Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why is the Buddha big, fat, and happy?

Pat Macpherson, Dhr. Seven, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly
It is thought that the future Buddha Maitreya will come as a Central Asian (Scythian) king.
Just as not all swastikas are the same, neither are all "Buddhas." Here the true historical Buddha Gautama or Shakyamuni (left) is contrasted with the popular Mahayana Fat Happy Bodhisattva Budai or Hotei (
Fat Budai is not "the Buddha."
The Buddha is NOT fat, big and happy perhaps, but not fat. The fat guy is Budai, also known as Hotei.

He's a bodhisattva, a being aspiring for buddhahood and Maitreya/Messiah status as a kind of Mahayana martyr figure who will save all living beings when he's on the verge of enlightenment but will not enter enlightenment as a buddha but rather as a supremely enlightened (samma-sam-buddha arhat who then establishes the Dharma (teaching that leads to liberation) and waits for all living beings to gain insight and cross over this flood of suffering known as samsara, the "Wheel of Life and Death."

The historical Buddha Shakyamuni
It will be a long wait, of course, but Mahayana Buddhists comfort themselves with selfless vows and slogans like "samsara is nirvana." It's a lot like Catholicism, if one thinks about it. Indeed, there are many, many similarities between the later Mahayana ("Great Vehicle") school that departed and extrapolated or interpreted the historical Buddha's teaching to create a more Brahminical/Hindu version for the masses of followers who prefer faith to compassion to wisdom and compassion.

The "Virg Yin" Kwan Yin Bodhisattva
Like Catholicism, Mahayana Buddhism is far more concerned with the Virg Yin (Kwan Yin) than the central teaching figure. When the teacher is mentioned, it is usually not the historical Buddha who is meant but a more cosmic God-like being known as Amitabha. Everyone goes around greeting each other saying Amitofu, as in "all hail the great leader" or "God bless you."

The Western God, all-powerful white man
Great ceremonies and fanfare promote faith, emotions, piety, and devotion rather than meditation, dispassion, mindfulness, or insight. That kind of stuff is left to the monastics, who do not usually practice much either given that they have become priests and priestesses, officiants at social functions such as funerals and "blessing" ceremonies, so many blessin ceremonies. Like Brahmins of the Buddha's time and later Hindu priests, they are the officials who know the secret mantras (prayer-like magic formulae), the way to "God" and "GOD" (Brahma and Brahman), the ones who as God's representatives on Earth can forgive, modify, or even expunge karma for the rich (with a little "indulgence" selling in the old European style).

Veneration of good luck Budai is widespread
Populist Mahayana Buddhism in China is so in line with Roman Catholicism that the official communist government asked the Vatican and Catholic Church to come in and proselytize to have social control the former Confucian-Taoist-Buddhist triumvirate used to exert for social control. Most Mahayana Buddhists do not realize any of this, so it may come as a shock to research and find it out. Religion is a very deeply seated thing most of us are born into, never question, and get no answers for even if we do question.

Future Buddha Maitreya
So we must all respect the fact that 90% of Buddhists follow this school and its Tibetan branch, which is different enough in appearance to call itself Vajrayana while still very much considering itself a form of Mahayana (just ask the 14th Dalai Lama, enemy of the Chinese government, savior of the Tibetan people and quite a few Westerners). For the love of Kwan Yin and Mother Mary, we can all be Catholic and join in the Universalism religion most humans are forced to follow at this time (which is the form followed on another neighboring planet, it is said, where the population has given up freedom for social cohesion, which seems to be the Chinese way, though not at all the American way).

The Buddha is still the Buddha, who spoke of 28 or so buddhas who had preceded him over the aeons, when the world was not so much different than it is now, save for the fact that in the past the devas (angels, gods, space aliens) were visible and no one doubted whether they existed or what they were capable of doing as superhumans who could shapeshift and appear as average humans.

So who's the FAT one?
Budai or Pu-Tai (Chinese and Japanese 布袋, Bùdài, Hotei, Vietnamese Bố Đại) is a Chinese folkloric deity whose name means "Cloth Sack." The name comes from the Santa Claus like bag he is conventionally depicted as carrying.

Budai is usually identified with or seen as a pre-incarnation of Maitreya, the "messiah," the Future Buddha, so much so that the Budai image is one of the main forms in which Maitreya is depicted in Mahayana Buddhist China.

The "messiah" Maitreya
He is almost always shown as fat, jolly, and smiling or laughing. Hence his nickname in Chinese, the Laughing Buddha (Chinese 笑佛, pinyin Xiào Fó). It is no wonder that in the West, potheads (like Cypress Hill) frequently mistake the image of Budai for the historical Gautama Buddha (Shakyamuni, the "Sage of the Shakya/Scythian Clan). Sitting cross legged he is usually called the Fat Buddha (Chinese 胖佛, pinyin Pàng Fó). More

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