Qilu and Xiaoshi Arhats

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on November 7, 2016.)

Xiaoshi, the "Laughing Lion" Arhat, at Huayan Temple, Datong, Shanxi

Today we'll meet two more of the "Eighteen Arhats" found nine-on-a-side in the main halls of many temples.

The first is best called "The Deer-Riding Arhat" (Qilu Luohan). Remember the first Arhat we talked about in this series, Changmei, or the "Long Eyebrow Arhat"? We said there that his Sanskrit name is Asita. Actually, he is sometimes swapped with "The Deer-Riding Arhat," named here Pindola (Binduluo Luohan). That is, in some temples, Asita is called Pindola and Pindola is Asita.

But you can't go wrong by identifying the attributes: long eyebrows versus riding a deer!

Why a deer, you ask? It seems he was once in the service of a king, but decided to sneak off and become a monk. After he achieved enlightenment, he came back to the palace on a deer, a sign that he no longer cared about appearances. ("What kind of crazy man rides a deer?" people may have asked.) Recognized by the palace guard, he was ushered into the throne room, where he taught Buddhism to the king. The king subsequently turned the throne over to his son and followed Pindola out to become a monk. 

Today's second Arhat is Fasheluofuduo or Vajraputra, The Persuading Arhat. In this guise he is somewhat hard to identify; it is said that he is the one who convinced the Buddha's cousin Ananda to balance practice with study. But he is also called the "Laughing Lion (Xiaoshi) Luohan," in which case he is always shown playing with a baby lion!

What's the connection? Well, who is more persuasive than a lion tamer?

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