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Buddhists Expect the Messiah as Maitreya, Any Day Now
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Buddhists Expect the Messiah as Maitreya, Any Day Now The Buddhists expect Maitreya, the future Buddha, at the end of the age. Pictured here all jewelled from a sixth century fresco at Ajanta, in middle India.
Maitreya first emerges in Buddhist scriptures after 200 AD. Romila Thapar (see Kalkin, above) again suspects a connection, recognising possible evidence of theological cross-fertilisation in several respects at this time. Both for Hinduism and Buddhism. The Essenes, too, seem to have borrowed the best from the east.
The eminent scholar Edward Conze in his classic collection of ‘Buddhist Scriptures’ (Penguin) quotes Sanskrit verses which link Maitreya quite remarkably to the vision of the New Jerusalem or City of God of Revelation :
‘Jerusalem, my happy home
O happy harbour of the saints
Thy walls are made of precious stones;
The first verse closely echoes a Christian hymn dating to the sixteenth century. This only emphasises the mystery of close contacts, cross-fertilisation, copying and borrowing through the ages.
It is often observed that the characteristic pose for Maitreya is not the classic ‘lotus posture’ of the Buddha but a more informal seated position with one foot raised across the knee. This has been taken to signify a European character. Early sculptures also show the coming Buddha in natural, relaxed stances, his hair flowing over his shoulders, like Christ or a classic, latter day hippy. Exceptional by the usual austere attitudes of Buddhism.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama warmly and with characteristic humility welcomed the Expected Incarnation of Maitreya at Bodh-gaya, in India, in 1981, choosing the symbolism of the Sun :
“When the majestic Sun of our guiding light, Maitreya, dawns over the diamond strong seat of Bodh-gaya, may the lotus of my intelligence open up fully so that I satisfy swarms of fortunate bees. At that time when the triumphant Maitreya happily places his hand on my head and prophecies my attainment of a peerless and supreme state of purified growth, may I quickly achieve a clear evolvement for the sake of all sentient beings.”
Like Christ, returning as the Beast of Beauty, Maitreya comes as an incarnation of the Sun God. His Holiness waits in reverent anticipation and offers an appropriate rendezvous. The name Maitreya means ‘to unite in a universal sense of love.’ The spirit of the Sun. We, too, can’t wait.
The story of Gautama Buddha appears no less mythical than Jesus Christ’s yet there is no less conviction in its historical reality, though rather less interest or insistence. If a man was the Buddha, reinvigorating faith for the new age of Pisces (and Buddhism, like Christianity, has been a characteristically Piscean faith) will that man, like Onias, step forward for the new age ?
Not One Messiah But Two, Plus …
We may, too, have a supreme priest, a Living Buddha on the world stage. Can we ever expect to see such another ? If the Buddha were to return, could he do better than capture the respect and reverence of the world, from East to West ? except those who have taken his home? Could he do better than distil the wisdom of centuries into a message which has impressed with its simple sense : all we need is a good heart. Would the Buddha stay away at a time like this ? These are tentative and necessarily slightly enigmatic suggestions. If they set a standard, we may have some idea what to expect. Something better ?
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