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Bodhisattva Maitreya from the 2nd Century Gandharan Art Period
|Chinese:||彌勒菩薩 (Mílè Púsa)|
|Japanese:||弥勒菩薩 (Miroku Bosatsu)|
|Korean:||미륵보살 (Mireuk Bosal)|
|Sinhala:||මෛත්රී බුදුන් (Maithree Budun)|
|Thai:||พระศรีอริยเมตไตรย (Phra Sri Araya Mettrai)|
|Vietnamese:||Di-lặc (Bồ Tát)|
|Venerated by:||Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana|
|Preceded by:||Gautama Buddha|
Maitreya (Sanskrit), Metteyya (Pāli), Maithree (Sinhala), Jampa (Tibetan) or Di-Lặc (Vietnamese), is regarded as a future Buddha of this world in Buddhist eschatology. In some Buddhist literature, such as the Amitabha Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, he is referred to as Ajita Bodhisattva.
Maitreya is a bodhisattva who in the Buddhist tradition is to appear on Earth, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma. According to scriptures, Maitreya will be a successor of the historic Śākyamuni Buddha. The prophecy of the arrival of Maitreya refers to a time when the Dharma will have been forgotten by most on Jambudvipa. It is found in the canonical literature of all major Buddhist schools (Theravāda, Mahāyāna, Vajrayāna), and is accepted by most Buddhists as a statement about an event that will take place when the Dharma will have been mostly forgotten on Earth.
The name Maitreya (Metteyya in Pāli) is derived from the Sanskrit word maitrī (Pāli: mettā) meaning "loving-kindness", which is in turn derived from the noun mitra (Pāli: mitta) in the sense of "friend".
Metteyya is mentioned in the Cakavatti (Sihanada) Sutta (Digha Nikaya 26) of the Pali Canon. He appears in no other sutta in the Pali Canon, and this has cast doubt as to the sutta's authenticity. Most of the Buddha's sermons are presented as having been presented in answer to a question, or in some other appropriate context, but this sutta has a beginning and ending in which the Buddha is talking to monks about something totally different. This leads Gombrich to conclude that either the whole sutta is apocryphal, or that it has at least been tampered with.
Maitreya is sometimes represented seated on a throne Western-style, and venerated both in Mahāyāna and non-Mahāyāna Buddhism. Some have speculated that inspiration for Maitreya may have come from the ancient Indo-Iranian deity Mithra. The primary comparison between the two characters appears to be the similarity of their names. According to a book entitled The Religion of the Iranian Peoples, "No one who has studied the Zoroastrian doctrine of the Saoshyants or the coming saviour-prophets can fail to see their resemblance to the future Maitreya.
Paul Williams claims that some Zoroastrian ideas like Saoshyant influenced the beliefs about Maitreya, such as "expectations of a heavenly helper, the need to opt for positive righteousness, the future millennium, and universal salvation". Possible objections are that these characteristics are not unique to Zoroastrianism, nor are they necessarily characteristic of the belief in Maitreya.
In the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, in the first centuries CE in northern India, Maitreya was the most popular figure to be represented, together with the Buddha Śākyamuni. In China, in the 4th–6th Centuries "Buddhist artisans used the names Shakyamuni and Maitreya interchangeably... indicating both that the distinction between the two had not yet been drawn and that their respective iconographies had not yet been firmly set" An example is the stone sculpture found in the Qingzhou cache dedicated to Maitreya in 529 CE as recorded in the inscription (currently in the Qingzhou Museum, Shandong). The religious belief of Maitreya apparently developed around the same time as that of Amitābha, as early as the 3rd century CE.
One mention of the prophecy of Maitreya is in the Sanskrit text, the Maitreyavyākaraṇa (The Prophecy of Maitreya). It implies that he is a teacher of meditative trance sadhana and states that gods, men and other beings:
will lose their doubts, and the torrents of their cravings will be cut off: free from all misery they will manage to cross the ocean of becoming; and, as a result of Maitreya's teachings, they will lead a holy life. No longer will they regard anything as their own, they will have no possession, no gold or silver, no home, no relatives! But they will lead the holy life of oneness under Maitreya's guidance. They will have torn the net of the passions, they will manage to enter into trances, and theirs will be an abundance of joy and happiness, for they will lead a holy life under Maitreya's guidance. (Trans. in Conze 1959:241)
Maitreya is typically pictured seated, with either both feet on the ground or crossed at the ankles, on a throne, waiting for his time. He is dressed in the clothes of either a Bhiksu or Indian royalty. As a bodhisattva, he would usually be standing and dressed in jewels. Usually he wears a small stupa in his headdress that represents the stupa of the Buddha Sakyamuni's relics to help him identify it when his turn comes to lay claim to his succession, and can be holding a dharmachakra (wheel of life) resting on a lotus. A khata (ceremonial scarf) is always tied around his waist as a girdle. The Stupa on his head was actually seen by disciples when Maitreya received teachings from his master Buddha Shakyamuni as a sign of his outstanding devotion. That is the reason why he is pictured with a Stupa either on his head or in his hands. Also the original Stupa was a crystal one, which stands for the purity of his devotion.
In the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, in the first centuries CE in northern India, Maitreya is represented as a Central Asian or northern Indian nobleman, holding a "water phial" (Sanskrit: Kumbha) in his left hand. Sometimes this is a "wisdom urn" (Sanskrit: Bumpa). He is flanked by his two acolytes, the brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu.
Maitreya currently resides in the Tuṣita Heaven (Pāli: Tusita), said to be reachable through meditation. Śākyamuni Buddha also lived here before he was born into the world as all bodhisattvas live in the Tuṣita Heaven before they descend to the human realm to become Buddhas. Although all bodhisattvas are destined to become Buddhas, the concept of a bodhisattva differs greatly in Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. In Theravada Buddhism, a bodhisattva is one who is striving for full enlightenment (Arahantship in Pali), whereas in Mahayana Buddhism, a bodhisattva is one who has already reached a very advanced state of grace or enlightenment but holds back from entering nirvana so that he may help others.
In Mahayana Buddhism, once Maitreya becomes a Buddha, he will rule over the Ketumati Pure Land, an earthly paradise sometimes associated with the Indian city of Varanasi (also known as Benares) in Uttar Pradesh. In Mahayana Buddhism, Buddhas preside over a Pure Land (the Buddha Amitabha presides over the Sukhavati Pure Land, more popularly known as the Western Paradise).
In Theravadin Buddhism, Buddhas are born as unenlightened humans, and are not rulers of any paradise or pure land. Maitreya's arising would be no different from the arising of Shakyamuni Buddha, as he achieved full-enlightenment as a human being, and passed away into parinibbana when the conditions were ripe for his final passing. Orthodox Theravadin doctrine has much less emphasis on deities and Bodhisattvas, and do not view Bodhisattvas to be in an unachievable state.
In Mahayana schools, Maitreya is traditionally said to have revealed the Five Treatises of Maitreya through Asanga. These important texts are the basis of the Yogachara tradition and constitute the majority of the Third Turning of the Wheel of Dharma.
His coming is characterized by a number of physical events. The oceans are predicted to decrease in size, allowing Maitreya to traverse them freely. Maitreya will then reintroduce "true" dharma to the world.
His arrival signifies the end of the middle time, the time between the fourth Buddha, Gautama Buddha, and the fifth Buddha, Maitreya, which is viewed as a low point of human existence. According to the Cakkavatti Sutta: The Wheel-turning Emperor, Digha Nikaya 26 of the Sutta Pitaka of the Pāli Canon), Maitreya Buddha will be born in a time when humans will live to an age of eighty thousand years, in the city of Ketumatī (present Benares), whose king will be the Cakkavattī Sankha. Sankha will live in the palace where once dwelt King Mahāpanadā, but later he will give the palace away and will himself become a follower of Maitreya Buddha.
The scriptures say that Maitreya will attain bodhi in seven days (which is the minimum period), by virtue of his many lives of preparation for Buddhahood (similar to those reported in the Jataka stories of Shakyamuni Buddha).
At this time a notable teaching he will start giving is that of the ten non-virtuous deeds (killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, divisive speech, abusive speech, idle speech, covetousness, harmful intent and wrong views) and the ten virtuous deeds (the abandonment of: killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, divisive speech, abusive speech, idle speech, covetousness, harmful intent and wrong views).
Pali sources say that beings in Maitreya's time will be much bigger than during the time of Sakyamuni. In one prophecy his disciples are contemptuous of Mahakasyapa, whose head is no larger than an insect to them. Buddhas robe barely covers two fingers making them wonder how tiny Buddha was. Mahakasyapa, is said to be small enough in comparison to cremate in the palm of Maitreya's hand.
According to the Lotus Sutra of Nichiren Buddhism, all persons possess the potential to reveal an innate Buddha nature during their own lifetimes, a concept which may appear to contradict the concept of Buddha as savior or messiah.
Although Maitreya is a significant figure in the Lotus Sutra, the explanation of Nichiren is that Maitreya is a metaphor of stewardship and aid for the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, as written in the Lotus Sutra:
Moreover...all the bodhisattvas, Bodhisattva Maitreya....will guard and protect the votaries of the Lotus Sutra, so one may indeed rest assured.
In much of his writing, Nichiren mentions the traditional Buddhist views on Maitreya but explains that the propagation of the Eternal Dharma of the Lotus Sutra was entrusted by Shakyamuni to the Bodhisattvas of earth:
The Buddha did not entrust these five characters to Maitreya, Medicine King, or the others of their group. Instead he summoned forth the bodhisattvas....from the great earth of Tranquil Light and transferred the five characters to them.
Thus, each individual can embody the character of the Maitreya because he is a metaphor for compassion:
The name Maitreya means ‘Compassionate One’ and designates the Votaries of the Lotus Sutra.
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The concept of Maitreya was elaborated within Theosophy during the last few decades of the 19th century. However, the Theosophical Maitreya was explained and developed differently from the original Buddhist concept. In Theosophical texts Maitreya has multiple aspects signifying not just the future Buddha, but similar concepts from other religious or spiritual traditions.
In early 20th century, leading Theosophists became convinced that an appearance of the Maitreya as a so-called World Teacher was imminent. A South Indian boy, Jiddu Krishnamurti, was thought to be destined as the "vehicle" of the soon-to-manifest Maitreya; however the manifestation did not happen as predicted, and did not fulfil Theosophists' expectations.
Since the growth of the Theosophical movement in the 19th century, and influenced by Theosophy's articulations on the Maitreya, non-Buddhist religious and spiritual movements have adopted and reinterpreted the concept in their doctrines. Share International, which equates Maitreya with the prophesied figures of multiple religious traditions, claims that he is already present in the world, but is preparing to make an open declaration of his presence in the near future. They claim that he is here to inspire mankind to create a new era based on sharing and justice.
In the beginning of the 1930s, the Ascended Master Teachings placed Maitreya in the "Office of World Teacher" until 1956, when he was described as moving on to the "Office of Planetary Buddha" and "Cosmic Christ" in their concept of a Spiritual Hierarchy.
Some Muslim scholars who studied Buddhist texts believe that Maitreya is "Rahmatu lil-'alameen" (Mercy for The Worlds), which is the name for the prophet Muhammad as it is said in the Qur'an. According to the research on the book Antim Buddha - Maitreya scholars have surmised that Maitreya Buddha is Muhammad. After examining the Buddhist texts researchers concluded that Muhammad had been the last and final awakened Buddha to come into existence long after the current teachings.
Bahá'ís believe that Bahá'u'lláh is the fulfillment of the prophecy of appearance of Maitreya. Bahá'ís believe that the prophecy that Maitreya will usher in a new society of tolerance and love has been fulfilled by Bahá'u'lláh's teachings on world peace.
Since his death, the Chinese monk Budai (Hotei) has been popularly regarded as an incarnation of the bodhisattva Maitreya. His depiction as the Laughing Buddha continues to be very popular in East Asian culture.[dubious ]
While a number of persons have proclaimed themselves to be Maitreya over the years following the Buddha’s parinirvana, none have been officially recognized by the sangha and Buddhists. A particular difficulty faced by any would-be claimant to Maitreya's title is the fact that the Buddha is considered to have made a number of fairly specific predictions regarding the circumstances that would occur prior to Maitreya's coming; such as that the teachings of the Buddha would be completely forgotten, and all of the remaining relics of Sakyamuni Buddha would be gathered in Bodh Gaya and cremated.[dubious ]
The following list is just a small selection of those people who claimed or claim to be the incarnation of Maitreya. Many have either used the Maitreya incarnation claim to form a new Buddhist sect or have used the name of Maitreya to form a new religious movement or cult.
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Although a "new Buddha" was mentioned, these rebellions are not considered "Maitreyan" by modern scholars. However, they would be a later influence on the rebel religious leaders that made such claims. Therefore, it is important to mention these rebellions in this context.
|“||The leader of White Lotus sect, Han Shantong called himself Ming Wang (明王 - "King of Brightness"), while his son, Han Lin'er called himself Xiao Ming Wang (小明王 - "Small King of Brightness"), both names reflecting the sect's beliefs. Zhu Yuanzhang had been a member of the White lotus Sect, and admitted to have been a branch of the White Lotus rebel army (being at one time vice-marshal of Xiao Ming Wang). When Zhu Yuanzhang took power, he chose the dynastic name "Ming".||”|
Albeit not in the name of Maitreya, both rebellions were perpetrated solely or in part by the White Lotus Society, a rebellious Maitreya sect.
There was a sage of the same name in the epic Mahabharata. His lineage is unknown. He came to the court of Hastinapura to advise Duryodhana to restore the kingdom of the Pandavas, a little while after the sons of Pandu had gone into exile, having been defeated at dice.
However, Duryodhana didn't even bother to listen to the sage, and showed his disrespect all too plainly. Incensed, the sage cursed him and said, "Fourteen years hence, you shall be destroyed in battle by the Pandavas, along with your kinsmen and all that you hold dear. Bheema shall dispatch you to the abode of Yama, by breaking your thighs with the mace." Some hold that the curse of this sage played a major part in encompassing the destruction of the Kauravas.
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