Daily Riches: Worshiping a Truly Human Jesus (Edward Hays)

“Since smiling is extraordinarily rare in depictions of divine or savior figures, Buddhist scholars are careful to distinguish the smile of Buddha. They list six classes of laughter, from the most sublime in a descending scale to the most uncouth and crude. They begin with sita, a faint, almost undetectable smile, which is followed by hasita, a smile that involves the slightest movement of the lips, revealing only a glimpse of the teeth. The third classification is vihasita, a broad smile reaching from ear to ear that is often accompanied by laughter. Next comes upanhasita, a broad-faced smile that is accompanied by some laughter. Fifth is apahasita, a smile accompanied by loud laughter so intense as to bring tears. Finally in last place is aithasita, the belly laughter that is so boisterous as to rock the entire body. This wonderful Buddhist catalog of smiles was influenced by the ideals of aristocratic superiority, where only the first two classes were proper for those with refinement. In those circles, the Buddha is shown only smiling with that faint, almost undetectable, sita smile. If artists ever began to depict the joy of Jesus, they will no doubt also limit his expression to a sita smile. The next two classes of smiles, of moderate laughter are those ascribed to the merchant or the average person. The last two classes of excessive and vulgar laughter are reserved to the lower, coarse, and uncouth classes, such as peasants. Yet Jesus of Nazareth was no aristocrat, but a peasant and common workman, so if he laughed, did he do so in a boisterous way? If he did, would a raucous full-bodied laughter diminish in any way his holiness – his intimate union with the All Holy One? While Christianity lacks religious images of …smiling saints, Buddhism has that notoriously happy saintly, old and fat, potbellied Pu-Tai. This famous laughing Buddha is a statue often found at the entrances of Chinese restaurants. He is always depicted laughing with great gusto…. Pu-Tai …spurned the cloister claustrophobia of monasteries to wander the open road. He went dancing down the road to some inaudible music, played with little children in the village streets, and delighted them by acting the crazy fool with joyful, mad humor. Pu-tai, both a wise and holy man, knew that for those living in a village or a monastery the greatest temptation was the craving of the hungry old ego for respect or to be important. [But] Old Pu-Tai was unconcerned if his fat potbelly didn’t make him look saintly, nor that he was the target of the laughter of children and adults.” Edward Hays

“Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter,
and everyone who hears about this
will laugh with me.’”
Genesis 21:6

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Can you imagine Jesus laughing with full-bodied laughter?
  • Would you still respect and worship Jesus if he had a pot-belly?
  • Pu-Tai reminds me at points of St. Francis, and of Jesus. Must we take ourselves so seriously?

Abba, help me follow my savior into a life of laughter and joy.

For More: The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey



3 thoughts on “Daily Riches: Worshiping a Truly Human Jesus (Edward Hays)

  1. Thank you for the thoughts. My wife and I agree, we and others, rarely, if eve,r think of Christ smiling / laughing while he was here on earth. I bet he laughs at many of us or cries as he watches today.


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