Click to Enlarge     There are those beings who have vowed not to enter Nirvana until they have helped all others realize enlightenment. Hotei is this kind of Bodhisattva. He is one of the Shichi Fukujin, the Seven Japanese Shinto-Gods of Luck. His fat stomach, which protrudes from the robes he wears, symbolizes the largeness of his soul. It is also a symbol of happiness, luck, and generosity. His large elongated earlobes are a sign of wisdom. Hotei as a wandering monk who goes around and takes the sadness from the people of this world. Just his appearance has the ability to cheer anyone up from a bad day. His largely exposed, pot-belly stomach protrudes in front of him as he continues to laugh through never-ending-time. He is admired for his happiness, plenitude, contentment and his loving and cheerful character. This deity of abundance, children and joy is often shown carrying a cloth sack (That Which Never Empties) filled with many precious items, including rice plants (indicating wealth), candy for children, food, or the woes of the world. Tracing his origins from a mix of Buddhist and Shinto religions, Hotei is from the time of the Liang Dynasty. Tradition has it that a Buddhist Zen monk by the name of Pu-Tai lived then. Because of his benevolent nature he was regarded as a bodhisattva, but due to his large protruding stomach, he was caricatured as the "Laughing Buddha." He is also dubbed the Loving or Friendly One. Some sources affirm that he was an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Miroku, the Buddhist Savior of the Future.

    Chocolate Deitiesí Laughing Buddha travels the world spreading joy and happiness wherever he goes. His whimsical spirit reminds us to always keep our sense of humor. There is a tradition that if a group of strangers gather together on New Year's Eve and ask Hotei for the same gift, provided they truly believe he will grant it, Hotei will indeed give them what they ask for.

    Put him on your altar, melt him for hot chocolate, relish him!

    Many believe that rubbing the Buddha's belly brings joy, luck and prosperity.

    GATHER your friends, RUB his belly, FILL yours, and SEE what happens!