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Statue of Budai in Beipu, Taiwan

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.

Contents

Description

Budai is often depicted as having the appearance of an 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.

Amongst Westerners new to Buddhism, Budai is often confused with the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. However, the two are visually very distinct. Gautama is commonly depicted as being tall and slender in appearance (although since no images of him from his lifetime exist, this depiction of him is unverifiable and possibly idealized); Budai is short and overweight. (Buddha means "one who has achieved a state of perfect enlightenment" and there are several people who have been given the title.)

History

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

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Folklore

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

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

His identification with the Maitreya Bodhisattva is attributed to a Buddhist hymn (Chinese: 偈语pinyin: jìyǔ) 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

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 continued. Budai then took up his bag and continued on his way.

I Kuan Tao

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

Angida Arhat

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.[citation needed]

Phra Sangkajai/ Phra Sangkachai

Phra Sangkachai

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.

Budai, Wat Don Phra Chao, Yasothon, Thailand

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.

See also

External links

References


Simple English

File:Maitreya and discilples carving in Feilai Feng
Maitreya with followers, as shown at Feilai Feng grottos in China

Budai (Chinese:布袋) or Budai Luohan, pronounced Hotei in Japanese, also known as the Laughing Buddha, is the person who might be the next Buddha after Gautama Buddha.

He has become incorporated into Buddhist, Taoist and Shinto culture and is based on a Chinese monk. He is in many temples, restaurants, and businesses. Budai has become a god of happiness and plenty, when taken in by Taoism and Buddhism. In Japan, Hotei is one of the Seven Lucky Gods (Shichi Fukujin). He is almost always shown smiling or laughing, hence his nickname in Chinese, the "Laughing Buddha" (Chinese:笑佛).

Contents

History

As Angida Arhat

File:Kuniyoshi Utagawa,
Budai as shown in a print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Look at the bag in his hand.

Budai comes from the time of Sakyamuni Buddha, where there was a monk named Angida, whose name also meant calico bag.[1]. In the legend, Angida was an Indian snake catcher who caught poisonous snakes to stop them from biting people. Budai and Angida look similar, they both are plump, seen laughing and carrying a bag.

As a Chinese Buddhist monk

In the Chinese tradition, Budai was a monk who lived in china at about 907 to 923. He was a man who was good and loving. Apart from his character, his likeness with the Maitreya Bodhisattva (the future Buddha) is also a Buddhist hymn (Chinese: 偈语; Pinyin: Jiéyǔ) which he said 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.

Description

Budai is almost always shown carrying a sack, which never empties, and is filled with many precious things, including rice plants (which show wealth), sweets for children, food, and the sadness of the world. His duty is protector of the weak, the poor and children.

In Chinese Buddhist temples, Budai's statue is put in the front part of the entrance hall. He is shown as a stout, smiling or laughing man in robes with a largely shown stomach, which shows happiness, good luck, and plenty.

Some statues show small children at his feet. Another item that is usually seen in Budai statues, is a begging bowl; to show that he is a Buddhist. All of these images show Budai as a wandering monk who goes around and takes the sadness from people. Because he represents richness and happiness, statues are often found in homes and businesses in China and Japan.

Faiths that worship Budai

Chán Buddhism

File:Buddha
Statue of Budai in Beipu, Taiwan

The main story that concerns Budai in Chan is a short koan. In it, Budai travels, giving candy to poor children, only asking a penny from people he meets. One day a monk walks up to him and asks, "What is the meaning of Chan?" Budai drops his bag. "How does one get to Chan?" he continued. Budai then picks up his bag and walks away.

Phra Sangkadchai/ Phra Sangkachai

In Thailand Budai is sometimes confused with another monk very respected in Thailand, Phra Sangkadchai or Sangkachai (Thai: พระสังกัจจายน์). Phra Sangkadchai, a Thai spelling of Mahakaccayanathera (Thai: มหากัจจายนเถระ), was a Buddhist in Pali in the time of the Lord Buddha. Lord Buddha praised Phra Sangkadchai for his excellence in explaining complicated dharma (or dhamma) in an easily and understandable way.

File:Phra
Phra Sangkachai
[[File:|right|thumb|A statue of Budai in Thailand]]Although both Budai and Phra Sangkadchai may be found in both Thai and Chinese temples, Phra Sangkadchai is found more often in Thai temples, and Budai in Chinese temples. Two points to distinguish them from one another are:

1. Phra Sangkadchai has a bit of hair on his head while Budai is bald.
2. Phra Sangkadchai 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.

Folklore

One belief surrounding the figure of Budai in popular folklore is that if a person rubs his belly, it brings wealth, good luck, and prosperity. This belief however is not part of any Buddhist ritual, but more of a Chinese practice. He is often admired for his happiness, plenitude, and wisdom of contentment.

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