Friday, August 18, 2006

Siddartha Gautama =/= Hotei

Here is a picture depicting the Buddha during his time of fasting. As you can imagine, the depiction of an emaciated spiritual leader would not have had as much of a "draw" to potential supplicants who habitually suffer from starvation, and may be looking for a benevolent spiritual savior. Still, if you want to learn more about the history of Siddhattha Gotama (aka Buddha), then I would suggest that you check out Osamu Tezuka's 8-part graphic novel of the Buddha's life.

It is just a little pet peeve of mine that people in the US and Europe all associate the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) with the recharacterization of the Chinese Bo Dai Luohan/Shinto god Hotei, which - except for tertiary characteristics - are not very similar at all (much like the Greek god Zeus and the depiction of the Christian God painted on the Sistine Chapel are both shown as old men with beards, there the similarity ends).

(Admittedly, the depiction of God in the Sistine Chapel is based on a Classical patriarchal figure, most commonly characterized by Zeus, however, most people would be able to say that the old man painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is not Zeus.)

To complicate things, in Chinese Buddhism (and, subsequently, Japanese Buddhism), Hotei was adopted as one of the many Bodhisattvas in the Mahayana branch of Buddhism. The reason why he was incorporated into Chinese Buddhism as a bodhisattva is not agreed upon. However, my point is that the depiction of Hotei should be recognized (minimally) as a completely different entity from THE Buddha (which refers to Siddhartha Gautama), much like Archangel Azrael is a completely different entity than Archangel Michael; Tyr is different from Frey; I am different from my brother; etc.

Look at the pictures. They are different people.

Rant over.

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