The Laughing Buddha Humour and the Spiritual Life, by Dennis Sibley

Buddhism now

Mahākāśyapa Wooden Head of Kasyapa, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907)Humour lies at the heart of Buddhist thought and practice. Indeed, according to Buddhist history, it was a central factor in the enlightenment experience of the monk Kashyapa. As you may recall, during one of his discourses the Buddha fell silent and held up a single golden flower. Kashyapa responded not with ideas or words but with a smile. From this smile, this spontaneous opening of the heart-mind, this direct transmission of the truth from one being to another, came the Zen tradition. Or so the story goes.

Fun and laughter are also central to the story of Maitreya, the future Buddha, as taught in Mahayana literature. When Buddhism first entered China, several transformations of the Indian teachings took place and one of these changes concerned the role of Maitreya. Maitreya became Mi-Lo-Fu, the Laughing Buddha. In Buddhist art he is often portrayed as a lovable, pot-bellied, figure with jovial…

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