You’ve probably seen one of those souvenir statues of Maitreya, aka the Laughing Buddha. They are pretty popular even in non-Buddhist countries, and many people use them as good luck charms. But what do you think about a living, breathing Smiling Buddha?
Photos and videos of an overweight, bald man posing as the Laughing Buddha on a stage somewhere in China have been circulating on social media ever since last fall. Back then, Chinese newspapers reported that the man would get showered with money every time he performed, as people hoped their offering would earn them divine favor. He just sat there in the Buddha’s iconic position with his flabby belly exposed and a big smile on his face, but the audience loved it.
It was recently reported that ever since the real-life Laughing Buddha went viral last year, he has been making a living by performing his simple but popular impersonation. Apart from busking on the streets and staged performances, he has also been getting invited by Chinese companies to appear at corporate events and he has also started streaming his act online.
While many find his impersonation of Maitreya entertaining or hilarious, there are also those who claim that using his bulky frame to pose as Buddha is an insult to the deity.