Maitreya Bodhisattva, the Future Buddha — the face of Love; the loving friend of all sentient beings

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    Maitreya Bodhisattva, the Future Buddha — the face of Love; the loving friend of all sentient beings

    Why is Maitreya Bodhisattva, the Future Buddha, the face of love? Why does his name translate as “friend” — and more precisely, loving friend? His Bodhisattva name also translates as “just love.” Why have so many people through history falsely claimed to be Maitreya Buddha?

    Buddha Weekly Buddha Maitreya Statue dreamstime l 27362165 Buddhism
    Maitreya Buddha statue in Ladakh. Maitreya Buddha, the Loving Friend Bodhsiattva is the Buddha to come in the future. He is usually depicted seated on a throne.

    Maitreya as Buddha foretold in many Sutras

    In the Lotus Sutra and Amitabha Pureland Sutra, he is known as Ajita. In earlier Pali Sutta, he is mentioned as Metteyya in the Cakkavatti-Sīhanāda Sutta (Digha Nikaya 26). He is also found in the Buddhavamsa, Chapter 28 mentions three Buddhas that preceded Dīpankara, as well as the future Buddha, Maitreya.

     

    Buddha Weekly Maitreya Buddha Buddha of the Future Tiksey Gompa Ladakh dreamstime l 498644 Buddhism
    Maitreaya Bodhisattva, the Future Buddha, whose name means Loving Friend.

     

    Maitreya is also foretold in the Samyutta Nikaya’s Maitreyavimāna Sutta (Samyutta Nikāya 36.21). Mention of Maitreya is made numerous times throughout the Mahayana Sutras such as the Heart Sutra and Surangama Sutra, often reaffirming that Maitreya will be a Buddha who follows after Gautama Buddha and preceded by many Buddhas such as Dipankara Buddha.

    The Lotus Sutra contains Maitreya’s biography and describes him in detail. The first chapter of the sutra begins with a staff bearing Maitreya’s image appearing in space to challenge Mara, and then describes Maitreya sitting on a jeweled lotus throne surrounded by bodhisattvas and gods, such as Manjushri, Samantabhadra and Avalokiteśvara. Maitreya is also presented in the Lotus Sutra as the teacher who will succeed Gautama Buddha and Maitreya’s name is often mentioned along with Amitābha Buddha.

     

    Buddha Weekly Maitreya in Tibetan form Buddhism
    Maitreya as he appeared to Asanga.

     

    Five Treatises of Maitreya

    In the Tibetan tradition, Maitreya transmitted five precious teachings to Asanga, called the Five Treatise of Maitreya.

    Mipham Rinpoche wrote:

    “After the noble bodhisattva Asanga performed the practice of Lord Maitreya for twelve human years, he met Maitreya face-to-face and was led to the heavenly realm of Tushita. Maitreya presented Asanga with five commentaries that comment upon the wisdom intent of all the words of the Victorious One. These five treatises are the Two Ornaments, the Two Treatises That Distinguish, and the Sublime Continuum.”

    The Five Treatises are:

    1. The Ornament of Clear Realization (Skt. Abhisamayālaṃkāra; Tib. མངོན་པར་རྟོགས་པའི་རྒྱན་; Trad. Chin. 現觀莊嚴論)
    2. The Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras (Skt. Māhayānasūtrālaṃkāra; Tib. ཐེག་པ་ཆེན་པོའི་མདོ་སྡེ་རྒྱན་; Trad. Chin. 大乘莊嚴經論).
    3. Distinguishing the Middle from the Extremes (Skt. Madhyāntavibhāga; Tib. དབུས་དང་མཐའ་རྣམ་པར་འབྱེད་པ་; Trad. Chin. 辨中邊論頌).
    4. Distinguishing Dharma and Dharmata (Skt. Dharma-dharmatā-vibhāga; Tib. ཆོས་དང་ཆོས་ཉིད་རྣམ་པར་འབྱེད་པ་; Trad. Chin. 辨法法性論)
    5. The Sublime Continuum (Skt. Uttaratantra Śāstra; Tib. རྒྱུད་བླ་མ་; Trad. Chin. 分別寶性大乘無上續論).

     

    Buddha Weekly Close up of Maitreaya Buddha dreamstime l 27041244 Buddhism
    Face of a loving friend — Maitreya Buddha.

     

    Source of his name: Maitri

    Sanskrit word maitrī “friendship, love, kindness”, which is in turn derived from the noun Mitra. Maitreya’s name Maitreya is derived from the Sanskrit word maitrī “friendship” — however Maitri has many layered meanings: benevolence, kindness, friendliness, amity, goodwill, active love for others. Maitri is one of the ten Paramis of Theravadan Buddhism. His practice is the practice of Metta, or loving kindness.

    Metta (loving kindness) is, literally, the practice of Loving Kindness — and the practice of Maitreya.

    Maitreya’s epithet Mettāyus (Pali: Mettājina).

    Buddha Maitreya is commonly known by his Chinese and Japanese name Miroku. Maitreya as Miroku Bosatsu appears often in artwork, particularly statues.

    His names in other languages are[1]:

    Sanskrit मैत्रेय

    (Maitreya) Pāli मेत्तेय्य

    (Metteyya)Burmese အရိမေတ္တေယျဘုရား

    Chinese 彌勒菩薩

    弥勒菩萨

    Cyrillic Майдар, Асралт

    (Mayidar, Asaraltu)

    Japanese 弥勒菩薩(みろくぼさつ)

    (romaji: Miroku Bosatsu)

    Khmer សិអារ្យមេត្រី, អរិយមេត្តយ្យ

    Korean 미륵보살

    彌勒菩薩

    (RR: Mireuk Bosal)

    Shan ဢရီႉမိတ်ႈတေႇယႃႉ

    Sinhala මෛත්‍රී බුදුන්

    (Maithri Budun)

    Thai พระศรีอริยเมตไตรย

    (RTGS: Phra Si Ariya Mettrai)

    Tibetan བྱམས་པ་

    (Wylie: byams pa)

    (THL: Jampa)

    བྱམས་པ་མགོན་པོ་

    (Wylie: byams pa’i mgon po)

    (THL: Jampé Gönpo)

    Vietnamese 彌勒菩薩

    (Di lặc Bồ Tát)

    Buddha Weekly Maitreya Buddha statue in Ladakh India dreamstime l 20977083 Buddhism
    Maitreya Buddha, a giant statue in Ladakh India.

    Maitreya’s appearance

    Of course, Maitreya is always friendly and peaceful in appearance, in keeping with his role as a loving friend of suffering sentient beings.

    His practice flourished during the time Alexander the Great arrived in India. Many statues of Maitreya, in the Greco-Buddhist style, portray him as a beautiful nobleman with a Kumbha (or Bhumpa) or wisdom urn in his left hand.

    Maitreya is sometimes featured in Buddhist art on a large lotus flower with his legs hanging down or on a throne with his legs crossed and resting on a small footstool.

    The earliest Maitreya statue in China dates to the 6th century CE, though the Maitreya concept probably entered China much earlier, during the 2nd century CE. Maitreya is also found in Thai and Cambodian art from at least the 7th century CE.

    In recent years, Maitreya has become popular in Western countries, particularly the United States, where Maitreya statues may be seen in many private homes and public places such as parks and Buddhist centers.

     

    Buddha Weekly Maitreya Buddha in Tsemo Gonpa Leh Ladakh India dreamstime l 224498584 Buddhism
    Maitreya Buddha in Tsemo Gonpa Leh, Ladakh, India.

     

    Maitreya’s role as a savior

    Maitreya Bodhisattva is often depicted seated on a lotus throne holding a Dharma wheel or teaching bell in his left hand while making the Abhaya mudra (fearlessness gesture) with his right hand. This mudra represents Maitreya’s role as a teacher of the Dharma, which will lead all beings to liberation from suffering.

    Maitreya is also known as the “Buddha of the Future” because he is said to be the next Buddha who will appear on Earth. Maitreya is often linked with the Amitabha Buddha, as they are both seen as saviors who will help sentient beings in their journey towards enlightenment.

    It is Maitreya’s role as “savior” and future Buddha that led to so many fraudulent tricksters claiming throughout history to be Maitreya come to earth. (See the section on Maitreya claimants.)

     

    Buddha Weekly Thiksey Gompa Ladakh one of the future Buddha Maitreya statues dreamstime l 26793720 Buddhism
    Maitreya Bodhisattva, the Future Buddha, statue in Ladakh.

     

    Maitreya’s compassion

    Maitreya Bodhisattva embodies the Bodhisattva ideal of Mahayana Buddhism: one who delays their own Buddhahood out of compassion for all sentient beings. Maitreya’s name means “loving friend” or “friend of all”, and his compassionate nature is extended to all beings, regardless of whether they are human, animal or anything else. Maitreya is therefore known as the “friend of all creatures”.

    Maitreya’s compassion is further extended to include even those who have caused harm. In the Maitri Upanishad, Maitreya says:

    “By taking refuge in me, even those who have committed the most heinous crimes will be freed from their karma and will attain liberation.”

    This shows that Maitreya’s compassion is not selective — it is available to all, no matter how bad their past actions may have been. Maitreya’s compassion is therefore seen as boundless and all-inclusive.

     

    Buddha Weekly Maitreya Buddha in Thicksey Gompa Ladakh India dreamstime l 68806433 Buddhism
    Maitreya statue in Thicksey Gompa, Ladakh, India

     

    Maitreya as a role model

    Because Maitreya Bodhisattva is the personification of love and compassion, he provides an excellent role model for all of us who wish to develop these qualities within ourselves. By studying Maitreya’s life and teachings, we can learn how to cultivate love and compassion in our own lives.

    Maitreya’s name means “loving friend”, which highlights his compassionate nature. He is known as the “friend of all creatures” because his compassion extends to all beings, regardless of whether they are human, animal or anything else. Maitreya is therefore an excellent role model for those of us who wish to develop our own capacity for compassion.

     

    Buddha Weekly Golden Maitreya Buddha Statue in Likir Monastery Leh Ladakh India dreamstime l 195838848 Buddhism
    Golden Maitreya Buddha statue in Likir Monastery, Leh, Ladakh.

     

    The Fifth Buddha — to come

    By tradition, Shakyamuni Buddha was the 4th Buddha of our age. The fifth and final Buddha of our age (bhadrakalpa) will be Maitreya — who will arrive when the last of the Dharma has vanished.

    Maitreya will then teach the Dharma anew and lead all beings to liberation.

    Maitreya is therefore known as the “Buddha of the Future”.

    How to reach Maitreya today

    Although he will come as the “future” manifested Buddha in our world, according to the prophecies of Shakyamuni Buddha, he is “reachable” now through meditation, prayer, mantras and practice. Although he resides in Tushita Heaven — he is active as a compassionate Bodhisattva and emanates in countless world systems as a savior Bodhisattva. Simply call his name, meditate on his form, chant his mantra, and his compassionate power will reach you.

    His simplest prayer is to chant:

    Come, Maitreya, Come!

    Maitreya’s mantra

    His seed syllable is maim.

    Mai

    Buddha Weekly Maim Syllable Buddhism
    Maim seed syllable in Siddhim and Tibetan.

     

    His mantra, with Tibetan and Siddham characters — from VisibleMantra.org — is:

    oṃ mai tri ma hā mai tri mai tri ye svā hā

    oṃ maitri mahāmaitri maitriye svāhā

    Buddha Weekly Mantra of Maitreya Buddhism
    Mantra of Maitreya in Siddhim and Tibetan characters and transliterated from VisibleMantra.org.

     

    Especially profound is the Mantra of Maitreya Buddha’s Promise.

    The Mantra of Maitreya Buddha’s Promise

    (Arya-Maitrina-pratijna-nama-dharani)

    IMPORTANT NOTE

    For the Dharani and close Heart Mantra there is a common transcription error from Sanskrit to other languages. In the Dharani and the Close Heart Mantra, the word “smara” which means “remember” is often transcribed as “Mara”, which has a negative connotation. Mara was the Opponent of Buddha under the Bodhi tree, and various meanings include death, suffering and other negative associations. In the mantra it is mean to translate as “remember, remember, your pledge for us.” It is fairly common to see the mantra chanted “mara mara atmakam samaya” however this should be “smara smara atmakam samaya” to translate as “remember, remember your pledge for us.”

    The root mantra

    NAMO RATNA TRAYAYA

    Homage to the Three Jewels

    NAMO BHAGAVATE SHAKYAMUNIYE TATHAGATAYA ARHATE SAMYAK SAM BUDDHAYA

    Homage to the Lord Shakyamuni, Tathagata, Arhat, Completely Perfect Buddha

    TADYATHA: OM AJITE AJITE APARAJITE

    As follows: Om Invincible, Invincible, Unconquered

    AJITAN CHAYA HARA HARA

    Conquer the Unconquered, take, take [it]

    MAITRI AVALOKITE KARA KARA

    You Who Look Down with Friendliness, act, act

    MAHA SAMAYA SIDDHI BHARA BHARA

    Bring, bring the fulfillment of your great pledge

    MAHA BODHI MÄNDA VIJA

    Shake the seat of great awakening

    SMARA SMARA ATMAKAM SAMAYA

    Remember, remember [your] pledge for us

    BODHI BODHI MAHA BODHI SVAHA

    Awakening, awakening, great awakening, svaha

    The heart mantra

    OM MOHI MOHI MAHA MOHI SVAHA

    Om fascinating, fascinating, greatly fascinating, svaha

    The close heart mantra

    OM MUNI MUNI SMARA SVAHA

    Om sage, sage, remember, svaha

    NOTE: In Sanskrit “Smara” is “remembering” and “smarati” स्मरति  {स्मृ} is “remember”  or “smarana” is “to remember.” Some transcriptions of the close heart mantra appeared to be “Mara” instead of “Smara” — this is incorrect. Mara has a completely meaning and is associated with “evil, killing, slaughter” etc. It is important to try to pronounce Smara. 

    The Sutra on Maitreya’s Birth in Heaven of Joy

    Translated by the amazing 84000.co team! Found here>>

    Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas.

    Thus did I hear at one time. The Blessed One was staying in Prince Jeta’s Grove at Anāthapiṇḍada’s park in Śrāvastī, along with a great congregation of monks and many bodhisattva great beings. Then, during the first watch of the night, golden light rays emerged from the Blessed One’s body and circled the Jeta Grove seven times. The light made contact with the householder Sudatta and others; then a golden light filled the sky like clouds, raining down golden flowers all over Śrāvastī. Amidst this golden light appeared an immeasurable number of hundreds of thousands of emanated thus-gone ones. They spoke in unison about the one thousand bodhisattvas to awaken in this eon, from the awakening firstly of Krakucchanda until the awakening finally of Roca.

    1.­2
    After they had spoken, the light of the thus-gone ones roused an entire retinue, which gathered around them like cloud banks. The retinue consisted of Venerable Ājñāta­kauṇḍinya, who arose from absorption, with a retinue of two hundred fifty monks; Venerable Mahākāśyapa, with a retinue of two hundred fifty monks; Venerable Maudgalyāyana, with a retinue of two hundred fifty monks; Venerable Śāriputra, with a retinue of two hundred fifty monks; one thousand fully ordained nuns including Mahāprajāpatī; three thousand laymen including the householder Sudatta; two thousand laywomen including Viśākhā; the sixteen bodhisattvas of the Fortunate Eon including Samantabhadra; and five hundred bodhisattvas including the Dharma prince Mañjuśrī; as well as gods, nāgas,  yakṣas, and asuras.

    1.­3
    The Blessed One then produced a thousand light rays from his tongue. Each ray of light had a thousand colors, and within each color appeared an immeasurable number of emanated thus-gone ones. All these thus-gone ones then taught in unison the profound dhāraṇīs that show the purity of all phenomena, which all great bodhisattvas possess. They included the dhāraṇī called limitless gateway, the dhāraṇī called wisdom of emptiness, the dhāraṇī called unobscured nature, and the dhāraṇī called great liberation without marks. With a single voice, they spoke billions of such dhāraṇī gateways. When they had spoken those dhāraṇī gateways, Maitreya, who was present in the retinue, attained ten trillion dhāraṇī gateways at the very instant that he heard what the Blessed One taught. He rose from his seat, adjusted his robes, joined his palms together, and then settled himself before the Blessed One.

    1.­4
    Next, Venerable Upāli rose from his seat, bowed his head, and addressed the Blessed One, “Blessed One, long ago, in one of your treasured teachings the Blessed One spoke of Ajita’s future awakening. Ajita is not yet free from the body of an ordinary person, and his defilements have not yet been exhausted. He has gone forth in this life but has neither cultivated absorption nor abandoned the afflictions. Yet, the Blessed One has said that he is certain to become awakened. Therefore, when Ajita’s life is over, in which realm will he be reborn?”

    1.­5
    The Blessed One responded to Upāli, “Upāli, take heed and listen. Since the Thus-Gone One is omniscient, I have prophesied that within this retinue, the bodhisattva great being Maitreya will fully awaken to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood. Twelve years from now, he will pass away and undoubtedly take birth in the Heaven of Joy.

    1.­6
    “In the Heaven of Joy, there are five hundred quintillion gods, each of whom practices the profound perfection of generosity. Thus, the gods have used the power of their divine merit to construct celestial palaces to worship this bodhisattva who has only one birth remaining. To do so, they first removed their robes, sandalwood jewelry, and precious crowns. They knelt, joined their palms together, and prayed: ‘With our priceless jewels and divine crowns, we wish to worship the great bodhisattva. We have heard the prophecy that26 Ajita will awaken to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood not long in the future, so may our precious crowns transform into substances for the worship of his fully adorned buddha-realm!’ Each god knelt and made this prayer.

    1.­7
    “As soon as all the gods had made this prayer, all their jeweled crowns transformed into five hundred quintillion palaces. Each precious palace contained seven parks, each of which was made of seven precious substances. Each precious substance emitted five billion rays of light, from each of which came five billion lotuses. From each lotus emerged five billion rows of trees made of the seven precious substances. The leaves of each tree held five billion light rays in dazzling colors, and each of these dazzling colors emitted a further five billion light rays the color of Jambū river gold.   From each of these Jambū-gold light rays emerged five billion precious goddesses. Each goddess sat beneath the trees, holding in her hands five billion garlands with countless gems, and singing the loveliest songs about the Dharma wheel of the nonregressing level.

    1.­8
    “Fruit grew in the trees, with a color like beryl, and all these colors were reflected in the beryl. As all the light rays swirled clockwise, many pleasant voices could be heard teaching the Dharma of great love and great compassion. Each palace was sixty-two leagues in height and fourteen leagues in width. Five billion nāga kings encircled each palace,  beautifying it from above by causing rain to fall over the five billion trees  made of the seven precious substances. Natural breezes caused the trees to sway to and fro, so that they resounded with the words of impermanence, suffering, emptiness, selflessness, and all the perfections.

    1.­9
    “At that time, inside his palace, the great king Laodubati  rose from his seat, prostrated to all the thus-gone ones in the ten directions, and made the following prayer: ‘If I possess the merit to construct a Dharma palace for the bodhisattva Maitreya, may precious gems spontaneously appear from between my eyebrows!’

    1.­10
    “As soon as he made this prayer, one billion jewels appeared. They had formed in all different colors, like beryl and other gems, and were transparent like crystal.  The jewels first circled the empty sky and then transformed into an amazing jeweled palace with forty-nine stories.

    1.­11
    “Each railing of each story  was adorned by one trillion jeweled lotuses. Ninety million gods and five billion goddesses, born miraculously, stood among these railings. In the hands of each god were immeasurably many hundreds of millions of lotuses, each made of the seven precious substances. Above each lotus shone immeasurably many millions of lights. Inside these lights were divine musical instruments that spontaneously resounded without being played. As the music played, the goddesses rose, took hold of the musical instruments, danced, and sang lovely songs about the ten virtues, the four aspirations, and so on. All the gods who heard this generated the mind set upon unsurpassed awakening.

    1.­12
    “Inside each park were reservoirs of beryl in eight hues. The interior of each reservoir was made of five billion jewels and filled with water possessing the eight qualities that spouted up from below.  Outside the four entrances were four miraculously arisen lotuses. The water that emerged around these lotuses flowed with the color of the precious blossoms. Atop each lotus were twenty-four goddesses of wondrous beauty, adorned and bearing physical marks like bodhisattvas. Five billion jeweled vessels appeared in their hands. Each vessel was filled to the brim with divine ambrosia. Draped over their left shoulders were countless garlands, and balanced against their right shoulders were countless musical instruments. Like clouds, they hovered in the sky and came forth from the water. The goddesses extolled the six perfections of the bodhisattvas. Any god born36 in the Heaven of Joy was naturally served by these goddesses.

    1.­13
    “In the palace stood a lion throne made of the seven precious substances. It was four leagues in height and adorned with gold from the Jambū river and countless jewels.  At the four corners of the throne were four lotuses, each made of a hundred precious jewels, each of which emitted a billion rays of light. The light produced the most beautiful flowers, which were made of a variety of gems, which in turn adorned the precious draperies.

    1.­14
    “Ten billion Brahmā kings each brought their own beautiful chimes from the Brahmā heavens and hung them over the draperies. Lesser Brahmā kings likewise draped nets of various jewels over the draperies. A retinue of countless hundreds of thousands of gods and goddesses brought forth a great variety of jeweled lotus flowers and scattered them over the throne. These lotuses in turn produced five billion goddesses, made of gems, who stood among the draperies with white tail whisks in their hands.

    1.­15
    “At the four corners of the palace were four jeweled pillars. Each jeweled pillar consisted of a hundred thousand mansions, and the gems of these goddesses were draped between them.37 On the railings of the palace stood a hundred thousand goddesses of amazing beauty, holding countless musical instruments in their hands. Their music resounded with the words of suffering, emptiness, impermanence, selflessness, and all the perfections. The divine palace38 was filled with immeasurably many billions of beautiful gems, and all the goddesses manifested in colors that matched those gems. Thereupon, all the countless gods throughout the ten directions made prayers for rebirth in this divine palace in the Heaven of Joy.

    1.­16
    “Now, in that palace in the Heaven of Joy there are five great kings. The first great king is known as Ratnadhvaja. A rain of the seven precious substances is released from  his body and scatters inside the palace. Each precious substance then transforms into countless musical instruments that hang in midair.   Without being played, they spontaneously emit limitless beautiful music that pleases the minds of beings. The second king is known as Flower Scatterer.  A rain of manifold flowers is released from his body, forming parasols of flowers that cover the entire palace. Each parasol has hundreds of thousands of flags and streamers that guide one along the way. The third king is known as Incense Voice. From the pores of his body, he rains down a wondrous incense of the sandalwood found at the ocean shore. The incense forms a cloud with hundreds of colors, which circles the palace seven times. The fourth great king is known as Joyous Bliss. A rain of wish-fulfilling jewels is released from his body. Each jewel naturally finds its place atop the flags and streamers, where it resounds with teachings on seeking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha, as well as the five branches of discipline, countless virtuous qualities, all the perfections, and the aids to Maitreya’s awakening.  The fifth great king is known as Fierce Voice.  He rains down water from all the pores of his body. Five billion lotus flowers float on each water drop, and each lotus supports twenty-five crystal goddesses.  Ringing out from every pore on the body of each crystal goddess is the lovely sound of victory over the divine māra.”

    1.­17
    The Blessed One continued addressing Upāli, “In the Heaven of Joy, beings practice the ten virtues, return the kindness of the victorious ones, and have the merit to produce great wonders.  Even if I were to spend an entire lesser eon explaining the fruits of how a bodhisattva bound by one life will return kindness and practice the ten virtues, it would not be exhaustive. Nevertheless, I will now briefly teach you   and the others about this.

    1.­18
    “Upāli,  whether it is a single monk or the entire retinue, anyone who has not yet grown weary of birth and death, and wishes to be reborn in a divine realm, must generate the mind set upon unsurpassed awakening. The observances for those who wish to serve Maitreya are as follows: perfect the observance of the eight precepts including the five requisites; be ceaseless in physical and mental diligence; practice the ten virtues; desire abundant happiness; and maintain a one-pointed desire to be reborn in the Heaven of Joy. This is known as the right observance, while any other observance is known as a wrong observance.”

    1.­19
    Then Upāli rose from his seat, adjusted his robes, bowed his head, and asked the Blessed One, “Blessed One, as there is such sublime happiness in the Heaven of Joy, when will this great being be reborn from Jambudvīpa into that divine realm?”

    1.­20
    The Blessed One replied, “Twelve years from now, on the fifteenth day of the second month of spring, Maitreya will return to the place where he took birth: the household of the great Brahmin Bāvarī,  in the village of Kapāli, in the region of Vārāṇasī. There he will sit in the lotus posture, as if he were resting in utter absorption. His body’s golden luster and the red rays of light it emits will be brighter than a hundred thousand suns, reaching up to the Heaven of Joy above. His physical remains will stay still and unmoving, like a golden statue. From the sphere of light that surrounds his body, the syllables of the threefold liberation  and the perfection of insight will distinctly emerge.

    1.­21
    “Gods and humans will all be drawn there to worship the precious stūpa with his physical remains. Maitreya will then be miraculously reborn in the Heaven of Joy, in that palace made of the seven precious substances. As he sits cross-legged on a lotus flower atop the lion throne within the palace,   his body will shine like gold from the Jambū river. His body will be sixteen leagues tall and fully adorned with the thirty-two major marks and the eighty excellent minor marks. There will be a topknot on his head, and his hair will resemble the color of beryl. His divine crown will be adorned with jewels such as śakrābhilagna and kiṃśuka. The gems in his divine crown will shine with the colors of a billion jewels. In each of the colors there will be immeasurably many billions of emanated thus-gone ones, along with a multitude of emanated bodhisattvas who act as their servants. All the bodhisattvas from other pure lands will display the eighteen miracles and take up residence inside the divine crown as they wish.

    1.­22
    “White rays of light will then emerge from between Maitreya’s eyebrows. The light will cause the thirty-two major marks to manifest in the colors of hundreds of jewels. Within each major mark will be the minor marks, which in turn will manifest in the colors of five billion jewels. Also, within each minor mark, gods will manifest whose major and minor marks blaze in the colors of five billion gems. Each god will sit on a lotus within an orb of eighty-four thousand light rays. Maitreya will continuously turn the Dharma wheel of the nonregressing level, day and night. He will set these five billion gods toward a single destination, accomplish their aims,  and make them nonregressing from unsurpassed and complete awakening. Day and night within the Heaven of Joy, he will continuously establish all gods in the Dharma wheel of the nonregressing level.  Then, after fifty-six trillion Jambudvīpa years, the discourse called Maitreya’s Birth from the Heaven of Joy into Jambudvīpa will be taught.

    1.­23
    “Upāli,  the qualities associated with the bodhisattva Maitreya passing away from this world and being reborn in the Heaven of Joy are as follows. After the Thus-Gone One passes into nirvāṇa, [F.301.a] some among my attendant retinue will diligently accumulate merit, maintain their vows, sweep stūpas, construct maṇḍalas, burn fragrant incense, offer flowers, practice the threefold liberation,57 practice the profound and true Dharma, recite the sūtras and continuously keep them single-pointedly in mind, acquire the six superknowledges,58 make statues of the thus-gone ones,59 recite the name of Maitreya, and other such things. When it comes time for them to pass away‍—after they have received the eight vows, purified all misdeeds,60 and made prayers‍—they will instantly be born in the Heaven of Joy, just as quickly as a strong man can stretch out his arm.

    1.­24
    “Then they will sit cross-legged atop lotus flowers, as hundreds of thousands of gods play divine music, scatter mandārava and great mandārava flowers, and praise them, saying ‘Excellent! Excellent! Noble sons, you have accumulated vast merit in Jambudvīpa; and now, upon dying, you have arrived here in the Heaven of Joy. You should request refuge from the divine king Maitreya and prostrate to him.61 When you prostrate to him, white light will emerge from the ūrṇā hair between his eyebrows and touch you, liberating you from ninety eons of birth and death and purifying your misdeeds.’

    1.­25
    “Now that I have explained the marvelous Dharma of the benefits of affiliating oneself with this bodhisattva, sentient beings should not abandon their diligence, but should bring to mind the nonregressing Dharma wheel and the unsurpassed path. As they purify their misdeeds and engage in the six practices,62 they will undoubtedly be born in the Heaven of Joy and come face-to-face with the noble Maitreya. Having entered into Maitreya’s service, they will then first hear his Dharma in Jambudvīpa. [F.301.b] They will come face-to-face with all the future buddhas of this present eon, as well as all the buddhas in as many other eons as there are stars in the sky. In the presence of all those buddhas, they will receive prophecies of their own awakening.

    1.­26
    “Upāli,63 after the Thus-Gone One has passed into nirvāṇa, within all my retinues of monks, nuns,64 gods, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, and mahoragas, anyone who hears the name of the bodhisattva great being Maitreya and venerates him with joy and respect shall attain all that was just mentioned in the mere snap of a finger, once they pass away. Upon hearing Maitreya’s name, they will no longer fall into the realms of darkness upon death, nor will they be reborn in any outlying regions, nor among people with wrong views or nonvirtuous behaviors. Such people will be reborn in every lifetime where the view is proper, the retinue is abundant, and the Three Jewels are never disgraced.

    1.­27
    “Upāli, if those noble sons or daughters who have broken their vows or committed unwholesome misdeeds hear the name of the bodhisattva of great compassion, call out his name,65 place their full body on the ground, and confess with an undistracted mind, the entirety of their misdeeds will swiftly be purified. If anyone in the future speaks66 the name of the bodhisattva of great compassion, paints67 his image, offers him incense, flowers, fabrics, parasols, banners, or flags, venerates him, or recalls his name, then upon passing away, the bodhisattva Maitreya will radiate light from the ūrṇā hair between his eyebrows‍—one of the marks of a great being‍—and all the gods will send down a rain of mandārava flowers [F.302.a] to welcome them as they are instantly reborn in the divine realm. They will meet face-to-face with the noble Maitreya and bow their heads to him. At that very moment, they will hear the Dharma, attain the path of unsurpassed awakening, and obtain the nonregressing wheel of Dharma. In future lives, they will behold as many thus-gone ones as there are grains of sand in the Ganges river.

    1.­28
    “Upāli,68 listen attentively and pay heed. When sentient beings in the future take refuge in the bodhisattva Maitreya, those who do so will attain the unsurpassed path and the nonregressing wheel of Dharma. Then, once the bodhisattva Maitreya attains the state of a thus-gone one, a worthy one, a perfect buddha, those people will see the light of that thus-gone one and receive a prophecy.

    1.­29
    “Upāli,69 after the Thus-Gone One’s nirvāṇa, when the time comes for anyone‍—whether they are in the four retinues or a god, nāga, or yakṣa‍—to be reborn in the Heaven of Joy, then they must engage in the following contemplations: Thinking of the Heaven of Joy, they should take up the vows of the Thus-Gone One. Then, whether for a single day or for up to seven days, they should contemplate the ten virtues and practice the path of the ten virtues. Then the merit from this practice should be dedicated, and the aspiration made to be in the presence of Maitreya. Those who carry out these contemplations will behold a god and a lotus. Those who recite the name of Maitreya even once will be freed from twelve hundred eons of birth and death and will have their misdeeds purified. Those who hear the name of Maitreya and join their palms together70 will be freed from fifty eons of birth and death. Those who respectfully prostrate to Maitreya will be liberated from one billion eons of birth and death and will have their misdeeds purified. They will not be attached to the heavenly realms, [F.302.b] but will generate the mind set upon unsurpassed awakening in the future, under the bodhi tree, the tree of the nāgas.”71

    1.­30
    Then72 the immeasurably great retinue rose from their seats. They bowed their heads at the feet of the Blessed One, and then bowed at the feet of Maitreya. They circled the Blessed One and Maitreya a hundred thousand times. Those who had not yet attained the path each made the following aspiration: “By fervently making aspirations here in the presence of the Blessed One, may all of us‍—gods, humans, the eight classes of nonhuman beings, and so forth‍—in the future, having abandoned our bodies, behold noble Maitreya, and be reborn in the Heaven of Joy.”

    1.­31
    Then the Blessed One said, “In the future, all of you will create merit, guard your discipline, and take birth in the presence of the bodhisattva Maitreya. The bodhisattva Maitreya will then bless all of you.”

    1.­32
    The Blessed One then spoke to Upāli, “Upāli, if you have such a view, it is said to be right view. Any other view would be a wrong view.”

    1.­33
    The venerable Ānanda then rose from his seat, knelt down, joined his palms, and addressed the Blessed One, “Excellent! The Blessed One has wonderfully explained Maitreya’s qualities. In the future, we shall strive to become such beings who attain the results of creating such merit. Therefore, Blessed One, what is the name of this Dharma discourse? How should we retain it?”

    The Blessed One replied, “Ānanda, you should retain what the Thus-Gone One has taught without forgetting anything. [F.303.a] For the sake of future times, you shall reveal the path that leads to rebirth in the divine realms, disclose the marks of awakening, and prevent the lineage of the thus-gone ones from being interrupted. This discourse shall be known as The Nirvāṇa of the Bodhisattva Maitreya. It shall also be known as The Bodhisattva Maitreya’s Birth in the Heaven of Joy and Encouragement for the Seat of Awakening. You must retain it!”

    1.­34
    When the Blessed One said this, a million bodhisattvas who had arrived from other pure lands73 attained the śūraṃgama absorption.74 Eight hundred thousand gods generated the mind set upon unsurpassed awakening. They all made the aspiration to follow Maitreya and be reborn in Jambudvīpa.

    1.­35
    After the Blessed One had spoken, the four retinues, as well as the eight classes of nonhuman beings‍—gods, nāgas, and so forth‍—rejoiced in what the Blessed One had said. They bowed to the Blessed One and then departed.

    1.­36
    This completes “The Noble Sūtra: The Bodhisattva Maitreya’s Birth in the Heaven of Joy.”

    The Maitreya claimants

    Any feature on this loving Bodhisattva — who will be the next Buddha in our world, and who is currently an Enlightened Bodhisattva in Tushita Heaven — must, unfortunately, cover the unsavory aspects of people “posing” as Maitreya coming to earth. There is, of course, nothing unsavory about Maitreya — the most loving and noble of all the Bodhisattvas. Unfortunately, though, many dictators, military leaders, religious leaders, and other opportunists have claimed to be Maitreya come to earth to save us all.  They are nothing more than unfortunate blips in history — universally discredited as false by Buddhist leaders of the past. These are just a few of the many:

    • 613 the monk Xiang Haiming claimed to be Maitreya and even made an imperial grab for titles and power.
    • In 690, Wu Zetian, who was empress regent of the Wu Zho interregnum proclaimed herself to be Maitreya.
    • 10th century: Gung Ye, a warlord of Korea claimed to be Maitreya and was a short-lived king. He ordered his subjects to worship him.
    • Others included Lu Zhongyi, L. Ron Hubbard, Samuel Aun Weor, Adi Da, etc, etc. [1]

     

    SOURCES

    [1] Maitreya on Wikipedia>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maitreya

    [2] From his commentary on Distinguishing the Middle from the Extremes.

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    Lee Kane

    Author | Buddha Weekly

    Lee Kane is the editor of Buddha Weekly, since 2007. His main focuses as a writer are mindfulness techniques, meditation, Dharma and Sutra commentaries, Buddhist practices, international perspectives and traditions, Vajrayana, Mahayana, Zen. He also covers various events.
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