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Buddhism and the Theatre *raises hand in a dramatic fashion*

VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
edited July 8 in Buddhism Today

Off shoot from the game thread.

Is theatre wrong/unskillful ? This scripture was presented in that thread


“Thus the actor — himself intoxicated & heedless, having made others intoxicated & heedless — with the breakup of the body, after death, is reborn in what is called the hell of laughter. But if he holds such a view as this: 'When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas,' that is his wrong view. Now, there are two destinations for a person with wrong view, I tell you: either hell or the animal womb.”

I present this


Not a long read

“ ….. Also with reference to the apparent conflict between the early Pali scriptures and the importance of theatre to our lives, it is important that we not attempt to use Buddhist scriptures as immutable teachings, with the sometimes mistaken notion that the earlier they are the truer they are. The idea that any and all early sayings retain a higher truth throughout centuries of change contradicts the Buddha’s original teaching on the impermanence of all things. “

“ … I have found my answer to the question as to the nature of the relationship between the theatre and Mahayana Buddhism: empathy. Empathy is the ability to experience what others are feeling, to put oneself in another’s place. This is what we need if we are to fruitfully live our Buddhist understanding of our responsibility to the whole. Empathy is essential for the development of compassion. And this is what we experience as we sit in a darkened theater, experiencing the unfolding of lives, of situations, of emotions that we may perhaps never experience in any other way. An audience and actor connect in this mysterious exchange of understanding”



  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    I'm doubly cursed. I play TTRPGs and they incorporate both elements of acting/story and gaming. I'm a bad Buddhist who is practicing wrong and will no doubt, if I'm lucky, be reborn among the laughing devas and if not as an animal or in hell.

  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran

    If it makes you feel any better… musical theatre is a hill I will die on!

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    I'm doubly cursed.

    To be cursed by the Buddhas ignorance is better than being blessed by the worldly and wordy wise (allegedly)

    We keep the dharma updated, the lady buddhas evolving, the sangria sangha sobered. Us so cursed to do be extra goodly. :mrgreen:

    Back to the beginners corner with us...

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited July 9

    Yeah, that… for me it’s a contrast between on the one hand the ascetics view, that the theater is bad because it leads to intoxication and heedlessness, and the Buddha’s wisdom, where earnestness and sobriety and mindfulness lead to truth and Nirvana. Is the ascetic right to think that he is wise, and so to condemn the theater as a path to lower realms?

    I think we should not discard this out of hand because it is unpalatable to our entertainment-soaked brains. There is a lot to say for sobriety and earnestness and not getting carried away in the fever of story and drama. But I do think we should consider the ascetics path as one of extremes.

    As another view on intoxication and laughter, Osho always held that laughter was a very spiritual experience, because in the moment of laughter the mind is caught by surprise and for a short while we are free of thinking. That is also why laughter is such a pleasant experience, that it releases tremendous lightness of being.

    In a way, earnestness and sobriety and mindfulness are stances of concentrating the mind. Buddhism tries to allow you to reach Nirvana by manipulating the mind and digging deep into it. Osho says it is not necessary, you can go beyond just by focussing on witnessing, non judgmental awareness, and the experience of laughter helps with this, which is why he always told jokes in his lectures.

    So it really depends on how closely you want to follow the Buddhist prescription for enlightenment through a sober mind. Perhaps you want to avoid the extremes and take a middle road, partaking some of comedy and laughter, and some of seriousness?

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