In Buddhist eschatology Maitreya is regarded as a future Buddha of today’s world. Maitreya is derived from the Sanskrit word maitrī which means loving-kindness and the Sanskrit noun mitra meaning friend. This Buddha is said to bring love and happiness to your life.
Many of you are familiar with this Buddha but you identify him with another name ‘Laughing Buddha’. According tofengshui(practice of arranging the house to gain maximum peace and happiness) this jolly looking, chubby and every smiling Buddha is said to bring happiness to your home.
Maitreya Buddha is to follow up the historical Buddha Sakyamuni (Gautama Buddha the creator of Buddhism), he is said to be waiting in the Tusita heaven for the fifth world cycle so he can enter the earth as the next Buddha. Presently he is considered as one of the creator of the universe or the dhyani-Bodhisattvas and when he appears on the earth he will be a mortal manusi Buddha who will enlighten the world with his teachings.
In the time of Gautama Buddha or Shakyamunithere was a monk named Sthiramatiwho was an adherent disciple of Shakyamuni. Sthiramati dedicated his life for the welfare of other, often in the quest to bring more people on to the path of pure wisdom, moral discipline and concentration he even forsakes food. His happiness, love and kindness impressed Shakyamuni very much so he praised Sthiramati with the title Maitreya or loved one. Shakyamuni then predicted he would be known by this name and will gain wide fame in all his future rebirths as a bodhisattva
Maitreya Buddha is said to practice Seven-Limb puja (an important part of Mahayana Buddhist practice) very sincerely gaining him full enlightenment. It is said that though Maitreya Buddha gained enlightenment before Shakyamuni he honoured Shakyamuni as his guru.
When Shakyamuniappeared as the present age’s fourth founding Buddha,to demonstrate on how to follow the bodhisattvaMaitreya Buddha manifested as Shakyamuni’s disciple along with Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara and many others.
Maitreya Buddha or Laughing Buddha is usually depicted as a chubby, friendly laughing man with a large belly who is generally found sitting or standing with large bags next to him. The large belly of Maitreya Buddha is said to represent his ‘big stomach’ which in turn indicates to his ‘big heart’ and his ability to tolerate anything. There are many more depictions of Maitreya Buddha around the world.
In most paintings Maitreya is shown to be gathered around Shakyamuni and listening to his teachings of the Universal Vehicle discourses.
Present residence of Maitreya Buddha
Maitreya Buddha is said to be residing in the Tusita heaven, the place where Gautama Buddha resided before his satisfaction into the world. This heaven is reachable through meditation.
Future coming of Maitreya
Maitreya Buddha is said to be thebhadrakalpa’s (present aeon’s) fifth Buddha who will appear after the teachings of Gautama Buddha will no longer be practiced and followed. Maitreya Buddha will then enlighten the world with his teaching thereby alleviating their suffering.