Lord Buddha (the awakened) was a religious teacher who followed an ascetic life and founded the religion of Buddhism. Also known as Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual being was born in Lumbini, present-day Nepal. While Buddha focused his teachings on the people of South Asia, the religion spread to other parts of the world, even/especially after his death. Whether you’re a Buddhist or deeply fascinated by this religion, here are some unique facts about Buddha you may not have known.

1. Lord Buddha Wasn’t Overweight

Sculpture of Budai at the Feilai Feng grottoes in Zhejiang, China. Northern Song dynasty, 11th century.

Especially in Western countries, there is a common misconception that Buddha is a fat and laughing bald man, as depicted in most statues and accessories. However, that’s not true; Siddhartha Gautama was mistaken for a Chinese Monk named Budai, who lived in the 10th century. Budai was famous for his generosity as he always carried a sack containing sweets and rice for people.

2. Lord Buddha Did Not Believe in God, and Neither Do His Followers

According to Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama believed that there is no God. He concluded that human beings sought to believe in God out of fear after being born in a hostile world. Buddhists believe that people seek God for comfort. They also claim this belief is unnecessary, especially after scientific theories explain the universe’s emergence.

3. Sri Lanka Deports Tourists with Buddha Tattoos

In Sri Lanka, more than 70% of the population are Buddhists and are very observant of the religion. As such, it usually comes off as an insult when tourists visit the country with Buddha tattoos on their bodies. They are so serious that in 2014, a British tourist was arrested and deported for having a Buddha tattoo. Although no law bans tourists in Sri Lanka from having a Buddha tattoo, visitors may want to cover them up when visiting the region.

4. There are Beliefs that Buddha Died from Eating Tainted Pork

Different texts have varying stories of how Buddha died, the most common one being that he consumed tainted pork. Other texts also allege that the religious leader died from eating a wild mushroom. Either way, it’s almost certain that he died from something he ate.

5. The Source Temple Buddha is the Largest Buddha Statue in the World

Located in Zhaocun, China, the Source Temple Buddha is the largest Buddha statue in the world. Measuring 153m (502 feet) high, the monument is placed on top of a 200m (682 feet) hill, boosting its enormous size. The copper statue has a stairway that gives visitors access.

6. A Buddha Statue Dating Back to 500 AD was Excavated in Sweden

To further prove that the teachings of Buddhism have been around and popular for the longest time, a Buddha statue estimated to have existed since 500 AD was recently excavated in Helgo, Sweden.

7. An Oakland Resident Placed a Buddha Statue in a Median to Stop Illegal Dumping, and It Turned into a Vietnamese Shrine

In 2009, an Oakland resident known as Dan Stevenson installed a Buddha statue in a traffic median to curb illegal dumping. Surprisingly, the statue not only halted the unlawful dumping but also turned out to be a Vietnamese worship shrine. At one point, the local Public Works department wanted to remove the statue but recanted the decision.

8. It is Wrong to Use a Buddha Statue as a Decoration or Advert

According to Buddhist teachings, a temple is the most appropriate place to have a Buddha statue. However, some people usually place the statue in their bathrooms or living rooms as a décor piece – this is considered offensive! Buddhists insist Buddha represents spirituality and should not be used for decoration.

9. There is a Comedic Japanese Manga about Buddha and Jesus

The Saint Young Men is a Japanese comedy manga about Buddha and Jesus living together as roommates in Tokyo. Written by Hikaru Nakamura, the series has sold over 16 million copies since its launch. It won the Best Comic at the Angouleme International Comics Festival in 2012.

10. Buddha was Born in Royalty

Buddha Siddhartha Gautama was a royal prince of the Shakya Dynasty. However, although he was born into a wealthy family and had a relatively easier life, Buddha didn’t like the suffering people endured. This is why he gave up all his earthly possessions and pursued an ascetic life.

11. Buddha Had a Strong Opinion Against Violence

Unlike most religions that have been marred by acts of violence in the past, Buddha had a firm opinion against this. All of his teachings were spread through carvings, and no one was forced to accept the religion against their will.

12. Hindus Believe that Buddha was an Avatar of Vishnu

An idol of Lord Vishnu

Vishnu, recognized as the God of preservation and his reincarnating abilities, is believed to have been Buddha. Hindus believe that Buddha is the ninth avatar of Vishnu, further explaining why he was so enlightened. Buddhism is a version of Hinduism, so a connection between the two is possible.

13. China Has the Highest Number of Buddha Followers

While you will be excused for thinking India has the most Buddhists, the truth is it doesn’t; China does. At least 18% of the Chinese population (translating to over 244 million people) are Buddhists. Other countries where you are likely to find many Buddhists include Thailand, Myanmar, South Korea, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

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Last Update: May 1, 2024