The Time for Happy Buddha!
No matter what our spiritual path may be, all of us are familiar with the image of the 'happy buddha'; the jolly fat man who's belly is full (of abundance), and whose laughter fills the air. But what many may not know is that this iconic figure is an actual historical figure named Budai, who lived in China about a thousand years ago, and who is said to have been an incarnation of Maitreya, the Buddha of Loving-Kindness, generosity, and service to others. The historical Buddha said that Maitreya would come back to earth in a future time, when mankind is lost in darkness and far away from the Truth (dharma).
So why is this important for all of us who wish to live our lives in the flow of the Tao, and be of service to others? Because many Taoists and Buddhist teachers have said that we are now living in the time when Maitreya Buddha's energy is readily available to us as a remedy to the ignorance, unconsciousness and greed that have become so pervasive in todays world. In fact, they believe that his energy is already here, and that his guidance and influence, for those who tune into it, will be felt for the next 800 years. If we look around, and within us, we easily see that humanity is in desperate need of those qualities that the Laughing Buddha (Maitreya) represents: generosity, loving-kindness, service to others, and lightness of being.
By the example of Budai, we can begin to cultivate these qualities within ourselves, and most importantly, live them in our daily lives. Through opening our hearts to the spirit of Maitreya Buddha, we can become a a counter-balance to the madness, ignorance and selfishness that has taken root everywhere. Through contemplating the qualities of the 'happy buddha', and opening our hearts to his energy, we can begin to embody the spirit of joy, and generosity of spirit, that he calls us to manifest in a world sorely in need of his blessing. WE must now be that blessing...