Is that fat guy Buddha?

Some people think this is what the Buddha looks like:

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Is he the Buddha?

No.

He’s really not. But I do like him. This is Hotei. He is a Bodhisattva that represents contentment. He’s usually depicted as an overweight bald man with a mala carrying a cloth sack, and he’s always smiling. He is especially beloved in China and East Asia and he is sometimes referred to as the Laughing Buddha.

So, if Hotei’s not the Buddha, why is he important? Why do we have statues of him? 

Hotei has an important role. He reminds us to face our problems with a good attitude. I have a Hotei statue on my desk at work. Why? To remind me to be in a good mood at work. I can look at him when I feel my mood starting to go downhill and I’ll feel a little better. 

Hotei is an example for us to look up to. We should strive to be content. This is the doctrine of equanimity,. When life gets hard, we shouldn’t be pulled down by it, if we can help it. If we face our problems with a defiant smile, then life is easier to handle. Like all Bodhisattvas, his purpose is to show us an example to follow.

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About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher living in Kansas City. He gives online teachings through the Open Heart Project. He also runs the Monday Night Zen Group at the Rime Buddhist Center. His writing has appeared in Lion's Roar, Patheos, Tattooed Buddha, and Elephant Journal.

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