Bodhisattva Maitreya from the 2nd Century Gandharan Art Period
|Chinese:||彌勒菩薩 (Mílè Púsa)|
|Japanese:||弥勒菩薩 (Miroku Bosatsu)|
|Thai:||ศรีอาริยะ เมตไตรย์ (Sriaraya Mettrai)|
|Korean:||미륵보살 (Mireuk Bosal)|
|Vietnamese:||Di-lặc (Bồ Tát)|
|Venerated by:||Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana|
Maitreya (Sanskrit), Metteyya (Pāli), or Jampa (Tibetan), is 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 founder of Buddhism. The prophecy of the arrival of Maitreya is found in the canonical literature of all Buddhist sects (Theravāda, Mahāyāna, Vajrayāna) and is accepted by most Buddhists as a statement about an actual event that will take place in the distant future.
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 chastity 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 resting on a lotus. A khata is always tied around his waist as a girdle.
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's Tuṣita Heaven
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 slightly in Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. In Theravada Buddhism, a bodhisattva is one who is only destined to one day become a Buddha, 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.
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. (All Buddhas preside over a Pure Land; the Buddha Amitabha presides over the Sukhavati Pure Land, more popularly known as the Western Paradise.)
Activity of Maitreya in the current age
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.
The future coming of Maitreya
Maitreya's coming will occur after the teachings of the current Gautama Buddha, the Dharma, are no longer taught and are completely forgotten. Maitreya is predicted to attain Bodhi in seven days (which is the minimum period), by virtue of his many lives of preparation for Buddha-hood (similar to those reported in the Jataka stories of Shakyamuni Buddha).
Maitreya's coming is characterized by a number of physical events. The oceans are predicted to decrease in size, allowing Maitreya to traverse them freely. The event will also allow the unveiling of the "true" dharma to the people, in turn allowing the construction of a new world. The coming also signifies the end of the middle time in which humans currently reside (characterized as a low point of human existence between the Gautama Buddha and Maitreya.)
The name Maitreya or Metteyya is derived from the word maitrī (Sanskrit) or mettā (Pāli) meaning "loving-kindness", which is in turn derived from the noun mitra (Pāli: mitta) in the sense of "friend".
The earliest mention of Metteyya is in the Cakavatti (Sihanada) Sutta in the Digha Nikaya 26 of the Pali Canon. He occurs in no other sutta, and this casts doubt as to the sutta's authenticity. Most of the Buddha's sermons are presented as preached in answer to a question, or in some other appropriate context, but this one has a beginning and an ending in which the Buddha is talking to monks about something totally different. This leads Gombrich to conclude that either whole sutta is apocryphal, or 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 cult of 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 cult of Maitreya seems to have developed around the same time of that of Amitābha, as early as the 3rd century CE.
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 ]
Since the growth of the theosophist movement in the 19th century, non-Buddhist religious and spiritual movements have adopted the name and selected characteristics of Maitreya for teachers in their traditions.
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.
Since the beginning of the 1930s, the Ascended Master Teachings have 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 summarized 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.
The 19th Century religious reformer, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, is believed in by the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (the faith he brought) as fulfilling expectations regarding the Maitreya Buddha.
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. This view has been of some effect, for example in Vietnam Bahá'u'lláh was identified with the Maitreya. Before the Communist government, the Bahá'í Faith grew in part with the coversion of a number of Buddhist monks. see Bahá'í Faith in Vietnam. The Bahá'í Faith has recently been able to re-register as a religion and there are some signs of large scale growth from the 50s–60s resuming.
More self-proclaimed Maitreyas
The following people listed are just a small portion of the several people who claimed themselves to be 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.
- Gung Ye, a Korean warlord and king of short-lived state of Taebong during the 10th century, claimed himself as living incarnation of Maitreya and ordered his subjects to worship him. His claim was widely rejected by most Buddhist monks and later he was dethroned and killed by his own servants.
- In 613 the monk Xiang Haiming claimed himself Maitreya and adopted imperial title.
- In 690 Empress Wu inaugurated the Second Zhou dynasty, proclaimed herself an incarnation of the future Buddha Maitreya, and made Luoyang the "holy capital." In 693 she replaced the compulsory Dao De Jing in the curriculum temporarily with her own Rules for Officials.
- Lu Zhong Yi, the 17th patriarch of I-Kuan Tao, claimed to be an incarnation of Maitreya.
- L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Dianetics and Scientology, suggested he was "Metteya" (Maitreya) in the 1955 poem Hymn of Asia. His editors indicated, in the book's preface, specific physical characteristics said to be outlined—in unnamed Sanskrit sources—as properties of the coming Maitreya; properties which Hubbard's appearance supposedly aligned with.
- A Korean man by the name of SamHan Lee claimed Supreme Enlightenment in 1984 and since started calling himself a Tathagata. He says that he does not call himself a Buddha but that the next generation will call him as Maitreya Buddha when they understand his life.
- Raël's Maitreya claims  center on the content of the Agama Sutra (Japanese: Agon Sutra), supposedly a very ancient text written by Buddha himself, but which has been deemphasized or forgotten by the majority of Buddhist cultures. Raël has claimed directly to people attending Asia Raëlian Church seminars, that someone born in France, a country which is often symbolized by the cock (or rooster), west of the Orient, meets the criteria of the Maitreya. Rael himself claims to be this individual.
Maitreya sects in China
Pre-Maitreyan Buddhist messianic rebellions
Southern and Northern Dynasties
- The Mahayana Rebellion. In the late summer of that year, the renegade monk Faqing married a nun and formed a sect in the Northern Wei province of Jizhou (in the southern part of today's Hebei province) with the assistance of a local aristocrat named Li Guibo. The sect was named the Mahayana ("The Great Vehicle", in reference to Mahayana Buddhism), and Li Guibo was given the titles of Tenth-stage Bodhisattva, Commander of the Demon-vanquishing Army, and King who Pacifies the Land of Han by Faqing.
- Using drugs to send its members into a killing frenzy, and promoting them to Tenth-Stage Bodhisattva as soon as they killed ten enemies, the Mahayana sect seized a prefecture and murdered all the government officials in it. Their slogan was "A new Buddha has entered the world; eradicate the demons of the former age", and they would kill all monks and nuns in the monasteries that they captured, also burning all the sutras and icons. After defeating a government army and growing to a size of over 50,000, the rebel army was finally crushed by another government army of 100,000. Faqing, his wife, and tens of thousands of his followers were beheaded, and Li Guibo was also captured later and publicly executed in the capital city Luoyang.
- The Fozu Tongji (Comprehensive Records of the Buddha), a chronicle of Buddhist history written by the monk Zhipan in 1269, also contains an account of the Mahayana Rebellion, but with significant deviations from the original account, such as dating the rebellion to 528 rather than 515.
- The Moonlight Child Rebellion. Toward the end of that year, another sect was discovered by local authorities in Yanling (a county or prefecture of Jizhou). A man named Fa Quan and his associates were claiming that an eight-year-old child named Liu Jinghui was a Bodhisattva called the Moonlight Child (yueguang tongzi pusa； 月光童子菩萨), and that he could transform into a snake or a pheasant. They were arrested and sentenced to death on suspicion of seditious intent, but Jinghui had his sentence commuted to banishment on account of his youth and ignorance.
- Early in the spring of that year, surviving remnants of the Mahayana rebels regrouped and mounted a sudden attack on the capital of Yingzhou province, which lay just northwest of their original base in Bohai prefecture. They were repelled only after a pitched battle with an army of slaves and attendants led by Yuwen Yan, the son of the provincial governor, and nothing more is known of their fate.
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.
- On the first day of the Lunar New Year, several tens of rebels dressed in white, burning incense and holding flowers proclaimed their leader as Maitreya Buddha and charged into the imperial palace through one of its gates, killing all the guards before they were themselves killed by troops led by an imperial prince. A massive investigation in the capital (Chang'an) implicated over a thousand families.
- A skilled magician named Song Zixian claimed to be Maitreya in Tang County (northwest of Yingzhou), and supposedly could transform into the form of a Buddha and make his room emit a glow every night. He hung a mirror in a hall that could display an image of what a devotee would be reincarnated as – a snake, a beast or a human being. Nearly a thousand "from near and far" joined his sect every day, and he plotted to first hold a Buddhist vegetarian banquet (wuzhe fohui) and then make an attack on the emperor who was then touring Yingzhou. The plot was leaked out, and Song was arrested and executed with over a thousand families of his followers.
- The monk Xiang Haiming claimed to be Maitreya in Fufeng prefecture (western Shaanxi) and led a rebellion. The elite of the Chang’an area hailed him as a holy man (dasheng) because they had auspicious dreams after following him, and his army swelled to several tens of thousands before he was defeated by government troops.
- Wang Huaigu declared, "The Shakyamuni Buddha has declined; a new Buddha is about to appear. The House of Li is ending, and the House of Liu is about to rise".
- Army officer Wang Ze led a revolt of Buddhists expecting Maitreya; they took over the city of Beizhou in Hebei before they were crushed. The Song Dynasty government declared Maitreya Sects to be "heresies and unsanctioned religions". Tens of thousands of Maitreya Sect followers were killed.
Yuan and Ming Dynasty
- The Red Turban Rebellion (a.ka. The First White Lotus Rebellon). Han Shantong (韓山童), leader of the White Lotus Society, and Army Commander Liu Futong (劉福通) rebelled against the Mongol masters of the Yuan Dynasty. Shantong's anti-Mongol slogan was "The empire is in utter chaos. Maitreya Buddha has incarnated, and the Manichaean King of Light has appeared in this world."
- In 1355, Han Shantong's son, Han Lin'er (韓林兒), was proclaimed "Emperor of the Great [Latter] Song" (大宋, referring to the dead Song Dynasty) (1355-1368?) by Liu Futong. Liu Futong claimed Han Lin'er was a direct descendent of the Zhao royal family who ruled the Song Dynasty. After Liu Futong's death, Zhu Yuanzhang took up command of the Red Turban Rebellion and later assassinated Han Lin'er to become Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty. (See History)
- According to Beijing University,
|“||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".||”|
This suggests that the Ming Dynasty was named after the White Lotus figures of the "Big and Little Bright Kings".
- The White Lotus Rebellion (a.k.a. The Second White Lotus Rebellion). It broke out among impoverished settlers in the mountainous region that separates Sichuan province from Hubei and Shaanxi provinces. It apparently began as a White Lotus Society protest against heavy taxes imposed by Manchu rulers of the Qing Dynasty.
- The Yi He Tuan (義和團), often called in English the "Society of Harmonious Fists" was a 19th century martial-sect inspired in part by the White Lotus Society. Members of the "Harmonious Fists" became known as "Boxers" in the west because they practiced Chinese martial arts.
- The Boxer Rebellion (義和團之亂). It was a Chinese rebellion from November 1899 to September 7, 1901 against foreign influence in such areas as trade, politics, religion and technology that occurred in China during the final years of the Qing Dynasty. By August 1900, over 230 foreigners, tens of thousands of Chinese Christians, an unknown number of rebels, their sympathizers and other innocent bystanders had been killed in the ensuing chaos. The uprising crumbled on August 14, 1900 when 20,000 foreign troops entered the Chinese capital, Peking (Beijing).
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 despatch 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.
- Budai, a traditional manifestation of Maitreya
- Kalki Purana
- List of Buddha claimants (Many are also Maitreya claimants)
- Leshan Giant Buddha
- Maitreya Project
- Maitreya (Theosophy)
- Tiele, Cornelis P. The Religion of the Iranian Peoples. "The Parsi" publishing, 1912. Retrieved 26 August 2007.
- Richard Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988, pages 83-85.
- Tiele, p. 159.
- Angela Falco Howard et al., Chinese Sculpture, Yale University Press, 2006, p. 228
- Official Share International Website
- (Russian) http://www.islam.ru/vera/polojenie/proroki/nemonoteist/
- Dr. Ved Prakash Upaddhay - Sanskrit Prayag University, Muhammad in the Hindu Scriptures pg 36 - 44
- Prof. Ashit Kumar Bandhopaddhay, Sanskrit Academy Howrah
- Review of Religions March 2002, Vol. 97, No. 3, pg. 24
- Momen, Moojan (1995). Buddhism And The Baha'i Faith: An Introduction to the Baha'i Faith for Theravada Buddhists. Oxford: George Ronald. pp. 50–52. ISBN 0853983844.
- Buck, Christopher (2004). "The eschatology of Globalization: The multiple-messiahship of Bahā'u'llāh revisited". in Sharon, Moshe. Studies in Modern Religions, Religious Movements and the Bābī-Bahā'ī Faiths. Boston: Brill. pp. 143–178. ISBN 90-04-13904-4. http://www.christopherbuck.com/Buck_PDFs/Buck_Eschatology_2004.pdf.
- Etter-Lewis, Gwendolyn; Thomas, Richard Walter (2006). Lights of the Spirit: Historical Portraits of Black Bahá'ís in North America 1898-2000. Baha'i Publishing Trust. pp. 113–119. ISBN 1931847266. http://books.google.com/books?id=L2KVX4mx1xEC&pg=PA114&lpg=PA114&dq=&source=web&ots=fCNpvOrhIR&sig=8m5BfEjijgoegCSfM6T7nS8dlB8#PPA114,M1.
- "Baha’i sect receives legal recognition". VietNamNet Bridge (VietNamNet Bridge). 2008-03-22. http://english.vietnamnet.vn/social/2008/03/774707/. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
- Notable Maitreyan Rebellions, FYSM068--Collective Violence and Traumatic Memory in Asia. 16 October 2005. Retrieved 29 November 2006. Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "Notable Maitreyan Rebellions" defined multiple times with different content
- Tang Dynasty Empire 618-906, SAN-BECK. Retrieved 29 November 2006.
- Reader, Ian, Religion in Contemporary Japan, University of Hawaii Press - Page 211. 1991. Retrieved 26 December 2006.
- Dharma Talks by Seiyu Kiriyama, Agon Shu, the Ultimate Embodiment of Buddhism. April 1994. Retrieved 15 August 2006.
- Maitreya from the West, Korean Raelian Movement. Retrieved 29 November 2006.
- Buddhist Political Ideology in the Mahayana Rebellion and Moonlight Child Incident of 6th century China, China History Info. Retrieved 29 November 2006.
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- Is Qigong Political? A new look at Falun Gong QI: The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health & Fitness. Retrieved 29 November 2006.
- "白莲教的首领韩山童称“明王”（他的儿子韩林儿称“小明王”），都体现其教义宗旨。朱元璋不仅曾经信仰白莲教，而且承认自己是白莲教起义军的一支（他曾为小明王左副元帅）。朱元璋取得政权后，国号称“明”。Beijing University
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