The Legend of Laughing Buddha
The ‘Laughing Buddha’ has today become a common household name. People believe that keeping the statue of this very cheerful fellow with a large bulging stomach in their house brings prosperity, good fortune and happiness into their lives.
Also known as ‘Happy Buddha’, he propounded the philosophy that no matter what happens in life, one should always face it with a smile, because when you smile at the world, the world smiles back at you. This profound wisdom of the legendary monk has inspired the world to cherish and follow in his footsteps.
The legend of Laughing Buddha is thought to be based on a wandering Chinese monk who lived at the time of the Liang Dynasty (907-923 AD). In China he was called Budai or Pu-Tai, but in Japan he was named Hotei. This smiley figure of this eccentric monk became a significant and popular symbol in Buddhist and Shinto culture. Pu-Tai means “Cloth Sack,” which is reference to the knapsack that he used to carry with him. He was apparently very kind, saintly and generous Zen master and his compassionate character was the reason why he was identified as the Maitreya, which is the Future Buddha. Besides, his generous smile gave him the nickname “Laughing Buddha.”
As the story goes, the jolly good monk Pu Tai used to go about spreading happiness and joy from one town to the other. His charisma and philosophy started drawing large number of people, who were motivated to follow his sound advice in dealing with challenges of life. He was famous for handing out sweets and small toys to the village children, after which he would stare up at the sky and laugh heartily. This was so contagious that soon all those gathered around him would start to laugh as well. He then knew that the magic of laughter had worked!
He hardly ever spoke, but he explained that handing out sweets meant that the more you give, the more you receive. The iconic bag slung on his shoulder represented the many problems that people face. Instead of clinging to them, he said 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 magic lies in the laughter and more precisely the power of laughter. Pu-Tai believed that the power of laughing simplified the problems and made it easy to deal with them. What a wizard! He had a great grasp on things even a thousand years ago. He apparently understood the basics of laughter that when you laugh the body produces certain feel good hormones. And when you feel good, you might look at your problems differently.
The biggest lesson one has learnt from this maverick saint is to be tolerant and not to hold grudges against anyone. ‘The heart that gives generously receives abundantly.’ One should give unconditionally without expecting anything in return. Even in death, Pu Tai taught people to laugh and expect life in all its graciousness.
Laughing Buddha and Laughter Yoga – A Deep Connect
While reading about this great legend, did you realize how similar Laughter Yoga is to the philosophy of Pu Tai. The entire concept of cultivating traits of generosity, compassion and unconditional giving is an integral part of Laughter Yoga. It not only teaches one to laugh unconditionally; it enables people to cope with the challenges of life with a smile. The whole concept professes the theory of laughter, as being the best remedy for modern times and its several stressors.
The truth that Pu Tai promoted centuries ago is alive with Laughter Yoga, as this unique exercise routine has become a global phenomenon, helping thousands of people to maintain a complete body – mind wellness. The mission to spread health, happiness and peace through laughter is fast catching on as people realize the power of laughter and its many benefits.