Laughing Buddha is a popular Buddhism symbol that can be seen every where in the Orient culture. Laughing Buddha is a jovial incarnation of ‘Maitreya Buddha’, who is deemed to be the successor of ‘Gautama Buddha’ according to the Buddhist or Shinto culture.
There goes a belief in the Chinese mythology that an image of smiling Buddha can bring forth good luck, success, happiness, fulfillment, prosperity and wealth. This belief has motivated not only the Chinese but also people of all communities to keep laughing Buddha idols where they reside. A deity of the Buddhist monastery now has become a universal figure of admiration and worship.
The idea of Laughing Buddha originates from the later beliefs of the Buddhists that good life and contentment can be attained in this living world. It can be acquired through simple lifestyle, purposeful endeavors, benevolence and enlightenment of knowledge. Termed as ‘Budai’ in Chinese and ‘Budai Luohan’ in Japanese this pot bellied bald figure with a smiling face is linked to a roving ‘Chan’ monk who existed in the time of Liang Dynasty in China.
The monk dressed in a cloth-bag that is known as ‘pu-tai’ in Chinese and ‘Hotei’ in Japanese. Hence the local folks used to call him ‘Pu-tai Hoshang’ or ‘hemp-bag monk’. The legends say that the monk carried cute gifts for the children in his linen sack.
The Buddhist shrines grace the statue of ‘Budai’ in the entranceway. With an impish grin and a protruded tummy the robust monk is found in various poses. He is seated on an elaborately inlaid pedestal or a cart drawn by children. Sometimes he is seen waving a hand fan ‘ogi’. A symbol of aristocracy of the past the fan was believed to fulfill the wishes of those who carried them. Some ‘Budai’ statues with small children in his feet represent his fondness and love for the children.
Budai’ holding a begging bowl in his hand portray the typical Buddhist quality of renouncing material possessions. The century old figure of the Buddhist religion has now been intermingled with the Chinese ideals of life and happiness that has completely changed the previous Buddhist ideals and values. Today happiness has become synonymous to material riches. Hence the modern laughing Buddha has become the revered god of material plentitude and good fortune in life.
The images of laughing Buddha have become impressive elements of interior decoration. They make for exquisite residential and business decors as well as a potential power to bring in prosperity and wealth in life. The smiling figures are also positioned in the study table of the students to ensure success in exams. A wide array of statuettes depicting Buddha smiling makes brisk sales in the domestic and International market.
The figures curved out of fine wood, metals or stones are the most sought after decorative items of the day. They are placed in any direction facing the main entrance of the home or office. The new age people are in the aspiration of acquiring huge financial gains and flourish in their lives by rubbing the belly of this traditional Buddhist craft.