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BANGKOK 16 June 2019 17:33
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kenk3z

Heavy Buddha Vs. Thin Buddha

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Clearly not a very deep question and from an outside observer. I have noticed "thin" Buddha images and "heavy" images.

Are there traditions behind the two styles? In Thailand the "thin" style seems prevalent. Yet from what I can tell in Viet Nam the "heavy" style is common. In Viet Nam the Buddha image also tends to be brightly painted, perhaps with a red coat on, etc.

What areas use "thin" images and what areas "heavy"?

Sorry, I know its not much of a spiritual question.

Also, where does the Dalai Lllama fit into Thai Buddhism? A different branch entirely?

Thanks,

kenk3z

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There are two main schools of Buddhism - see other posts here in this forum - Theravada and Mahayana. Thailand follows Theravada (as does Sri Lanka).

Mahayana had its largest community in China and the 'fat Buddha' or 'Laughing Buddha' was popular. I think this was an absorbsion of earlier religious symbolism. You will notice that earliest Buddha images in LOS look Indian, but later thet became distinctly oriental. I think its just a case of merging with the society over time.

Thailand lost its Buddhism, only to re-adopt it later from Sri Lanka. Tripitaka took the Buddhist scriptures from India to China through the Himalayas (according to legend) and Buddhism spread from there.

Japan adopted Buddhism and merged it in to its culture too. This gave off-springs like Zen. Buddha's here are also thin, but very Japanese.

Was Christ a white man with blue eyes and a small brown beard? Most hebrews at that time and place were closer to black. We make 'God' in our own image.

The Dalai Lama is believed to be the Tibetan reincarnation of a holy man (not Buddha) - the current one was actually originally from China - just over the old border. He ruled Lhasa as spiritual leader and in the 50's when China invaded, was moved to India. He follows the Mahayana school. He has nothing to do with Thai Buddhism, other than the fact that he is still Buddhist and a great and wise man and well respected. Rightly so.

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Wolf5370 is quite correct. Please allow me to add a little more detail.

The 'thin' version is the 'historical' Buddha, Siddhatta Gotama (in Pali) who was a monk from his enlightenment until his passing away. He was born in Nepal and spent his adult life in India.

There is also an extrememly thin (i.e. barely living skeletal) version often depicted on murals etc. which confuses westerners. This was Siddhatta when he practiced extreme aceticism and lived on a grain of rice a day (so the legend recounts) BEFORE he was enlightened. Once he gained a direct insight into the folly of this path (being the opposite extreme from the indulgent hedonism of his earlier life) he abandoned it and discovered the Middle Path. Thus the form you describe as 'thin' is understood to be the ideal physical form.

The 'fat buddha', often depicted as laughing and jolly and with children is Pu-Tai, an ancient Chinese bodhisattva. Mahayana Buddhism (which is prevalent throughout North and East Asia including Vietnam) differs from the Theravada of Thailand in that the goal for an individual is to become a future Buddha. A 'Buddha-to-be' is known as a Bodhisattva. So Pu-Tai was a kind of saintly figure who in a future incarnation will become a Buddha. Pu-Tai was depicted rather like a Chinese Santa Claus - he was a cheerful wandering monk who always carried a sack full of treats for children he met. In Chinese culture as with many others in Asia 'chubbiness' is a sign of wealth (i.e. you have enough to eat) and also can symbolise 'spiritual wealth'. It is regarded as lucky to rub the fat buddha's tummy, whereas you would not be advised to touch a statue of Siddhatta.

So to sum up, the 'thin' and 'heavy' figures you refer to are depictions of two different historical persons. As Wolf explained, in keeping with the Mahayana belief in bodhisattvas, His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama is regarded by his devotees as a being that has 'made it' - i.e. achieved buddhahood and returns as a bodhisattva - a living enlightened being to guide others on the way.

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I prefer the Japanese Style Buddha Images (not too fat, not too thin - the middle way) - such as ...

Birushana-photo-by-yabuuchi-satoshi-uwamuki-project.jpg

The Nara Daibutsu, whose image embodies the Buddha Birushana, dates back to 752. Over the centuries, the statue has been damaged in various battles, but has always been restored afterward. The body of the statue was reconstructed in 1185, and the 5.3-meter-high head was rebuilt in 1692. At 15 meters, it is the largest gilt bronze statue in the world.

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Slightly off topic, maybe material for a new thread:

I found that in Tibetan Buddhism one often finds four Buddhas of different colour and different Mudras pointing in the four directions, literally and symbollically, with a fifth sitting in the middle. I know there are many books written on the meaning of this. I just wonder how much symbolism is behind the different postures and Mudras in Thai/Theravada Buddhism.

As I understand, the various depictions point to stages of Buddhas life, and symbolise themes associated, i.e. warding off, teaching, fasting, etc.

Have I missed some deeper meaning in these?

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Thailand lost its Buddhism, only to re-adopt it later from Sri Lanka.

I hadn't heard of this. Where can I learn some more about it?

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Thailand lost its Buddhism, only to re-adopt it later from Sri Lanka.

I hadn't heard of this. Where can I learn some more about it?

This question came many times in this forum.

Summary

---------------------------------------------------

Buddhism in Thailand :

Origin - From India

Introduced Lankavongse Theravada - From Sri Lanka

Buddhism in Sri Lanka :

Origin - From India

Re-Introduced after wars and foreign rulers - From Thailand (is called Siam wong)

As a result, Thailand and Sri Lanka are the only two remaining countries that practice Therawada Buddhism.

----------------------------------------------------

Since many thai people do not like outside world to know it's affiliation with a South Asian country, they tend to hide these facts.

Similarly, some foreigners who live here, and who are not ready to accept the same, always question this history.

Therefore, do not ask this from your Thai wife or thai GF's as many of them do not like South Asian's or do not want even to think that they practice something they got from South Asia.

The extent of Ramayanaya, in Thailand including the art inside the Royal Palace and in thai curriculum is a classic example for this. Ask how many Thai's know that Ramayanaya is a story which took place between India and Sri Lanka? They will say No.

It's the sad but the real facts of this whole episode of the History of Thai Buddhism.

If you are interested in details..

------------------------------------------------------

Buddhism has been the strongest tie between the two Theravada countries ever since the Sri Lankan king Parakammabahu revised the dhammavinaya in the 18th century BE [12th c. AD.] His fame for the wonderful work he sponsored spread to Thailand, among other Buddhist countries. He was the king who had himself depicted in a huge block of stone as holding the Visuddhimagga. During the Sukhothai period the Thai kings invited bhikkhus from Lanka as well as sent bhikkhus to study in Ceylon and established the the teachings of the 'Lankavongse' or the Singhalese Theravada, which flourished ever since in Thailand. The first city where Lankavongse Theravada was established was in Nakorn Sritamaraj, from which the Kings of Sukhothai invited erudite bhikkhus to establish the teachings in the capital city.

Buddhism had arrived in Thai territories long before that, according to the Tipitaka, Asoka during the third century of the Buddhist Era [circa 250 BC] had sent arahant theras to the area also and established the sasana. However the teachings had been on the decline until King Parakammabahu took up the cause to revise it.

However, by the 23rd c. BE [18th c. AD] Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka had died down from all the wars and foreign rulers, some of whom forbade ordinations until there were no longer enough bhikkhus to perform any more ordinations. Sri Vijaya the king of Sri Lanka then sent some envoys to ask the king of Siam to help in May 2294 BE [1751]. The next year the Siamese king sent a party of bhikkhus with the venerable Upali at their head to help, but their ship was wrecked.

King Boromakot organized another voyage and the Venerable Upali, who survived the accident the year before, left Ayutthaya, the Thai capital at the time, with another group of bhikkhus, and this time they reached Sri Lanka on Vesak Day 2296 BE [1753]. The venerable Upali and the accompanying bhikkhus not only performed over three thousand ordinations but also reestablished the Theravada teachings as well as reformed some traditions, including the Perera procession [to replace of the Hindu gods paraded in the capital city that was practiced when he arrived]. Prior to that the Sacred Tooth Relics were kept for private monarchic worship by the Kings of Ceylon who would move the relics only when they moved the capital city. To this day Thais, as 'descendants of the venerable Upali Thera', are granted special privileges to worship the relics upstairs in the upper chambers while all others, including most Sri Lankans, worship only at the silver doors of the relic tower.

The bell, a part of gifts from Sri Lankans who also sent funds to help restore the building that houses the Tipitaka at the edge of the river and the bell tower next to it, was carried ashore orned with garlands of flowers and set down in the ceremonial area, where the ministers of Srilanka and Thai both laid a hand on the bell to represent the beautiful dana.

To celebrate the establishment of the Syamopali Mahanikaya in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankans had donated funds to restore the temple where the Venerable Upali resided before he left for Sri Lanka, Wat Dhammaram, which has since fallen into ruin. Ayutthaya was abandoned in favor of Bangkok as capital about 30 years after the Venerable left for Sri Lanka. The small wat didn't seem to have been burnt during the wars with the Burmese, who had burnt many temples in order to melt the Buddha images into gold ingots.

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Thailand lost its Buddhism, only to re-adopt it later from Sri Lanka.

I hadn't heard of this. Where can I learn some more about it?

This question came many times in this forum.

Summary

---------------------------------------------------

Buddhism in Thailand :

Origin - From India

Introduced Lankavongse Theravada - From Sri Lanka

Buddhism in Sri Lanka :

Origin - From India

Re-Introduced after wars and foreign rulers - From Thailand (is called Siam wong)

But when was Buddhism lost in Thailand?

As a result, Thailand and Sri Lanka are the only two remaining countries that practice Therawada Buddhism.

Aren't Burma and Laos Theravada? So, I understand, in so far as it is still Buddhist, is Cambodia.

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Thailand lost its Buddhism, only to re-adopt it later from Sri Lanka.

I hadn't heard of this. Where can I learn some more about it?

This question came many times in this forum.

Summary

---------------------------------------------------

Buddhism in Thailand :

Origin - From India

Introduced Lankavongse Theravada - From Sri Lanka

Buddhism in Sri Lanka :

Origin - From India

Re-Introduced after wars and foreign rulers - From Thailand (is called Siam wong)

But when was Buddhism lost in Thailand?

As a result, Thailand and Sri Lanka are the only two remaining countries that practice Therawada Buddhism.
Aren't Burma and Laos Theravada? So, I understand, in so far as it is still Buddhist, is Cambodia.

Yes, logically you are correct. Buddhism never lost in any Country.

But it was under threat in all these countries during that time and they helped each other.

Other countries you have mentioned. Part of monks in those countries practice “Mahayan” as well. As a result, they do not distinguish themselves clearly.

But in Thailand and Sri Lanka, these two countries follow only Theravad Buddhism.

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Other countries you have mentioned. Part of monks in those countries practice “Mahayan” as well. As a result, they do not distinguish themselves clearly.

But in Thailand and Sri Lanka, these two countries follow only Theravad Buddhism.

As far as I know, none of the monks in Cambodia, Burma, or Laos practice Mahayana. I've traveled in all three countries and have not yet come across a temple with Mahayana monks.

On the other hand, Thailand has a number of temples with Mahayana monks, mostly in Bangkok but I've also seen one or two in Phuket and Hat Yai.

Broadly speaking, most Buddhist scholars agree that Theravada Buddhism is the majority faith in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

As far as I know, none of these countries has mandated that Buddhism be the state religion, so to say that a country is 'Theravadin' can really only be applied in a loose way, that is judging from the total proportion of citizens professing that faith.

According to the CIA World Factbooks (1 Jan 2004), the percentage of Buddhists in these countries is:

Cambodia 95%

Thailand 95%

Burma 89%

Sri Lanka 70%

Laos 60%

Edited by sabaijai

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I prefer the Japanese Style Buddha Images (not too fat, not too thin - the middle way)

One of the strengths of Buddhism is that you are free to choose... :o

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