Tuesday, November 11, 2008

November Poya Celebrates....

Bodhisattva Maitreya 2nd century art (wikipedia)

In Srilanka, the November Poya celebrates the coming a future Buddha ...Maitreya...and the sending out of the 60 Disciples to spread the Buddha's message.

The famous laughing buddha Statue is not a literal presentation of what he will look like, but a symbolic representation of what he stands for. In Chinese, they say that Maitreya Buddha has "big stomach" and can therefore tolerate anything. Little kids climb all over him and it’s okay. You can take advantage of him and it won’t make him mad. The English equivalent of "big stomach" in this context is "big heart." The Maitreya Buddha is big of heart.
Now we begin to get beyond the superficialities. It is precisely because "stomach capacity" is the Chinese way of expressing one's capacity to give and to forgive, that the ancient Chinese chose to fashion this buddha with the obviously huge stomach. What better way is there to symbolize limitless tolerance and generosity?
MOre Details below from religionfacts.com

Chinese Origin

The celestial Buddha named Hotei or Pu-Tai is best known as the jolly Laughing Buddha. In China, he is known as the Loving or Friendly One. He is based on an eccentric Chinese Ch'an (Zen) monk who lived over 1,000 years ago and has become a significant part of Buddhist and Shinto culture. Because of this monk's benevolent nature, he came to be regarded as an incarnation of the bodhisattva who will be Maitreya (the Future Buddha). His large protruding stomach and jolly smile have given him the common designation "Laughing Buddha."
The Laughing Buddha's image graces many temples, restaurants, and amulets, as he has become a deity of contentment and abundance. The image of Hotei is almost always seen carrying a cloth or linen sack (that which never empties) which is filled with many precious items, including rice plants (indicating wealth), candy for children, food, or the woes of the world. He is patron of the weak, poor and children.

Laughing Buddha statues depict a stout, smiling or laughing bald man in robes with a largely exposed pot belly stomach, which symbolizes happiness, good luck, and plenitude. Some sculpture has small children at his feet. Another item that is usually seen with the Laughing Budda figure is a begging bowl to represent his Buddhist nature.
In some scenes the Laughing Buddha may be found sitting on a cart drawn by boys, or wielding a fan called an oogi (said to be a "wish giving" fan -- in the distant past, this type of fan was used by the aristocracy to indicate to vassals that their requests would be granted). All of these images display Hotei as a wandering monk who goes around and takes the sadness from people of this world.
According to legend, if one rubs the Laughing Buddha's great belly, it brings forth wealth, good luck, and prosperity. Hotei is also referred to as the patron saint of restaurateurs, fortunetellers and bartenders. When one overeats or over drinks, friends jokingly attribute it to the Laughing Buddha's influence.

Prediction of His Coming

Shakyamuni Buddha predicted that due to the inevitable degeneration of the times, his own teachings would last just five thousand years before disappearing from this world. People will grow more and more immoral and their lifespan will gradually decrease, as will their health, stature and fortune. While such delusions as miserliness, hatred and jealousy gain strength, the world will go through prolonged periods of famine, disease and continuous warfare until it eventually resembles a vast battlefield of graveyard. Thereupon Maitreya will appear, not in his fully evolved buddha form, but as a person of regal bearing, very handsome and taller than those around him. On seeing this unusual being, people will be filled with wonder and faith, and will ask how he came to have such an attractive appearance. Maitreya will reply that this is due to his practice of patience, avoiding giving harm to others, and if others will also abide in love and tolerance, they could become similar to him.
Maitreya's appearance will mark a great turning point in the fortunes of this world. As more and more beings follow his example, their store of merit, and consequently their lifespan, will increase. Eventually people will live in health for such a long time that the sufferings of old age and death will scarcely be known. At that time, their observance of morality will grow lax as people become more and more involved in the pleasures of their existence. With this laxity will come another gradual shortening and degeneration of their lifespan until eventually beings once again will become suitable ripe to take sincere interest in the spiritual path. When the human lifespan as increased again to many thousands of years, and when the planet will be entirely dominated by a benevolent wheel-turning sovereign (Chakravartin) named Shankha, it is at this time that Maitreya Buddha will descend from the Tushita buddha field (devaloka) where he now resides, to appear in this world as the fifth founding Buddha of this world age. Maitreya will be born the son of a Brahmin priest, and will renounce the world and attain enlightenment in a single day, not requiring six long years. The world in this time will be politically neutralised, and therefore the warrior class and its martial virtues will be obsolete. Thus he will be born among the intellectuals, the priests, and his teaching will bring the gentler emotions to the fore.

His teachings will not deviate from that of previous Buddhas, except for an interesting tradition that he will not teach any esoteric Tantras (most likely hinting that Maitreya's mission will in general be more effective than Shakyamuni's). This does not show a difference in the perfection of liberative techniques of the two Buddhas, rather a difference in the evolutionary stage of the human beings on the planet (Shakyamuni Buddha taught at a time of violence and widespread militarism, and had to turn to the martial qualities of toughness, ascetism and determination toward the pursuit of enlightenment.
Shakyamuni Buddha also predicted that those who followed his teachings would be reborn in the first circle of Maitreya's entourage and would be able to complete the spiritual path under Maitreya's guidance.
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