[dropcap type=”2″]O[/dropcap]SHO: Laughter is the very essence of religion. Seriousness is never religious, cannot be religious. Seriousness is of the ego, part of the very disease. Laughter is egolessness.
Yes, there is a difference between when you laugh and when a religious man laughs. The difference is that you laugh always about others — the religious man laughs at himself, or at the whole ridiculousness of man’s being.
Religion cannot be anything other than a celebration of life. And the serious person becomes handicapped: he creates barriers. He cannot dance, he cannot sing, he cannot celebrate. The very dimension of celebration disappears from his life. He becomes desert-like. And if you are a desert, you can go on thinking and pretending that you are religious but you are not.
You may be a sectarian, but not religious. You can be a Christian, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Jain, a Mohammedan, but you cannot be religious. You believe in something, but you don’t know anything. You believe in theories. A man too much burdened by theories becomes serious. A man who is unburdened, has no burden of theories over his being, starts laughing.
The whole play of existence is so beautiful that laughter can be the only response to it. Only laughter can be the real prayer, gratitude. This Hotei is tremendously significant. Rarely has a man like Hotei walked on the earth. It is unfortunate — more people should be like Hotei; more temples should be full of laughter, dancing, singing. If seriousness is lost, nothing is lost — in fact, one becomes more healthy and whole. But if laughter is lost, everything is lost. Suddenly you lose the festivity of your being; you become colorless, monotonous, in a way dead. Then you energy is not streaming any more.
Laughter is a flowering. If Buddha was the seed, then Hotei is the flower on the same tree. If Buddha is the roots, then Hotei is the flower on the same tree. And if you want to understand Buddha, try to understand Hotei. And it is right that people used to call him the Laughing Buddha. Buddha has come of age in Hotei. Buddha has laughed in Hotei. Enlightenment has come to its very crescendo.
But it is difficult to understand Hotei. To understand him you will have to be in that festive dimension. If you are too much burdened with theories, concepts, notions, ideologies, theologies, philosophies, you will not be able to see what this Hotei is, what his significance is — because he will laugh looking at you. He will laugh because he will not be able to believe that a man can be so foolish and so ridiculous.
It is as if a man is just trying to live on a cookery book and has forgotten to cook food; just goes on studying books about food and how to prepare it and how not to prepare it, and argues this way and that — and is all the time hungry, all the time dying, and has forgotten completely that one cannot live on books.
That’s what has happened: people are living on Bibles, Korans, Dhammapadas, Gitas — they have completely forgotten that religion has to be lived. It is something that has to be digested. It is something that has to circulate in your blood, become your bones, your very marrow. You cannot just think about it. Thinking is the most superficial part of your being. You have to absorb it!