The smile of Buddha and the laughter of the Zen master
Play • 1 hr 27 min
[Recorded 28th October 2015] It is a widespread assumption that the comic spirit must not be associated too closely with the sacred, as if it were a distraction, if not a negation of the earnestness and holiness of the religious task, and an insult to the truth. You can laugh with God, because God is pure joy, but you do not laugh at God. And God does not laugh. Yet for Zen Buddhism, the comic spirit is a fundamental experience. The great masters have always used the full range of its nuances: from good-natured sarcasm to irreverent laughter, from irony to paradox. They were convinced that the comic would represent a much more serious perception of reality and a deeper form of moral awareness and inner awakening. In the Zen tradition, laughter, far from being the expression of a childish and foolish spontaneity, is the result of a rigorous and original theoretical speculation on the relationship between language and the absolute truth of emptiness. Massimo Raveri, anthropologist, is professor of Japanese religions and philosophies at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. His most recent book is Il pensiero giapponese classico (Einaudi, 2014). This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 28 October 2015.
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