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Why Is The Buddha Laughing?

"In laughter, we hear the sound of a thousand Buddhas."

Lama Zopa Rinpoche

As the world around us seems to be spinning out of control, and fear and anxiety continue to rise in the majority of people; the structures that we have depended on for our survival appear to be at risk of collapse. No one can really guess what might happen next. This has led many to feel a deepening fear and uncertainty about what the future holds, not only for themselves, but for humanity as well. We can find ourselves wondering what, if anything, we can do to bring sanity and stability to a world gone mad. Luckily, we have the example of the 'Laughing Buddha' to free us from our anxiety and worry, and open us up to a sense that everything is going to be alright, no matter what happens.

All of us are familiar with the statues of the 'Happy Buddha', the jolly fat man with a cloth sack over his shoulder that is filled with treasures that he gives away freely to all whom he meets on his path. The truth is that, this laughing Sage was an actual man named Bodai (which means 'cloth sack'), who lived in China 1000 years ago, and who apparently (if all of the statues of him are any indication), made quite an impression on the people he met through his constant state of joy and lightness. A great question to contemplate is this; why is Bodai laughing in all of those statues, and just what did he discover that made him so 'light' and free? Like many other Taoist and Buddhist sages that have lived before and since, he obviously took nothing personally or too seriously, though he wandered about without a home or money, and without a job (unless you consider spreading joy and laughter a job).

Perhaps as we look deeply into these questions for ourselves, we too can discover the ease and freedom of our natural child-like Buddha Nature, which is free of the minds constant worry and fear about the future, and takes nothing that happens personally. After all, one of the things that usually occurs after we have meditated for awhile, is that we begin to take ourselves way less seriously and thus see the humor in our lives. Perhaps as we contemplate why Bodai is laughing, we just might stumble upon our own 'Enlightenment', and find that it simply means too 'lighten up' and enjoy the unfolding of the present moment, knowing that it is perfect just as it is. Perhaps that laughter is an invitation to live from a space of greater open-heartedness, and to move through life in a way that naturally radiates loving-kindness into the world, and generosity to everyone we encounter. In this way we also can bring the 'treasures' of unconditional love, lightness and joy to every moment, and every person that we meet along the Way, knowing that they too are the 'Laughing Buddha' (even if they haven't realized it yet).

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