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I am reading OSHO’s book titled The Absolute Tao. In this book, he commented on Jesus. He said he had deep sympathy for Jesus. He would like to carry his cross and walk with him for a while. But he would not like to be like Jesus. Why? Because he is too sad and burdened. It is as if he carried the burden of the entire humanity with him. He is surrounded with gloominess. This is actually true according to orthodox Christian theology.

OSHO’s comment is worth some reflections. In my book, The Zen Teachings of Jesus, I made a comparison between Buddha and Jesus. It is perhaps revealing that in the popular imagination, Buddha is always shown as smiling, while Jesus is always shown with a sad or serious face.

I took a position which is opposite to OSHO’s. My book is about Jesus as a master artist of living. I said that one lost dimension of Jesus (a dimension that people often miss) is joy. It is my belief that joy is an essential quality of a spiritual life. If one’s life is devoid of joy, then there is a question as to whether one’s spirituality is genuine. Having said that, it is true that Jesus and his disciples are often depicted as joyless in traditional Christian art and icons. This tradition may have started with Jesus himself. After all, Jesus is often shown as the suffering Christ nailed to a crucifix. He also played the role of the Jewish messiah. In that role as the messiah and prophet, he had to be weighed down by responsibilities. The depiction of Jesus as grim and joyless is quite understandable.

On the other hand, I would argue that Jesus could not be totally joyless. After all, it was him who said that “unless you turn and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”(Matthew 18: 3) Jesus also enjoyed the company of children. For he said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”(Matthew 19: 14) Jesus knew the secret of joyfulness — it is to regain one’s innocence and playfulness. The rank-and-file Christians, however, seem to have overlooked that.

So, I imagine a joyful Jesus. If Jesus spent some time with little children at all, it is hard to imagine him playing with children with a long and solemn face. I’d imagine him making funny faces to make children laugh…

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Published author, Zen teacher, professor, scientist, philosopher, social commentator, socially-engaged human

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