Dhanurdhara Swami January 13th, 2001
Met Kaustubha, Jai Nitai, and Joe at the airport. Kaustubha and Jai Nitai agree to wait until tomorrow morning to pick up the devotees arriving from America so that I can go with Joe to Mayapur to make sure everything is ready for the tour.
Joe, as many devotees know, is a professional comedian in New York. We talked on the way about my theory of the philosophical basis of comedy based on Bhagavad-gītā, 3.27. To paraphrase, “The spirit soul bewildered by the three modes of nature thinks himself the doer, but is forced to act helplessly according to the three modes of material nature.”
With a straight face I tell him what a serious subject it is. Of course, I’m only half-serious. It’s a long and very bumpy four-hour ride to Mayapur, and it’s really hard to concentrate on much else then a good conversation. I think, however, I’m onto an interesting realization and it leads to a thought-provoking discussion. We even discussed the different types of comedy and how they fit into my theory.
My premise is that everything in this world moves by God’s will for the purpose of liberating those souls who have turned away from Him and have adopted ahaṅkāra, the false egoist conception of being the doer or controller. This platform is foolish and laughable because, on this platform, one is not acting intelligently but indiscriminately by the force of his nature. Humor is the process of parodying non-malicious conditioned activities and thus discouraging them. This was my basic analysis of the purpose of humor based on the above Bhagavad-gītā verse where Kṛṣṇa calls the conditioned souls mūḍhās, or fools. In other words, a person with a good sense of humor can sense the passions of people and, in an indirect or subtle way, make comments or tell stories that mock and hopefully deter such conditioning. In contrast, when one controls his impulses and his actions are guided by intelligence, it is sober, respected, and thus generally praised and encouraged. Of course, everything has its useful and inappropriate application, but humor definitely has a place in spiritual life, even in the spiritual world.
We also developed my thesis in fun ways. For example, it came to light that the more one is under the modes of nature, surrendering his freewill and his ability to act with discernment, the more humorous his actions are. We concluded that that’s why a lot of comedy is based on people from New York, which is such hotbed of insane, passionate, and impulsive activity. We also thought that’s why New Yorkers often make good comedians: they somehow also have the smarts to recognize and appreciate such madness.
We also discussed the idea of me giving a seminar to his comedy group about the philosophy of humor. We had a laugh about how funny that could be and how difficult it would be to do with a straight face.
Of course, this was not a fully developed thesis, just some philosophical fun, but Joe caught the idea and the discussion was Kṛṣṇa conscious. We thus concluded that humor, appropriately applied, can serve a liberating purpose for a somewhat discriminating person by discouraging actions that are passionate or ignorant, and by not acting impulsively or foolish oneself.
An hour from Mayapur we see the sign for Śāntipura, the home of Śrī Advaita Ācārya. Time to get serious. We begin kirtan and prepare ourselves for entering the dhāma.
Audārya-dhāma! We immediately feel the magnanimity of Lord Caitanya. We enter and receive a warm welcome from many of my friends there.
- Greetings from Vrindavan