I have a metal wall hanging of Buddha's face hanging in the space in which I offer reiki and sit down at my computer to write. In this room, I am surrounded by pictures of various Hindi deities, like Saraswati and Tara and statues of Krisna, Ganesh and Shiva. There are Aum symbols and mala beads; there is a tranquil fountain and a yoga statue sitting in a a meditational easy pose. But I love the depiction of Buddha. I love the calmness in his cheeks and the softness to the closed eyelids. Mostly, I think, it is the gentleness to his slight smile that I find instantly contagious and relaxing.
Buddha's smile is as evasive and misunderstood as the Mona Lisa's. And to do not mistake the depictions of Siddharta Guatama as Buddha with those of China's Laughing Buddha, a deity they created based on the original.
"rather than the smile of a self-satisfied, materially-rich or celebrated man, Buddha’s smile comes from a deep equanimity from within." (http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/buddha/)
Perhaps his smile is a knowing, a result of understanding the meaning of life. His smile seems so inwardly personal that maybe we aren't supposed to know the why, merely take in, a lesson in appreciating what is present. Perhaps it is, as well, a smile of complacency to the ego mind that continues, like an impatient child, to tug at the hands of its mother.
Buddha understood and taught that life is suffering. His Four Noble Truths are that the truth of life is suffering, that the cause of suffering comes from our cravings or desires, that suffering can be eliminated and that the path to rid ourselves of this suffering is the Eightfold Path. The sanskrit word dukkha means suffering or more specifically that which is difficult to bear. It is a natural part of our existence, hence, it is truth. Suffering is the result of ignorance; the Eightfold Path is the way to freedom (moksha) from ignorance, a way to nirvana. Nirvana translates to "blown out" or extinguished. Nirvana is not a result it just is.
"Beyond caste, creed, family or lineage,
That which is without name and form, beyond merit and demerit,
That which is beyond space, time and sense-objects,
You are that, God himself; Meditate this within yourself."
—Vivekachudamani, 8th Century AD
Perhaps his smile is a gentle reminder that we are all enlightened beings who have forgotten this way. His smile is a softness that moves directly to your heart. There is no doubt his smile is honest and simple. It is not coded with jealousy, distrust or malice. It is the essence of out truth that often evades us. Buddha's eightfold path redirects us.
Right Vision/ understanding
Right Intention/ thought
"'Tis easy enough to be pleasant, When life flows along like a song; But the man worthwhile is the one who will smile when everything goes dead wrong." Ella Wheeler Wilcox
I guess it really doesn't matter why he is smiling. I didn't intend to write about why he is smiling merely that he is. I enjoy every depiction of that faint smile and I am sure in my heart that that is enough.