Humour Therapy

Dr Swami Shankardevananda Saraswati

The one thing that most people who are sick have in common is unhappiness. Very few can accept disease with equanimity and perceive the hidden design within the illness, lacking understanding of cause and effect and the science of healthy living. Santosha, or contentment, is at the core of recovery from all dis-ease, tension, worry, stress, and ill-health. When we can view all our problems as obstacles on our path to make us strong, mature and healthy or whole, then we gain contentment or cheerfulness. We can see life as it is, and with a humorous sparkle in our eye.

Indeed cheerfulness and humour are an absolute necessity for anyone traversing the yogic or spiritual path. Too often we get bogged in the morass of seriousness, intellectualism, speculation and heavy thinking about the future, the past, or this, that and the other, so that we lose our perspective of the present and cannot live life with a relaxed and free mind. We have a tendency to take ourselves and the whole 'trip' too seriously, worrying about unnecessary things that never will take place anyway. The remedy for this dis-ease is humour.

Happiness – the key to good health

We should be able to see a humorous side to everything, for humour is a divine quality and happiness the key to health. It includes freedom from expectations, conditioning, desires, limitations. It is the very stuff of enlightenment. All spiritual masters possess it, and radiate it to those who come in contact with them. Their life is cosmic humour or lila. They play divine games with us and laugh at the folly of our seriousness.

Sometimes it is difficult to grasp the humorous side of a situation that we are involved with, especially since we believe that certain things are invested with importance and should be respected as such. When we journey on the spiritual path we are endeavouring to lift this burden off our shoulders, to remove the weight of life so that we can flow freely. We have to transcend our beliefs, assuming new 'truths' until we can transcend them. Then, when we reach masterhood the things we once saw as important and serious have become as so many pebbles or insects, and a true perspective of our priorities dawns. One of the important things that we keep foremost as of the 'new order' is humour and happiness, contentment with life, a cheerful attitude of mind and a positive outlook.

Yoga and awakening joy

We must reawaken a sense of proportion and recover our sanity and a sense of humour. What good is it to learn or do anything if there is no joy in the act? This joy represents the essence of karma yoga, it is the basis for jnana yoga, bhakti and so on. When we have joy in our hearts, karma, jnana and bhakti yoga come spontaneously, and they in turn increase our share of joy, initiating a snow-balling effect, a virtuous circle of ever increasing health, understanding and better living. This is what yoga is about, making our lives better.

But how to achieve this joy when we are stuck in the mud of ill-health and the problems of life. Asana and pranayama help because they make the body and mind feel good, increase our vitality and positivize our mental framework, our outlook and inlook on life. Meditation is helpful too because we can see ourselves better. We reawaken to our place in the universe, our importance and simultaneously our insignificance. We become aware too of our illusions, beliefs, rigid modes of conduct and at the same time to the thousands of beautiful things in the world, the sky, sun, flowers, birds, shapes, music, architecture, and people in all their multifaceted intricacies and simplicities, shapes and sizes. We awaken to our desires and see them as binding, useless chains of our own making. All human weakness such as jealousy, pride, anger and so forth, are simply childish in the face of humour and the inner smile.

Transcendental humour

A method to reawaken humour and higher consciousness popular throughout the East has been through stories and jokes. This medium conveys a joke, a moral and the little extra which enhances our awareness of life. Perhaps the best known form of this method lies in the Mulla Nasrudin tales which date back to the 3rd century A.D., and today are known all over the world. These tales have been used for centuries to convey a transcendental message and to help us to climb out of the tangled web of serious thinking. For example:

A group of sufis, yogis and occultists is sitting and talking. One of them, a monk, states, “My master taught me that until the man who has not been wronged is as indignant about a wrong as the man who has actually been wronged, mankind will not be fulfilled.”

For a moment an impressive silence, and then the Mulla speaks, “My master taught me that nobody should become indignant about anything until he is sure that what he thinks is a wrong is in fact a wrong – and not a blessing in disguise!”

Using the medium of the joke the Mulla was able to add a new dimension to our consciousness refusing to accept people's beliefs or relative truths, as he sees them as limitations to what is real.

Nasrudin was with the king, who was complaining that his subjects were untruthful. “Your Majesty,” said Nasrudin, “there is truth and truth. People must practise real truth before they can use relative truth. They always do things the opposite way and take liberties with their man-made truth, because they know instinctively that it is only an invention.”

The king frowned, “There are true things and false things. I will force people to tell the truth and thus establish a habit in them of being truthful.”

The next morning it was announced that whoever told a lie would be hung and that those wishing to enter the city would be asked a question which they should truthfully answer. Nasrudin, who had been waiting at the gates, was the first to step forward. The captain of the guard asked him, “Where are you going? Answer truthfully or you will be hung.”

“I am going,” said Nasrudin, “to be hung on those gallows.”

“I don't believe that,” said the captain.

“Very well, if I am lying, hang me!”

“But that would make it the truth!”

“That is exactly right,” said Nasrudin, “your truth.”

There are many other 'jokes' designed to wake us up, for example, when Nasrudin stood up in a teahouse and declared that the moon was more useful than the sun. When asked why he answered, “Because at night we need the light more.”

Laughter is a contagious disease

These views of life serve to break down our rigid beliefs, those beliefs and thought patterns which lead to mental tensions and ill-health, and as such form a part of jnana yoga. So jnana and other aspects of philosophy do not have to be dry, unintelligible discourses on the nature of life and the universe. Yoga encompasses such methods as the above in order to create intuitive insight, extending and liberating our understanding.

Through humour, cheerfulness, contentment and a spontaneous and creative attitude to life, we cure ourselves of despondency, hopelessness, helplessness, depression and anxiety so that tensions disappear. We are then free to flow with life as it comes, reacting spontaneously and therefore in the best possible way to events in our environment. With humour we worry less and live more of life. If illness comes we see it in a positive light. Our interrelationships with people improve because we can see the humour in those situations which previously would have led to tension and disharmony. Thus humour and harmony go hand in hand. Laughter is contagious, but this is one infection we should not try to stop.

If you have some form of illness, use humour therapy and discover a cheap, effective and pleasant way to remove the root cause of disease and suffering.