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Artist's impression of Maitreya from Gandhara , 2nd century
( Tokyo National Museum )
Maitreya, in Kōryū-ji Japan
Artist's impression of Maitreya from Mathura , 2nd century
( Museum Guimet )
The " Great Buddha of Leshan " ( 樂山 大佛  /  乐山 大佛 , Lèshān Dàfó ), Sichuan China . A 71 m high representation of the seated Maitreya from the 8th century, carved out of the rock.

Maitreya ( Sanskrit मैत्रेय Maitreya , Pali Metteyya, Chinese  弥勒 佛 , Pinyin Mílè Fó , Vietnamese Phật Di Lặc , Tibetan byams pa , Japanese 弥勒 菩薩 Miroku-bosatsu , also Kubira skr. Kumbhīra, Sino-Japanese syn. 迷 諦 隸; 迷 諦 隸梨; 梅 怛 麗, 彌勒 菩薩, 梅 怛 藥, 梅 怛 邪; 每 怛 哩 ) is considered the Buddha of the future and the great coming world teacher in Buddhism . The name is probably derived from the Sanskrit word " maitri ", which can be translated as universal love, kindness, friendship or kindness.


According to some sources, its coming is predicted for 3,000, 5,000 or 30,000 years after Buddha Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha ( Siddhartha Gautama ). Such an "imminent" coming contradicts the statements in this regard in the Suttapitaka of the Pali canon . There ( Digha-Nikaya , Cakkavatti Sutta) it is said that Metteyya will appear when people are (again) eighty thousand years old, which should not take place suddenly but over many intermediate stages. Accordingly, the prognoses for the arrival of the “laughing Buddha” can also be understood as indefinite predictions in the sense of: “in the distant future…”. At the time of the (4th) "historical" Buddha Gautama, Maitreya is said to have incarnated as a Bodhisattva disciple.

Coming 5th Buddha of this eon

Maitreya is the only coming Buddha mentioned in the Suttapitaka of the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism. He is also known in Mahayana and especially in Tibetan Buddhism of great importance. There he is one of the so-called eight great Bodhisattvas , who are also called the eight great sons of Buddha. In the first monastery of Tibet Samye , one of the four large temples on the side of the main temple is dedicated to Maitreya. According to the Pali canon , Maitreya is currently and until his appearance on earth in Tushita heaven, the fourth highest of the six deva worlds within the sense world (kama-loka) , in which all Buddhas live before their last rebirth.

The depictions show Maitreya sometimes standing, but mostly sitting. In contrast to other Buddha or Bodhisattva representations, his feet touch the ground, which is supposed to symbolize that he has not yet fully taken his place. In many depictions he is holding a water vessel in his left hand.

Much of the teaching of Maitreya goes back to Asaṇga (= Āryāsanga, Chin. 無 著  /  无 著 , Wúzhuó , Japanese Mujaku ), the founder of the Vijñāna-vādā school [Japanese: Yogacara, "pure spirit", "Nur -Geist "] - and his younger half-brother Vasubandhu - sons of a noble Brahmin family who were born in the 5th century in Purusharpura, in the northern Indian state of Gandhara (today Peshawar ).

In China and Japan Maitreya is also worshiped in the figure of Budai (Japanese Hotei ).

"Some scholars also assume that Maitreya is originally associated with the Iranian savior figure Mithra , and that its later importance for Buddhists as a future Buddha who lives in Tushita heaven and succeeds Shakyamuni Buddha comes from this source." But this view contradicts the (post-canonical) Buddhist tradition, according to which Maitreya will be the fifth of 1000 Buddhas who will appear in this eon .

Maitreya as a salvation figure in other religious traditions

The Buddhist salvation figure Maitreya was also taken up by other religious groups and adapted for their own tradition. During the religious encounter between Buddhists and Manichaeans in Eastern Iran and Central Asia, Maitreya was accepted as a salvific figure and included in the teaching of the White Lotus in China under the Southern Song Dynasty . On the one hand, this referred to a Buddhist concept; at the same time, this concept was claimed for one's own religious founder, whose appearance was seen as the coming of Maitreya. Mani as Maitreya was mentioned in hymn and liturgical veneration.

According to the faith of the Baha'i , the expectation of Maitreya has been fulfilled in the coming of their religious founder Baha'ullah . Baha'i see the prophecy fulfilled in the teachings of Baha'ullah on world peace that Maitreya would usher in an age of universal peace.

Annie Besant , the president of the Theosophical Society Adyar , took the view that after around 2,000 years Jesus Christ would be replaced by a “new world teacher” - the “Lord Maitreya” or “Lord Tyrannus”, as they also called him - whose human “ Vehicle ”she saw in Jiddu Krishnamurti , discovered by Charles Webster Leadbeater in 1909 . She founded the Order of the Star in the East to pave the way for this coming spiritual impulse of the Aquarian Age and in 1911 installed Krishnamurti as President of the order. He dissolved the order in 1929 and worked as an independent lecturer in Europe and the United States until his death in 1986.


  • E. Abegg: The Buddha Maitreya. Commission publishing house H. Tschudy, 1946.
  • Alan Sponberg, Helen Hardacre: Maitreya the Future Buddha. Cambridge 1988, ISBN 0-521-34344-5 . (A religious studies study)
  • Alan Sponberg: Maitreya. In: Robert E. Buswell, Jr. (Ed.): Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Macmillan Reference, 2004, ISBN 0-02-865910-4 .
  • Damien Keown: A Dictionary of Buddhism. Oxford University Press, New Delhi 2003, ISBN 0-19-860560-9 .
  • Volker Zotz : Maitreya: Contemplations on the Buddha of the future. with a preface by Lama Anagarika Govinda . Gauke, Hann Münden 1984, ISBN 3-87998-054-3 . (A study of religion from a Buddhological point of view)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Damien Keown: A Dictionary of Buddhism. New Delhi 2003.
  2. Manfred Hutter : Mani as Maitreya. In: Wolfgang Gantke , Karl Hoheisel , Wassilios Klein (Hrsg.): Religious encounter and cultural exchange in Asia: Studies in memory of Hans-Joachim Klimkeit. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2002, ISBN 3-447-04574-4 , pp. 111-119; limited preview in Google Book search
  3. ^ Moojan Momen: Buddhism and the Bahá'í Faith. 1999, accessed June 22, 2016 .

Web links

Commons : Maitreya  - collection of images, videos and audio files