Introduction : It is time to step out of the Western dimension into the Eastern to find out more about one of the key figures of Man’s spiritual history – and future!
Read Max Hauri's introduction letter to this article below
In Advance! 25 you were introduced to the story of Metteyya. You learned that Gautama Buddha (563-483 B.C.) developed a philosophy about suffering and its resolution through the attainment of a spiritual state known as Bodhi (Enlightenment).
Buddha’s work brought Man a higher level of personal integrity, self-respect and mutual trust. It placed great emphasis on the values of Love and Peace and itself set the precedent for Christ’s later Message of Love to the world.
One of the most remarkable facts about Buddha is that he recognized his own work was incomplete. He predicted it would be completed some time in the future by a successor whom he called Metteyya.
No figure in Man’s history has been more intensely awaited for a longer time than Metteyya.
As Metteyya is a legacy of hope from the East we should understand better how the East understood him. It is time to step out of the Western dimension into the Eastern to find out more about one of the key figures of Man’s spiritual history – and future!
First of all,Metteyya was conceived of by Gautama Buddha as a second Buddha, the Buddha-to-come. In other words here we have the legend of the Second Coming predating the Middle East interpretation of it by some hundreds of years.
But what is a Buddha and how was a Buddha variously conceived?
The word Buddha comes from a very ancient Sanskrit root Budh meaning both "to wake up" and "to know". Thus Buddha is a term for someone who has woken up and reached enlightenment on his own spiritual identity and the basic truth of this universe! All Buddhists believe that anyone has the inherent potential of reaching enlightenment – if he rouse himself and dedicate himself to the goal.
Because this goal was so seldom achievable through Buddha’s work, he and others to follow looked to the future when Metteyya would make this goal universally possible.
Gautama Buddha was not considered to have been the first Buddha to appear.
The Indian Buddhist of some 2,500 years ago did not share the narrow view of time which the West inherited from the Old Testament Genesis account. The world did not start yesterday for the Indian Buddhist or a mere 6,000 years ago. Rather, he conceived of a past track measured in millions of world ages.
According to him these vast periods had peaks when Buddhas of unrecorded ages appeared to help the world revert to a higher destiny.
Hitherto, the greatest of these beings in the earth span was Gautama Buddha (about 563-483 B.C.). But even he would be exceeded by his successor, Metteyya.
For hundreds of years after Buddha the concept of Buddha remained simply one of a man who made it by his own bootstraps and taught others the way.
Then in the first century B.C. Buddhists began to develop new concepts of what a Buddha was and hence new concepts concerning Metteyya. These views along with others distinguished this school from what had been taught earlier. They called themselves "Maha-yana”(The Great Vehicle) in contrast to "Hinayana" (Small or Lesser Vehicle), the earlier beliefs. Subsequently Mahayana Buddhism exploded into North Eastern Asia and by number of adherents became the most popular form of Buddhism.
By the first century of our era, Mahayana Buddhism had developed a three-tier level of reality in their definition of Buddha in such books as the Saddharmapundarikasutra(usually translated as "Lotus of the Good Law” but actually it means "Lotus of the Law of Basic Truth").
They called this doctrine trikayawhich unfortunately poorly translates into English as "the three-body doctrine." Actually kaya(body) is a misnomer as it’s not a doctrine about bodies at all but about spiritual states.
The highest level of reality or spiritual state was a state called Dharma-kaya, or Body of Truth. This translates as Ultimate or Basic Truth. Basic Truth is not considered here as an abstract concept but rather as an All-Source, a spiritual absolute.
Below the level of Dharmakaya we find a level of transcendental [Also transcendent; above and independent of the physical universe; going beyond ordinary limits; excelling; superior; extraordinary. In this article transcendent and transcendental are used interchangeably.] beings who are freed of the fetters of the body and the physical universe. This type of beingness or state was called Sambhogakaya (Body of Bliss). This level of existence is conceived of being made up of Transcendent Buddhas who cannot be perceived by the gross senses but who can be spiritually experienced. For example, it could be said that one who feels Christ is near him, with him or guiding him in life is experiencing a transcendent reality from this level.
Some intellectuals in ancient India thought that these Transcendental Buddhas were not real entities but personal mockups of the beholder.
In any case, this doctrine conceives of a higher spiritual plane superior to and not dependent upon the physical universe.
Further down scale from the Sambhogakaya but infinitely high compared to man’s state was the Earthly Buddha.
This level was called Nirmanakaya(from Nirmanameaning "Manifest Beings"). These blood and flesh Buddhas were sometimes seen as the protégés or even projections of the Transcendent Buddhas into the world. The function of the Earthly Buddhas is to make known Dharma, The Truth, in the world and thus help other beings fulfill themselves. Metteyya would be such a Buddha.
Sixth century Ch’an Buddhism (later exported from China as Zen Buddhism in the 12th century) carried this doctrine another step further. Ch’an Buddhists considered that every being partakes of these three "bodies." Everyone is Nirmanakaya insofar as he owns a body. He becomes Sambhogakaya when he achieves enlightenment and release from worldly fetters. Finally he is also Dharmakaya inasmuch as his true beingness is ultimately unlimited and identifiable as Basic Truth.
We have looked in detail at the Trikaya doctrine as it was a central doctrine of the Mahayana form of Buddhism and their elaboration of Metteyya’s nature.
The Wheel of the Teaching, Mahayana Form. (From a Tibetan woodcut) The eight spokes symbolize Buddha’s eightfold way for reaching enlightenment. The symbol in the hub was adapted from the Chinese symbol yin and yang representing, actually, the basic polarity of the universe. In Buddhist use it represents the interrelatedness of the two basic facts of life: suffering and its resolution, enlightenment. Note that this symbol forms an "S” at the wheel’s hub!
Every Earthly Buddha was connected with his own Transcendent Buddha. Names for these entities were supplied. For example, above Gautama Buddha was the Transcendent Buddha Amitabha. The Transcendent Buddha of Metteyya was called Amoghasiddhi.Beyond all these levels of beingness stood Dharmakaya, the spiritual absolute.
Below the Earthly Buddhas there was another spiritual grade called Bodhisattva. Certain outstanding Bodhisattvas served Earthly Buddhas as their aides.
Bodhisattva comes from two words: bodhi – enlightenment, and sattva – being. A Bodhisattva is a being who is earnestly striving for enlightenment (bodhi) or who, having already attained it, refuses to release himself from corporal existence until all beings have been helped on the road to enlightenment.
Anyone in Mahayana Buddhism who sought enlightenment for himself and also took vows to help others make it was a Bodhisattva.
The single great virtue which motivated Bodhisattvas as well as Earthly Buddhas – and the virtue from which all other virtues stemmed – was considered to be compassion. A Bodhisattva or Buddha deeply cared for the fate of other beings.
"The ability to assume or to grant (give, allow) beingness is probably the highest of human virtues. It is even more important to be able to permit (allow) other people to have beingness than to be able oneself to assume it." And in other quotes from his collected works we find: "I believe that to command is to serve and only gives one the right to serve." And "… a being is only as valuable as he can serve others."
These statements brilliantly define the direction of the Bodhisattva or Earthly Buddha and would readily be agreed upon by the great Buddhist teachers of the past.
Mahayana Buddhism developed another doctrinal system which explains Metteyya in a slightly different way than the above. This is called the doctrine of the Transcendental Bodhisattva. So don’t get the two confused as they are not entirely consistent.
In this doctrinal system it was conceived that there are ten stages of existence above man to which a Bodhisattva could aspire and ascend.
These levels are described as ten perfections:
The Bodhisattva is joyful as he dedicates his life to helping other beings.
He perfects his self-discipline.
He is able to confront adversities and persevere through them in his efforts to help others.
He is able to perceive and cast off false ideas.
He learns to meditate – which in the East does not necessarily mean sitting on one’s seat thinking like Rodin’s Thinker. Rather it means to focus one’s attention with awareness.
He obtains wisdom and is able to perceive the causes of suffering. He cognites on basic truth and realizes that compared to it the world of physical appearances is but a passing parade. This is the stage on which the Bodhisattva reaches his enlightenment. But if he ceased to function in this world he would be betraying the trust of beings who count on him to help them toward "the higher life." Thus although he is freed of MEST compulsions he stays on in this world to fulfill his vows.
At this stage the being leaves the need of a body and becomes a Transcendent Bodhisattva. He is able to operate as a being without ties to a body and assume any form at will.
On this stage the Bodhisattva can uplift people just by being in their vicinity through his own goodness.
He continues to devote himself to his goal of uplifting all beings.
This is the last stage of Bodhisattva. Here he obtains knowingness without limit. He is but one step below total Buddhaship. His radiance as a being is wonderful.
Metteyya was looked upon in this system as a Bodhisattva of the tenth stage of perfection, just one step short of Buddhaship. He was conceived of as existing in a higher plane of reality (identified as "Tusita heaven”) preparing for his role as the future Buddha.
Throughout Mahayana history Metteyya, as befits the Buddha-to-be, ranked as the highest Transcendent Bodhisattva, a popular figure in Buddhist art and sculpture.
Also as the Buddha-to-be Metteyya was actually worshipped by some Mahayana cults. On yet another level, the figure of Hotei, the great paunch-bellied laughing god of Japan is historically derived from the Indian Metteyya through the Chinese god Mi-Lo-Fu.
Appropriately enough, Hotei, although through the years he has lost his religious significance, is today the "God" of Luck in Japan. Yes, Metteyya would be good luck for the world!
Despite any doctrinal complexities and interpretations, the entire story of Metteyya is based upon Gautama’s predictions in the Pali Canon (earliest Buddhist scriptures).
For example in the discourse on "War, Wickedness and Wealth", Buddha is found to predict the following:
"At that period, brethren, there will arise in the world an Exalted One named Metteyya, Arahant. [Variation of Arhat, one who has attained spiritual perfection.] Fully Awakened, abounding in wisdom and goodness, happy, with knowledge of the worlds, unsurpassed as a guide to mortals willing to be led, a teacher for gods and men, an Exalted One, a Buddha, even as I am now. He, by himself, will thoroughly know and see, as it were face to face, this universe, with its worlds of the spirits, its Brahmas, [Plural of Brahma, from Hindu terminology, a term signifying the personified creative aspect of a spiritual absolute] and its Maras, [Plural of Mara, literally death; the personification of evil] and its world of recluses and Brahmins, [Members of the Indian priest caste] of princes and peoples, even as I now, by myself, thoroughly know and see them. The truth, lovely in its origin, lovely in its progress, lovely in its consummation, will he proclaim, both in the spirit and in the letter, the higher life will he make known, in all its fullness and in all its purity, even as I do now. He will be accompanied by a congregation of some thousands of brethren, even as I am now accompanied by a congregation of some hundreds of brethren."
Note that in Buddha’s vision Metteyya would be no armchair philosopher but he would know and experience the worlds of both the spiritual and physical universes as Gautama had. He would be a man, son, warrior, husband, and Buddha just as Gautama was.
It should be interposed here that Gautama Buddha himself did not regard himself as a god or claim he received guidance from supernatural agencies. Nor is there any evidence he regarded Metteyya in any other light than he regarded himself.
In another prediction Buddha states that this Metteyya would come when Buddhism itself has failed on this planet and the clouds of error darken the world.
According to the legend Metteyya would have red or golden hair and he would arise in the West at a time of world crisis.
Thus the following negative signs would indicate the time is nigh (near) for Metteyya’s arrival.
Buddhism in Tibet, China and other lands will be eclipsed by a new materialist philosophy.
Religion itself will downtrend on a world wide basis.
False technology about the mind will come to the fore.
New vastly destructive weapons will be unleashed on populations.
We will enter into a "Crisis Era" which threatens Man’s future.
By what positive signswill we know of Metteyya’s arrival?
Religion and the spiritual studies will be revitalized.
A humanitarian technology through which individuals can regain personal integrity, self-respect and well-being will become evident.
A vital new religious movement will come to the world’s attention from the West.
The achievement of high spiritual states will become increasingly common.
According to the ancient tradition these four points would point to the advent of Metteyya.
It was predicted that Metteyya’s arrival would mark the beginning of a new Golden Age for Man. But what kind of a Golden Age? Just another enforced and arbitrary Utopia like Karl Marx’s dream of a Workers’ Paradise?
No. Metteyya’s Golden Age would be based upon the following:
1. Respect for self and others.
2. Real trust of self and one’s fellows.
3. Becoming more oneself.
4. Personal integrity.
5. Personal well-being.
Now that would be a Golden Age worth working for and looking forward to!
Dear Friends, Here's the article "A Vision of the Future" from the magazine Advance! 26 or even 30. [Advance! 26 and 30 are mostly identical.] I won't write much about it, except that we should sometimes try to see things from a higher point of view.