Jokes: Wholesome or not?

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by Hikaru Zero, May 27, 2006.

  1. Hikaru Zero

    Hikaru Zero Sylvan Paladin

    I remember a long time ago I was talking with Darrell Kitchen (the guy who posted half the stickies on this board, he's a Sangha monk now) about joking, and I'm not sure that my question was ever answered completely, so I want to start a little think-tank thread about it.

    Certainly in many (if not all) strains and hybrids of Buddhism, there is the idea of wholesome actions and unwholesome actions -- and also skilled and unskilled. Wholesome actions produce positive karma, and unwholesome negative.

    So let's say you and a friend are messing around and laughing, and just in jest, you call him some arbitrary, normally hurtful name. But, he's okay with it, he knows you're just joking around, so in jest he calls you one back. Nobody is offended.

    Is that jest wholesome or not?

    What if, for example, somebody takes what you say seriously even if it was meant in jest -- or even if someone overhears you saying something jokingly about them, and they take it seriously.

    Could that jest still be considered wholesome?

    What determines when something is wholesome? Its intention? Its result? Is something wholesome sometimes, and unwholesome other times?

    Your thoughts?
  2. MollyThe Hippy

    MollyThe Hippy get high school

    we must be serious if we are ever going to dispell the illusions of maya so in my opinion, jokes are a detriment to the path of self realization and attain enlightenment
  3. Peterness

    Peterness Member

    I think the root is intention, but intention clearly isn't enough.

    For example, you jest, you have no negative intention diercted towards your friend. You don't really want to hurt him. There is no negative root behind your jest; No anger, jealousy etc. This is basically neutral karma.

    But other times you may unintentionally hurt your friend with jests. Your friend may be hiding some anxiety or problem from you and may not be in the mood for a misplaced joke from you. He may become distressed by it even though you didn't mean to hurt him.

    So you see you also need to have mindfulness. You need to understand the person, your friend, so you can be a good friend and not cause him suffering, be it unintentionally or not. This is how you move it away from simple neutral karma to positive karma.

    But it must be said that sometimes jests do have hidden negative intentions and motives. You have to understand where your jests are really coming from in order to choose carefully what to say if you really don't want to cause suffering.

    We all know a person who always go too far with jokes. I certainly do and this person often causes a lot of people around him to become uncomfortable and embarrassed. But I know he doesn't really want to hurt the people around him in any malicious way it's just he's very 'unmindful' and is slightly insecure. He's quite a decent person really.

    So I think it boils down to mindfulness, being aware of your situation, the people around you, and also being aware of your own intentions; If you are in a bad mood it's possible your jokes are coming out as scornful.
    People who are full of hate or anger or other negativity (insecurity) may make jokes that are rascist or mocking, designed to hurt or humiliate others.

    "we must be serious if we are ever going to dispell the illusions of maya so in my opinion, jokes are a detriment to the path of self realization and attain enlightenment"

    I think thats a terrible way to live. A life without humour? A sense of humour is vital to attaining enlightenment!

    Why do some in the Buddhist traditions go around so solemn? Smile!
  4. Hikaru Zero

    Hikaru Zero Sylvan Paladin

    Thanks for your insight -- it makes much sense that mindfulness is the key to knowing when a joke will produce positive or negative karma.


    Any other opinions?
  5. Peterness

    Peterness Member

    Is there anything else that can be said about it?
  6. prismatism

    prismatism loves you

    i wrote something a lot longer but i can sum it up by saying:

    if you know you're saying something that you wouldn't want everyone in the world to hear (not because it's personal, which is another subject, but if it's offensive) then that's bad karma.

    saying something that everybody in the world wouldn't want to hear is different, because people can get offended by the truth very easily.
  7. Hikaru Zero

    Hikaru Zero Sylvan Paladin

    Good observation. =)
  8. Bhaskar

    Bhaskar Members

    Why mus humor be such that it derides another person, even in jest? Are we so far gone that we cannot make a joke without putting somebody down?
  9. Hikaru Zero

    Hikaru Zero Sylvan Paladin

    Well I suppose I'm referring only to that circumstantial humour which typical people use day to day.

    I like to think of it as "roughhousing with words," it's not actually fighting, nor is it particularly violent or anything, it's only meant in fun, but sometimes it can get out of hand and others can get hurt.
  10. Bhaskar

    Bhaskar Members

    Harmless? It is an expression of aggressive instinct.
  11. Hikaru Zero

    Hikaru Zero Sylvan Paladin

    Is it? I don't know if laughing and saying something that you expect to make other people laugh would be an aggressive instinct.

    I think context is important. Anything taken out of context can be misinterpreted as an aggressive instinct but I'm not sure that it's either aggressive nor instinct in the context I'm talking about. Hence "joking," I'm not sure if I'd call a jest an aggressive instinct.
  12. Bhaskar

    Bhaskar Members

    I was referring specifically to roughhousing.
  13. Hikaru Zero

    Hikaru Zero Sylvan Paladin

    Okay, my bad ... I think I kind of forgot where the conversation originally was ... sorry. =(

    But me and my friends man, we enjoy it! We really do. Heck I love having kendo bamboo swordfights with my roommate and playing football and I even enjoy just wrestling with people and having fun like that, it's a physical act, I think it's less out of aggression and just more out of ... I don't know, fun perhaps?
  14. Peterness

    Peterness Member

    Some schools of buddhism practice martial arts to improve concentration and to rechannel sexual energy. It's a part of the practice. I don't really see the problem with it as long as you don't go around beating up people for fun...Again it boils down to intention; There's little wrong with having a play flight with people as long as you aren't out to really hurt them.

    I agree with you, it can be fun. I do think many types of martial arts are indeed very helpful to the individual both physically and mentally.

    But hey now we've gone off topic
  15. steffan

    steffan puffin

    If you are seeking perfection than you should not allow a situation to develope that will cause harm. like i used to tell my daughter when she said she didnt mean to do something, "you didnt mean not to"
    most of us however, wether we are budist or just trieing to be a good human, are just seeking a balance.
    there realy are no excuses, nor justifications, theres just the life of the ever imperfect human
  16. prismatism

    prismatism loves you

    i just thought of something. i have a lot of friends who do this, and i do it to...

    someone will affectionately be like "bitch! i'll kill you! fuckoff! i'll cut out your organs and feed them to a baby jaguar!", and then the other kid will counter with "i'll stab your eyes out with a plastic troll!"

    and i don't really think that will hurt anyone, even though it's not something you want to be said in every situation to every person. and play fighting doesn't hurt anyone. they're both fun and help people bond.

    so i guess... it really depends... and we either have to use our common sense and instincts or be completely sterile and safe around everyone.

    it's hard to have a concrete opinion... on anything, actually....

    i don't know.
  17. This is actually something that my friends and I have been talking about a lot recently.

    My opinion is that we should joke around, and in the context of friends, where we know that we have no intention of harming one another, the "rough-housing with words" is perfectly acceptable.

    as for the no jokes Idea, I think that taking humor is not a distraction from the path to enlightenment, jokes can keep us humble, and prevent the ego from rising up. Jokes can allow us to get to know someone better, and make them more receptive to a teaching. And they can also be a method of teaching unto themselves, i.e. one of the "skills in means" so praised in the lotus sutra.
  18. Peterness

    Peterness Member

    lol...Yeah that's pretty funny. If someone threatened to stab my eyes out with a plastic troll i wouldn't be offended, quite the contary!

    I love the way your thoughts just trail off here...please post more often!
  19. Posthumous

    Posthumous Resident Smartass

    laughter is the soul crying, and sometimes the soul needs a good, hard long cry.
  20. indescribability

    indescribability Not To Be Continued

    I have to say that I'm not quite sure how I feel about this. It seems quite subjective. It seems that if the person saying 'something' wouldn't mind the whole world hearing it's ok that it's offensive because people are easily offended.

    Take for instance myself and my father. My father is a rather big guy; by big I mean heavyset. He thinks it ok to make "fat jokes". He means no harm by them and has no issue with other heavyset folks hearing these "jokes". By what you've just said what he does is not bad karma because he wouldn't stiffle his comments in a mixed crowd despite the fact that not everybody in the world would want to hear it.

    Or am I misunderstanding what you have said?

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