Are you suffering from the debilitating illness known as seriousness? It is an epidemic in the world of today. By a certain age, if one is to be respected and taken ‘seriously’ by their peers, they must adopt a certain seriousness themselves. Things matter. Social standing, money in the bank, the ‘importance’ of your job or role in life, the public image of your family members — all of these are exceptionally important to a person’s sense of belonging and self-worth.
Yet the price so often paid is one of the greatest: a loss of innocence, a loss of the ability to truly ‘play’. Ironically, however, the ability to play is of course the cornerstone strategy of some of the most successful people and companies in the world. Understanding the deep truth that, in the end, nothing really matters save that which we grant meaning to enables the freedom of play required to create things that do.
Many people have known this in the past. One such figure was the enigmatic Indian guru Osho, easily the most controversial mystic of the 20th century. Here, then, is an excerpt from one of his talks that has been circulating the internet for years, on exactly that topic: why your life — and everyone else’s — is actually a grand, cosmic joke.
When one becomes enlightened, laughter is almost a natural by-product; spontaneously it comes, for the simple reason that we have been searching and searching all our lives for something which was already there inside. Our whole effort was ridiculous! Our whole effort was absurd. One laughs at the great cosmic joke. One laughs at the sense of humor that God must have or the existence: that we have it with us already and we are searching for it. One laughs at one’s own ridiculous efforts, long long journeys, pilgrimages, for something which was never lost in the first place.
My own understanding is that there is nothing more valuable than laughter. Only laughter is left in you when you are total. In everything else you remain partial, even in lovemaking you remain partial. But when you have a really heartfelt belly laugh, all the parts of your being — the physiological, the psychological, the spiritual — they all vibrate in one single tune, they all vibrate in harmony. Hence, laughter relaxes. And relaxation is spiritual. Laughter brings you to the earth, brings you down from your stupid ideas of being holier-than-thou. Laughter brings you to reality as it is. The world is a play, a cosmic joke. And unless you understand it as a cosmic joke you will never be able to understand the ultimate mystery. I am all for jokes, I am all for laughter.
Everybody takes themselves and others seriously. That’s the way of the ego to exist. Start being a little more playful and you will see ego evaporating. Take life non seriously, as a joke — yes, as a cosmic joke. Laugh a little more. Laughter is far more significant than prayer. Prayer may not destroy your ego; on the contrary, it may make it holy, pious, but laughter certainly destroys your ego. When you are really in a state of laughter, have you observed? …the ego disappears for a moment. You are again a child, giggling. Again you have forgotten that you are special. You are no longer serious; for a moment you have removed your fixation.
That’s why I love jokes…they are poison to your ego! You would like me to talk about serious things: astral planes and how many bodies men have, seven or nine, and how many chakras. And every day there are questions — esoteric, occult. These are the serious people. They have fallen in a wrong company! I am not serious at all. I don’t laugh with you because that is part of telling a joke: the person who tells it has to be very serious, he cannot laugh with you. All my laughter I have to do alone.
But my approach towards life is utterly nonserious, playful, because in my experience this is how the ego disappears. Watch when you laugh: where is the ego? Suddenly you have melted, suddenly you are liquid, no more solid, but flowing. You are not old, experienced, knowledgeable. Listen to this joke and try to find out whether the ego remains or not.
All buddhas have laughed when they awaken. Their laughter is like a lion’s roar. They laugh, not at you, they laugh at the whole cosmic joke. They lived in a dream, in a sleep, intoxicated completely by desire, and through desire they looked at the existence. Then it was not the real existence, they projected their own sleep on it.
You are taking the whole existence as a screen, and then you project your own mind on it and you see things which are not there, and you don’t see things which are there. And the mind has explanations for everything. If you raise a doubt, the mind explains. It creates theories, philosophies, systems, just to feel comfortable, that nothing is wrong. All philosophies exist to make life convenient, so that everything looks okay, nothing is wrong — but everything is wrong while you are asleep.
Nobody lives, nobody dies. Nothingness lives, nothingness dies. You are not. Have a good laugh at this situation. You are not and you exist. You are not and you are. This is the cosmic joke.
You see a person and you smile. You smile for them. One should smile only for oneself. If others share, good. If nobody shares, good. But one should smile of one’s own accord. One should not laugh to make somebody else happy, because if you are not happy, you cannot make anybody happy. Even if you are happy, it is very difficult to make somebody else happy because it depends on that somebody else as to whether he will accept it or not. One should simply laugh of one’s own accord, and one should not wait for reasons to laugh. That too is absurd. Why wait for reasons? Life as it is should be enough of a reason to laugh. It is so absurd, it is so ridiculous. It is so beautiful…it is so wonderful. It is all sorts of things together. It is a great cosmic joke.