The sweet faced ever graceful Maitreya is seated in bhadrasana on an ornately designed throne. His throne back is exquisitely designed. There is a miniature stupa above his halo and parasol over his head. His both hands are in vitarka-mudra and hold the stems of a lotus flower over which are his emblems dharmachakra and nectar vase, respectively.
Maitreya resides in the Tushita heaven as a Bodhisattva, awaiting the time of descent to the earth. The time lapse between the parinirvana of Shakyamuni and the appearance of Maitreya in this world is 4000 divine years. Maitreya is the hope of civilization expressing the invisible future by means of the visible. Whereas Avalokiteshvara delivers from suffering, Maitreya confers happiness. There is a variety of forms of Maitreya, sitting or standing, with various combinations of emblems and mudras. In all forms and traditions, the colour of Maitreya is golden yellow. He is usually seated in bhadrasana with legs hanging down, as he serenely watches over Tibetan monasteries and as if he is about to descend to earth to establish the lost truths in all purity. It is said that when Maitreya will descend from Tushita Heaven he will take birth in a Brahmin family. Appropriate to his role as a future Buddha or savior, Maitreya personifies loving-kindness (maitri) , an aspect of compassion. There is a legend about Maitreya.
Many aeons ago, an ordained monk named Logro Tenpa helped to guide 100 people every day over a span of 84,000 years into the right moral path. He would not eat until he had helped at least 100 people daily. The people therefore gave him the name Maitreya to express his loving-kindness. He continued to helped people in this way for forty-two aeons, during which time he developed bodhicitta, or a compassionate mind in which he placed others before himself. After forty-two aeons, Maitreya met one of the previous incarnations of Shakyamuni Buddha, who became his teacher. Thereafter, when he meditated on this master, his disciples saw a bodhi stupa on top of his head. Thus, many images of Maitreya show stupa on top of his head.
Maitreya continued serving and helping people everywhere and had many different lives reaching the tenth Bodhisattva stage. The Buddha Ratnagarbha gave him his Bodhisattva vows and predicted he would become a Buddha. Other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas also prophesied that in the future Maitreya would become the next Buddha after Shakyamuni Buddha. Maitreya then expressed his wish to be reborn as the fifth Buddha in the Bhadra Kalpa. The tradition of Bhadra Kalpa recounts that approximately 2,300 years from now, after Shakyamuni's teachings are finished on this earth, people will no longer lead a moral life. Hostility and wars will increase, sickness and starvation will occur and people's life span will continually decrease until they live only ten years. At that time, a manifestation of Maitreya will appear wearing beautiful saffron-coloured robes. When people ask why he is so beautiful, he will reply that he practiced patience in a previous life and that patience brings beauty. He will give teachings about patience and people will begin to listen and follow him. They will give up their anger and develop good qualities and thereby gain more and more merit. As a result, the people will grow larger, healthier and prosper. Merit and long life go together, so life span will increase gradually until eventually people will live countless years. But because people will live in such happiness, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will neglect them. With this neglect, people's good karma will eventually be used up, and they will no longer live in a state of bliss and joy. Then their life span will begin to decrease until they live only 80,000 years. It is said that that time Maitreya will be reborn on earth as a Bodhisattva to help people continue along the right path. After his rebirth on earth, he will stay for 20,000 years with his family of birth he becomes a Buddha. His disciples, 4,080 sons of Brahmin and kings, will take nourishment vows in front of a naga tree, a kind of Bodhi tree. The tree will grows to a height of 1,000 miles above the earth, extend over 12 miles in width. It will be in front of this tree that Maitreya will reach enlightenment. The sculptures and paintings some times depicts naga tree flower over the left shoulder of Maitreya.
Maitreya, thus, is now thought to be waiting in Tushita heaven for the right time come down to earth. Tushita Heaven is one of the thirty-three heavens over Mount Meru. It is said that when Asanga ascended to his paradise, Maitreya initiated him into the tantra. Thus he is the initiator of the system of tantra and he works in present aeon also. Tibetans believe that if someone makes sculptures and paintings of Maitreya Buddha and chants the mantra, "the promise of Maitreya Buddha", that person will be reborn in Tushita Heaven after death.
It may be said that by worshipping Maitreya with sincerity one may secure their ticket to Tushita heaven.
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