Laughing Buddha and the Power of Laughter…
Laughing Buddha all his life taught people only one thing — laughter. Hence he got the title “Laughing Buddha”. Laughter is a pure and higher state. The laughter, Laughing Buddha meant was the Spiritual Laughter — one that comes when we understand the whole game of life. When we realize the Absolute Truth, then the entire existence becomes nothing but an encyclopedia of jokes!! Thereafter, even if we want to, we can never be serious in life.
There is not a shred of evidence to prove that life is serious.
When we wake up from the dream state, we never take events and experiences of the dream state seriously. We very well know that they are not real. We laugh it off, we laugh at the absurdity of it all, irrespective of whether the dream was tragedy, comedy, horrifying etc. Similarly, when we wake up to a higher dimension of awareness, beyond the deep sleep state, dream state and the waking state of consciousness, from that standpoint even the waking plane of consciousness is no different than the dream state. When we wake up from the dream state, we laugh at ourselves, how we unnecessarily got scared or got carried away by the experiences in the dream, at our foolishness and at the stupid things we did. Similarly, from the higher dimension of awareness we will laugh at the events and experiences of the waking world, we will laugh at what stupid and foolish things we did in ignorance and the absurdity of it all.
Laughing Buddha had a method to his so called madness. He would go to the town square, distribute all his sweets to children. He would then keep his huge bag down and just start laughing. Laughing for no reason and laughing through his belly. Everyone around him would also start laughing. Laughter is so contagious, imagine the whole town laughing. His work done, now he would pick his bag and move to the next location. All his life he did just this act. And what a spiritual act it was.
He would rarely speak and once when he was asked to describe his method he told that he gave sweets to children to symbolize that the more you give, the more comes to you. Thereby he unveiled the secret of “Giving with joy”. Children are said to be Godly because they represent the divine nature, which is always to be in the Present moment, smiling and joyful, ego-less, and most importantly, without being judgmental.
The bag represents problems that all humans encounter. When we have problems, we often complain that God has only given us problems and the rest are so happy. The problems appear big because we are associated with it — calling it as “My Problem”.
The funny thing is that, if anyone comes to us with any problem and seek solutions or advice, what do we do? We give them so many solutions so easily as though we are experts in all the fields in the universe. However big anyone’s problems are, we can solve it so easily, we are masters in solving problems. But then what happens to us when it comes to our own problems? It seems impossible to find any solution. This happens only because of our attachment and association with the problem. So laughing Buddha tells us to simply keep our problems down (symbolically keeping his bag down). It means “Disassociate with your Problem”, “Dis-identify with it”, “Separate from it” and yes, just laugh.
What else can one do? We should think and thank God that we only have such a small problem as compared to so many others. Whether we laugh or cry we simply can’t wish away the problem. So why not laugh at it. Therein is the magic and it is no small magic, it is huge and we need to apply it to realize the power of laughter. When we laugh our minds become empty temporarily. It is cleared of all the useless clutter. In such an empty and clear mind new knowledge can enter, new ideas can enter and may be even solution for our existing problem.
“Laughing faces do not mean that there is absence of sorrow! But it means that they have the ability to deal with it.” — Shakespeare
Peace starts with a smile.
“Shared laughter creates a bond of friendship. When people laugh together, they cease to be young and old, teacher and pupils, worker and boss. They become single group of human beings.” — W. Lee Grant
“Seven days without laughter makes one weak…! Laughter is the brush that sweeps away the cobwebs of the heart.” — Mort Walker
Health Benefits of Laughter:
Laughter changes our whole internal chemistry and thereby the body produces certain enzymes that are only released in a state of laughter. When we laugh wholeheartedly without any inhibitions, our minds become uncluttered and empty. In such an uncluttered mind solution to our problem may manifest. The problem now looks too tiny and as we pick it up (symbolically he picks the bag before going to the next place) the problem gets dissolved.
Laughing activates positive emotions in the brain. It is an expression of pure deliverance and total tension release. Laughing induces good mood and that in turn engenders hearty and intense laughter. Laughter helps in toning up the face muscles and improving facial expressions. When we laugh, our face becomes red (due to the increase in blood supply), which in turn nourishes the facial skin and makes it glow.
Laughter is considered one of the best muscle relaxants. It causes the blood vessels to expand, sending more blood all through the body. It reduces the level of stress hormones like epinephrine and cortisol. Laughing effectively breaks down stress hormones and builds up hormones associated with happiness. It is beneficial in case of anxiety, nervous breakdown, stress and insomnia.
Laughter helps control blood pressure by reducing stress related hormones and relaxing the body. Experiments have proved that there is a drop of 10-20 mm of Hg in blood pressure, after participating in a ten-minute laughter therapy session. Those who laugh are healthier because laughing helps them loosen up and relax. Though it causes the pulse initially to quicken, it slows down considerably, so that blood pressure sinks. Since it is known to increase oxygen supply and relax skeletal muscles resulting in better blood circulation, laughter can control the progress of heart disease. Laughter also reduces the chances of formation of clots.
Laughing helps to increase the immune defenses in the bloodstream, including those that help the body protect itself from cancer and heart disease. T cells, which fight infections, become more active when a person laughs. Laughter also increases the immunoglobulins A and B. This is significant because immunoglobulin A protects the respiratory tract against virus, bacteria and other micro-organisms and immunoglobulin B provides antibodies with the strength to attack dysfunctional cells. The antibody-containing immunoglobulin in the saliva, which inhibits germ attacks on respiratory organs, also rises.
Laughter is an effective painkiller. Laughter increases the levels of endorphins, which are natural painkillers. Endorphins are considered extremely helpful in reducing pain in arthritis.
Researchers have found that one minute of hearty laughter is equal to ten minutes on the rowing machine. That is, laughter stimulates the heart and blood circulation like that of any standard aerobic activity. Laughter as an exercise is suited for people with sedentary activities and for those confined to bed or wheel chair.
An hour’s laughter can burn up to 100-120 calories and boost the energy a person uses by up to 20%. That is the equivalent of vacuuming for 40 minutes, walking for 15-20 minutes or doing 18-27 minutes of weightlifting. Laughter makes the heart beat faster and boosts blood flow. As one laughs and gasps for air, one breathes in more oxygen. The chest rises and falls and abdominal muscles get a good workout.
One should have a hearty laugh without any inhibition for at least half an hour daily. Laugh and have fun. Don’t be gloomy.
Such a great Zen master was Hotei or “Laughing Buddha”. So next time we look at the statue of “Laughing Buddha” we should associate him with that great teaching he gave all of us, the power of laughter. Each time we see the Laughing Buddha and if it reminds us to laugh, his purpose has been served.
Whole life Hotei lived in Laughter. And when the time came to pass away, he knew he had to give up his life at an appropriate time. He called his disciples and said that after he passes away, they should immediately cremate his body. The disciples were surprised because there was no tradition of cremation in Zen. But they followed the master’s wishes. And as they put fire to his body, “Fireworks and crackers” started flying all over. Hotei was so great that just before he died he hid a lot of fireworks in his clothes. So there also he created such laughter by the suddenness of the situation. So Hotei not only lived in laughter all through his life, he also died in laughter. When one realizes fully what in reality death is, then one can laugh truly.
Let us all learn from the great Zen master that “It is our birth right to laugh” and “No matter what happens we should come back to laughter”.
Salute to one of the greatest spiritual masters of this world.
Give me a sense of humor, Lord,
Give me the grace to see a joke,
To get some humor out of life,
And pass it on to other folk…!
Laughter is the best medicine.