You are probably pretty familiar with the image of the big Buddha: the boisterous, jolly fellow with the large protruding stomach who is known for his big smile. But who was this eccentric man and why was he so special?
A man with many names
Originally he was named Hotei (in Japan) or Budai or Pu-Tai (in China). In China, people call him the Loving or Friendly One. His character is based on an eccentric Chinese monk who lived over a thousand years ago and who has become a significant and popular symbol in Buddhist and Shinto culture. He was known to be a very kind, saintly and generous Zen master. His constant smile earned him the nickname “Laughing Buddha.”
Laughter is contagious
According to an ancient legend, the jolly saint used to go from one town to the other to fulfil his mission: spreading happiness and joy wherever he went. Pu-Tai was a charismatic character who drew people to him like a magnet. People used to crowd around him, including many happy children. The monk was famous for handing out sweets and small toys he took from his cloth bag, after which he would put the bag down, stare up at the sky and start to laugh madly. His laughter proved to be very contagious, and before long all who had gathered around him would start to laugh as well. That would be the signal that his work had been done; he would pick up the bag and journey to the next village or town. And that was his method of spreading happiness and enlightenment.
The more you give, the more you receive
The funny thing about Pu-Tai is that he hardly ever spoke. When he did, it was mostly to answer questions about why he lived in his eccentric way. He then explained that handing out sweets was symbolic of the notion that that the more you give, the more you receive. His bag represented the problems all people encounter in life. He taught then instead of clinging to them, you should distance yourself from a problem by putting it down (just like he would put the bag down) and laugh at it, because whether you laugh or cry, the problem is not going to change.
The power of laughter is magic
We could all learn from the Laughing Buddha. Magic lies in the power of laughter: when you laugh, you make problems easier to handle. Your body produces certain feel good hormones and enzymes, making you feel even better and eager to share your happiness.
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