The Psychology of Emotions and Humor in Buddhism
- ISBN: 9783319975139
- Published By: Palgrave Macmillan
- Published: September 2018
Padmasiri de Silva’s The Psychology of Emotions and Humour in Buddhism examines the psychological dimensions of emotions and humour in Buddhism. While there is a wealth of material concerning human emotions related to humour and the mindful management of negative emotions, very little has been written on the theory of Buddhist humour. Uniting both Buddhist and Western philosophy, the author draws on the theory of “incongruity humour,” espoused by figures such as Søren Kierkegaard, Immanuel Kant, and G.W.F. Hegel and absorbed into the interpretation of humour by Buddhist monk Venerable Ñāṇavīra. De Silva makes extensive use of rich primary sources, such as the parables used by Ajahn Brahm, while interweaving Western theories and philosophies to illuminate this original study of humour and emotion. This pioneering work will be of interest and value to students and scholars of humour, Buddhist traditions, and existentialism more widely.
De Silva accomplishes his book’s objectives by structuring the contents into eleven chapters, each of which includes an abstract to ensure that the chapter’s contents are clear and easily understood. The book begins with a thorough introduction that provides a full synopsis of the book and educates readers on what to expect and the scope of the book. The author conveys his concepts succinctly while using humour as he demonstrates the usage of humour in Buddhist and Western philosophy. He begins by demonstrating the relationship between the seven cardinal sins in Christianity and the barriers to right living in Buddhism: wrath, greed, pride, envy, sloth, gluttony, and lust.
As De Silva implies, anger is the outcome of repressing bad feelings. According to the author, anger results in jealousy. He argues that humour promotes self-awareness, which can result in an individual comprehending their anger. Acknowledgment of anger through humour can aid in the development of mindfulness, in which individuals become aware of their feelings without reacting or judgment. The author is particularly concerned with greed, pride, and conceits. He contends that greed is the product of implacable desires, the pursuit of which can result in dissatisfaction and boredom. On the other side, pride occurs when one believes oneself to be superior to others. The book claims that pride and conceit are byproducts of an egoistic and self-centered society characterized by an insatiable need to ascend the social order, which results in social pathology manifested by anxiety, loneliness, and emptiness. Thus, humour aids in the identification of these impairments by assisting one in self-discovery.
The author examines the concept and application of humour in the Buddha’s teachings, Zen philosophy, and Western philosophy, with a particular emphasis on Kierkegaard’s three stages of life. Kierkegaard’s three stages—aesthetic, ethical, and religious—are juxtaposed with Buddhist philosophy, which echoes the analogy. The Buddha used humour to demonstrate the foolishness and fragility of human beings in his teachings. For instance, the discourse depicting a man carrying a raft on his head criticizes those who use the dharma for aesthetic reasons rather than living and practicing it. De Silva describes Zen philosophy’s use of humour as a means of avoiding conflict. He contends that the development of polarities as a result of the need to categorize reality results in conflict (45).
Readers will like the book because of the humourous stories that are both useful and entertaining. The story of the monkey and the banana, children’s sandcastles, a man carrying a raft on his head, poisoned arrow, man and water snake, God Sakka and demon, and the Mexican fisherman are all examples of such narratives. Easy-to-understand and succinctly defined Buddhist words enable lay Buddhists and others unfamiliar with Buddhist jargon to readily comprehend the book. Advanced readers and academics will also benefit from the wealth of knowledge about humour in Western philosophy, which includes the various theories of humour, a full explanation of the distinction between emotions and humour, and instructions on how to develop mindfulness through humour.
The reader will discover that, despite the author’s extensive knowledge of Buddhist psychology, he is either unfamiliar with certain scientific concepts, such as anxiety and depression, or has purposefully misrepresented them. While the author believes that the key issues are anxiety, loneliness, and emptiness, he does not provide an in-depth explanation of the concepts, despite his recommendation in chapter 10 to use a scientific and analytical approach. Additionally, depression receives no attention in the book, although it is more prevalent than anxiety. According to the World Health Organization, depression will be the major cause of illness burden by 2030; yet, the book does not devote enough attention to the subject. Overall, the book is worth reading for anybody interested in learning how humour can lead to mindfulness, and therefore to escape from the impurities of right living.
Chandima Gangodawila is a research scholar at Ronin Institute, New Jersey, USA.Chandima GangodawilaDate Of Review:January 24, 2022