laugh can actually result in genuine laughter, and a resultant uplift in spirits. Of course, when we feel happy we are more inclined to see the funny side of things, but we don’t need first to be cheery in order to laugh – laughter can itself create happiness.
Handing the book to the fellow behind the desk, she smiled, and only realized she was smiling when she noticed the cashier smiling back, puzzling her for a moment. Her bemusement drew a little laugh from her. “What’s funny?” he inquired, curiously. “Oh, just – life!” she replied. More smiles.
It felt good to have made someone smile. And to have done so without even trying, she reflected in wonderment, as she swung through the door on to the rainy street. What else could she do to get everyone laughing? Ah, of course, jokes! But you had to be careful - there’s no guarantee that your sense of humour will be shared by the recipient, and it’s important always to joke in a loving way, never making fun of others unkindly.
Safest to make fun of oneself, of course – and that can bring extra spiritual benefits by undermining our old enemy, the ego. It can also help us see how unimportant are our personal concerns, which can lighten the mood if things are not going well. Like right now – that was her bus shooting past; she’d have to run for it to reach the bus stop in time! Here is another quote from Maharaj Jagat Singh:
Life is not worth worrying over too much. It begins in folly and ends in smoke. It has to come to an end one day whether you like it or not. And its middle portion also passes away. The best policy is to laugh its worries away.
The Science of the Soul
When it comes down to it, she thought breathlessly as she raced along the pavement, most of our misery is of our own creation, generated by lack of understanding. If she was truly to have faith in her Master, then she should be glad to receive whatever comes her way. Maybe she wasn’t meant to catch this bus! Not that she was going to stop running – you have to put in the effort.
After all, she thought, whether I laugh or cry, what is happening is still happening – it’s my destiny. Crying when things aren’t going how I’d like will only make me feel I’m being dragged through life by a bulldozer. Better to just accept the reality of whatever situation I’m in, make the necessary adjustments – and be happy. If I end up walking all the way home in the rain, so what? It’s just another way to have a beautiful day.