Why is The Happy Buddha Such An Influential Spiritual Figure?

The image of the chubby laughing Buddha is a well-known symbol of luck and prosperity throughout the world. But who is the Happy Buddha and how did he become such an influential spiritual leader?

For millions of people worldwide, religion and spirituality are the systems on which they base their beliefs and dictate who they want to be and the values they want to embody. People have a natural inclination to improve themselves constantly and to aim for peace and contentment, and religion provides them with a framework of values to work toward achieving that. For many people, their religious leaders and deities embody these values and their images serve as a reminder to their followers to continue working toward their enlightenment.

Shakyamuni Buddha Sculpture Earth made out of gres porcelain to achieve an earthy tone that gives depth to the piece.

Budai is often confused with Shakyamuni or Gautama Buddha, the founder of the Buddhist religion

Budai, or the Happy Buddha, is often confused with The Gautama Buddha, the Indian prince who founded the Buddhist religion. However, Budai was a Chinese monk who lived in the 10th Century, four centuries after the founding of Buddhism. He was known for travelling from village to village giving food and money to the poor and needy. Buddhist monks take vows of poverty and are not paid for their work, but although Budai had very little he valued generosity above his own needs and desires and was unbothered by his lack of material items. He had no security or guarantee of where he would stay or where his next meal would come from, but his Buddhist spirit of acceptance and generosity meant that he was able to achieve true happiness despite these circumstances by maintaining a mindset of abundance and acceptance that what he needed would find its way to him.

Lladró’s Happy Buddha figurine is the perfect reminder of Budai’s inspirational story and dedication to his values.

This ability for enjoyment and generosity in spite of his circumstances was and continues to be, inspirational to many people across the globe. In spite of how little he had, he continued to give to others without the expectation of anything in return, and his dedication and commitment to the core Buddhist principles of generosity and finding the best in any circumstance are truly awe-inspiring. One of the most inspirational things about Budai is that, unlike many spiritual and religious leaders, he was not a deity or spiritually important being, He was a regular person who dedicated his life to helping others and achieving true happiness and contentment. His story shows us that despite the temptations and obstacles presented to us in our lives, our best selves are truly attainable if we are willing to remain dedicated to our values and beliefs.

Budai is also important to Buddhists as he is said to be an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Maitreya. Maitreya’s coming is prophesied in Buddhist spiritual texts, and he is predicted to bring the teachings of Buddhism back to the earth after the message of the Gautama Buddha has been forgotten. Budai himself wrote a poem on his deathbed which declared him to be an incarnation of Maitreya:

“Maitreya, true Maitreya

Reborn innumerable times

From time to time manifested among men

The men of the age do not recognise him”

- Budai

For followers of the Buddist religion, the image of Happy Buddha is a physical reminder of the values and commitments that they work toward in their personal spiritual practice. These images first began appearing in Chinese art in the 15th century, and as global trade expanded throughout the 16th and 17th centuries his story and image spread throughout Asia and Europe to become the Happy Buddha that we all know today. The Happy Buddha has become a renowned symbol of luck and abundance and is even included among the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan as a harbinger of good health and prosperity. Even Budai’s physical characteristics are reminders of his spiritual message. The bag that he carries under his arm is symbolic both of how little he had and how much he gave to others. His full belly shows us that he never restricted himself in his enjoyment of what he did have. And his jovial, smiling face reminds us that through his commitment to generosity and acceptance he was able to achieve true peace and happiness.

The Happy Buddha figurine is ornately decorated with green and ochre enamels and elaborate motifs.

For those people who want a physical reminder of the incredible story of Budai, there is no better piece than Lladró’s Happy Buddha figurine. Made from matt white porcelain and finished with ochre and green enamel, the Happy Buddha figurine is the perfect piece for anyone who admires the Buddha’s kindness and generosity and wants to be reminded that through these traits true happiness is possible.

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