We are all potential Buddhas. Buddha is not a name or even an identity. It means to be awake. It does not mean to be perfect but to be unfailingly aware of one's inability to know everything. One cannot hope to become a Buddha by aspiring with one's ego. Recognizing that the ego has very limited uses, and that attaining enlightenment is not one of them, is a good first step toward enlightenment.

Most importantly, Buddha is not the Buddhist God. This messaage is for all you, almost intelligent Protestants out there. The reason you see the happy fat man so often is because people like rubbing his head/stomache and making a wish... Not for the owners to bow down and pray to.

The historical Buddha, (Sakyamuni Buddha) is long gone, but his Teachings remain. A Buddha statue or rupa (meaning "form") is a representation of someone sitting in zazen which requires an aligned posture.

There are different kinds of rupas, meant to be used in different ways. For example, a rupa that seems to be leaning forward and has a slight smile is meant to be placed on a high shelf from which he can smile down beneficently on whoever happens to glance up. A Buddha with a very straight back is meant to be viewed at eye-level.

The pot-bellied "Buddhas" one sees in novelty shops and such are styled after Butei (Hotei in Japanese) , central figure of a koan, a monk who travelled with a bag of goodies slung over his shoulder, the contents of which he would spread out on the ground to delight others. "Butei's bag was almost as big as his belly." He carried bits of glass, stones, shiny things that children love. Somehow he became interchangeable with Sakyamuni Buddha in the minds of many western people. Both Sakyamuni Buddha and Butei would have objected to this most vehemently.

In Chinese folk culture, Butei was conflated with Maitreya, the coming Buddha, come down to Saha (Endurance), this world, to check things out. But Butei is usually shown with just a bag and perhaps a staff. Maitreya is shown sprawled on the ground, covered with laughing children.

Poor Butei, born centuries after the death of Sakyamuni Buddha, has even turned up in recent years as the Buddha mascot of a football team. Not that he would necessarily have had anything against football, but don't try to force him to choose sides. He wasn't into winning or losing. And besides which, he wasn't who they thought he was......

In some places, people pour tea over a statue of the baby Buddha at a certain time of year. I don't think there is a baby anything, anywhere, who would enjoy this, but that's just my opinion.

Representations of the Buddha vary according to the culture and country in which they were made. Some look reasonably human. Some have such distorted proportions that they are really quite heinous to look upon. Like the ones with the knobs on their heads, huge hands and feet and a 17 inch waist. I mean, c'mon now......Without going into a lot of history, there are different beliefs about what the Buddha looked like and why.

I much prefer the simplicity of rupas that look human and sit up straight.

Siddartha Gautama never actually wrote what he said down. We have third- and fourth- hand accounts of what he passed to his disciples, but nothing was written down until several centuries after his passing.

Awareness is the path of immortality;
thoughtlessness is the path of death.
Those who are aware do not die.
The thoughtless are as if dead already.
The wise having clearly understood this delight in awareness
and find joy in the knowledge of the noble ones.
These wise ones, meditative, persevering,
always using strong effort,
attain nirvana, the supreme peace and happiness. (Dhammapada)

Drugs would cloud awareness and would not be part of this. Tantric Buddhism espoused meditiative sex as a path. There are many paths... Seems to me people often spend a fair amount of effort justifying what they want or are compelled to do...

An old piece of folklore I copied out of a Religious Studies text years ago. (hopefully as a well-known piece of folklore, there should be no copywrong problems).
Buddhism begins with a man. In his later years when India was afire with his message, people came asking him what he was.
Not "who are you," but "what are you."
"Are you a god," they asked.
"An angel?"
"A Saint?"
"The what are you?"
Buddha aswered, "I am awake."
It is no coincidence, this story, and those who call Buddha "the awakened one" or "the enlightened." In Sanskrit, budh means awake or aware. To practice Buddhism is to awake from the dream world of this reality.
(Hinduism, Sanksrit)

The historical Buddha is also regarded by Hindus to be the ninth avatara of Vishnu, incarnated here to bring religion to atheists, and the godless (if you think about it, Buddhism is not so much a religion, but more of a moral belief system, but this is the Hindu viewpoint, nevertheless). Gautama Buddha is also regarded as the twenty-first purusha incarnation of Vishnu, and is described in the Srimad Bhagavatam, thus:

"tatah kalau sampravritte
sammohaya sura-dvisham
buddho namnañjana-sutah
kikateshu bhavishyati

The in the beginning of Kali-yuga, the Lord will appear as Lord Buddha, the son of Añjana, in the province of Gaya, just for the purpose of deluding those who are envious of the faithful theist."

Bhag., Canto 1, Ch. 3, Text 24

"deva-dvisham nigama-vartmani nishthitanam
purbhir mayena vihitabhir adrishya-turbhih
lokan bhnatam mati-vimoham atipralobham
vesham vidhaya bahu bhashyata aupadharmyam

When the atheists, after being well versed in the Vedic scientific knowledge, annihilate inhabitants of different planets, flying unseen in the sky on well-built rockets prepared by the great scientist Maya, the Lord will bewhilder their minds by dressing Himself attractively as Buddha and will preach on subreligious principles."

Bhag., Canto 2, Ch. 7, Text 37

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Bud"dha (?), n. [Skr. buddha wise, sage, fr. budh to know.]

The title of an incarnation of self-abnegation, virtue, and wisdom, or a deified religious teacher of the Buddhists, esp. Gautama Siddartha or Sakya Sinha (or Muni), the founder of Buddhism.


© Webster 1913.

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