The Joy of Laughter
Whenever we are in the Master’s presence, he injects our jaded spirits with his divine love and reassures us that through Shabd we will ultimately return to our Creator. All that is required of us is to give our effort and time to living a spiritual life and the practice of meditation daily. However, this does not mean that we lock ourselves in a room and break all ties with this world. In fact, we are told by the mystics that we must learn to live a balanced life. In the book Legacy of Love, Maharaj Charan Singh reiterates this message:
We should be serious about following Sant Mat, but that doesn’t mean that we should disregard the cheerful side of life altogether. Rather, we should feel more relaxed because we are following the path.
Let’s ask ourselves: Have we forgotten how to be cheerful? Do we take ourselves too seriously? No doubt, life is full of difficulties, but we have to learn to smile and laugh. Joy, humour, and laughter should be at the heart of spiritual life.
“God is a comedian playing to an audience that is too afraid to laugh,” said the French writer Voltaire. If the Lord is the show-runner and he has put up this play, then why are we afraid of walking happily with him? Why are we too caught up in differences and so many worries? If the Lord created human beings in his own image and if he himself is full of joy, then what stops us from laughing? Rather, let’s take the opportunity to lighten up. The choice is in our hands – we can choose to laugh or choose to mourn.
Humour is both God’s gift and a life-saving medicine. So, as satsangis why are we afraid to laugh? If the Lord is all-compassionate, surely he has a sense of humour.
Mystics are known for their extraordinary expressions of love for God and souls. The more we learn about their lives, the more we want to be with them and see the lighter side of life from a spiritual perspective. Who wouldn’t love a Master who has a keen sense of humour, who is so comfortable about himself that he constantly makes jokes about his life and even his own appearance? The Master’s humorous outlook instantly binds us to him. When we see him, we see a reflection of what we could be, of what God wants us to be even in the midst of our accomplishments: simple, humble, aware of our own limitations and, of course, joyful.
The very foundation of his humour is the ability to see things from a spiritual perspective. One such example can be found in Dr. Julian Johnson’s book With a Great Master in India, where he describes Great Master’s keen sense of humour. He writes:
The next day as we rode along in the jostling old car, the Master told a story of some foolish weavers who had a rickety, noisy old cart. One day when it ceased to make as much noise as usual, they concluded that it must be dead. So, they stopped by the roadside and actually cremated the old cart, throwing the iron parts, as bones, into the river…. In fact, he is always jolly and full of fun. He never fails to see the humorous side of things. He and his closest disciples laugh and joke much and there is seldom a dull moment. All are happy and all have a good time. There is no long face in the crowd.
Similarly, how many times did Maharaj Charan Singh make us laugh? And what a joy it was to see him laugh. Hazur enjoyed good-natured jokes, and always had a unique way of looking on the bright side of life, no matter what the circumstances. His pictures often show him laughing. In the book Legacy of Love, there is a picture taken during Hazur’s son’s wedding. Looking at him, one can imagine his earth-shaking laughter. The author writes, “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.”
Our present Master is certainly a master of wit. A satsangi brother once said that during one of Master’s official visits, everyone laughed so much during the Q&A’s that Master said he’d better change the name from Science of the Soul to “The laughing all the way back to God society!”
Regardless of our difficulties in meditation and in life, we should not lose our sense of humour. We can always look to the spiritual Masters as perfect examples. They teach us how to live, behave, and walk on this path. Additionally, we should not fall prey to the tricks of mind, as it always comes up with a list of questions, which later keep howling in our head.
Let us try to imbibe Hazur’s perspective on humour by looking at a series of exchanges between Hazur and Diwan Sahib, author of Call of the Great Master, as presented in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III:
Q. Is it true that a truly repentant sinner can’t have a sense of humour?
A. I think a sense of humour is a God-given gift. He may give it to a sinner, or he may give to a pious man – that is for him to decide.
Q. If the person recognizes that he is full of sin, wouldn’t it mean that he couldn’t laugh?
A. If the weight of his guilt is always on his conscience, then of course it may be difficult for him to laugh. But a man who is always happy within is always happy everywhere.
Q. I sometimes wonder how can we laugh?
A. Then try to learn how to laugh. You must relax from within. Where there is a weight on your conscience, when something is always weighing on your heart within, you can’t laugh, you can’t relax. You can only be humorous when you’re relaxed within. If you are miserable within yourself, you can’t smile and relax and be humorous.
Q. Is it desirable to be humorous? What does it mean to be humorous? Is it like a joke?
A. No, I’ll tell you. It’s not a joke. Everybody wants to be happy in this world. When you have happiness within, you want to share it with others…. And when you are happy within, you can’t help radiating happiness and sharing it with others…. You go to a happy person, he will automatically make you happy. He will relax you in two minutes.
Q: Meditation leads to seriousness.
A. Seriousness in what way? Doesn’t it lead to happiness?
Q: It is withdrawing the mind from everything that is frivolous, everything that is worldly.
A. No. I don’t agree. If meditation makes you sad and morose and miserable-looking, I don’t think that is what meditation means. Meditation should make you absolutely light. Christ said, blessed are the peacemakers. Peacemakers aren’t those who go running about trying to create peace between warring countries. They are not peacemakers. Peacemakers are those who have attained peace within themselves and are sharing peace with others. Mystics are the peacemakers. If you have bliss and peace within, then naturally you will radiate peace and bliss wherever you go. Seriousness means that you are not taking life very lightly. You are serious about your destination, your path, your principles – of course you are serious about them.
So, let us attend to our meditation with a smile on our face. Regardless of our failures or weaknesses, we are still in his company; we are so fortunate to have a Master from whom we can learn how to live a light-hearted spiritual life while living in the world. Therefore, let us reconnect with the humorous side of life and remember to laugh, as this is one way that we can strive to be like our Lord.