Maitreya Buddha is the Buddha of Future, and also known as The Laughing Buddha, is the one to follow up the historical Buddha Shakyamuni Buddha. Maitreya Buddha waits in Tushita Heaven for the moment he is to appear on earth as the Buddha of the fifth world cycle. Maitreya Buddha is a future Buddha who is expected to come to earth from Tusita (Tushita) Heaven. Shakyamuni Buddha predicted that due to the inevitable degeneration of the times, his own teachings would last just four thousand years before disappearing from this world. People will grow more and more immoral and their lifespan will gradually decrease, as will their health, stature and fortune. While such delusions as miserliness, hatred and jealousy gain strength, the world will go through prolonged periods of famine, disease and continuous warfare until it eventually resembles a vast battlefield of graveyard. Thereupon Maitreya will appear, not in his fully evolved Buddha form, but as a person of regal bearing, very handsome and taller than those around him. On seeing this unusual being, people will be filled with wonder and faith, and will ask how he came to have such an attractive appearance. Maitreya will reply that this is due to his practice of patience, avoiding giving harm to others, and if others will also abide in love and tolerance, they could become similar to him.
Maitreya's appearance will mark a great turning point in the fortunes of this world. As more and more beings follow his example, their store of merit, and consequently their lifespan, will increase. Eventually people will live in health for such a long time that the sufferings of old age and death will scarcely be known. At that time, their observance of morality will grow lax as people become more and more involved in the pleasures of their existence. With this laxity will come another gradual shortening and degeneration of their lifespan until eventually beings once again will become suitable ripe to take sincere interest in the spiritual path. When the human lifespan as increased again to many thousands of years, and when the planet will be entirely dominated by a benevolent wheel – turning sovereign (Chakravartin) named Shankha, it is at this time that Maitreya Buddha will descend from the Tushita Buddha field (Devaloka) where he now resides, to appear in this world as the fifth founding Buddha of this world age. Maitreya will be born the son of a Brahmin priest, and will renounce the world and attain enlightenment in a single day, not requiring six long years. The world in this time will be politically neutralized, and therefore the warrior class and its martial virtues will be obsolete. Thus he will be born among the intellectuals, the priests, and his teaching will bring the gentler emotions to the fore. Maitreya Buddha is supposed to be passing the life of a Bodhisattva in the Tusita (Tushita) Heaven preparatory to his descent to earth in Human form. It is said that he will come to earth full 4000 years after the disappearance of Gautama Buddha for the deliverance all sentient beings. Maitreya may be represented as a standing figure adorned with rich ornaments and holding in his right hand the stalk of a lotus. Maitreya may also be represented seated as a Buddha, with legs either interlocked or dangling down. His color is yellow, and his images sometimes bear the figures of Dhyani Buddhas.
The Maitreya Buddha represents a very important figure in Buddhism. It is believed that if one diligently cultivates one's virtues in this lifetime, one will be reborn into Tushita Heaven where he or she wills me the Maitreya Buddha. Furthermore he or she will also be present at the Maitreya Buddha's first Dharma Talk after his enlightenment and attain enlightenment himself. Hence the tradition of worshipping the Maitreya, Amitabha and Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattvas remains strong among the Buddhist community even today.
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