Question: When I think about the sense of humor…
Acharya Prashant: Sense of humor (smiling).
L1: Why people laugh?
AP: Why people laugh? Like anything else about life, this too is a good point, to begin with. Since the root of everything is the same, hence it doesn’t matter which leaf you put your finger on. If the inquiry is genuine, you will reach the root.
So, let’s begin with you my laughter, why do people laugh. Why do people laugh? Just like anything else that we engage in, that we do, laughter too can come from two very distinct points within us. There is a laughter which arises when one is pleased when one’s desires are fulfilled. Have you seen this kind of laughter? You wanted something you got it. You say, “You are happy, pleased.” And then you laugh.
And mostly it is this way that we laugh, that people laugh – The satisfaction of desire, there is a definite reason now behind the laughter – the fulfillment of the ego. The ego was feeling heart pressed, incomplete, not satiated and something happens, which at least temporarily gives an impression to the ego that it has attained fulfillment.
L1: But what about jokes?
AP: We will come to that.
And one laughs and one laughs. Right? And there is another kind of laughter. In this kind of laughter, you laugh not at the fulfillment of desire, not upon the desire feeling satisfied but at desire itself. Are you getting it?
Now, there can be no reason behind this laughter. You are just looking at life, the desirous life as it is and in looking at the contradiction contained in it, the absurdity in it, you just feel like laughing. There is no joke which is not a factual representation of our life. Our life itself is the biggest joke. But, to be able to laugh at it, one needs a certain distance from it. That’s why you find it difficult to laugh when the joke is upon you. Then instead of it becoming a matter that pleases you, it becomes something that humiliates you. Have you not experienced this? If the joke is upon you, everybody laughs and you clinch, right.
A joke is nothing but the fact of our daily lives.
Are you getting it?
In the first kind of laughter you laugh because you are attached to yourself. In the second kind of laughter you laugh because you are witnessing yourself. The first kind of laughter has clear purpose and objective. The second kind of laughter is just free of all purposes, objectives, and limitations. It is laughter in freedom, freedom from oneself, “I am no more obliged to carry my own weight. I am no more obliged to fulfill the ever-growing demand of this beast called the self.” It is always hungry. It is always asking for something and when you put little into its mouth, then it laughs and after a while, it again starts clamoring and asking and demanding and squirming. And if you don’t please, it cries.
In fact, the more you feed it, the more it gets the energy for crying. Crying requires a lot of energy. That energy comes from pleasure. Do you see this?
Laughter is wonderful, when it is reasonless, purposeless, detatched. When you can just laugh, or just smile, without having to depend on some kind of satisfaction. Now, this is laughter in gratitude. When you can laugh without bothering for your satisfaction, then you are laughing in gratitude. Now, you are saying, “I am so fulfilled that I don’t need to bother, whether I am feeling satisfied, dissatisfied, hot, cold, happy, unhappy, I am still okay.” This Okayness is then the laughter.
Mind you, there is no difference between this laughter and tears. It doesn’t matter now whether you are laughing or crying. What matters is, you are crying or laughing from the right center. It is very difficult to tell whether the usual expression on the face of a saint is that of a gentle smile or gentle remorse. It’s much the same. Whether he is smiling, or whether he is a little ponderous, a little heavy. None of these states are for himself. None of these states are self-centered states.
Smiling, he doesn’t s smile because his some needs are been fulfilled. And if he isn’t smiling, he looks a little burdened, the burden isn’t its personal burden. He is not burdened by the obligation to build a house for himself or get more respect for himself.
Kabir often says: “Bhaye Kabir Udas.” Is kabir unhappy for himself? He is unhappy for the world. And there are saints who laughed, laughed in abandon. Were they laughing because they had obtained something for themselves? No, they were laughing because something existential was now right. As such, there is no difference, whether they laugh or cry.
There have been wise men who kept crying. There have been wise man who kept silent, there have been people who kept dancing, and there have been wise men who kept laughing. They are all operating from the same center, which was not their personal center. Are you getting it?
So, laughter is indeed beautiful but there is nothing more ugly then laughter. And crying is, of course, a matter of sadness and there can be nothing more beautiful than tears. It depends on where your tears are coming from? It depends on where your smile is coming from? There can be nothing more hurtful than a smile. With one smile, better-called smirk, you can wound and lacerate someone like anything.
Your smile can be a tremendous putdown. Without even uttering a word, you can shred someone psychologically, just by using your smile. It is such a deadly weapon. And that same smile can be a balm that heals, something that puts you to rest.
Don’t bother about what is happening through you. Just bother about where are you. If you are in the right place, then whatever happens through you, will just be the right thing. Now, you don’t need to guard against yourself. Now, you don’t need to be cautious about yourself. Now, you don’t need to guard against yourself. Now, you don’t need to say my laughter must be a measured laughter. Now, you don’t need to say, “You must weep only at the right place, right occasions, right quantities.” Now, you can weep an ocean. Now, you can laugh your lungs out or you may be just quite. How does it matter?
The way common morality looks at these things – laughing, crying is quite amusing. It is amusing because it is so stupid. In personality grooming classes you even told the extent to which your muscles should part here. The angles that the ages of your lips must make with your ears and if your smile is anything beyond that or less than that, then it is socially an inappropriate smile. This is nonsense.
But the fact is that all of us have internalized this nonsense at least to some degree. Kids have not done that so far. There are few kids here today. Let them weep, in the way they want to weep. You don’t teach a fish to swim. You do not teach a word to sing. Why must you teach a kid to laugh? They know what to do. She is smiling, see, it is just a perfect smile. Anything other than this would be a contrived smile and who likes factory products. When something is coming so naturally, let it come. Are you getting it? Just be careful about one thing: “Where are you located?”
If you are located right at the feet of the Truth or in the embrace of the Truth. Then you don’t have to worry, what is happening to you, through you, or in the world. Whatever will now will happen, will happen through the right doer, the perfect doer, the Truth itself. Be surrendered to that. When you are surrender to That than the Truth laughs in your laughter. When you are surrendered to That then the Joy flows in your tears.
So, worry only about that. The one thing and forget all else. Instead of that we worry about everything and forget the just thing which is the most important one. So convoluted, absurd, inverted our ways. The Truth knows how to laugh and when to laugh. Are you getting it?
L: How we know that we are at the feet of Truth?
AP: You can’t know that you are at the feet of truth but you can surely know when you are trying to depend too much on your own feet. Is that not very obvious and visible when you are worrying what will happen to you, then are you depending on the truth or on yourself?
AP: So do not worry about the Truth. Just be careful that you are not becoming too large for yourself. The smaller you are, the more you are immersed in the Truth. The more you have this feeling of ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘myself’, What to do? What will happen to me? How to take care of my future? The more you are occupied with such concerns and thoughts, the more it is certain that you are thinking that you have to manage on your own.
So, worries, planning, speculation, gossip, all of these are sure shot signs that you are forgetting something very important. Rather, you are remembering a lot of rubbish, which is one and the same thing.
Truth is not something that you can detect. Truth is not something that you can know. Truth is not an experience. So you will never be able to know the truth but the separation from the truth, the perceived distance from truth can always be known through your suffering. The more you suffering the more it is certain that you take yourself to be on your own. Otherwise, you can’t suffer.
So, your internal churning, the whole agony, the divisions, the inner conflicts, they all are proofs of a disloyal life. They all are proofs of a defiance of rebellion against the Truth. I will not surrender to the ultimate. I will defend for myself. I am somebody, I have a certain power, certain capability. Why Can’t I go out and make a big? This off course you can know because this is consciousness, all of this is experience, and all of this is very well within the scope of your cognition. So you can know this and the moment you detect this, you must know that I am slipping. That is all.
Forget about the Truth, look at life. You know you are slipping and you know that your intention is not to slip. When the occasion of slipping becomes a joke for you. You know very well that you have recovered that you have stood up when you can laugh at yourself when you slipped. That is such a beautiful laughter, “Oh, I slipped again Ha Ha Ha…” I slipped again and you can laugh at yourself.
Now, this is an impersonal laughter. Now, you are not taking yourself too seriously. Now, you are not thinking that you are someone who can’t slip. Now, you are saying, “Of course, I am full of imperfection, of course, I will slip and then you laugh at the ego that was thinking that I can’t slip. This laughter is so beautiful.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Learning the best laughter
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