The first question:
To become enlightened, do you need to be Jewish or does it just help?
Religion has been missing one very fundamental quality: the sense of humor. It has been very unfortunate because it has made religion sick.
The sense of humor is part, an essential part, of the wholeness of man. It keeps him healthy, it keeps him young, it keeps him fresh. And for centuries the sad people have dominated religion. They have expelled laughter – from the churches, from the mosques, from the temples. The day laughter enters back into the holy places they will be really holy, because they will be whole. Laughter is the only quality that distinguishes man from other animals. Only man can see the ridiculous, the absurd. Only he has the capacity and the consciousness to be aware of the cosmic joke that existence is. It is a cosmic joke; it is not a serious affair.
Seriousness is a disease, but seriousness has been praised, respected, honored. It was absolutely essential to be serious to be a saint; hence only pathological people became interested in religion, people who were incapable of laughter. And people who are incapable of laughter are subhuman, they are not human yet – what to say about their being divine? That is impossible – they have not yet become human. And to be human is the bridge between the animal and the divine. Hence I have tremendous respect for the sense of humor, for laughter.
Laughter is far more sacred than prayer, because prayer can be done by any stupid person; it does not require much intelligence. Laughter requires intelligence, it requires presence of mind, a quickness of seeing into things. A joke cannot be explained: either you understand it or you miss it. If it is explained it loses the whole point; hence no joke can be explained. Either immediately you get it…. If you don’t get it immediately then you can try to find out the meaning of it; you will find out the meaning, but the joke will not be there. It was in the immediacy.
Humor needs presence, utter presence. It is not a question of analysis, it is a question of insight.
As far as humor is concerned, to be a little bit Jewish is very good – everybody should be a little bit Jewish! For enlightenment it will prepare the ground, it will make you more alive. Enlightenment is becoming totally alive. Laughter brings life to you.
And if you can laugh totally there are a few more things to be understood. In deep laughter the ego disappears, it is not found at all. You can’t have both laughter and the ego. If the ego is there it will keep you serious. All egoists are serious people, and all serious people are egoists.