Maitreya is depicted this way in Chinese Buddhist eschatology because he has some secrets from the Buddha. He doesn’t come to teach but to present a marking scheme from the lineage of the Buddhas of the past. He will do an intensive survey to understand the human condition in full light of history and also his own personal experience of the present and past lives; and enter the house of meditation and contemplation and get to see the jest of the human condition. This is a time when we are coming out of a Dark Age into a totally new and different Age where we have multiplied in numbers and there being opportunity for those seeking illumination into the ways of men to study disparate ways of life different groups of people from all corners of the world; this should him arrive at a mathematically accurate state of enlightenment if sincerity of the quests exists in him. Thus having understood the Buddha’s joke he will move forward without attempting to use the methods used by the previous Buddhas having seen how easily they become forgotten and subsequently men of genuine enlightenment decline in the world. Knowing such wisdom, he will go forward and turning the freaking wheel of self knowledge. It is completely impossible to forge such a character because this insight one gains in life doesn’t come to one accidentally but an accumulation of merits for a long time in past lives. I look forward to discuss the topic of reincarnation in a different article, though.
The laughing Buddha is a consummation of the Buddhist teachings and wisdom. His laughter has nothing to do with the ordinary kind of laughter known to fools where you crack because your ego has been massaged either through a jest or by observing something funny.
The Laughing Buddha owes that title to many eons of practice of the Buddha way. He is also referred to as Miroku or Maitreya or Ariya Metteya depending on your understanding of this character. His laughter shall be an Inner Laughter. This is a function of his universal sight where he has the capability to see all the impediments to enlightenment for all peoples from any part of the world.
Understand that mankind as he is lives a life of lying to himself in a bid to procrastinate his own enlightenment. In the past there appeared Buddhas and Arahants, achieved their own Awakening and went on to teach and help in the awakening of other beings. The ones who attain to this level of wakefulness usually have molded and disciplined their minds for many kalpas or years with an outstanding patience and devotion to the noble Teaching. Noble because it’s not accessible to cluttered minds.
The Laughing Buddha is the 5th Buddha in the Buddhist eschatology. He has in the past been a disciple to other Buddhas who confirmed his future Buddhahood. When I was a kid I thought the Buddha was a fraud due to the extensive brainwashing done here in Africa by the Christian missionaries who were spreading the allegedly good news of Christianity; they wielded a bible on the one hand and a Bible on the other. That’s how the rebellious African used to make jokes about these charismatic-like people.
The Laughing Buddha was in the past lives a bodhisattva who made the reason to attain Buddhahood someday, and help others to attain their awakening. The men and women who have so much vested interest in their egos and carnal minds cannot meet such a figure (in terms of understanding). Modern Buddhism has deviated so much from the original teachings of the previous Buddha. But this is always the situation. When a Buddha appears in the world he teaches transcendental wisdom. When he disappears, different periods come and go where the ignorance and religious piety experiences an exponential regression and it becomes harder and harder for them to understand such selfless teachings of the Buddhas.
He shall have an inner spark for laughter to see that the dharma teachings were right all along; though the modern has used the Teaching for his own selfish ends. This can be understood by having insight about the very cream of those purport to understand and practice the teachings of Buddhism yet their actions, characters and spiritual sleep dictate otherwise.