Having a Laugh: A Mark of True Spirituality

Thinking about “laughter”  destroys it,  that is the street wisdom….   But anyway punters can see what Swati does here. There is also a fashion for “laughter groups” that one sometimes sees advertised in London, and it seems elsewhere. Consciously producing laughter…. aint that a bit silly.

Hansiba, kheliba, dhariba dhyan loosely translates as, “With laughter and playfulness, become aware.” Originally a dictum of the Nath yogis, I first came across it in Osho’s teachings. How odd, I remember thinking then. Awareness, meditation, concentration, these are all serious activities that we must apply ourselves to with great determination and by harnessing all of our energies. How can one laugh and play while at it? It seemed almost like sacrilege, as if somebody had cracked an inappropriate joke during a solemn ritual.

Afghan men laughing

A laughter Group in India

The Nath yogis did have a point, though. At times, making a big deal of spiritual practice can defeat its very purpose. Instead of the practice leading us towards loosening the tendency to cling to the ego-self, it can become another way for the ego-self to express itself and play out its desires, insecurities, frustrations and fears. It is said that there is no greater ego than what can possess the jnani — one who is absolutely convinced of the correctness, or uniqueness to the exclusion of all else, of what he or she knows. When our practice begins feeding the ego instead of whittling it down, it is time to watch out and stop taking ourselves, and our attachment to the ‘I’, or to ‘my practice’, too seriously. In this, laughter can prove to be a valuable tool.

Osho makes a distinction between ordinary laughter and laughter that can aid our spiritual practice. He classifies laughter into three categories — the first is where we laugh at others, the second where we laugh at ourselves, and the third is where laughter becomes a part of our spiritual practice. “For the spiritual seeker,” he says, “even laughter should become a part of sadhana. Remember to avoid the first type of laughter. Remember to laugh the second. And remember to reach the third.”

Laughter, even the “second kind” that we direct towards ourselves, has the ability to create the space necessary to view our actions with a certain degree of objectivity. It eases the mind, relaxes the nerves, and separates us from our usual stream of consciousness, if only for a moment. Even so, it might give us an opportunity to see ourselves better and with greater clarity than otherwise, and recognise the pitfalls of ego and pride as and when they appear on the spiritual path. This might be why some teachers weave jokes into their teachings. As we laugh at the jokes, we are simultaneously made aware of an aspect of practice that requires our attention.

Which is why perhaps in the mystical equation created by the Nath yogis, hansiba and kheliba are inseparable from dhyan. The call to laughter and playfulness is also one to open up the tightly-held fist of self-preoccupation and become available to all the possibilities that the spiritual path presents to us.

For, as the bumper sticker said, “Minds are like parachutes. They only function when open!”

Quote by Osho from
202 (Jokes of Mulla Nasruddin)

Swati Chopra TN

This article first appeared in the Asian Age and is written by Swati Chopra. (pic above).   She is the author of ‘Dharamsala Diaries’ and ‘Buddhism: On the Path to Nirvana’ (Mercury Books, London)

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53 Responses to Having a Laugh: A Mark of True Spirituality

  1. frank says:

    “Minds are like parachutes. They only function when open!”

    My guru, Swami Bhorat, who is also a Naff yogi, says:
    “Minds are like parachutes. If you jump without one, you reach Nirvana faster!”

  2. madhu dagmar frantzen says:


    Love it, that roughly put distinctions are part of this topic thread play, like :
    “The first is where we laugh at others, the second where we laugh at ourselves, and the third is where laughter becomes a part of our spiritual practice.”

    It is as it is – but it’s a pity that I grew up as a child in an energetic field where hearty laughter, shared together, was a rare phenomenon, to say the least.

    And if you are gifted with a ´musical sensitive ear´, which is kind of uncorrupted, that can be quite something (!) also for a child, when you discover that most of the roaring laughter is part of the first (here mentioned) category. And development of the second part is yet to come, that can be difficult times.

    I had to wait for other energetic fields to become acquainted and friends with, and that very fortunately happened.

    Then – after years of Listening to Osho´s masterly Art to share jokes and some Mystic Rose Meditation processes later as a participant, I´m much more open to the healing source laughter provides us with.

    And above the latter – having been able to be in (a) the Laughing Sangha showed clearly and sometímes sustainably what an augmented emotional intelligence source laughter truly is.

    Out of the Osho Joke Book, I´d love today to share:
    “Old Man Finkelstein is brought to court for alleged rape. He pleads guilty by reason of insanity.
    “Insanity?”, asks the judge, “you look perfectly sane to me.”
    ” Oh, I am,” says the old man. “It’s sex, I´m crazy about”

    (Osho Joke Book, ´Take it really seriously´ (Jewish Section)

    There are simply days where I love the Jewish witty section the most, but indeed, it is a book of treasures and I am glad to have it at home.


  3. Parmartha says:

    To my surprise in 1983, under the Sheela regime, a book was published called the Orange Book. A description of the many Osho meditations.
    The first meditation described on page 16 is called “The Laughing Meditation”. Meant to be done at dawn.
    Has the odd prescription that one has to drink a bucketful of water – lukewarm with salt in it…. drink it fast, and then bend over and then gargle the water back into the bucket. Most likely something Osho knicked from some yoga text!
    Never knew anyone who did the latter, but the laughter meditation was done, but I also never heard of it being done first thing in the morning!
    Clearly thirty years later some of these group leaders adapted it in their groups – such that now there are laughter groups, just devoted to the practice ! What a joke!

    • Arpana says:

      This was published towards the end of Poona 1, Swami.
      I have a copy. Acquired while I was there.

      • Parmartha says:

        Thanks, Arps.

        My copy was published in 1983 from the Ranch. Now I have looked I see it is titled a second edition, which may mean it had editorial changes from the copy you have. You could check and see if page 16 is the laughing meditation in your first edition.

        My research also reveals there were only 5,000 copies of the first edition. But that 50,000 were printed in January 1983 of the second edition!

    • kusum says:

      Yes, Parmartha, Osho has suggested that first thing in the morning, while waking up, still lying in the bed & eyes closed, stretch the body like a cat for few minutes & then, still eyes closed, laugh loudly.

      Best way to start the day.:)

    • kusum says:

      Laughing all the way to God….

      • Lokesh says:

        Osho smiled a lot, cracked a lot of jokes, had a great sense of humour, chuckled occasionally and rarely laughed.

        • shantam prem says:

          Osho has changed his names too but never seen wearing Mala! Lols.

        • madhu dagmar frantzen says:

          Thanks for your ´update´ with a good memory, Lokesh; it’s needed. As well as the lesson you gave to deal the elegant way with a clumsy approach of a bug.

          Cleaning my windows here after a stormy night.
          Its going to be a hot summer day, today.
          Some cloud watching included.


          • Lokesh says:

            I heard Leadbelly and Blind Lemon
            On the street where I was born
            Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee
            Muddy Waters singin’ I’m a rolling stone
            I went home and read my Christmas Humphreys’ book on Zen
            Curiosity killed the cat
            Kerouac’s Dharma Bums and On The Road

            What’s my line?
            I’m happy cleaning windows.

            Van Morrison – Cleaning Windows

            • frank says:

              Here`s one that we`ve heard before for true aficionados of Van the Man (couldn`t find a better copy of the cartoon).

              Rave on Buddha…

              Rave on Buddha in the dental chair
              Rave on thy holy fool…
              Down through the weeks of ages
              far out, tripped-out sages
              and mashed up no-mind mages
              get the story down onto well-pressed pages…
              Walt Whitman nose down in some good grass
              William James with his varieties of oceanic gas
              Rave on shameless shamans on a wild and dodgy path
              Rave on tantric Taoists who like a shag and a laugh…
              Rave on that man outa India
              Rave on Mr. Osho
              You left us infinity
              and an extremely shady past.
              Fill your brain with nature’s wild and crazy stuff..
              Rave on down through time and space
              along multi-mirrored corridors
              Rave on thru the tripping of a vision…
              Rave on rave on…
              Rave on Omar Khayyam,
              Rave on Khalil Gibran
              and that was only wine they were drinking….
              Rave on down through the 20th century
              Rave on Alan Watts
              Rave on acid trips and booze
              Rave on Timmy Leary
              Rave on Hair o`thedogyam Drunkpa
              Rave on magick Al
              Rave on Georgie G
              Rave on Ram Das` mate with the blanket
              Rave on Baba Free lunch
              Oh what sweet wine, opiate, hash, pills, powders, trips, gas, plants, E we blasting…
              Rave on Buddha in a dental chair
              Rave on thy holy fool…
              Down thru the weeks of ages
              Technicolour Soma sages
              Psychedelic loved-up mages
              Get it all down on printed pages
              for the children of the future ages….

      • swami anand anubodh says:

        Maybe Osho is thinking about all the westerners he is attracting and all the Rolls Royces they will buy him.

  4. Tan says:

    I don’t think any “laughter therapy” can compare with laughter in Sannyasnew. We have it all: we laugh at other, we laugh at ourselves, everything in a spiritual context.

    So, congratulations to sannyasnews editors, moderators, etc….


  5. Lokesh says:

    I was just saying to the Missus the other day, “I am becoming far too serious right now.”
    The reason for this is that I am having to deal with quite a lot of serious matters, legal, offices, please sign this, please sign that etc. I fucking well hate it! The trick is to deal with all that shit with a straight face and then have a good hee-haw as soon as you are out of sight.

    Friends are so important to me as far as having a laugh goes. Here on SN we have Shantam, Yogi and the gang to keep us aware that seriousness is an infectious disease. SN, if nothing else, is always good for a laugh!

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  7. shantam prem says:

    The photo with this article is from India! I think when Afghanistan and Baluchistan were part of India.

    It also feels like lady who wrote the book has not done Mystic Rose, neither any of the bloggers. Last meditation created by Osho is an intense process as well as money-generating device.

    Jains are Swiss of India. Always good products at maximum profit!

  8. swami anand anubodh says:

    The bottom line is: Laughter releases endorphins into the brain.

    It’s not apparent that Swati Chopra knows this.

    • kusum says:

      Laughter releases endorphins into brain & chocolate also releases endorphins into brain & also some people have PBA (pseudo bulbar affect) which causes them uncontrollable crying or laughing because of some brain injury or certain neurological conditions.

      As I see it, laughing & crying both are good for emotional cleansing for normal beings.

      • frank says:

        I have also been giving it some long and deep contemplation and, as I see it, the heart and brain both play an enormous part in the human body, especially for normal beings.

      • swami anand anubodh says:

        Hello Kusum,

        You see that “both laughing & crying are good for the emotional cleansing of normal beings.” I don’t think many would disagree with you.

        But, what about the emotional cleansing of ‘abnormal’ beings? What would you suggest for them?

        • kusum says:

          People with certain neurological conditions or brain injury or emotional incontinence, senile decay etc. are suggested to seek medical help first.

  9. shantam prem says:

    About 1500 metres away from Soso Resort, Koregaon park has got a park, on other side of Mughul garden once a high end complex for renting rooms. As almost all the Indian sannyasins living in Koregaon Park don´t go to Resort they prefer to go to this park for morning or evening walks.

    I also went with my friend to feel the atmosphere and greet known faces. One nice memory is to see a group of 30, 40 people, mostly seniors, doing their morning stretch and in the end laughing through various small teases. Those who don´t buy Starbucks also get their nourishment.

    Osho´s was a systematic effort to create a alternative ashram full with life positive qualities. Laughter &a hugs, smiles & silence were in harmony; a real life happening and not photo ops as in Jehovah the Osho news sites.

    Just imagine the lady writer walking in Osho Ashram in a robe but bra-less and meeting a swami from Australia! Laughter and gossips will have more sublime qualities than Dharamsala stuff.

  10. shantam prem says:

    In India, one kind of laughter is very common: borrowing the money with the intention not repaying, or occupying the property illegally and then laughing, “Before court decides, we all will be dead.”

    Haha haha haha.

  11. Parmartha says:

    Smiling and frowning both require muscles, but equanimity does not require a single muscle.
    Hence the view of early Christian monasticism that Jesus never smiled or frowned, and some less known Buddhist monastic traditions do prefer neither.

    As for laughter, a lot of laughter is about ‘laughing at’. That certainly needs to fall away through living a life of spiritual awareness, and according to many mystical traditions!

    • frank says:

      “equinamity does not require a single muscle”

      Nor does being dead.

      “laughing at…certainly needs to fall away…according to many mystical traditions.”

      Instead of belly-aching about how others should do it, maybe these characters from so-called “mystical traditions” could lead by example and show us how they do the ‘higher laughter’ of laughing at themselves!!

      • frank says:

        Btw, If I ever catch up with one of these jokers out of a ‘mystical tradition’, I`m going to give him a pie in the original face, poke him in the third eye with a plastic daf and shove a chip up both his nostrils.

    • swami anand anubodh says:

      Never smiled or frowned.

      Hmm, sounds like Jesus would’ve made a good poker player.

      • frank says:

        Turning water into wine and being able to knock up tuna sandwiches up out of nothing at festivals were pretty handy skills, too…

        He shoulda left his dad`s business and struck out on his own….

        • madhu dagmar frantzen says:

          Today´s retreat-sitting I owe to your abundant sharing and energy, Frank, and even before Tan followed you I had already been waiting for her – and then she appeared on the screen here.

          After taking my ´time´ for some Soul-Hunting to investigate hurts of mine on a more personal level, I ended up, to make a long journey short, with the Issue one calls ‘The Buddha Disease’.

          Well, there are innumerable stories telling about the latter from very different corners. But what I´d like to share here is what I found in an old Darshan Diary (titled ´The Buddha Disease´. January 1977) not at all outdated, I´d say:

          “And the most difficult thing in life is to make love conscious. Everything else is very easy, because love is the most basic thing in life and to transform it means a radical change.

          You can change anything else – that won’t matter much unless you change your quality of love. You can change your character – nothing will happen out of that. From bad, you can become good; from a sinner, you can become a saint – and nothing will happen.

          The so-called saints and sinners all sail in the same boat. The saint has repressed his sinner, that’s all, and the sinner has repressed his saint, that’s all. They are the same people. One is standing on his feet, the other is standing on his head – that is the only difference. But their totality is the same. The sinner goes on fighting with his saint – continuously there is fight – and the saint goes on fighting with his sinner. The fight is continuous – and fight is destructive.

          One can change one’s character. One can become moral, respectable…one can fulfil all the rituals of the religion one belongs to, but that religion remains superficial. Unless your love is changed nothing is changed. Then all else is just befooling others and oneself….”

          It comes to the net-send off with the gentle sound of the summer rain I m listening to just now, and the Gratefulness for your chat contributions of the day.


      • swami anand anubodh says:


        Never smiled or frowned.

        I’ll bet you a pound to your penny that he winced when he saw those nails.

  12. sw. veet (francesco) says:

    For me to laugh AT someone who knows how to laugh AT himself is laughing WITH someone, a relief that brings relaxation and trust. But in this case a previous friendship and mutual knowledge is implied.

    The problem is when you laugh at somebody’s ‘blind spot’ then maybe a momentary relief, and only from one side. This implies that it is not about friendship, at least on one side, otherwise, instead of laughing, a friend would bring light, gentle feedback about the ‘blind spot’.

    Yes, the worst way to know your ‘blind spot’ (or what others think to be it) is through the laughter of the people, as in the betrayal between lovers. Then even the ‘facade’ laugh of a clown should not reassure.




  13. Arpana says:

    “A young farm boy from Arkansas was sent to New York by his father to learn the undertaking business under the tutelage of the great Frank E. Campbell.
    Some months later, the father visited his son in the big city. “Tell me,” he said, “have you learnt much?”
    “Oh sure, Dad,” said the son. “I have learnt a lot. And it has been very interesting.”
    “What was the most interesting thing you learnt?”
    The son thought for a moment and then said, “Well, we did have one wild experience that taught me a lesson.”
    “What was that?”
    “Well,” said the son, “one day we got this phone call from the Taft Hotel. It seems that the housekeeper had checked one of the rooms and she discovered that a man and woman had died in their sleep on the bed and completely naked.”
    “Wow!” said the father. “What did Mr. Campbell do?”
    “Well, he put on his tuxedo and he had me put on my tuxedo. Then we were driven in one of his limousines to the Taft Hotel. The manager took us to the desk clerk who gave us the room number. Then the manager rode up with us in the elevator. We were silent because Mr. Campbell always believes in doing things with great dignity.”
    “How marvellous!” exclaimed the father. “Then what happened?”
    “Well, we came to this room. Mr. Campbell pushed the door open with his gold-tipped cane. He, the manager, and I walked in quietly. Sure enough, there on the bed was this naked couple lying on their backs.”
    “And then what happened?” asked the father.
    “Well, Mr Campbell saw an immediate problem. The man had a large erection.”
    “And then what happened?” asked the father.
    “Mr. Campbell, as usual, was up to the situation. He swung his gold-tipped cane and very stylishly whacked the prick.”
    “And then what happened?” asked the father.
    “Well, Dad,” said the son, “all hell broke loose. You see, we were in the wrong room!” ”


    Philosophia Perennis, Vol. 1
    Chapter 7
    Chapter title: Awareness: The Master Key

    • madhu dagmar frantzen says:

      Not really funny, Arpana. Guess it would be good to know the context of this in this case.


        • madhu dagmar frantzen says:

          Hi Arpana,

          This is – in my eyes as a reader – a quite dissociated ´thanks´ ( and even) with an exclamation mark.

          Seems to be that I am the only one of the readers who is not chilled by your ´quote-joke´, taken out of a lecture in ‘Philosophia Perennis’. I simply didn´t get it, why you chose that quote by your other contributions to the special ongoing chat topic thread…

          Only stuff I probably do get is (see your exclamation mark) that you seem to be content. But what about?

          And what has that to do with you? And your life story? In Sannyas and beyond.

          Would be nice if you could decide for more transparency. After all, it’s a chat here at this place, caravanserai SN/UK chat, isn´t it?


      • satchit says:

        What irritates you in that joke, Madhu? Is it not about that one should be aware not to enter the wrong room?

        • madhu dagmar frantzen says:

          No, Satchit; that´s not what ´irritated’ me, to use your
          choice of word.

          And no doubt about it, that it’s good to be as aware (as possible), not to enter “the wrong room”.

          No, Satchit, what touched me deeply was that Arpana, a friend of our small chat SN community, had that choice of a quote. And as far as our little chat exchange is concerned, Arpana´s and mine, it is ended for the moment with a mutual “thanks”.

          I´d like to leave it like that in the Here-Now, Satchit.


  14. sw. veet (francesco) says:

    In my previous comment the words between quotation marks are related to the Johari Window technique. Interesting is the heuristic result if this technique is applied to the transcendent laugh of a buddha.

    I remember my embarrassment when Osho seemed to laugh at the ugliness of Nivedano. I was wondering what to laugh if I was in the drummer’s position.

    I think the sense of humour needed to understand a joke is a question of method that we do not know to apply, there is not even time to do it, nothing to do with an algorithm.




  15. Arpana says:

    Why Are You Laughing? (Seth Stephens-Davidowitz).

    Seth Stephens-Davidowitz “thought we used humour to deal with the horror of human existence. Many famous comedians have experienced trauma and depression. Personally, I turn to comedy when I am unhappy. Granted, I’m almost always miserable and almost always looking to laugh, so that doesn’t tell us much.”


    • madhu dagmar frantzen says:

      Thanks for responding with thanks, Arpana,

      It’s probably ´as good as it gets´, as one says.
      In a virtual caravanserai.

      Have a good day.
      All of us, may we have a good day. In midst of the Mystery unfolding.