This question arose when Jen’s mother went to buy her a Buddha statue. Somehow she made reference to an illustration on our Zendo blog, where I’d used (but not explained) an image of Hotei (the jolly Chinese monk of a 1000 years ago associated with prosperity and contentment, also guardian of children and patron of bartenders). That’s not the Buddha, the knowledgable staff told Jen’s mom. Is that true? Jen asked me.
They’re right, I replied, or maybe not. Fact is, we don’t really know what Prince Siddhārtha Gautama Shakyamuni (the ‘sage of the Shakya tribe’), who became known as The Buddha (‘enlightened one’), looked like. Not even when he lived: most historians say 563 to 483 BCE, others disagree. Because of his ascetic and itinerant lifestyle, it’s safe to assume that he was a slim fellow.
The standing figure on the left (Tokyo National Museum, ca. 1st-2nd century) hails from Gandhara, an ancient kingdom located in northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. Looks about right to me. Not that it matters all that much. What are your thoughts?