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The term buddha is not just a name. It can also be a title, meaning "awakened one" or "enlightened one." According to buddhist philosophy, everyone has the potential to attain total enlightenment, and buddha may refer to any number of beings who have gained in-depth wisdom into the nature of reality. The most widely recognized of these enlightened beings is the historical Buddha, the prince Siddhartha Gautama, who lived in northern India near Nepal and Bhutan. He is often portrayed as thinly and serene or even in the somewhat emaciated form of an ascetic. In another instance, the familiar fat Buddha depiction is Chinese in origin. He is regarded as a symbol of luck and prosperity. These differences are based in cultural influence and symbolism.
Even though buddhism first developed in India, over the centuries it’s practice spread throughout Russsia (via the Mongols), Asia, and into the Western countries in more modern times. How Buddha is depicted varies widely by the regions of the various buddhist sects that have developed. Each country and sect has a different style of portraying Buddha. In addition, different postures, expressions, size, shape, and modes of dress may be used symbolically to represent different stages or aspects of the Buddha's life or buddhist philosophical principals.
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