Is that Fat, Happy Guy the Buddha?

Via on Sep 10, 2013
james hotei
Photo: Daniel Scharpenburg’s Son James

Is the statue pictured above the Buddha?


Oddly enough, the most common misconception about Buddhism is that this fat guy is Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha.

He’s really not. But I do like him.

This is Hotei.

He is a Bodhisattva that represents contentment. He’s usually depicted as an overweight bald man with a mala carrying a cloth sack, and he’s always smiling. He is especially beloved in China and East Asia and he is sometimes referred to as the “Laughing Buddha.”

So, if Hotei’s not the Buddha, why is he important? Why do we have statues of him?

Hotei has an important role. He reminds us to face our problems with a good attitude. I have a Hotei statue on my desk at work. Why? To remind me to be in a good mood at work. I can look at him when I feel my mood starting to go downhill and I’ll feel a little better.

Hotei is an example for us to look up to.

We should strive to be content. This is the doctrine of equanimity. When life gets hard, we shouldn’t be pulled down by it, if we can help it. If we face our problems with a defiant smile, life is easier to handle.

Like all Bodhisattvas, his purpose is to show us an example to follow.

me hotei
Photo: Daniel Scharpenburg

Like elephant journal on Facebook.

Ed: Cat Beekmans


About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel 'Heng Xue' Scharpenburg is an authorized teacher in the Ch'an Guild of Huineng, in the lineage of Ch'an Master Xu Yun. He's the writer of 'Notes From a Buddhist Mystic'. He continues to study under Buddhist teachers in several different traditions. He created a meditation program for children at the Rime Buddhist Center in Kansas City and leads workshops and retreats throughout the Kansas City area. He writes a blog at   You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.


One Response to “Is that Fat, Happy Guy the Buddha?”

  1. Thanks for the article. Nice write up; straight and to the point. Mind giving some input on my latest?

Leave a Reply