It has to be understood that there are three types of laughter. The first is when you laugh at
someone else. This is the meanest, the lowest, the most ordinary and vulgar when you laugh at the expense of somebody else. This is the violent, the aggressive, the insulting type Deep down this laughter there is always a feeling of revenge.
“The second type of laughter is when you laugh at yourself. This is worth achieving. This is cultured. And this man is valuable who can laugh at himself. He has risen above vulgarity. He has risen above lowly instincts — hatred, aggression, violence.
“And the third is the last — the highest. This is not about anybody — neither the other nor oneself. The third is just Cosmic. You laugh at the whole situation as it is. The whole situation, as it is, is absurd — no purpose in the future, no beginning in the beginning. The whole situation of Existence is such that if you can see the Whole — such a great infinite vastness moving toward no fixed purpose, no goal — laughter will arise. So much is going on without leading anywhere; nobody is there in the past to create it; nobody is there in the end to finish it. Such is whole Cosmos — moving so beautifully, so systematically, so rationally. If you can see this whole Cosmos, then a laughter is inevitable.
“I have heard about three monks. No names are mentioned, because they never disclosed their names to anybody. They never answered anything. In China, they are simply known as the three laughing monks. And they did only one thing: they would enter a village, stand in the market place and start laughing. They would laugh with their whole being and suddenly people would become aware. Then others would also get the infection and a crowd would gather. The whole crowd would start laughing just because of them. What was happening? The whole town would get involved. Then they would move to another town. “They were loved very much. That was their only sermon, their only message; that laugh. And they would not teach; they would simply create a situation.
“Then it happened that they became famous all over the country. Three laughing monks. All of China loved them, respected them. Nobody had ever preached in such a way that life must be just a laughter and nothing else. They were not laughing at anyone in particular. They were simply laughing as if they had understood the Cosmic joke. And they spread so much joy all over China without using a single word. People would ask for their names, but they would simply laugh. So that became their name — the three laughing monks.
“Then they grew old. And while staying in one village. one of the three monks died. The whole village became very much expectant because they thought that when one of them had died, the other two would surely weep. This must be worth seeing because no one had ever seen these people weeping. The whole village gathered. But the two monks were standing beside the corpse of the third and laughing — such a belly laugh. So the villagers asked them to explain this.
“So for the first time, the two monks spoke and said, ‘We are laughing because this man has won. We were always wondering as to who would die first and this man has defeated us. We are laughing at our defeat and his victory. Also he lived with us for many years and we laughed together and we enjoyed each other’s togetherness, presence. There can be no better way of giving him the last send off. We can only laugh.
“But the whole village was sad. And when the dead monk’s body was put on the funeral pyre, then the village realized that the remaining two monks were not the only ones who were joking, the third who was dead was also laughing. He had asked his companions not to change his clothes. It was conventional that when a man died they changed his dress and gave a bath to the body. So the third monk had said, ‘Don’t give me a bath because I have never been unclean. So much laughter has been in my life that no impurity can accumulate, can come to me. I have not gathered any dust. Laughter is always young and fresh. So don’t give me a bath and don’t change my clothes.’
“So just to respect his wishes, they did not change his clothes. And when the body was put to fire,
suddenly they became aware that he had hidden some Chinese fire-works under his clothes and they had started going off. So the whole village laughed and the other two monks said: ‘You rascal, you are dead, but you have defeated us once again. Your laughter is the last.’ “There is a Cosmic laughter which comes into being when the whole joke of this Cosmos is understood.
That is of the highest. And only a Buddha can laugh like that. These three monks must have been three Buddhas. But if you can laugh the second type of laughter, that is also worth trying. Avoid the first. Don’t laugh at anyone’s expense. That is ugly and violent. If you want to laugh, then laugh at yourself.