It is thought that the earliest point in human history when laughter was first taken ‘seriously’ was in the tenth century A.D. It is credited to the Buddhist monk ‘Budai’ also known as the laughing Buddha and frequently mistaken in the west as yet another avatar of Gautama Buddha who lived in the sixth century B.C.
Although it is said and might well be true, but we will never know, that when Gautama Buddha finally attained enlightenment under the Bodhisattva tree, after years of penance and searching, he sat there and simply laughed.
Fast forward 1600 years to Budai, a pot-bellied monk, chuckling and laughing his way as he moved from village to village in rural China, sack in hand , adored by children. He became known as the laughing Buddha and gave legitimacy to the most basic of human emotions – laughter.
In recent times, the innovation of laughter as a therapy can be credited to American psychologist Dr Annette Goodheart, who in the late sixties created a whole set of techniques on how to use laughter to release tension and thereby provide relief from strong or repressed emotions.
In the late eighties, Osho, an Indian mystic, introduced a meditation called the Mystic Rose – a three-hour-a-day, three-week process involving a week of voluntary simulated laughter, followed by a week of tears, and a final week of silence. Thousands have taken part in these meditations over the years: a therapy has graduated into a meditation.
More recently, another Indian is credited with taking laughter to its next evolutionary stage, giving it more legitimacy than ever:Dr Madan Kataria, also known as the guru of giggling. Laughter therapy has now re-incarnated as Hasya Yoga or laughter Yoga and is a recognized activity as essential as a morning walk or jog.
It’s a simple ten-minute workout. Every morning get together with fellow practitioners in a park, form a circle, and laugh. Although induced at first, the laughter gradually, in a virus-like fashion, becomes a genuine infection, loses its grip on the induced forces, and becomes a part of your being. Watch this video to learn more: Laughter – The democracy of joy