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The meaning of «maitreya»

Maitreya (Sanskrit) or Metteyya (Pali) is regarded as a future Buddha of this world in Buddhist eschatology. In some Buddhist literature, such as the Amitabha Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, the being is referred to as Ajita.

According to Buddhist tradition, Maitreya is a bodhisattva who will appear on Earth in the future, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma. According to scriptures, Maitreya will be a successor to the present Buddha, Gautama Buddha (also known as Śākyamuni Buddha).[2][3] The prophecy of the arrival of Maitreya refers to a time in the future when the dharma will have been forgotten by most on the terrestrial world.

Maitreya has also been employed in a millenarian role by many non-Buddhist religions in the past, such as Theosophy, the White Lotus, as well as by modern new religious movements, such as Yiguandao.

The name Maitreya is derived from the Sanskrit word maitrī "friendship", which is in turn derived from the noun mitra "friend". The Pali form Metteyya is mentioned in the Cakkavatti-Sīhanāda Sutta (Digha Nikaya 26) of the Pāli Canon, and also in chapter 28 of the Buddhavamsa.[2][3] Most of the Buddha's sermons are presented as having been presented in answer to a question, or in some other appropriate context, but this sutta has a beginning and ending in which the Buddha is talking to monks about something totally different. This leads scholar Richard Gombrich to conclude that either the whole sutta is apocryphal or that it has at least been tampered with.[4]

In the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, in the first centuries CE in northern India, Maitreya was the most popular figure to be represented along with Gautama Buddha (often called Śākyamuni "sage of the Shakya"). In 4th to 6th-century China, "Buddhist artisans used the names Shakyamuni and Maitreya interchangeably... indicating both that the distinction between the two had not yet been drawn and that their respective iconographies had not yet been firmly set".[5] An example is the stone sculpture found in the Qingzhou cache dedicated to Maitreya in 529 CE as recorded in the inscription (currently in the Qingzhou Museum, Shandong). The religious belief of Maitreya apparently developed around the same time as that of Amitābha, as early as the 3rd century CE.[6]

One mention of the prophecy of Maitreya is in the Maitreyavyākaraṇa. It implies that he is a teacher of meditative trance sādhanā and states that gods, men and other beings:

Will lose their doubts, and the torrents of their cravings will be cut off: free from all misery they will manage to cross the ocean of becoming; and, as a result of Maitreya's teachings, they will lead a holy life. No longer will they regard anything as their own, they will have no possession, no gold or silver, no home, no relatives! But they will lead the holy life of oneness under Maitreya's guidance. They will have torn the net of the passions, they will manage to enter into trances, and theirs will be an abundance of joy and happiness, for they will lead a holy life under Maitreya's guidance.[7]

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