Skinny Buddha vs Fat Buddha? Why is Buddha fat? Was Buddha fat? Was Buddha really fat? In fact, was the Buddha fat or thin? What is the difference between the Thin Buddha and the Chubby Buddha? Who is the Laughing Buddha at all?
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SKINNY BUDDHA vs FAT BUDDHA: WHO IS WHO
Laughing Buddha, Smiling Buddha, Happy Buddha, Fat Buddha, Jolly Buddha, Lucky Buddha, Chubby Buddha … is not the Buddha.
Confused? If you are curious to learn who the Laughing Buddha was and to find out the difference between Fat Buddha and Skinny Buddha, continue reading.
Who is the skinny Buddha?
Let me start this story of ‘skinny Buddha vs fat Buddha’ with the skinny Buddha.
The skinny Buddha is the historical Buddha or Siddhartha Gautama. Gautama Buddha, also called Shakyamuni Buddha, lived around 600 BC in Lumbini in today’s Nepal, became Buddha or the ‘Enlightened One’.
He was a spiritual leader according to whose teachings Buddhism was founded.
Siddhartha Gautama is usually portrayed as a thin Buddha as he was slim in appearance. Historical Buddha wasn’t fat.
Prince Siddhartha Gautama left his place and went to live in the wilderness as an ascetic, fasting, and meditating for 6 years seeking the way to defeat life’s adversities (pain, sorrow, suffering, loss, sickness, death, impermanence…). Later he abandoned asceticism and found the ‘Middle Way’, avoiding all extremes (asceticism and hedonism) as the path to Enlightenment.
But unlike in Christianity where is only one Christ, there are many Buddhas in Buddhism. According to Buddhism, every person has a Buddha-nature and everyone who achieved enlightenment is a Buddha. Also, Bodhisattva is everyone who takes the path towards Awakening or Buddhahood. And what’s more, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can have many different forms.
While the historical Buddha is portrayed as a contemplative, serene, peaceful, and skinny Buddha, the Fat Buddha is pictured as open-eyed and laughing. But, who is the Jolly Buddha if not Gautama Siddharta?!
Who is the fat Buddha?
The Laughing Buddha, or the Fat Buddha, was a Zen monk called Budai who lived in China around the 10th century, meaning about 1.600 years after the historical Buddha.
Budai was a bold man with a big tummy, a big smile, large ears, wearing a simple robe, prayer beads, and a large sack. The fat Buddhist monk was known as a good-hearted, happy, and content man of humorous personality, jolly nature, and eccentric lifestyle.
Budai was nicknamed the Laughing Buddha because of his big smile and the happiness he was spreading around him. Furthermore, Budai (the Laughing Buddha or the Fat Buddha) became a famous character in Chinese folktales.
This wandering monk wandered from town to town with all his possessions in a cloth sack hanging on his back. People gathered around him because of his funny look and big smile. He especially loved children and children loved him. In Buddhism, children are believed to have the nature of a god as they live in the present moment, often smiling and laughing, with no ego and no judgemental mind. Budai gave kids sweets out of his beg and taught ‘the giving with joy’, and the philosophy of ‘the more you give, the more comes to you’.
Budai is often depicted with a bag he was wearing. Even his name Budai means ‘cloth sack’ in Chinese.
But, Budai’s sack has also a symbolic meaning. It symbolizes trouble. And although it is easy to solve the problems of others, it’s never an easy task to solve your own problem. That’s because people get attached to their problems and identify themselves with their problems.
Budai teaches us to ‘keep our begs down’, to detach from our problems, and laugh. In fact, laughter produces enzymes that change the chemistry of our brains. And when you detach from your problems, you can easily find the solution for them.
Budai’s jolly spirit and laughter made people around him laugh too. And while they laughed, they achieved Nirvana. In short, Budai was a Zen master of laughter.
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Budai taught laughter not only during his life but also in his death. He asked his disciples to cremate his body after his death which wasn’t a tradition at that time in China. But before he died, he put firecrackers and fire rockets into his pockets. And when his disciples lit the fire to burn his body, a firework started. Budai was a Zen master of laughter even in his death.
Budai was believed to have achieved Buddahood and has become a Buddha. He is believed to be a reincarnation of Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha of a future age.
Laughing Buddha meaning
Budai became a patron of restaurateurs and bartenders in China: Therefore, the statues of Budai are often at the entrance of Chinese Buddhist temples, Chinese restaurants, and bars.
Chinese Fat Buddha is also known as the Buddha of Happiness, and the Buddha of Wealth. Thus, rubbing the belly of the Chinese Laughing Buddha is believed to bring good luck, wealth, and prosperity.
The Laughing Buddha entered also the Buddhist pantheons in Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, and Japan.
Budai in Vietnam is known as Bố Đại. Budai got a significant role in Shintoism in Japan. In Japan Budai is called Hotei and he is one of the ‘seven gods of luck’. Hotei in Shintoism is a god of Contentment, Happiness, Abundance, Good Luck, and a protector of children. The fatness of Japanese fat Budha portrays an abundance of love, compassion, wisdom, virtue … while the bag of Japanese Hotei symbolizes the bag for feeding poor people and people in need.
Laughing Buddha statues and Feng Shui
Over time Laughing Buddha (Fat Budda) has become a popular statue in Feng Shui. There are many Laughing Buddha statues in different poses holding different symbols in Feng Shui.
Meaning of different Laughing Buddha statues in Feng Shui
- A statue of Laughing Buddha with prayer beads around his neck is believed to be good for meditation. Happy Buddha’s prayer beads are called ‘pearls of wisdom’.
- A statue of Laughing Buddha with children is said to bring blessings and good energy,
- A statue of Laughing Buddha with a cloth bag takes away your worries and brings happiness.
- Smiling Buddha statue with a ball brings prosperity. Laughing Buddha statue holding a bow brings abundance and good fortune.
- Jolly Buddha statue holding a fan called Oogi takes away negative energy, troubles, concerns, and brings stressless life and contentment.
- A statue of Laughing Buddha with a big hat brings easy-going life with no troubles and no worries.
Fengshui Laughing Buddha Statue for Luck & Happiness
Laughing Buddha sitting on lucky money coins and carrying golden ingot for good luck & happiness
While some can doubt if a Fat Buddha statue can take away worries, stress, troubles, negative energy or not, everyone agrees that Happy Buddha statue (or Budai statue) undoubtedly brings smiles to everyone’s face!
Jolly Hotei Laughing Buddha Garden Statue
I love this Happy Buddha quote:
‘The statue of the Laughing Buddha acts as a good friend. Whenever we are off the track, his smiling face can bring us back to the present moment, to a positive mood.’ ―
PS: Have you smiled while reading this story about Fat Buddha?! I bet next time when someone asks you ‘Why is Buddah fat?’, you will tell them the story about Happy Buddha with a smile. And Smiling Buddha will bring smiles to their faces as well.
Did you like this Budai vs Buddha story? Ok, ok… you just can’t stop smiling … In your case, the mission of Fat Happy Buddha is completed.
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Friday 27th of May 2022
Thank you so much for writing this article about Buddha. I always thought the skinny Buddha and fat Buddha were representations of him from different countries, and that the real Buddha was the jolly one. Thanks for opening my eyes!
Tuesday 25th of January 2022
In a place of honour beside my desk in my prayer/healing room is a statue of Gautama Bhudda, thin and calm. In my truck, beside my armchair and beside my breakfast spot, are statues of Budai, the fat, laughing Buddha. Both have a place in my life; both have a place for me in theirs.
To borrow from a different culture: Namaste. I honour the Budha in you.
Top 10 Buddha Statues and Their Meaning | Yuna Handicrafts Nepal
Tuesday 7th of September 2021
[…] good luck, happiness, and prosperity in people’s lives. Laughing Buddha is also known as Fat Buddha or Buddha who lived during the 10th […]
Wednesday 25th of November 2020
Hi, I researched about the two buddhas and I've got the answers I was looking for through your great article. Thanks for sharing. Theresia
Monday 3rd of February 2020
You made a good research about these Buddhas. I just realized I have so many photos of them during my travel in Vietnam and Thailand.