Don’t rate spiritual wisdom using the laughter test
Some people come to spiritual talks primarily for hearing jokes. Indeed, they rate as best those spiritual teachers who crack the most hilarious jokes.
Our desire for humor is natural in a world that often gives us little reason to laugh. Still, this desire shouldn’t become our driving spiritual desire. If a spiritual talk is like a multi-course dinner, humor is the dessert. Those who eat only dessert under-nourish and malnourish themselves. Similar is the predicament of those who seek only humor in spiritual talks. They remain spiritually undernourished because after the talk, humor is all that stays in their memory – they don’t even remember the point that the humor was meant to illustrate, leave alone other important points. Our mind is expert at grabbing any opportunity to avoid focusing on Krishna. And it grabs humor as a pleasant subterfuge.
Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita doesn’t conclude with either of its hearers, Arjuna or Sanjaya, dissolving into peals of laughter. The Gita concludes with Arjuna resolving to do Krishna’s will (18.73) and Sanjaya absorbing himself in jubilant memories of Krishna (18.76-77). This conclusion points to an authentic test of spiritual wisdom: not humor, but the inspiration it provides us for serving and remembering Krishna.
Of course, moderate humor can help in spiritual talks – it can attract people’s attention and help focus it on the essential message of devotion to Krishna. To keep humor moderate is a responsibility that falls on both speakers and hearers. Speakers need to stick to their purpose of sharing Krishna’s message without succumbing to populism. Hearers too need to stick to their purpose for approaching Krishna: education and purification, not entertainment.
By thus maintaining the spiritual focus consistently, we can prevent the temptation to enjoy a good laugh deprive us of the best life of eternal love for Krishna
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