HAPPY BUDDHA, LAUGHING BUDDHA
Known as Hotei (Japan) and Pu-Tai (China), these figures embody the ideals of the good life: i.e. health, happiness, prosperity and longevity.
They represent the later Buddhist notions that the good life was indeed attainable in this world. It consisted of self-mastery, a happy demeanor, purposeful endeavor, a deep commitment to the welfare of others and enlightened awareness.
Scholars believe that the Laughing Buddha is in fact modeled on an historical figure, a fat wandering Zen monk named Pu-tai. All sources describe him as obese, with wrinkled forehead, and a white protruding belly which he left uncovered. There was another feature of his bodily appearance that captured attention. Wherever he went, he wore a pu-tai (Japanese Hotei) or cloth-bag. Thus he came to be known as Pu-tai Hoshang or hemp-bag monk. Legend has it that in this bag he carried candy for the children. Over the centuries within China, Buddhist notions of happiness based on self-mastery and enlightened insight were fused with popular Chinese life-ideals of happiness through material prosperity, thus today the hemp sack may be interpreted as filled with gold, filled with happiness, health, and other aspects of abundanc
A BRIEF HISTORY OF BUDDHA
Gautama Buddha was born in 563 b.c. in northeast India. The Buddha was the son of the King of the Sakyas. Suddhodana, who ruled at Kapilavastu, on the border of Nepal. His mother was Queen Maya. He was named Siddhartha. He lived amidst the pleasures of palace life and at age 16 he was married to Princess Yasodhara. They had a son named Rahula. After seeing a decrepid old man, an invalid, and an ascetic beggar, he learned of suffering and decided to embrace asceticism. Soon afterwards, at age 29, Siddhartha left the palace and his family and went to a hermitage where he became the monk Gautama, or, as he is still called, Sakyamuni (The ascetic of the Sakyas). One day, meditating under a sacred figtree, he attained perfect illumination (Bodhi). He had become a Buddha. From there on he traveled and preached for 44 years what was to become one of the main religions of the world. He died at Kusinagara at age 80.