In September 2008 I went to visit my wife’s brother Gope in Toronto. On my arrival, he wanted to introduce me to several of his friends so he organized a dinner
party. As we talked and got around, most of his friends discovered that I was the founder of Laughter Yoga. Highly amused, they were eager to get more details about the concept. During our conversations that evening, one guest mentioned that Laughter Clubs has been featured in several Hindi movies and was wondering if the film producers had consulted me before featuring the Laughter Yoga sessions. He was quite upset when I said that I had not been consulted. “At least they should have mentioned your name”, he insisted.
Feeling grateful for her genuine concern, I responded, “It is fine with me if they do not mention my name. The whole concept is to create more awareness, and if the film with its immense popularity has become a medium for spreading the message of laughter in India, as well as to Indians abroad, I am really happy. It’s not about my name. I tried to explain that the laughter movement is a divine movement – it is not just “Dr. Kataria’s Movement” and that a much higher force was working
behind the concept. “It is some kind of spiritual power without which I would not have been able to spread the idea worldwide,” I said.
I cited another incident when in 2005, I had gone to Melbourne, to present a corporate seminar for the Australian Institute of Management, and conduct several Laughter Yoga seminars. My host Merv Neal had become a Laughter Yoga activist following his recovery from a life- threatening illness that had shut down his bone marrow and immune system. He strongly believed that laughter was the catalyst that had turned his condition around.
On our way from the airport to his home, I asked what his profession was and he said he assisted people in writing business plans. When he asked if I had one, I very sheepishly admitted that I had none and nor was I interested is such a thing. I told him Laughter Yoga had become a global phenomenon without any marketing and publicity on my part and that laughter is not my business, it is my social mission.
Although surprised with my statement, Merv continued to push for a business plan, convinced I needed one and lots of money in order to spread the laughter movement much faster. I had never thought about laughter needing a business plan before listening to him, but somehow he swayed me. I asked him if he would help me write one, so for the next two days, together, we developed a great strategy for advancing the Laughter Yoga movement.
Merv introduced me to about 250-300 people at the seminar, then asked, “How many of you have heard about Laughter Clubs?” More than 200 raised their hands. Next question, “How many of you have heard of Dr. Madan Kataria? Maybe 25 responded affirmatively to that question! Merv’s spontaneous response was, “Ladies and gentlemen, here is man who is known more for his work than for himself!”
Surprisingly, I had no bad feelings about not being known, but instead, a wave of enlightenment flooded my heart. Suddenly, I knew that after I die, the Laughter Yoga movement would continue to live, because the movement had grown not because of my personal charisma, but
because of the positive benefits derived by those who had experienced the healing power of laughter.
I had always felt that the Laughter Yoga movement had spread like wildfire to so many countries in a very short period of time without advertising and marketing because an undeniable Higher Force was guiding and promoting it. I knew it was not about me, but about the work, the people and the benefits it provided, but that day drove the point home. Yes, laughter has its own wisdom, its own intelligence – I was merely the vessel.