Laughable Suttas - Bring some joy!


For me, the thing is that in Pali, the distinction between a name and an epithet is not as clear as it is in English. In most cases, to be sure, a name is just a name and should not be translated. But in certain cases it seems justifiable.

Consider a name such as Andhavana. Despite the commentarial explanation and the subsequent translation of this as “Blind Man’s Grove” it seems very likely that the meaning of this is simply “Dark Forest”. And that is a common descriptor, one with a particular mood to it, that is lacking when it is not translated.

In other cases like Akkosaka Bharadvaja the meaning of the name is surely relevant; it must be purely an epithet: Angry Bharadvaja.

In the current case, I believe that the humor is quite intentional. As noted down the thread, dialogues with yakkhas tends to have a humorous tone to them, and I have no doubt this was the Buddha’s intent.


The story of Moggallāna and the Miser in the Illisa Jātaka.

I usually wheel this one out when I have to give a talk to an audience of young children. I know of none better for holding their attention, especially if you mime the actions of Moggallāna, the miser and the miser’s wife while telling it, and adopt a different voice for each character.


That’s it! Thanks!


Returning to the topic of humor to be found in the Canon, a couple of remarkable incidents were described just wonderfully by Ven Thanissaro in BMC1 (regarding exceptions to theft)


I think exaggerated voices can show humor in many Dhammapada verses.

For example, the fool’s voice, " it will not come to me!!!" in 121 & 122

One should not despise a little wickedness thinking: it will not come to me,
through the falling of water drops the water-pot is quickly filled,
the fool, gathering bit by bit, becomes full of wickedness.

One should not despise a little merit thinking: it will not come to me,
through the falling of water drops the water-pot is quickly filled,
the wise one, gathering bit by bit, becomes full of merit.


Or this, which, when you consider yourself as the ox, the cart, or the baggage being carted around, is imo hilarious.



This is a book on the topic of humor.

The Buddha Smiles

Humor in the Pali Canon

Brief Preview:

The Pali Canon has a reputation for being humorless. And it’s easy to see why. In some of its passages, the Buddha seems to regard humor in a bad light. For instance, in the Wailing Discourse (AN 3:107) he refers to “laughing excessively, showing one’s teeth,” as a form of childishness, and counsels that a monk, when feeling joy in the Dhamma, should simply smile. His instructions to Rāhula in MN 61 note that one shouldn’t tell a deliberate lie, “even in jest.” A passage in the Vinaya (Sk 51) tells of a monk, formerly an actor, who made a joke about the Saṅgha. The Buddha, in response, made it an offense for a monk to tell a joke not only about the Saṅgha, but also about the Buddha or Dhamma.

There is also the famous verse in the Dhp 146 that seems aimed at squelching all forms of merriment:

What laughter, why joy,

when constantly aflame?

Enveloped in darkness,

don’t you look for a lamp?

And then there’s the fact that the Buddha himself rarely smiles in the Canon, and when he does, the reasons for his smile are never hilarious.

Still, the Canon’s reputation for being devoid of humor is undeserved. It’s there in the Canon, but it often goes unrecognized.


Once upon a time, a monk approached the Buddha and humbly asked for advice:

AN8.63:1.2: “Sir, may the Buddha please teach me Dhamma in brief. When I’ve heard it, I’ll live alone, withdrawn, diligent, keen, and resolute.”

Yet the Buddha responds with some skepticism and one can almost see a raised eyebrow here. It is truly a “Spock moment”:

AN8.63:1.3: “This is exactly how some foolish people ask me for something.

And he continues gruffly with the following that I simply cannot avoid giggling at when I hear it:

AN8.63:1.4: But when the teaching has been explained they think only of following me around.”

Just imagine how we might feel taken aback by THAT!

Such is the life of a Buddha. :smiley:

Fortunately, the monk asked again and all was good…


I didn’t have a favorite quote from the suttas before, but I do now!