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    Humer in Zen: Comic midwifery
     
    [ 作者: Conrad Hyers   来自:期刊原文   已阅:2942   时间:2006-12-28   录入:douyuebo


    ·期刊原文


    Humer in Zen: Comic midwifery

    By Conrad Hyers

    Philosophy East and West

    Volume 39, no. 3   1989 July   P.267-277

    (C) by University of Hawaii Press




                                    P.267

            One of the early Buddhological  debates was over the
            question  of whether the Buddha ever laughed, and if
            so in what manner and with what meaning. This debate
            ranks   somewhat   above  the  celebrated   medieval
            Christian   debate   over  how  many  angels   could
            comfortably  dance  on the  head  of a pin.  In many
            respects  the Buddhist  debate is characteristic  of
            scholasticism  wherever  it may be found, yet it has
            very important consequences--so  important that they
            affect  the way in which  the whole  of Buddhism  is
            perceived,  conceived,  and   actually   lived   and
            practiced.

                There were those among the Buddhist  scholastics
            who clearly would have preferred to believe that the
            Buddha  never laughed  at all, especially  after his
            enlightenment  experience at Bodhgaya.  The Buddha's
            wisdom  and the Buddha's  mission  seemed to require
            the ultimate in seriousness, gravity, and solemnity.
            There  was no objection  to the suggestion  that the
            youthful  Siddhartha  Gautama had laughed during his
            self-indulgent  period  in his father's  palace.  In
            fact,   laughter   might   well   be   seen   as   a
            characteristic   expression  of  the  frivolity  and
            sensuality of his early life, prior to his discovery
            of  the  Middle  Way  and  the  Four  Noble  Truths.
            Laughter seems inextricably  bound up with the young
            Gautama's self-indulgence  and with the very sources
            of suffering later identified  by the Buddha as ego,
            desire,  attachment,  ignorance,  bondage,  and   so
            forth.   Relative  to  the  fundamental  problem  of
            suffering  (dukkha), laughter seems to represent the
            hollow, superficial, and  finally  empty  levity  of
            momentary  delight  (sukhu), foolishly  evading  and
            ignoring the deeper issues of life and death.(1)

                Such misgivings over the association of laughter
            and  humor  with  serious   and  especially   sacred
            concerns  are  by  no  means  peculiar  to  Buddhist
            scholastics.  The German  philosopher  G.  F.  Meier
            offered  a warning  on the  subject  that  expresses
            sentiments that criss-cross centuries and cultures:

            We are never  to jest  on or with  things  which, on
            account  of their  importance  or weight, claim  our
            utmost seriousness. There are things... so great and
            important  in themselves, as never to be thought  of
            and  mentioned   but  with   much   sedateness   and
            solemnity.  Laughter  on such occasions  is criminal
            and   indecent....   For  instance,  all  jests   on
            religion,  philosophy,  and   the   like   important
            subjects.(2)

                The association  of laughter  and humor with the
            lower, sensual regions is also very common.  Western
            medieval  physiology  determined  that  the seat  of
            laughter   is   the   spleen.(3)   This   not   very
            intellectually  or  spiritually  promising  location
            likely derived  from the abdominal  associations  of
            laughter, which  seems  to well  up from  some dark,
            abysmal region.  Laughter  belongs, it seems, to the
            lower levels  of our being, in association  with the
            stomach, intes-

                                    P.268

            tines, sex  organs, and bladder.  This seems further
            verified inasmuch as three of the most common topics
            of comic  conversation  are the earthen  trinity  of
            food, sex, and evacuation.  Even words of praise and
            commendation  relative  to laughter  and humor often
            place  the comic  sensibility  on this  mundane  and
            sensual  level,  as  in  the  encomium   offered  by
            Gottlieb Hufeland:

            Laughter  is one  of the  most  important  helps  to
            digestion  with which  we are jesters  and buffoons,
            was founded  on true medical  principles...  for the
            nourishment  received  amid  mirth  and  jollity  is
            productive of light and healthy blood.(4)

            Given  such  earthy  associations,  and  the  common
            assumption  that  lauehter  does not belong  in holy
            places or serious disputations, it is understandable
            that the Buddhist  scholastics  might have preferred
            to disassociate the Buddha entirely from laughter in
            his  post-enlightenment   life  and  teaching.   The
            difficulty  is that some sutras  seem to suggest, if
            not  state  outright,  that  on  such  and  such  an
            occasion the Buddha laughed.

                The scholastic attempt at resolving the apparent
            contradiction  between  laughter  and an enlightened
            state began by distinguishing between six   types of
            laughter. The classification appears to have derived
            from  the  fourth-century  C.E.   Indian  theatrical
            treatise  of Bharata, who had arranged  the spectrum
            of smiling through laughter in hierarchical  fashion
            from  the  most  reserved  expressions  to the  most
            raucous.  The context of Bharata's discussion was an
            identification  of the  various  types  of  laughter
            deemed appropriate  in dramatic acting, as people of
            different status in society were being portraved.

                On Bharata's  dramatic  scale, the  highest  and
            noblest   form   of  laughter   is   sita,  a  faint
            smile--serene, subtle, and refined. The next highest
            is hasita, a smile which slightly  reveals  the tips
            of the teeth.  The third type is vihasita, a broader
            smile accompanied by modest laughter.  The fourth is
            upahasita, a  more  pronounced  laughter  associated
            with  a movement  of the head, shoulders, and  arms.
            The fifth  is apahasita, loud  laughter  that brings
            tears  to the  eyes.  And  the  sixth  is atihasita,
            uproarious  laughter  accompanied  by doubling over,
            slapping  the thights, "rolling  in the aisles." and
            the  like.   It  was   understood   by  Bharata--and
            recommended  accordingly--that  only the first  two,
            most restrained  forms of laughter  were appropriate
            to the higher castes and to people in authority; the
            middle  two categories  were  typical  of people  of
            middling  rank, ability, and importance;  while  the
            last two were characteristic of the lower castes and
            people of an uruly and uncouth character.(5)

                Given this hierarchical schema it is predictable
            that the Buddhist  scholastics  would incline to the
            view that the Buddha had only indulged  in sita, the
            most  reserved, tranquil, and  circumspect  form  of
            laughter--actually, in terms of the English word, no
            laughter  at all.  only a barely perceptible  smile.
            Sita  is  the  level  at which  one  approaches  the
            spiritual, the transcendent, and the sublime.  It is
            manifested  by the Buddha at all only because he is
            standing at the

                                    P.269

            threshold   between   the  unenlightened   and   the
            enlightened, like  the  yogic  state  of  bhavamukha
            where  one sees  with  both  physical  and spiritual
            sight.  The Buddha  sees  the juxtaposition  and the
            contradiction  of the unenlightened  and enlightened
            states.   From  this  vantage  point  the  world  of
            sa^msaara, maayaa, and avidyaa has the appearance of
            a comedy  or "ship  of fools," as the  Buddha  looks
            back upon the folly  of the unenlightened.  Relative
            to this  world  the Buddha  "laughs"  in the exalted
            sense  of sita.  This is the gist  of the view  that
            prevailed  among  the Buddhist  scholastics, and has
            persisted by and large throughout the Buddhist world
            since.

            ZEN ECCENTRICITY

            With this historical  setting and predisposition  in
            mind, what  is especially  striking  about  the  Zen
            Buddhist tradition, in both its Chinese and Japanese
            forms, is that in its literature, art, and religious
            practice, what one often encounters  is the opposite
            of sita, namely, the fifth  and sixth and supposedly
            lowest levels of laughter, offered both as authentic
            expressions  of Buddhist enlightenment  and evidence
            of the  authenticity  of the enlightenment.  In Zen,
            Bharata's  aristocratic  and  spiritualistic  schema
            seems abruptly to have been stood on its head.

                Zen anecdotal records contain frequent reference
            to  "loud  roaring   laughter":  of  the  master  in
            response  to a foolish statement  by a monk, or of a
            monk    in    experiencing    a   breakthrough    to
            enlightenment, or  of the  master  in attempting  to
            precipitate such an experience. In the Zen anecdotal
            records, too, there  are  many  tales  in which  the
            master  is  depicted  behaving   in  ways  we  might
            associate with clowns or fools.  Seppo was noted for
            his three wooden balls, which he would roll about in
            response  to questions.  Baso and Rinzai  were  both
            noted for their shouting  and their use of a "lion's
            roar." Baso once shouted at a monk so loudly that he
            was deafened  for three days--but  also enlightened.
            Gutei  was  noted  for  responding  to questions  by
            lifting  up a finger  (the records  do not say which
            finger).  The Soto master Ryokan intentionally  took
            that name because it means "Great Fool,'' and he was
            noted for his odd behavior and Zen foolishness.  Zen
            anecdotes from both China and Japan are replete wtih
            tales  of  eccentric  acts  and  seemingly   foolish
            sayings  or responses, from Joshu's  sandals  on his
            head  to  Nansen's   killing   the  cat  to  Gutei's
            amputation   of  the  finger  of  an  attendant  who
            imitated his one-finger Zen.

                In Zen art, too--supposedly  religious  art--one
            often  finds  figures  of Zen zanies, such as Kanzan
            and  Jittoku, or the dancing, pot-bellied  Hotel, or
            the Three  Laughing  Sages.  Such figures  seem more
            raucous  than reverential, Kanzan  and Jittoku  were
            Zen monks  of the seventh  century, one an eccentric
            poet and the other simply  foolish, who are not only
            commonly  depicted in Zen art but depicted  laughing
            hilariously  with  the  fifth  or  sixth  degree  of
            laughter on Bharata's barometer-laughing in the full
            freedom of laughter and laughing as if privy to some
            cosmic joke. Another favorite of the Zen

                                    P.270


            artist  has been Hotel, whose Chinese  name, Pu-tai,
            literally  means  "linen  sack."  He  was  a  jolly,
            rly-poly  monk  of the tenth  century  who traveled
            from  village  to  village, playing  with  children,
            bringing them trinkets  and sweetmeats  in his sack,
            like an Oriental  Santa  Claus, and otherwise  using
            his sack  as a sleeping  bag.  Yet another  favorite
            theme  has  been  the  Three  Laughing  Sages.   The
            reference is to the story of a Taoist hermit who for
            thirty years had faithfully  kept a solemn vow never
            to cross a mountain  stream that separated  him from
            the  "world,"  but  when  he  was  accompanying  two
            visiting  hermits  on  their  departure, he  was  so
            enthralled   with   their   conversation   that   he
            inadvertently  walked  across the stream  with them,
            whereupon  all three burst  out in hearty  laughter.

                Observations such as these once led D. T. Suzuki
            to claim that "Zen is the only religion  or teaching
            that finds  room for laughter."(6) While  that is an
            exaggeration, the  suggestion  of a prominent  place
            being  given  to  laughter,  humor,  and  the  comic
            perspective  in the Zen tradition  warrants a closer
            look, particularly  in  view  of the  limited  place
            assigned  to these by Buddhist  scholasticism.  This
            essay will focus upon two related functions of humor
            in  Zen, as  examples  of  ways  in  which  the  Zen
            tradition  self-consciously  employed  and developed
            humor: (1) humor  as a technique  for reversing  and
            collapsing  categories, and (2) humor as a technique
            for  embracing  opposites.   In  the  conclusion,  a
            non-functional level of humor will be discussed: (3)
            humor as an expression of enlightenment, liberation,
            and inner harmony.(7)

                First,  a  word  about  humor   as  a  spiritual
            technique. Buddhism recognizes a variety of methods,
            called  upaaya, which  are  an accommodation  to the
            condition and needs of the person and the context in
            which the teaching is delivered.  So if one requires
            a justification  for the presence  of humor  in Zen,
            one may call it a species  of upaaya.  Some forms of
            humor  in Zen, furthermore, may be seen as instances
            of the "direct  pointing''  and "sudden realization"
            methods emphasized  in Zen, especially  the Southern
            School and its Rinzai branch.  Enlightenment  may be
            likened  here to "getting  the point  of a joke''--a
            sudden insight breaking into consciousness (kenzsho)
            and a sudden  release  of the tensions  produced  by
            ego, desire. attachment, and ignorance (satori). One
            sees the foolishness  of these sources  of suffering
            and experiences a sense of freedom from their grasp.

                From this perspective, humor  in Zen is often  a
            kind of comic midwifery  in the Socratic  sense of a
            technique for precipitating  (or provoking) an inner
            realization  of  the  truth.  Zen  shares, with  the
            Socratic  view, in a doctrine  of recollection: that
            the teacher  does not deliver  the truth  as a stork
            might be thought to deliver a baby, but in the sense
            that a midwife  comes to deliver the baby.  That is,
            enlightenment, and its  wisdom  and compassion, come
            not from  without  but from  within.  Humor  in this
            context  is one of a variety  of maeutic  techniques
            (upaaya) that  might  be effective  in bringing  the
            Buddha-dharma to conscious awareness and existential
            realization.


                                    P.271

            THE COMIC REVERSAL AND COLLAPSE OF CATEGORIES

            A Zen anecdote  that  has been circulating  recently
            tells  of a contemporary  Zen master  who lay dying.
            His monks had all gathered  around his bed, from the
            most senior to the most novice monk. The senior monk
            leaned  over to ask the dying  master  if he had any
            final words of advice for his monks.  The old master
            slowly   opened   his  eyes  and  in  a  weak  voice
            whispered.  "Tell them Truth  is like a river."  The
            senior monk passed this bit of wisdom in turn to the
            monk next to him, and it circulated around the room.
            When the words reached  the youngest  monk he asked,
            "What  does  he mean.'Truth  is like a river'?" The
            question  was passed  back  around  the room  to the
            senior  monk  who leaned  over  the bed  and  asked,
            "Master, what do you mean, 'Truth is like a river'?"
            Slowly  the  master  opened  his eyes  and in a weak
            voice whispered, "O.K., Truth is not like a river."

                There  are some immediate  similarities  between
            the humorous effect of this anecdote and the logical
            method of Naagaarjuna--and significantly Naagaarjuna
            is cited  as one of the precursors  of Zen in dharma
            succession from the Buddha. Naagaarjuna's method may
            be seen as an attempt to demonstrate the equivalence
            of   alternative   philosophical    positions   and.
            countering  each by the other, to reduce alternative
            philosophical positions to an absurdity.  The intent
            is not to show that existence  is absurd  after  the
            manner  of the French  existentialists, but to point
            up the absurdity  in trying to grasp after and cling
            to reality  by means  of this  or that philosophical
            position.

                The humor in this Zen anecdote  is an example of
            reducing  a line of inquiry to an absurdity  so that
            one is jolted  into  moving  beyond  the boxes  and
            labels  within  which  one  hopes  to  capture   and
            incarcerate   reality.   Perhaps  thereby   will  be
            effected a direct and immediate  realization  of the
            truth  which  is beyond  nama  and ruupa  (name  and
            form).  The function  of the humor here is analogous
            to the frustration of reason and intellection in the
            koan--as  in Hakuin's "What is the sound of one hand
            clapping?  "   Or   Joshu's   "Does   a   dog   have
            Buddha-nature?"--where  one expects  the answer from
            any food Mahaayaanist to be "Yes," yet Joshu answers
            "No" (wu/mu).  If one had expected  the answer to be
            "No," Joshu would likely have responded "Yes."

                One Zen mondo  has a monk asking, "Where  is the
            Buddha  now?" The anticipated  answer would be, "The
            Buddha is in Nirvaana."  The answer given.  however,
            is: "The Buddha  is taking  a shit!" Master  Sengai,
            noted   for   his   many   humorous   sketches   and
            caricatures,  produced   a  sumi-e  entitled.   "The
            One Hundred  Days'  Teaching  of  the  Dharma."  The
            sketch, however, does not depict the Buddha  soberly
            instructing his disciples, but rather a naked little
            boy  leaning  over,  farting!  Another  of  Sengai's
            sketches   shows  a  bullfrog   sitting,  as  if  in
            meditation, but  with  a  smirk  on  his  face.  The
            accompanying  calligraphy  reads: "If by sitting  in
            meditation  one becomes a Buddha..." (then all frogs
            are Buddhas).(8)

                                    P.272

                Santayana  argued that at the heart of the comic
            lies  a  confusion  of  categories, ordinarily  kept
            distinct, like applying the formulae  of theology to
            cooking, or employing  the  recipes  of  cooking  in
            theology.(9)Humor delivers something  very different
            from one's expectations--the comic surprise.  In the
            process, humor breaks down the categories with which
            we would divide up experience into such dualities as
            sacred and profane, sublime and ordinary, beauty and
            ugliness, and even nirvaa.na and sa^msaara.

                In  fact, a  major  emphasis  in  Zen  life  and
            teaching  is upon this kind of reversal in which not
            only are opposite  terms interchanged, but often one
            of these  terms  is very  lofty  and  the object  of
            desire, while the other is lowly  and the object  of
            the desire to avoid.  A monk once asked Sozan, "What
            is the most  prized  thing  in all the world?" Sozan
            answered,  "A  dead   cat.''   The  surprised   monk
            exclaimed, "Why is a dead cat to be prized  at all?"
            Sozan  replied,  "Because   no  one  thinks  of  its
            value."(10)

                In  such  comic  reversals  all  categories  are
            turned upside down, and thus relativized and finally
            collapsed.  The prize is given to the ugliest man in
            town; fools are declared wise; a child is named pope
            for the day;  Buddhas  are found  in bullfrogs.  The
            effect is that of challenging  the whole valuational
            structure of the discriminating  mind, like the fool
            who spurns a proffered diamond and picks up a common
            pebble  instead, admiring  and fondling  it as if it
            were the most precious of stones.

            THE COMIC EMBRACING AND UNITING OF OPPOSITES

            A closely related  function  of humor in Zen is that
            of embracing and uniting opposites.  There is a kind
            of humor which separates  one thing from another and
            elevates one group over another--as is the case with
            racist and sexist and ethnic jokes.  But the uses of
            humor in Zen have an opposite  intention.  Zen humor
            moves toward inclusiveness and nonduality.

                There is a surprising  correlation  here between
            Zen humor and the traditional  symbolism  and effect
            of the clown.  One of the  specialties  of the clown
            figure  has  been  the  embracing   and  uniting  of
            opposites.  Sometimes  this is played out by a clown
            due. as in the European circus where the white-faced
            clown, with graceful  movement  and gorgeous attire,
            is juxtaposed  with  the  bumbling  Auguste, wearing
            disheveled and mismatched  clothing.  Sometimes this
            is  played  out  by a single  clown, who  incarnates
            opposites in solo paradoxicality.  Chaplin is one of
            the  best  known  modern  examples   of  this  comic
            capacity. In the role that he played through most of
            his  film  career, the  Tramp,  the  secret  of  the
            popularity  and profundity  of that ambiguous figure
            was that he was not simply  a tramp  but a Gentleman
            Tramp.  Chaplin  had  ingeniously  put together  the
            bowler  hat, dress  coat, and  walking  cane  of the
            English aristocracy  with the baggy pants and floppy
            shoes of the gutter bum. In this way he embraced and
            united  in a single  image the top and the bottom of
            the social  order.  He was both gentleman  and tramp
            and neither gentleman

                                    P.273

            nor tramp.  One minute  he would  stand tall, put on
            airs and social graces, and order people  about, and
            the next minute  he would be groveling  in the dust,
            awkward and uncouth, meekly kowtowing to everyone or
            hiding  behind  women  and  children.  In  terms  of
            Bharata's  theatrical  classifications.  Chaplin  as
            clown figure contained  both sita and atihasita.  He
            embraced  and united  the whole human spectrum  in a
            humorously  schizophrenic  yet marvelously  singular
            figure.(11)

                Zen humor functions  in this way--as in the case
            of the  Chinese  monk  who wore  a Buddhist  robe, a
            Confucian  hat, and  Taoist  sandals  as  a  way  of
            breaking  out of religious  stereotypes  and labels,
            confusing  and  confounding  fixed  identities,  and
            symbolizing thereby some higher unity of the Chinese
            traditions.(12)Reality, Truth, Wisdom--these  cannot
            be  imprisoned   in  the  pigeonholes   of  ordinary
            consciousness,  which  aims  to  understand  by  the
            method of divide and conquer.

                The  following  is not  a Zen  story, but  it is
            revealing  of this comic  capacity  for uniting  not
            only opposites but opposites  perceived  as being in
            irreconcilable  opposition, and thus  of the utility
            of  the  comic  perspective  in  pointing  toward  a
            nondualistic  perspective.  In Mexico  there are two
            cities which have disputed  between  themselves  for
            some time their  rival  claims  to the bones  of the
            national revolutionary hero, Benito Juarez.  The two
            skeletons  were  examined  by  experts, and  in  the
            process  it was noted  that one skeleton  was larger
            than the other.  This observation  eventually  led a
            wit  to  propose  an  amicable  resolution   of  the
            disputed  claims.  The suggestion  made was that the
            larger skeleton  was indeed  that of Juarez  when he
            died  of apoplexy  at the  age  of 66.  The  smaller
            skeleton was that of Juarez at the age of thirteen!

                This is a Zen solution.  And it is not unlike  a
            koanic   enigma   and  its  solution.   While  taken
            literally  the proposed  compromise  might  not have
            provided   an  enduring  solution,  it  nevertheless
            illustrates  the  comic  impulse  and its difference
            from the tragic impulse.  The tragic  impulse  is to
            separate  things  out  from  each  other,  carefully
            discriminating  one  thing  from  another, often  in
            terms of opposites. The tragic mentality is not only
            dualistic, but radically  dualistic, to the point of
            dividing reality into opposites  which are placed in
            opposition. Thus out of the history of tragedy (both
            in the theater  and in real  life) comes  the tragic
            collision, the agon as the Greeks called it, between
            protagonists  and  antagonists.  Forces  are  pitted
            against one another, with both sides dedicated  to a
            stubborn and unyielding defense of their principles,
            if need  be to the  last  soldier, and unwilling  to
            seek  compromise  or accommodation--not  even to see
            truth, beauty, and goodness in the other side.

                Comedies,  on  the  other   hand,  tend   toward
            inclusiveness     rather     than     exclusiveness,
            reconciliation   rather   than  rigid  and  militant
            polarization.  Shakespeare's tragedies, for example,
            end  in  death  and  destruction  as the  forces  in
            collision   produce   a  vicious   cycle  of  mutual
            annihilation.  Shakespeare's  comedies, on the other
            hand, end with parties reconciled, with marriages,

                                    P.274

            feasts,  and  celebrations.   Similarly  in  ancient
            Greece, Sophocles'  Oedipus  Rex and Antigone  place
            principles,  laws,  and   persons   in  increasingly
            irreconcilable  conflict, the  culmination  of which
            can  only  be  alienation, despair,  and  mutual  or
            self-destruction.  while  Aristophanes'  Lysistrata,
            which  begins  with two cities  that  have  been  in
            interminable  warfare  (Athens  and Sparta?), by the
            end  of the play  has the  soldiers  of both  cities
            abandoning the futile fray for the bedrooms of wives
            and  lovers.   Hence,  the  familiar   dictum   that
            tragedies  end  in funerals  while  comedies  end in
            weddings.

                By comparison with the tragic vision of life Zen
            may be said to be fundamentally comic.  The Zen uses
            of humor share the comic inclination  to move toward
            reducing   tensions,   overcoming   conflicts,   and
            including  opposites sites in some larger unity.  In
            so doing, Zen reflects  both the traditional  Indian
            Buddhist critique  of dualism and the Chinese vision
            of  a  harmony  of  opposites, as  in  the  yang/yin
            cosmology.  In Zen the Chinese dragon smiles and the
            Indian Buddha roars with laughter.

            HUMOR AS AN EXPRESSION OF LIBERATION

            It would  be remiss, however, to present  Zen  humor
            only as a technique, an upaaya.  There  is a higher,
            nonfunctional  level of humor where humor exists for
            itself  and not just  in the service  of some  other
            end.  This level is, in fact, the logical conclusion
            of  the  two  functions  of  humor  that  have  been
            discussed,  since   they  are  aimed  at  collapsing
            categories   and  uniting  opposites.   Humor  as  a
            technique  is  an  expression  of  tension,  of  the
            tensions  created by dualities, discriminations, and
            oppositions  of various sorts, In Buddhistic  terms,
            these tensions are in turn the result of forces such
            as ego, desire, attachment, ignorance, and  bondage.
            But  humor  at  its  highest   and  fullest   is  an
            expression of liberation and freedom. It arises, not
            out of inner tension. but inner harmony.  It arises,
            not out of the illusions  of maayaa or the ignorance
            of  avidyaa  or  the  graspings   and  clingings  of
            sa^msaara, but out of the awakenings of bodhi.

                This   is   clearly   the   most   dynamic   and
            self-contained  form  of humor, It does  not proceed
            from  a position  of weakness, but  of strength.  It
            moves with a force that flows from unity rather than
            conflict  and  strife, from  wholeness  rather  than
            division and alienation.  Such humor is the laughter
            of enlightenment  and liberation, as in the case  of
            the Chinese  monk, Shui-lao, whose master kicked him
            in the chest, resulting in a satori.  Afterwards the
            monk said.  "Ever since the master  kicked me in the
            chest I have been unable to stop laughing."(13)

                Something  of this  spirit  is reflected  in the
            story  of the late  Zen master  Taji, who lay dying.
            One  of his disciples, recalling  the  fondness  the
            roshi had for a certain cake, went in search of some
            in the bake  shops  of Tokyo.  After  some  time  he
            returned  with  the  delicacy  for  the  master, who
            smiled  a feeble  smile  of appreciation  and  began
            nibbling  at it.  Later  as the master  grew visibly
            weaker, his disciples  asked if he had any departing
            words of wisdom or

                                    P.275

            advice. Taji said, "Yes." As they drew closer, so as
            not to miss  the faintest  syllable, Taji whispered,
            "My, but this cake is delicious.''  With those words
            he died.(14)

                Here  is  neither  a  cynical   humor,  born  of
            resignation and despair, nor a defiant humor, making
            some   last  gesture   of  rebellion   against   the
            meaninglessness  of life, "head bloody, but unbowed"
            (W.  E. Henley).  Nor is this a sarcastic and bitter
            humor, mocking  the disruption  or cessation  of the
            "best-laid schemes of mice and men" (R. Burns).  The
            spirit  is  quite  different.  This  is  a humor  of
            acceptance, a final  "yes"  to  the  opportunity  of
            life, albeit  transient.  It expresses  the  joy  of
            life, and  of  the  smallest  particulars  of  life,
            without at the same time frantically clutching after
            life.  As  Master  Dogen  said:  "In  life  identify
            yourslf with life, at death with death. Abstain from
            yielding and craving.  Life and death constitute the
            very being of Buddha....You  must neither loathe one
            nor covet  the other."(15) From this perspective  we
            may speak of a humor of non-ego  and non-attachment,
            which is therefore  free to embrace death as well as
            life, the Buddha along with a mouthful of cake.

                One of the scholastics  with  which  this  essay
            began, Buddhadatta, argued in his Abhidhammaavataara
            that while the Buddha  did smile  (sita), the source
            of his smile  was the degraded  (anulaara).  not the
            subtle   (anolaarika) ,  that   is,  the  folly   of
            unenlightened  perception  and  behavior,  from  the
            vantage  point  of enlightenment.(16) Yet the source
            of such a smile  must  be larger  than this, in fact
            primarily  the  subtlety  and  subliminity   of  the
            positive  truth  now  perceived  (anolaarika) rather
            than the negative truths of suffering  which one now
            understands retrospectively (anulaara). The Buddha's
            smile  is born  of  higher  understanding  and  true
            liberation.  It is first  and foremost  the smile of
            wisdom, not a smile over ignorance.

                To speak  otherwise  is to make  of the Buddha's
            laughter  a laughter of superiority  relative to the
            inferiority  of those  still caught  within  maayaa,
            avidyaa, and sa^msaara.  This would  place  Buddhist
            humor on the level  of the Hobbesian  definition  of
            humor: "a  sense  of  glory  arising  from  a sudden
            conception   of  some  eminency   in  ourselves   by
            comparison   with  the  infirmity   of  others."(17)
            Buddhadatta's laughter over the degraded, in itself,
            would be the laughter  of pride in one's superiority
            and therefore  would stand  in contradiction  to the
            supposed  insight  into and release from the bondage
            of ego, desire, and  attachment  that  is associated
            with  enlightenment.   Laughter   at  one's   former
            ignorance  is  one  thing,  but  laughter  over  the
            ignorance  of others  expands  and reinforces  one's
            pride.  Even laughter at one's former foolishness is
            only   part   way   to   the   true   humility    of
            self-forgetting.

                The  great  Rinzai  master  Hakuin  says  in his
            Orategama  that, following  his first satori  at the
            age of twenty-four, his sense of elation soon turned
            into self-congratulatory pride.  "My pride soared up
            like  a  majestic  mountain,  my  arrogance   surged
            forward  like the tide.  Smugly I thought to myself:
            'In the past two or three hundred years no one could
            have accomplished such a mar-

                                    P.276

            velous  breakthrough  as this.'"  Confident  in  his
            attainment, he then sought  out his master  Shoju to
            tell of his glorious enlightenment. Shoju was not as
            impressed  and,  after  testing  him  with  a  koan,
            twisted  Hakuin's  nose and said  to him: "You  poor
            hole-dwelling  devil! Do you think somehow  that you
            have sufficient understanding?'' After this incident
            Hakuin  reports: "almost  every  time he saw me, the
            Master called me a 'poor hole-dwelling  devil.'"(18)

                Much  later  (and  wiser) ,  Hakuin  painted   a
            self-portrait.  He was now a roshi  in his own right
            and with a growing reputation. Instead of presenting
            himself in the idealized form of an enlightened one,
            or even in the realistic  image of an austere zenji,
            Hakuin sketched  himself as a bald, fat, cross-eyed,
            hunchbacked  old man.  The poem  which  he inscribed
            above the self-portrait is even more revealing:

                In the realm of the thousand buddhas
                He is hated by the thousand buddhas;
                Among the crowd of demons
                He is detested by the crowd of demons ...
                This filthy blind old shavepate
                Adds more ugliness to ugliness.(19)

                There is yet another  dimension  to this highest
            level of laughter  and humor, and that is compassion
            (karu.naa).  Here one sees  the marvelous  unity  of
            wisdom   and   compassion,  so  emphasized   in  the
            Mahaayaana  ideal of the Bodhisattva.  Humor in this
            context not only expresses a higher knowledge  which
            sees through the foolishness  of the desiring  self;
            it also expresses a benevolent compassion toward all
            those caught  within the vanities  and anxieties  of
            that  foolishness.   The  "passionate   inwardness''
            (Kierkegaard)   of   the    seeker    becomes    the
            compassionate  inwardness  of the  finder.  As  Lama
            Govinda has expressed it:

                The  Buddha's  sense  of  humour--which   is  so
            evident in many of his discourses--is  closely bound
            up with his sense of compassion;  both are born from
            an  understanding  of greater  connections, from  an
            insight into the interrelatedness  of all things and
            all living beings  and the chain reactions  of cause
            and effect.  His smile is the expression  of one who
            can  see  the  "wondrous   play  of  ignorance   and
            knowledge'' against its universal background and its
            deeper meaning.  Only thus is it possible  not to be
            overpowered  by the misery  of the  world, or by our
            own sense of righteousness  that judges and condemns
            what   is   not   in   accordance   with   our   own
            understanding, and divides  the world  into good and
            bad.  A man with  a sense  of humour  cannot  but be
            compassionate  in his heart, because  his  sense  of
            proportion  allows him to see things in their proper
            perspective.(20)

            Such humor goes beyond Buddhadatta's  laughter  over
            the degraded  (anulaara) or even the joyful laughter
            of one who has found wisdom (anolaarika);  it is the
            laughter    of   compassion,   which    seeks    the
            enlightenment   of  others   and  their  liberation.
            Otherwise   one's  own  supposed  insight  into  and
            freedom  from ego, desire, attachment, and ignorance
            would be a self-contradictory hypocrisy.

                                    P.277

                A   contemporary   Ch'an   master,  Hsuan   Hua,
            concluded  his talk at the end of a sesshin, or week
            of intensive meditation:

                Now we have finished, Everyone stand and we will
            bow to the Buddha three times to thank him. We thank
            him, because  even  if  we  did  not  have  a  great
            enlightenment.  we had a small enlightenment.  If we
            did  not  have  a small  enlightenment, at least  we
            didn't get sick.  If we got sick, at least we didn't
            die, So let's thank the Buddha.(21)

                                     NOTES

                1.  Shwe Zan Aung, The Compendium of Philosophy,
            a translation  of  the  Abhidhammattha-Sangaha, rev.
            and ed.  by Mrs.  Rhys Davids (London: Luzac, 1910).
            pp. 22-25.

                2.  Georg Friedrich  Meier, Thoughts  on Jesting
            (1794),  ed.  Joseph  Jones  (Austin: University  of
            Texas Press, 1947), pp. 55-56.

                3.  Bartholomaeus  Anglicus,  De  Proprietatibus
            Rerum 5.41.61.

                4.  Cited in Conrad Hyers, The Comic Vision (New
            York: Pilgrim Press, 1981), p. 20.

                5. Bharata,  Naatya  Shaastra  VI, vv 61-62.
            Cf. Shwe Zan Aung, Compendium, pp. 22-25.

                6.  D.  T.  Suzuki, Sengai, The Zen Master  (New
            York: New York Graphic Society, 1971), p. 147.

                7.  For a fuller  discussion  of the issues, see
            Conrad Hyers, The Laughing Buddha: Zen and the Comic
            Spirit  (Wolfeboro, N.H.: Longwood  Academic  Press,
            1989).

                8. For a reproduction and discussion of a number
            of Sengai  sketches, see D.  T.  Suzuki, Sengai, The
            Zen Master.

                9.  George  Santayana, The Sense of Beauty  (New
            York: Scribner's, 1986), p. 188.

                10. Charles Luk, Ch'an and Zen Teaching (London:
            Rider and Co., 1961), vol. 2, pp. 171-172.

                11.  For an interpretation  of the clown  in its
            Western  context, and of Chaplin  in particular, see
            Conrad Hyers, The Comic Vision, chaps. 3 and 9.

                12. Charles Luk, Ch'an and Zen Teaching (London:
            Rider and Co., 1960), vol. 1,p. 144.

                13.  John  C.  H.  Wu, The  Golden  Age  of  Zen
            (Taipei: National War College, 1967), p. 100.

                14. Philip Kapleau ed., The Wheel of Death (New
            York: Harper and Row, 1971), p. 67.

                15. Ibid.,p.9.

                16. Shwe Zan Aung, Compendium, p. 26.

                17.  Cf.  Conrad  Hyers, The  Comic  Vision, pp.
            30-31.

                18.   Hakuin   Zenji,   Orategama,   in   Philip
            Yampolsky, The Zen Master Hakuin: Selected  Writings
            (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971), p. 118.
            For a fuller discussion of conversion experiences in
            Zen, see Conrad  Hyers.  Once-Born, Twice-Born  Zen:
            The Rinzai  and Soto  Schools  of Japan  (Wolfeboro.
            N.H.: Longwood Publishing  Group, 1988), chapters  1
            and 2.

                19.  Isshuu  Miura  and Ruth Fuller  Sasaki, Zen
            Dust: The  History  of the Koan  and  Koan-Study  in
            Rinzai  (Lin-chi) Zen (New York: Harcourt, Brace and
            World, 1966), pp. 124-125.

                20. Lama Anagarika Govinda, The Way of the White
            Clouds (London: Hutchinson, 1956), p. 177.

                21. Vajra Bodhi Sea 1, no. 3 (October 1979): 40.


     

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