The Buddha was not Fat

The little fat statues that Americans call Buddha are not “The Buddha”. The Buddha people are referring to is usually the Primordial Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. Siddhartha lived in Nepal during the 6th to 4th century B.C..

This was the person who left us the teachings known as the Dharma, and more commonly make up the Buddhist philosophy. The word “Buddha” means “enlightened one”, and there have been many Buddhas all through time.

The Buddha was born in a village called Lumbini, in Nepal, as a prince. Siddhartha’s father was the King of a tribe called the Shakyas. Growing up, Siddhartha was fit and played in the games.

When Siddhartha left the palace, he became an Ascetic and ate only a grain of rice a day. He became so thin his bones could be seen clearly through his skin. After his enlightenment he abandoned the practice of being an Ascetic and primarily taught and lived ‘the middle way’ including eating enough to satisfy hunger, but no more.

Buddha advocated a middle way in your approach to life, part of this is to eat until you are no longer hungry – not until you are full. Combining this with a vegetarian diet and a lifestyle which involved walking about giving his discussions or sermons, it is likely that he was fit and slender not fat.

The little statues we see are of a Chinese monk named Hotei, who was probably another Buddha, known for his kindness and generosity to children. Hotai’s name in Chinese is Budai, and the fat Buddha, or “Laughing Chinaman” statues in many Chinese restaurants adds to the confusion.

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