The story of the Fat Monk is interesting. It originated from China and is supposed to be the future Maitreya Buddha.
The story goes that a young handsome man took the percepts and became a monk but because he is so handsome even being hairless and clean shaven he was still good looking. So ladies came to the temple just to take a look at the handsome monk. This became a hindrance as people were more attracted to his form than the Dharma.
Instead he forgo his appearance and grew fat wandering about. Ladies were no longer attracted to this fat monk. Whenever Fat Monk comes to the village people observed that they can know the weather by the way he wears his grass slippers.
After sometime the villagers didn’t see fat monk they went to the place where he stay and found some inscription mentioning Maitreya was here.
Now if you have in mind that the coming Buddha will be a fat monk then you will probably miss the last bus because the next Buddha will have the full 32 physical marks and wil be just as handsome as the last one.
(The above is from Wong Tho Kong written on my facebook wall. I’m sharing with everyone here. Interesting. )
The Fat Buddha is thought to be based on a historical figure, a Chinese Zen Buddhist monk named Qieci who lived over 1,000 years ago during the later Liang Dynasty. In China he became known as Budai, meaning cloth bag, named after the sack he always carried. In Japanese this is translated as Hotei. He was a benevolent man who dedicated his life to helping others, and is portrayed as a fat, bald man in monks clothing, with a large exposed belly, and either wearing or holding a necklace of beads. This necklace is a Mala, a Buddhist string of prayer beads.
Fat Buddha statues are popular as a symbol of health, happiness, prosperity and good fortune. These statues take a number of forms, and can convey different meanings depending on the symbolic meaning of the various objects he is holding.
He is often seen with a large sack. This is the sack of blessings. It contains many treasures which he distributes freely. The sack represents wealth, and the fulfillment of wishes. The Ru-Yi or bowl of plenty signifies abundance and wealth. Budai holds the bowl above his head to receive abundance from the heavens. The parasol gives protection by deflecting misfortune. The wish-giving fan symbolizes happiness. Budai waves the fan to banish troubles. The Wu-Lou gourd, or gourd of enlightenment contains the elixir of youth for long life. The wealth ball is thought to represent a pearl. It is a symbol of the greatest treasure of all, wisdom.
(from: http://ezinearticles.com/?Fat-Buddha-Statue-Meanings&id=4569077 )
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