WHAT DID THE Buddhist say to the pizza chef? “Make me one with everything.”
This week readers are working with your columnist to disprove the disgraceful lie that Asians have no sense of humor.
We’re creating lists of jokes from people wrongly accused of being humorless.
Yesterday Muslims shared some great jokes with us and today Buddhists step into the spotlight.
A nominally Buddhist historian tells me that the first generation were rather serious people, but their descendents lightened up to an amazing degree.
In the fourth century, Indian Buddhist scholar Bharata identified six degrees of amusement. These ranged from the “sita” (a faint smile) to the “atihasita” (which is when you laugh so hard your jiggly bits wobble).
Buddhists quickly developed a surprisingly modern style of comedy, featuring the excessively self-deprecating style that many people think was created by New York stand-ups or Monty Python’s Yorkshiremen sketch.
Check out the brilliant “my life sucks” contest that two famous Buddhist scholars, Chao-chou and Wen-yuan, had in 800 AD (I did not make this up).
Chao-chou: “I am nothing but a donkey.”
Wen-yuan:“A donkey? You’re SO lucky. I am merely a donkey’s buttocks.”
Chao-chou: “Actually, I dream that I could one day be a donkey’s buttocks. At the moment, I am what comes out of the donkey’s buttocks.”
Wen-yuan: “You’re privileged. I’d give anything to be what comes out of donkey’s buttocks. For I am but a worm living in what comes out of a donkey’s buttocks. And do you know why I’m there?”
Wen-yuan: “Because I wanted to go somewhere special for my summer holidays.”
With this line, Wen-yuan won the competition.
Less than 100 years later, a fat, jolly, travelling priest named Cho Tai-shi was identified as the Buddha incognito, and serious Buddha figurines were replaced by laughing Buddha statues.
One reader said: “I think it can be argued that zen koans are among the funniest, cleverest and most thought-provoking jokes and one-liners on the planet.” This columnist, whose mother is Buddhist, agrees. Here are two samples.
1) A student is on one side of a raging river. There are no bridges. He has no boat. He shouts out to the master on the opposite bank. “How do I get to the other side?” The master shouts back: “You are on the other side.”
2) Master: “You stop being a young student and become a great master when you realize that you don’t exist.” Student: “To whom do you speak, young student?”
1) Q: Why can't a Buddhist vacuum under the sofa? A: Because he has no attachments.”
2) Q: What happens when a Buddhist becomes totally absorbed with the computer he is working with? A: He enters Nerdvana.
It’s interesting to note that Buddhist humor often deals with paradoxes. A typical one-liner is this one:
“Things are not what they seem; nor are they otherwise.”
(You have to think about that to appreciate it.)
And here’s my favourite Buddhist one-liner:
“A Zen master once said to me, ‘Do the opposite of whatever I tell you.’ So I didn't.”
(WARNING: Thinking about that one too hard may make your head explode.)
Keep sending in Asian jokes, funny but non-offensive, please. Tomorrow: Hindus and other south Asians share their humor with us. Don’t miss it.