I’m not thin—not even close.
I’m not Buddha fat either.
I’m okay with what I am. Or at least I keep trying to tell myself I am.
I like to think I don’t judge a book (or deity) by its cover.
But, I found myself wondering—do we tend to respect a thin Buddha over a fat one?
I understand that differing societies express their gods in different ways. Sometimes the image is simply left up to the individual artist of the day.
The Chinese Buddha is most often depicted as the seated, roly-poly dude with the huge open mouthed smile on his face. His smile is so big that it pushes his eyes closed. It is my belief that he is usually seated because his knees must have given out from having hauled all that girth around, and he needs to sit down to spread his legs and accommodate that belly.
Back in lean(er) times, a large person was thought to be wealthy or royal, so it makes sense the Chinese artists would depict Buddha as a carb addict.
In Sanskrit the word guru can be used to convey teacher, guide or master, but it also carries the definition of heavy—meaning heavy with wisdom.
Hey! I’m not fat—I’m wise!
The Tibetan Buddha is commonly thin and more somber or serene faced. He is also usually more ornately dressed, with many layered robes. He probably needed more clothing to keep him warm, since he was apparently below 6 percent body fat.
Do worshipers feel better about bowing down to someone (or something) that is in shape?
Maybe some worshipers feel more comfortable bowing to someone that looks like them—a bald fatty.
On the other hand, Jesus seemed to be pretty much on the “look at me—I look good” tip. I imagine him touring around—hanging with the lepers and prostitutes, multiplying bread loaves and fishes—and saying: “First, let me just take a quick Selfie.”
Most of the depictions of Christ show him to be a classically handsome fella. Of course, there are many debates regarding his changing image, over time, from a swarthy, dark-skinned, curly haired guy—to the more bearded, Malibu-Ken look of recent times. It is commonly thought that his eyes were probably not blue, and his hair most likely didn’t fall like flaxen gold, over his shoulders. In reality, he probably had some texture to his mane and some melanin in his skin.
Vishnu, Krishna and Shiva are all typically depicted as being blue in color. Some teachings say Shiva drank poison, which is what turned him blue. Others say that its artists’ interpretation of the color most prevalent in nature—the color of the sky and the ocean.
Artist depictions are all we really have, and they are fascinating. Jesus and Buddha lead the pack with contradictory icon images. Not only do we have a thin Buddha and a pudgy Buddha—there is also a Jesus with six-pack abs, along with a gaunt Jesus, with the haunted look of the sole survivor of a shipwreck.
Elvis certainly didn’t lose any of his fan base going from “thin-white-duke-Nashville Elvis” to “bloated-bedazzled-cape-wearing-Vegas Elvis.” Not that I am comparing Elvis to Buddha or Jesus, but he was “The King” after all.
One of my favorite images is of the Greek icon, Christ Pantocrator. That’s the one that shows Jesus having a wonky eye. The theory is that it shows two sides of Jesus—the human and the deity. Some scholars feel it shows he had one eye on both worlds—the human experience and the sacred.
Now, I’m not trying to get all “Divinci Code,” up in here, with hidden meanings and artist interpretations, really. But, Spirituality has morphed, even in this generation.
Material regarding spirituality has never been more popular—more consumed! And defining oneself under a specific dogma has never been less popular.
You can find those who identify with a Christian or Jewish belief system sporting Buddha statues in their gardens—both fat and thin Buddha, sometimes in the same garden!
Additionally, I bet everyone has a grandmother—or at least knows a grandmother—who has a thin Jesus crucifixion hanging on a wall. My grandmother had a painting of JFK and the Pope walking along a long row in a field entitled, “Sowing Seeds of Peace.”
And we weren’t even Catholic!
If you have a belief system (and its iconography) around you—remember that they were human too.
By accepting the older, heavier Buddha, the thin, emaciated Jesus or the blue-skinned Shiva, it can remind us that we are all divine, in whatever our shape, size or color our covering comes in.
We are all—Jesus, Buddha, Abraham, Mohammad, Shiva, Vishnu and Krishna.
Praise Jesus, and pass the dinner rolls.
Author: Melissa Morgan
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina