When you think of Buddha, do you think of the statue of the fat, happy guy at the Chinese restaurant?
Yeah, us too.
That’s not Buddha.
That’s just one of the misconceptions that’s corrected by the new exhibit “The Sacred Art of Buddhism,” which opens today at the Berman Museum in Anniston.
The fat, happy guy is actually a 10th-century Chinese monk named Hotei, who has become a legendary figure known for his jolly sense of humor. His nickname is “the laughing Buddha.”
By compasion, the “historic Buddha” is Siddhartha Gautama, who became the founder of Buddhism in India more than 2,500 years ago. Gautama was the son of a ruler who left his privileged life to wander the country, fasting and meditating. One day under an ancient fig tree, he became enlightened and achieved the state of nirvana.
The word “buddha” means “awakened one.” A buddha is a person free of faults and mental obstructions. Gautama believed that all beings were capable of reaching buddhahood. But he never claimed to be a god, and Buddhists do not worship him.
Today, there are 470 million followers of Buddhism, most prominently in eastern and southeastern Asia.
The Berman is presenting this exhibit “to broaden people’s horizons a little bit,” said Sabra Gossett, registrar for the Berman.
“We have an extremely large collection of Buddhist and Asian art. Most of the items here have never been on display. Most of them have been in storage in the basement,” Gossett said.
Many of the items are from the Foo collection, which consists of more than 1,000 Asian artifacts donated to the Berman by Dr. Oliver and Pei-hwa Foo.
“The Sacred Art of Buddhism” will be on display until October.
Museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the museum will also be open Monday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Admission is $6 for adults, $5.50 for seniors, $5 for children 4-17 and free for ages 3 and under.
The Berman is at 840 Museum Drive, Anniston, 256-237-6261, exploreamag.org.