Buddha says that the human predicament is a serious one
and the task of transcending it as equally serious. In
the Dhammapada he says : "When
the world is burning why all this giggling and laughter?"
However, he did recognise the therapeutic and didactic
value of humour and sometimes used it in his discourses.
The Pali Tipitaka contains a fairly
wide range of humorous elements- witty or droll riposte,
puns and amusing comparisons. Many stories in the Jataka
are amusing, sometimes even slapstick or ribald. But the
Buddha's intention never seems to be to create laughter
for laughter's sake but to educate, stimulate or to bring
a different perspective to a situation.
is not quite so apparent in Mahayana literature but not
completely absent. Asvaghosa's Vajrasuci uses irony and
sarcasm to highlight the absurdity of the Hindu caste
system, and the Asanga's Mahayana sutralankara contains
a good collection of amusing stories. But it was the Cha'n
and Zen schools of China and Japan that used humour extensively,
probably initially as a healthy antidote against a Mahayana
that was becoming increasingly pompous and rigid in those
countries. The very particular humour of Ch'an and Zen
is meant to help reconcile oneself to one's foibles and
to keep one's balance in a difficult world.