In the foreground of the card is a Golden Buddha in the shape of the laughing Buddha. Known variously as the Hotei in Japan, the Pu-Tai (protector of children) and Maitraya Buddha in China, the laughing Buddha comes from folk tales about a Ch’an monk named Ch’i-t’zu, or Qieci, from Fenghua, in what is now the Zhejiang province in Eastern China. He represents happiness, generosity and wealth. Pu-Tai means hemp sack, and he is often pictured with children, handing out sweets from his bag. The Buddha is holding a necklace and his begging bowl. Someone has filled his bowl with water, just as they have filled the bowls on the altar around him. In temples devoteés replace the water in the bowls once a day as a spiritual practice. Another reminder of this spiritual practice is the Mala or set of prayer beads the Buddha holds in his right hand. Both of these symbols represent the constant presence of devotion, or at least spiritual attention and intention in the fabric of life and happiness.
When you draw this card, the basic message is one of contentment and physical well being. How satisfaction inhabits us, especially our emotional satisfaction, is a key to understanding this card. However, in the midst of this devotion and happiness, the umbra of the shadow is still present. The curtains are propped open behind him, and the entrance to and space inside the altar is dark and shadowy. It is simply a reminder of the endless dark material inside us that can “come to light”. The bringing forth of this material into this sacred space is what contributes to our continued well being and contentment.
The laughing Buddha is not laughing, but is looking curious, or satisfied, and seems about to laugh. He understands that there are secrets hidden in this sacred room that have yet to be revealed.