Im currently in Bangkok, and yesterday I went to organise my visa for Myanmar. When I was there I bumped into a guy called Simon From Vienna. We both wanted to see the Thai house built by Jim Thompson, so we went together and ended up exploring china town in the evening as it was of course the Chinese Lunar New year. We went into China town, hit upon a temple and couldn’t work out what was going on, but something was happening. We decided to stick around, next minute we were being yelled at through a loud haler to sit on the floor and put our cameras away!
It turned out to be a visit from the Princess of Thailand, who makes this pilgrimage very Chinese New year. Simon asked me about when Buddhas were depicted as fat men. Ive had to check my answer, but it seems there are variations.
So if you see a fat laughing Buddha he is usually this guy..
Budai or Pu-Ta ….is a Chinese folkloric deity. His name means “Cloth Sack,and comes from the bag that he is conventionally depicted as carrying. He is usually identified with or seen as an incarnation of Maitreya, the future Buddha, so much so that the Budai image is one of the main forms in which Maitreya is depicted in East Asia. He is almost always shown smiling or laughing, hence his nickname in Chinese, the Laughing Buddha (Chinese: 笑佛). In the West, the image of Budai is often mistaken for Gautama Buddha.
If you see, as I’ve seen a lot, a Buddha depicted in a typical Buddha pose its not Buddha but this chap, which I think is quite an amusing story…
Phra Sangkajai / Phra Sangkachai
In Thailand, Budai is sometimes confused with another similar monk widely respected in Thailand, Phra Sangkajai or Sangkachai, Phra Sangkajai, a Thai rendering of Maha Kaccana or Mahakaccayanathera was a Buddhist Arhata (in Sanskrit) or Arahant (in Pali) during the time of the Lord Buddha. Lord Buddha praised Phra Sangkadchai for his excellence in explaining sophisticated dharma (or dhamma) in an easily and correctly understandable manner. Phra Sangkajai (Maha Kaccana) also composed the Madhupinadika Sutra (Madhupindika Sutta MN 18).
One tale of the Thai folklore relates that he was so handsome that once even a man wanted him for a wife. To avoid a similar situation, Phra Sangkadchai decided to transform himself into a fat monk. Another tale says he was so attractive that angels and men often compared him with the Buddha. He considered this inappropriate, so disguised himself in an unpleasantly fat body.
Although both Budai and Phra Sangkajai may be found in both Thai and Chinese temples, Phra Sangkajai is found more often in Thai temples, and Budai in Chinese temples. Two points to distinguish them from one another are:
Phra Sangkajai has a trace of hair on his head (looking similar to the Buddha’s) while Budai is clearly bald.
Phra Sangkajai wears the robes in Theravadin Buddhist fashion with the robes folded across one shoulder, leaving the other uncovered. Budai wears the robes in Chinese style, covering both arms but leaving the front part of the upper body uncovered.
This will help me remember !!