In western countries, the people usually refer Buddha to the figure with fat belly and laughing face. This is quite big misunderstanding in western Buddhist society because what they are referring is Laughing Buddha who is also known as Maitreya Buddha i.e. future Buddha. Basically this misunderstanding came from the laughing buddha statues which is quite popular in many countries since buddha statues of Laughing Buddha represents happiness, joy and prosperity. In general, Laughing Buddha is known as Ch'an Buddhist monk from the Chinese Buddhist folktales during 10th century.
"Maitreya, true Maitreya
Reborn innumerable times
From time to time manifested among men
The men of the age do not recognize him." – Last words of Laughing Buddha
Chinese Buddhist tradition depicts the statues of Laughing Buddha as the symbol of laugh and smiling face of Laughing Buddha. Laughing Buddha is also known as Budai and being the representation of joy and happiness, laughing Buddha statues is believed to bring feelings of stress free, helps to let go worries i.e. mental as well as financial worries.
Budai as the Protector of Children
As the folktales in Chinese Buddhism, Budai was believed to bring happiness to all the people around him especially children. The term "Budai" symbolizes the hempen sack which Laughing Buddha carries all the time during his travel. It was believed that his sack contains full of good things i.e. sweets especially for children. Laughing Buddha statues are also often depicted with children due to the belief that Budai is the protector of children's happiness. Budai also represents happiness, wealth and generosity and protector of poor and weak.
Different Form of Laughing Buddha
Laughing Buddha is depicted in various forms while carrying different objects. These different forms symbolizes different meanings and are believed to bring happiness, prosperity and fortune depending upon the area that they are placed. Let's discuss some of them:
Laughing Buddha Carrying a Wo Lu.
This Buddha statue represents the protection of good health and longevity of life.
Laughing Buddha Carrying Sack or Sitting on a Gold Coin
This Buddha statue carrying sack represents the goodies and sweets for children. While Laughing Buddha statues sitting on Gold coin represent the wealth and prosperity.
Laughing Buddha Sitting on Dragon Tortoise
This Laughing Buddha statues while sitting on Dragon tortoise is the symbol of good career as well as the prosperity of career and good income.
Laughing Buddha with Children Surrounded
This laughing Buddha statue represents the welfare of family as well as for the family who wants to conceive a healthy baby.
In Chinese Buddhism, the statue of Laughing Buddha can be found in the entrance of various important Chinese Buddhist temples. There is a popular tales about Laughing Buddha i.e. by rubbing the belly of Budai brings the good luck but it is a popular folk tradition practice but not Buddha's teachings.