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Why everyone should have one at their desk.

The Laughing Buddha: the boogeyman of my childhood

Cold Mountain Poets Hanshan and Shide,
believed to have lived in the Tang Dynasty.

Lessons from The Laughing Buddha

Isn't Laughing Insensitive?

In my childhood home, my parents had this mug-sized laughing buddha statue in their china closet. It freaked me out as a kid. Whenever I had to pass it, I would run and plead: “Please don’t eat me!”

Then, I moved out and forgot about it. A few years later, I was walking past an antique market in Kathmandu, when I saw a tiny laughing buddha statue displayed outside the door. Bearing a raucous laugh, big floppy ears, and a big belly, he was standing there, fat feet and all, like there was not a care in the world.

Something pulled me towards this dude. I bought him.

The Journal

Now, I’ve had this laughing buddha at my desk for seven years. More than a happy lump of bronze, he unexpectedly transformed into my life coach.

When I didn’t know I wanted to do with my life, there he was, laughing. When I was down that my film was rejected, there he was, laughing. When I wasn’t sure when the next paycheck would come, there he was, laughing. When I was enduring rocky periods in my relationship, there he was, laughing. When I lost my loved ones, there he was, laughing.

By greeting every challenge in my life with laughter, this fellow taught me a few things:
  1. Everything is small in the grand scheme of things. Yes, what you are facing now seems like an insurmountable mountain. However, if you zoom out and look at yourself from afar, you are just a microscopic speck on this tiny blue dot. I’m laughing to remind you to see it for what it is.

  2. This too shall pass. Yes, what you are feeling now seems solid, like it’s going to be a permanent fixture in your life. But, it will pass. Everything does. I’m laughing to remind you that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Rejoice in that.

  3. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. I’m laughing to remind you that you have the power to choose your experience.

  4. You can always connect with joy. As hard as it is to believe this, your being has this groundwater of joy. Most likely, events in your life have blocked you from accessing these sweet waters. So I’m laughing to remind you of the joy you harbor in yourself right now. Try feeling into it with every breath.

  5. The fact that you are alive, fed, and safe is the ultimate miracle. You have already won. Everything else is a bonus. I’m laughing because I can’t believe you got so lucky. I’m laughing because I can’t believe you are complaining about your life.
If you look at depictions of many wise sages in Asia, you’ll see that they are laughing.
Before, I thought their laughter looked immature, insensitive, and foolish. Now, I see their laughter as the ultimate sign of wisdom. In fact, I don’t trust a spiritual teacher who doesn’t have a good laugh.

Do I know what they’re getting at? Not yet. But, I sense these wise folk are laughing, because there’s just no other way to express what they understand.

When I look at my laughing buddha, so gloriously cheeky on my desk, I feel he is laughing at himself, thinking:
“I can’t believe I lived so caged for so long!”

The Journal

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