Maitreya is a Buddhist "being of enlightenment" who is said to reside in Tushita Heaven awaiting rebirth. Maitreya is a bodhisattva,a figure who denies himself entry into nirvana. Maitreya did this out of compassion and his desire to help others. Overtime, Maitreya has evolved into a figure that will free the world from suffering upon his rebirth. Because Buddhism itself is so pervasive in several diverse regions of Asia, Maitreya holds different meanings. Maitreya is as universal to Buddhists as the Gautama Buddha himself, and is relevant to both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. What remains common is the fact that "In every Buddhist culture Maitreya is a symbol of hope, of the human aspiration for a better life in the future when the glories of the golden past will be regained" (Maitreya, the Future Buddha)
Maitreya as described in The Mahaparinirvana Sutra Chapter V, Verses 1-14:
"And Ananda, holding back his tears, said to the Buddha: 'Who will teach us when you are gone?' And the Blessed One answered: 'I am not the first Buddha who has come upon the earth, nor shall I be the last. In the right time, another Buddha will arise in the world, a Holy One, a Supremely Enlightened One, endowed with wisdom in conduct, auspicious, Knowing the Truth, an incomparable leader of men, a Master of Spirit and mortals. He will reveal to you these Eternal Truths. He will preach his Dharma, Glorious in its Origin, Glorious in the Middle, and Glorious in its end, in the Spirit as well as the letter. He will proclaim a life of Dharma, wholly Perfect and Pure, even as I now proclaim.' Ananda said: 'How shall we know him?' And the Buddha said: 'He will be known as Maitreya which means, the friend.'"
What is a Bodhisattva? According to Robert Thurman, the current Jey Tsong Khapa professor of Indo-Tibetan studies and chair of the religious department at Columbia University, a bodhisattva is "a person, who can be animal or divine as well as human, who has conceived the will to enlightenment and vowed to manifest the spirit of enlightenment, thus dedicating all his or her lives to the attainment of perfect Buddhahood for the sake of all beings." (Essential Tibetan Buddhism)
How is Maitreya depicted?
When Maitreya Will Come
According to Nicholas Roerich, author of Heart of Asia (c. 1927):
"It is predicted that the manifestations of Maitreya shall come after the wars. But the final war shall be for the cause of the True Teaching. But each one rising up against Shamballa shall be stricken in all his works. And the waves shall wash away his dwellings. And even a dog shall not answer to his call. No clouds but lightening shall he see on the final night. And the fiery messenger shall rise up on pillars of Light. The Teaching indicates that each warrior of Shamballa shall be named the Invincible. The Lord Himself hastens. And his banner is already above the mountains. Thy pasture shall reach the Promised Land. When thou tendest thy flocks, dost thou not hear the voices of the stones? These are the toilers of Maitreya, who make ready for thee the treasures." (Kalki Maitreya)
According to Share International, there are five signs of Maitreya's coming. Entitled "On the Emergence" they are as follows:
Maitreya says: Without disturbing anyone, I will chose my moment.
Even when you see me, do not run after me. If you run after me, you will lose me. If you parade me, you do not know who I am. I cannot be monopolized--I belong to everyone.
I have not come to create followers. Each of you should continue to develop within your own religious tradition. Respect your own religions, your own ideologies--in brief, your own thoughtform, and you will experience the Master.
I do not want you to believe in me. I want you to experience me.
If you take one step towards me, I will take two steps towards you. I will lend you my strength. I am always with you. (Maitreya's Teachings)
will Maitreya be reborn?
While some traditions already believe that Maitreya has been reborn (alleged appearance in Nairobi, 1988), the majority believes he has yet to come.
"Temple of Maitreya", Maitreya's rebirth will occur in 30,000 years.
"Although various calculations exist, this rebirth is expected to occur
in 30,000 years. At the moment of his rebirth, Buddhist law will have
completely degenerated, requiring a new revelation. After his rebirth,
by some accounts, Maitreya will lead all beings still trapped in the cycle
of rebirths to nirvana. Others maintain that he will preach for 60,000
years, after which he will enter nirvana and his doctrine will endure
for another 10,000 years. "
Has Maitreya come yet?
"The approaching Maitreya is symbolized with His feet set upon earth-the
symbol of haste. It is predicted that the manifestation of Maitreya shall
come after the wars. But the final war shall be for the True Teaching.
But each one rising up against Shambhala shall be stricken in all his
works. And the waves shall wash away his dwelling. And even a dog shall
not answer to his call. Not clouds but lightning shall he see on the final
night. And the red messenger shall rise up on pillars of Light. The teaching
indicates that each warrior of Shambhala shall be named the Invincible.
Movements Surrounding Maitreya
A man named John Lee Douglas claims to be the "Maitreya Kalki Mahavatara Satguru of The Age." On his site, (Meet the Maitreya) potential followers are asked to contemplate their desire to "join The Friend in Godıs Holy Work." The site goes on to say that if God confirms the "Truth of the Friend and His Eternal Universal Religion to you", to email them for further directions.
In 1997, another group under the auspices of Annwn Publications of Australia claimed Maitreya to be an evil manifestation of the figure called "Ikluk". They believe that "He and his minions have fooled and continue to fool many seekers on the spiritual path by their cunningly and well-organized plot. Their intent is to serve the evil demigod and its evil creation at the expense of the True Beings." (The White and Black Brotherhoods)
Some people believe that Maitreya has already made appearances. In 1988, the Network News (run by Share International) reported the appearance of Maitreya on June 11 in Nairobi, Kenya to 6,000 worshippers. Benjamin Creme, self-proclaimed spokesman for Maitreya and the director of the Tara Center, asserts that this was "the Messiah in one of his many guises." The Network News reported another appearance of Maitreya in 1990, claiming Maitreya appeared at a conference in London where over 200 dignitaries from around the world observed Maitreyaıs presence. On February 28, 1993 Maitreya is said to have appeared in to a group of Christian fundamentalists in Richmond, Virginia. In Texas that same year, 500-600 Southern Baptists claim to have seen Maitreya. (Lord Maitreya: The Messiah in Disguise)
In the June 1996 issue of Share International Magazine, Benjamin Creme was asked the following question: "Is it true that Maitreya will be speaking through all of humanity?"
Creme answered, "Maitreya will not be 'speaking' through humanity, but will work in terms of changing the world through humanity. In so far as the Christ Principle is awakened in your heart, He can work through you; He can stimulate and galvanize you to the degree that that Principle is manifest in you, so that what you do is the result of your response to His teaching, His energy, His ideas--but you do the actual work. The more you act in relation to the world and for the world, the more energy will flow to you: If you take one step to Him, He will take 12 steps to you."
More Questions and Answers with Benjamin Creme are available at Avatars Down the Ages, listed under Gautama Foresaw Maitreya.
Share International provides an excellent list of tables charting Maitreya's Worldwide Appearances from 1992 to the present. Click here to view these tables.
A discussion of the prophecy of Maitreya in China is available at The Prophecy of Reincarnation. Click here for more information.