Did the Buddha have a sense of humor ?
He was a big Meditator. Talked a lot about suffering. (1st Noble Truth) Spent 7 years in the forest practicing asceticism, almost to the point of death. No intoxicants. No sex. No music. No stirring up trouble. No plays. And this, in a world with no electronics, no motor vehicles, no piped running water, non-literate culture.
How does a guy like that, in a world like that, attract people ?
Offer them something they don’t have ? Definitely.
Show them his discovery is real and reproducible ? Certainly.
Speak to their condition, knowing their struggles ? Absolutely.
It seems a little antiseptic; bleached by the waters of reverence and piety.
The Buddha was a human being, talking to human beings.
He needed to get his message out.
To do that he needed to attract people.
And he would have used every quality at his disposal to do so.
Inferred, but hardly a stretch.
How do you attract and keep people interested before anyone knows what you are about ? Before you have established a reputation ? Before you are “The Buddha” to people ? When you are just another wandering monk in robes ? How do public speakers do it today ? How much has human nature really changed in 2 1/2 millenia ?
When the Buddha and Sariputta were quite elderly, the Buddha was speaking of the ascetic period of living in the forest, prior to enlightenment:
“Now I recall having eaten a single rice grain a day. Sariputta, you may think that the rice grain was bigger at that time, yet you should not regard it so: the rice grain was then at most the same size as now.”
Maha-sihanada Sutta: The Great Discourse on the Lion’s Roar v. 53-55
Can you hear it ?
The Buddha could crack with the best, if that’s what the occasion called for!
Humor reminds of an even broader and oddly overlooked quality of the Buddha:
When the Buddha is no longer viewed as completely human, something essential
When the dhamma comes from a superman, ” how could an ordinary human ever … how could ‘I’ ever … he was the Buddha, after all … ” and what starts as the path out, the way to liberation, becomes just another system for disempowering people – the basic crowd control function of most religions, much of the time.
And then come the statues.
And then the rites and rituals.
And the simple freedom that lies in the heart of every human being,
waiting to be noticed, stays forgotten.
The Buddha had a sense of humor.
The Buddha was human.
And the dhamma he taught applies to us in and through our common human experience.
Thanks to the sites below for these wonderful links, especially Ajahn Punnadhammo for the Bikkhu’s Blog: