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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Laughter is Great Medicine for Eroding Away our Self-Obsession.

From a talk by Ajahn Sumedho titled, "Who We Really Are:"

Now one of the big problems in meditation is that we can take ourselves too seriously. We can see ourselves as religious people dedicated towards serious things, such as realising truth. We feel important; we are not just frivolous or ordinary people, going about our lives, just going shopping in the supermarket and watching television. Of course this seriousness has advantages; it might encourage us to give up foolish activities for more serious ones. But the process can lead to arrogance and conceit: a sense of being someone who has special moral precepts or some altruistic goal, or of being exceptional in some way, having come onto the planet as some kind of messiah.

It's a kind of pride that can make human beings lose all perspective; so we need humour to point to the absurdity of our self-obsession.

James: I laugh a lot when I meditate. Especially when that sneeky ego creeps in with the spiritual materialism of smugness, arrogance and pride of feeling like I'm something special because I am meditating, beause i'm a "Buddhist" or feeling like I "get it." As if there is something to "get" (shakes head and chuckles). More like there is something to lose. Namely that very ego that wants us to acquire.

So I agree that laughter is a great way to "point out the absurdity of our self-obsession" as Ajahn says. A good belly laugh is a very powerful tool to blow out the cobwebs of the ensnaring ego. I firmly believe that without laughter one can not make much progress along any spiritual path.

~Peace to all beings~

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Steven Crisp said...

This seems to be the crux of so many issues:

"More like there is something to lose. Namely that very ego that wants us to acquire."

And attach. And value individuality. And wallow in the past, and worry about the future. Etc.

Did you ever ask yourself *why* the ego is a principle obstacle? Why has evolution produced a consciously aware being, along with an ego, that helps deceive it from greater truths?

You would think our egos would be our allies in our spiritual journey. Instead, for many, they are our enemies, often throwing up obstacles in blatant attempts to derail us.

Why do you suppose that is? I have my own theory, but I'd be interested to hear yours.

alison koh said...

huh? you laugh haha out loud or the hehe in the mind? :)
i tend to have various emotional purges too when in meditation, when the funnies sets in, i usually just smile and feel ticklish inside the tummy! i love laughter! :D

"James" said...


I believe that the ego is part of the animal consciousness that is still within us. We have yet to evolve beyond it so we need a path to help us dissolve it. There was a time in our evolution when we dearly needed the ego/animal brain in order to survive but that is less the case these days so now the ego has become an obstacle in many ways. That's my quick answer. :)

"James" said...


Hehe...usually I laugh to myself and get this big grin on my face. :)

Often I also laugh inside and shake my head when I catch the ego in the act of trying to knock me out of the awareness of the moment for self obsession. Silly ego. :)

"James" said...


I have some other thoughts that come from the Hawkins books as I'm sure you're aware of (I am re-reading "Eye of the I." Namely that the ego will do anything to survive.

The ego (or self) is about "me" where as mindfulness is about "we."

So praciticing realizing interconnectivity is a direct attack on the power and duality of the ego. The ego will sabotage our spiritual progress in order to keep itself around as it runs on pride, specialness, greed and selfishness.

Tim said...

There is a great deal of humor in watching how the mind, the "monkey mind" swings and dances our attention away from simple awareness. I used to laugh upon the cushion too. Less frequent lately though. Great post.

Epath said...

A great of practicing "Haha out and Hehe in".

dragonflyfilly said...

ahhh my fave Buddah....i have three of this image around the house, to remind me to keep on laughing...

...i have not been that great lately, but fortunately, things change, eh?

Steven Crisp said...


My thoughts exactly on the ego. We seem placed in a period of biological evolution, it appears, when the very mechanism that evolved to ensure our own survival (and hence continued evolution), may end up "deadending" us.

And I'm trying to wrestle with what that means. Trying to keep the ego out of the equation, and see if it is possible to uderstand that comes next.

One answer (which certainly seems to reinforce the ego) is that some of us have now awakened to our destiny, which is nothing less than charting the future evolutionary course though our consciousness (this is a view, for example, espounded by Andrew Cohen). But I'm suspect. It is too self-aggrandizing for my taste.

Another is that it doesn't matter. It is what it is. If we deadend, so what? There are surely other evolutionary processes underway within the universe, and the "best ones" will prevail and not dead end.

And why do I care? I'm not sure. I guess I'm looking for that vision that would help guide my own development, and motivate its sharing with others. Don't ask me why -- I just get this way some times ;-)

As for Hawkins boosk -- yes, I loved them. Though interestingly, I cannot remember the details, only the profound affect they had on me (during my heavy seeker days), especially the last of his trilogy, "I".

I should probably re-read them again. Who knows, now it might make me laugh.

"James" said...


Thanks friend. I like that term, "monkey mind." Great analogy. The monkey swinging back and forth. Indeed the best thing to do is sit back, watch it swing away and laugh at it's antics.

Epath: Yeah, laughter meditation..hehe.


Yah, Hotei is such a laughable, loveable figure. I hope things are different for you by now with your situation. If not keep watching it and hanging in there...yes, this too shall pass. I'm sending you all my peaceful energy. May you realize that peace again soon.


Yes, as my favorite poem, "Desiderata" goes:

"You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world."

As for Hawkins, I like his over-all message but am a bit skeptical over his arm test. I think, "Eye of the I," and "I" are the best books in the triology.

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