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Budai (Chinese: 布袋; Pinyin: bùdài), pronounced Hotei in Japanese, is a Chinese folkloric deity. His name means "Cloth Sack," and comes from the bag that he carries. He is almost always shown smiling or laughing, hence his nickname in Chinese, the Laughing Buddha (Chinese:笑佛). In English speaking countries, he is popularly known also as the Fat Buddha.

Description Edit

Budai is often depicted as having the appearance of a amply proportioned bald man wearing a robe and wearing or otherwise carrying prayer beads. He carries his few possessions in a cloth sack, being poor but content.

His figure appears throughout Chinese culture as a representation of contentment. His image graces many temples, restaurants, amulets, and businesses.

However, the "Fat Buddha" is not the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, and strictly speaking the statue is not an idol. Buddha means "one who has achieved a state of perfect enlightenment" and there are several people who have been given the title. Gautama lived from around 560 BCE to 480 BCE, it was not until around 127 BCE that statues actually depicting him became prevalent. Before that, and still today, statues of the Bodhi Tree and other objects associated with his life were common. Guatama is commonly thought to be tall, slender and masculine in appearance, although since no images of him from his lifetime exist this depiction of him is unverifiable and possibly idealized.

History Edit

According to Chinese tradition, Budai was an eccentric Chinese Zen (Chán) monk who lived during the Later Liang Dynasty (907–923 CE) of China. He was a native of Fenghua, and his Buddhist name was Qieci (Chinese: 契此; Pinyin: Qiècǐ; literally: Promise this). He was considered a man of good and loving character.

Although primarily a folkloric figure, he has been incorporated into a number of Buddhist and Taoist folklore traditions.

Traditions that revere Budai Edit

Folklore Edit

Budai in folklore is admired for his happiness, plenitude, and wisdom of contentment. One belief popular in folklore maintains that rubbing his belly brings wealth, good luck, and prosperity.

In Japan, Hotei persists in folklore as one of the Seven Lucky Gods (Shichi Fukujin) of Taoism.

Buddhism Edit

Some Buddhist traditions consider him a bodhisattva, usually Maitreya (the future Buddha).

His identification with the Maitreya Bodhisattva is attributed to a Buddhist hymn (Chinese: 偈语; Pinyin: Jiéyǔ) he uttered before his death:

彌勒真彌勒,化身千百億,時時示時人,時人自不識
Maitreya, the true Maitreya
has billions of incarnations.
Often he is shown to people at the time;
other times they do not recognize him.

Zen Buddhism Edit

The primary story that concerns Budai in Zen (Chán) is a short kōan. In it, Budai is said to travel giving candy to poor children, only asking a penny from Zen monks or lay practitioners he meets. One day a monk walks up to him and asks, "What is the meaning of Zen?" Budai drops his bag. "How does one realize Zen?" he continues. Budai then takes up his bag and continues on his way.

I Kuan Tao Edit

Statues of Budai form a central part of shrines in the I Kuan Tao. He is usually referred to by his Sanskrit name, Maitreya, and is taken to represent many important teachings and messages, including contentment, generosity, wisdom and open kindheartedness. He is predicted to succeed Gautama Buddha, as the next Buddha. He helps people realize the essence within, which connects with all beings. and he fosters the realization of tolerance, generosity and contentment; thus, he helps to bring heaven to earth.

Conflation with other deities Edit

Angida ArhatEdit

Angida was one of the original eighteen Arhats of Buddhism. According to legend, Angida was a talented Indian snake catcher whose aim was to catch venomous snakes to prevent them from biting passers-by. Angida would also remove the snake's venomous fangs and release them. Due to his kindness, he was able to attain bodhi.

In Chinese art, Angida is sometimes portrayed as Budai, being rotund, laughing, and carrying a bag. In Nepali, he is also called hasne buddha.

Phra Sangkajai/ Phra Sangkachai Edit

In Thailand, Budai is sometimes confused with another similar monk widely respected in Thailand, Phra Sangkajai or Sangkachai (Thai: พระสังกัจจายน์). Phra Sangkajai, a Thai spelling of Mahakaccayanathera (Thai: มหากัจจายนเถระ), was a Buddhist Arhat (in Sanskrit) or Arahant (in Pali) during the time of the Lord Buddha. Lord Buddha praised Phra Sangkadchai for his excellence in explaining sophisticated dharma (or dhamma) in an easily and correctly understandable manner. Phra Sangkajai also composed the Madhupinadika Sutra.

One tale relates that he was so handsome that once even a man wanted him for a wife. To avoid a similar situation, Phra Sangkadchai decided to transform himself into a fat monk. Another tale says he was so attractive that angels and men often compared him with the Buddha. He considered this inappropriate, so disguised himself in an unpleasantly fat body.

Although both Budai and Phra Sangkajai may be found in both Thai and Chinese temples, Phra Sangkajai is found more often in Thai temples, and Budai in Chinese temples. Two points to distinguish them from one another are:

  1. Phra Sangkajai has a trace of hair on his head (looking similar to the Buddha's) while Budai is clearly bald.
  2. Phra Sangkajai wears the robes in Theravadin Buddhist fashion with the robes folded across one shoulder, leaving the other uncovered. Budai wears the robes in Chinese style, covering both arms but leaving the front part of the upper body uncovered.

External links Edit

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Budai. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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