Laughing Buddha and Significance
“Laughing Buddha, as we all know, brings good luck, contentment and abundance in one’s life. It depicts plenitude of whatever one wishes for – be it wealth, happiness or satisfaction.”
Originally he was named Hotei (in Japan) or Budai or Pu-Tai (in China) but he is best known as the Laughing Buddha. In China, people call him the Loving or Friendly One. His figure is based on an eccentric Chinese monk who lived over a thousand years ago and who has become a significant and popular symbol in Buddhist and Shinto culture.
According to an ancient legend the jolly good saint used to go from one town to the other to fulfill his mission: spreading happiness and joy wherever he went. Pu-Tai was a charismatic character who drew people like a magnet to his presence. People used to crowd around him and he is often depicted with happy children. The monk was famous for handing out sweets and small toys he took from his cloth bag, after which he would put the bag down, stare up at the sky and start to laugh madly. His laughter proved to be very contagious indeed and before long all who had gathered around him would start to laugh as well. That would be the signal that his work had been done, he would pick up the bag and journey to the next village or town. And that was his method of spreading happiness and enlightenment.
Laughing Buddha statues depict a stout, smiling or laughing bald man in robes with a largely exposed pot belly stomach, which symbolizes happiness, good luck, and plenitude. His image graces many temples, restaurants, and amulets, as he has become a deity of contentment and abundance. The image of Hotei is almost always seen carrying a cloth or linen sack (that which never empties) which is filled with many precious items, including rice plants (indicating wealth), candy for children, food, or the woes of the world.
Different types of laughing Buddha and Significance
The meaning of sculptures depicting Buddha holding a bowl points to an essential part of a monk’s life – it is a begging bowl and represents the idea that monks live off what is given or donated by others. There is also a story associated with Buddha and the begging bowl. It is said that as Buddha came close to reaching enlightenment and young woman gave him a bowl of milk rice, however at this time Buddha was fasting. Realizing that his fasting had weakened his body and he would require more nourishment in order to attain enlightenment he accepted.
Having reached enlightenment he discarded the little remaining contents of the bowl symbolizing his detachment form material possessions. The link between the renunciation of material possessions and reaching enlightenment plays a prominent part in Buddhist philosophy. Budai holds the bowl above his head to receive abundance from the heavens.
A laughing Hotei Buddha with a fan is a symbol of happiness and joy. Some scenes the Laughing Buddha may be found sitting on a cart drawn by boys, or wielding a fan called an oogi (said to be a “wish giving” fan -in the distant past, this type of fan was used by the aristocracy to indicate to vassals that their requests would be granted). The Wish-Giving Fan symbolizes happiness. Budai waves the fan to banish troubles.
Sack or bag-
Sculptures of Buddha with a sack usually depicts Hotei Buddha. Hotei, meaning ‘cotton sack’ is the representation of the travelling Buddha. It is said that he wanders the world collecting people’s sadness and woes and putting them in his sack. The sack is also said to represent wealth and good fortune.
The beads, known as a ‘mala,’ represent never-ending meditation practice, even when engaged in worldly activities.
The Parasol gives protection by deflecting misfortune.
The ball has various meanings, the more popular one is that the ball is a wealth ball which brings wealth and prosperity. Other meanings include medicine balls, pearls of wisdom, and a peach or apricot representing health and prosperity
Happy Hotei’s come in many forms:
Safe Travels Buddha-
Combinations of symbols create a seated Love Buddha holding a wealth ball in one hand with a bag slung over his shoulder.
Buddha awaits his transition from this life to death, which he viewed as a mere journey of transition into a different state of being.
Wealthy Brass Laughing Buddha Sitting On Dragon Chair-
Depicted in an ever smiling face, holding a gold ingot in his left hand and a sack of wealth in his right, sitting on a Dragon Chair with the Chinese character for “Good Fortune and Luck” on the back with the auspicious gold coins scattered underneath, the Laughing Buddha on Dragon Chair for Good Fortune is a must for those wishing for riches and abundance
Buddha on Coins/Bag-
Buddha standing or sitting on a pile of coins or his bag is protector of wealth.
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