Few years back, one early morning, I had gone for a Japa walk on Juhu beach with some senior devotees. While we were enjoying the cool breeze and gushing of the waves and chanting the Hare Krishna Mahamantra softly, I suddenly heard the sound of feigned laughter. Seemed like a deliberate attempt of many people trying to laugh together. I turned my head and at some distance I saw some people who were assembled in a circle clapping their hands and laughing loudly in mechanical fashion. While it seemed crazy to me, the other devotees enlightened me about the “Laughter Club”. I simply couldn’t imagine that people could gather together just to laugh artificially. Or even smile for that matter. Later on I came to know the philosophy behind the ha ha ha club. They say, If circumstances in life do not allow one to laugh naturally, one should still laugh because after all laughter is the best medicine/Therapy. As per modern research, laughter decreases stress and increases immunity.
Agreed, I thought, “laughter is the best medicine”. Agreed, even if circumstances do not allow us to laugh naturally, we still try to laugh. However wouldn’t it be great if we would be able to laugh and smile naturally throughout the thick and thin of our life? If our smiles could be meaningful and independent of the superficial happenings in our life.
There is that story about how one person went to a psychiatrist and desperately asked for advice to cure his depression. In response, the doctor stood up, opened his clinic’s window and gazed into the distance. “Look outside”, he said. “Do you see that circus, it’s one of the most exciting circus I have ever seen in my entire life. In that circus, there is a clown who is the most funniest person I have ever seen on earth, there is no one whom he could not induce to laugh or at least smile. Go and see him perform, I am sure you will laugh to death and forget your depression”. “My dear Doctor” said the patient, “I…uhh…I am that Clown”. Needless to mention what happened to our doctor.
On our Antisocial (because they separate us from live contact with people) medias called Facebook, Instagram and what’s up (has to go down) etc., people frivolously, like the Clown, keep posting their plastic smiles for the day while continuing to feel miserable within. What is the use however of synthetic smiles which benefit neither the smiler nor those equally frivolous people who download those smiles and ‘like’ them too? Many times people delight in watching silly videos of jokes and pranks etc. and try to forget their miseries. People lead a meaningless life filled with meaningless smiles.
The Bhagavad Gita states that everything in the material world is of three types as per the three modes of nature, Sattva (Goodness), Rajas (Passion) and Tamas (Ignorance). Three types of knowledge, three types of food, three types of clothes, three types of everything. So could we say that there are three types of smiles or laughter? Laughter in Goodness, Passion and Ignorance and of course Laughter in Pure Goodness. There is laughter in Ignorance, the loud, careless laughter of a drug addict or a drunkard which will result in terrible misery shortly thereafter. Then there is laughter in Passion, the triumphant laughter of a materially successful man or woman, which unfortunately however does not last long as per the stringent laws of this world. The laughter of a person in Goodness however stems from a deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. This satisfaction is the result of many years of walking rightly on the righteous path of Spirituality, of leading a sinless life, of following the various rules and regulations given in Vedic Scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita. At the end of the second Chapter of Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna mentions, one who lives a godly life, controlling one’s mind and senses and engaging them in His service, till the time of death, attains perfection at the end of life. Such a person not only smiles with immense bliss at the time of death but also smiles with fulfillment throughout his life while walking on the glorious path of going back home, back to the spiritual world, back to godhead.
However the path of goodness is not a quick fix to the miseries of life like a painkiller tablet. When we try to adopt the Bhagavad gita as a manual for living, it is not that we will expect, overnight miraculous changes in everything in life. But we will start finding that our inner fabric changes and we start smiling within. How is that, because we will have a purpose for living and we will see that we are moving along with the purpose. We will have the joy of being in charge of our life, our emotions, our actions as guided by the Supreme Authority, Lord Krishna.
As one scholarly saint puts it, spiritual experience is so fulfilling that we no longer crave for the hundreds and thousands of experiences that the world is alluring us with; eat this, touch this, watch this, etc. That craving dies down. Just like once we have eaten to our full satisfaction, we don’t get allured even by our most favorite foods. bhaktih paresänubhavo viraktir anyatra (Srimad Bhagavatam 11.2.42). As soon as one fills his heart with devotional service to Krishna, other things fade out.
Our Japa walk came to an end and we entered into our temple to take darshan. Suddenly ecstatic laughter resounded in my ears as we entered the premises. The first thing which popped into my mind was “Hey, Did the Laughter Club members come to the temple?”. This laughter however was much different. As I moved closer, my eyes followed my ears in the direction of the sound only to see a wonderful sight of some devotees with the bright mark of yellow Gopi Chandana Tilak on their foreheads, their necks decorated with Tulasi Kanthi malas and small ponytails behind their clean shaven heads. This laughter was impregnated with deep contentment arising from leading a pure life filled with devotion for the Supreme Lord, a laughter which could not be suppressed by any calamities in life, what to speak of trivials. A laughter arising from the unlimited joy of having perfected one’s life after long years of spiritual practice. Tears streaming down my eyes, I decided, I wanted to be a part of this spiritual Laughter Club, The real Laughter Club.
Madhava Kumar Das