Osho makes a distinction between ordinary laughter and laughter that can aid our spiritual practice.
Hansiba, kheliba, dhariba dhyan loosely translates as, “With laughter and playfulness, become aware”. Originally a dictum of the Nath yogis, I first came across it in Osho’s teachings. How odd, I remember thinking then. Awareness, meditation, concentration, these are all serious activities that we must apply ourselves to with great determination and by harnessing all of our energies. How can one laugh and play while at it? It seemed almost like sacrilege, as if somebody had cracked an inappropriate joke during a solemn ritual.
The Nath yogis did have a point, though. At times, making a big deal of spiritual practice can defeat its very purpose. Instead of the practice leading us towards loosening the tendency to cling to the ego-self, it can become another way for the ego-self to express itself and play out its desires, insecurities, frustrations and fears. It is said that there is no greater ego than what can possess the jnani — one who is absolutely convinced of the correctness, or uniqueness to the exclusion of all else, of what he or she knows. When our practice begins feeding the ego instead of whittling it down, it is time to watch out and stop taking ourselves, and our attachment to the “I”, or to “my practice”, too seriously. In this, laughter can prove to be a valuable tool.
Osho makes a distinction between ordinary laughter and laughter that can aid our spiritual practice. He classifies laughter into three categories — the first is where we laugh at others, the second where we laugh at ourselves, and the third is where laughter becomes a part of our spiritual practice. “For the spiritual seeker,” he says, “even laughter should become a part of sadhana. Remember to avoid the first type of laughter. Remember to laugh the second. And remember to reach the third.”
Laughter, even the “second kind” that we direct towards ourselves, has the ability to create the space necessary to view our actions with a certain degree of objectivity. It eases the mind, relaxes the nerves, and separates us from our usual stream of consciousness, if only for a moment. Even so, it might give us an opportunity to see ourselves better and with greater clarity than otherwise, and recognise the pitfalls of ego and pride as and when they appear on the spiritual path. This might be why some teachers weave jokes into their teachings. As we laugh at the jokes, we are simultaneously made aware of an aspect of practice that requires our attention.
Which is why perhaps in the mystical equation created by the Nath yogis, hansiba and kheliba are inseparable from dhyan. The call to laughter and playfulness is also one to open up the tightly-held fist of self-preoccupation and become available to all the possibilities that the spiritual path presents to us.
For, as the bumper sticker said, “Minds are like parachutes. They only function when open!”