Sunday, October 26, 2008

Who is the Fat Laughing Buddha?

Who is that fat laughing Buddha we often see depicted sitting in a relaxed posture? Many people gets confused with this image of a fat monk, totally incongruent with the enlightened and meditative Buddha. For a lot of people who come to the study of Buddhism for the first time, this actually is the Buddha, this chubby guy who has a smile on his face sitting in a relaxed posture. In fact, we see that figure around us quite often in this world.

Well, here is his story. He is called Budai. It is said, specially in China and Japan, that this image of a chubby monk is that of a real monk who lived and wandered through this world. It is told that he carried a bag full of things which he distributed to people. He was almost like a Buddhist Santa Claus. He had everything that anyone needed to remove their suffering. In a happy and jovial way he will simply provide this to people.

In a more profound way, it is understood that he was not merely a human being. He was a manifestation of Maitreya. Maitreya is venerated throughout the Buddhist world as the future Buddha, the next in the line. He is waiting in heaven until the situation is right in this world for him to come and to start the teaching of Buddhism all over again.

Since he is up there in heaven, it's possible for us to invoke his aid. You can find remarkable stories of devotion to Maitreya, specially in China, where he seems to play a particularly important role. Remember that Budai is simply a representation of Maitreya of the many that exist.

To understand this devotion to Maitreya, you must remember that Mahayana Buddhism changed the style and tone of the tradition in profound ways. To know more about this, you might be interested in this web site.

Buddhism Through Buddhist Eyes
More about Mahayana Buddhism
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