Budai wants you to lighten up and not be so worried about it!
You might just be right, Mr. Samba! hehe
Well, I guess the problem comes from stereotypes of fat people in the west: we tend to think that they're stupid and lazy. So I guess when people mistake Budai for Shakyamuni, it annoys me that the implication seems to be that the historical buddha was a foolish gluton, but as we all know, he was anything but this.
I have a friend & teacher who is a lama. He used to be the head of a monastery in Sikkim. Twice, when visiting, he has brought me small statues of this fat Buddha. he refers to him only as Maitreya. So, I have no problem with it.
Hmm, yes, seeing Budai as Maitreya eliminates all problems and transforms him into something very extraordinary!
I should ask my lama about this when I see him next.
But what if you want a Buddha in your garden, or one who can greet the visitors to your restaurant without making them feel like they are walking int a church? So, I think that is why this Budai fellow is so popular.
Hmm, I see what you mean...
It is sometimes hard to explain to people who are not buddhists. Last year, some contractors were in my house to repair something, and one of them noticed the small Buddhist "shrine" I keep. he said to me, "I know a Vietnamese guy whose a buddhist, and every day he feeds his Buddha a bowl of fruit. What do you feed your Buddha?"
I had absolutely no idea how to answer this, only picturing Buddha as some poor wild animal locked in a cage.
Tibetan altars often have offerings symbolized by small bowls of water.
"Uhhhhmmmmm.....I give mine water" I told him.
Hehe. Or you could have freaked him out and said something like "He got very thirsty after eating all that fruit so he told me to give him now water instead." lol