Archive for November 28th, 2009

November 28, 2009

Happy Hotei

Anyone walking about Chinatowns in America will observe statues of a stout fellow carrying a linen sack. Chinese merchants call him Happy Chinaman or Laughing Buddha.

This Hotei* lived in the T’ang dynasty. He had no desire to call himself a Zen master or to gather many disciples around him. Instead he walked the streets with a big sack into which he would put gifts of candy, fruit, or doughnuts. These he would give to children who gathered around him in play. He established a kindergarten of the streets.

Whenever he met a Zen devotee he would extend his hand and say: “Give me one penny.”

Once as he was about to play-work another Zen master happened along and inquired: “What is the significance of Zen?”

Hotei immediately plopped his sack down on the ground in silent answer.

“Then,” asked the other, “what is the actualization of Zen?”

At once the Happy Chinaman swung the sack over his shoulder and continued on his way.

* Hotei is not “The Buddha” but rather a folkloric character or deity not unlike a Chinese Santa Claus

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