Maitreya (Sanskrit), Metteyya (Pali), 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.
According to Buddhist tradition, Maitreya is a bodhisattva who will appear on Earth in the future, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma.
According to scriptures, Maitreya will be a successor to the present Buddha, Gautama Buddha (also known as Śākyamuni Buddha). The prophecy of the arrival of Maitreya refers to a time in the future when the dharma will have been forgotten by most on the terrestrial world.
Maitreya has also been adopted for his millenarian role by many non-Buddhist religions in the past, such as the White Lotus, as well as by modern new religious movements, such as Yiguandao.
Maitreya’s Tuṣita Heaven
Maitreya currently resides in the Tuṣita Heaven (Pāli: Tusita), said to be reachable through meditation.
Gautama 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, Buddhas preside over pure lands, such as Amitābha over Sukhavati. Once Maitreya becomes a Buddha, he will rule over the Ketumati pure land, an earthly paradise sometimes associated with the city of Varanasi (also known as Benares) in Uttar Pradesh, India.
In Theravada 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 Gautama Buddha, as he achieved full enlightenment as a human being and died, entering parinibbana.
Future coming of Maitreya
According to Buddhist tradition, each kalpa has 1,000 Buddhas. The previous kalpa was the vyuhakalpa (Glorious aeon), and the present kalpa is called the bhadrakalpa (Auspicious aeon).
The Seven Buddhas of Antiquity (Saptatathāgata) are seven Buddhas which bridge the vyuhakalpa and the bhadrakalpa:
- Vipassī (the 998th Buddha of the vyuhakalpa)
- Sikhī (the 999th Buddha of the vyuhakalpa)
- Vessabhū (the 1000th and final Buddha of the vyuhakalpa)
- Kakusandha (the first Buddha of the bhadrakalpa)
- Koṇāgamana (the second Buddha of the bhadrakalpa)
- Kassapa (the third Buddha of the bhadrakalpa)
- Gautama (the fourth and present Buddha of the bhadrakalpa)
Maitreya will be the fifth and future Buddha of the bhadrakalpa, and his arrival will occur after the teachings of Gautama Buddha are no longer practiced.
The coming of Maitreya will be 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 will signify 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 Varanasi), 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 he 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 tales.
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).
The Arya Maitreya Mandala, founded by Anagarika Govinda is based on the idea of the future coming of Maitreya.
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. Mahākāśyapa is said to be small enough in comparison to cremate in the palm of Maitreya’s hand.
In Theosophy, the Theosophical Maitreya has multiple aspects signifying not just the future Buddha, but similar concepts from other religious or spiritual traditions.
In the 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 fulfill 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.
In 1911, Rudolf Steiner claimed:
“Roughly three thousand years after our time the world will experience the Maitreya Buddha incarnation, which will be the last incarnation of Jeshu ben Pandira. This Bodhisattva, who will come as Maitreya Buddha, will also come in a physical body in our century in his reincarnation in the flesh — but not as Buddha — and he will make it his task to give humanity all the true concepts about the Christ Event.”
Steiner is careful to distinguish Jeshu ben Pandira as somebody entirely distinct from Jesus of Nazareth, as the Maitreya is entirely distinct from the Christ being.
The Maitreya does work in support of the Christ being, as does Guatama, the current Buddha.
The Ahmadiyyas believe the 19th-century Mirza Ghulam Ahmad fulfilled expectations regarding the Maitreya Buddha.
Bahá’ís believe that Bahá’u’lláh is the fulfillment of the prophecy of the 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.
*This article was originally published at en.wikipedia.org.