Buddha of Wealth
Life is like a play, therefore, we can actually laugh over it. Relying on the Almighty power, we do our best to play our role, like Maitreya Buddha who tolerates everything with a radiant heart.
The name Maitreya is taken from the Sanskrit word maitri (Pali, metta), meaning "kindness," "love," "benevolence," "friendship," "friendliness" or "goodwill." Thus Maitreya has been referred to as the "Loving One" or the "Friendly One," the embodiment of all-encompassing love.
We see Maitreya Buddha, which is also known widely as, Mi-Lo-Fwo, all the time at the Temple. He occupies a central position in our shrine. His name, in Chinese (pronounced like "mee luh"), is in our rituals. To the Chinese, the core of Maitreya Buddha is the concept of generosity.
Maitreya is a Bodhisattva who in the Buddhist tradition is to appear on Earth, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure Dharma. Maitreya Bodhisattva will be a successor of the historic Śākyamuni Buddha. The prophecy of the arrival of Maitreya is found in the canonical literature of all Buddhist sects, (Theravāda, Mahāyāna, Vajrayāna) is accepted by most Buddhists as a statement about an actual event that will take place in the distant future.
Maitreya, also known as the future Buddha, who has still to come, is now thought to be waiting in Tushita Heaven for the right time to come down to earth. Tushita heaven is one of the thirty-three heavens over Mount Meru and is considered the special field of Maitreya. Tibetans believe that if someone makes statues and thangkas of Maitreya Buddha and chants the mantra "The Promise of Maitreya Buddha," that person will be reborn in Tushita Heaven after death.
Shown with an extremely sweet and gentle countenance, he holds in his left hand, between the thumb and forefinger, the stem of a lotus flower. The bloom of this lotus supports a wheel. This is the Buddhist wheel of spiritual instruction. His right hand is held in the varada mudra (Tib. Mchog sbyin gyi phyag rgya) of generosity or boon granting, with the palm facing downwards and the fingers extended.
Maitreya is seated on a lotus that rests on a throne base inhabited by the ubiquitous beasts. He holds his hands before his chest in dharmachakra mudra, the gesture of religious discourse. Threaded through his hands is a stalk that divides into two stems, each terminating in blossoms that flank his shoulders. At his left is the nagapushpika, or campaka, the flower from which Maitreya's bodhi tree will emerge. The flower at his right has at its center a vase, in itself a symbol of the deity.
Maitreya, the Coming Buddha, the Future Buddha, plays many roles in the various Buddhist traditions throughout the Far East. Not only is he the guardian of the Dharma but he is also an intercessor and protector, a guru who personally initiates his devotees, a messenger sent by the Eternal Mother to rescue her children, a Messiah who descends when the world is in turmoil to judge the wicked and save the righteous, and last but not least he is the Laughing Buddha.
Another role of Maitreya reflects his wisdom --as well as his skill as a communicator of wisdom--in the language of the heart and in the erudition of the mind. Maitreya was a patron saint of commentators. His aid was sought by Buddhist scholars in India and China who needed help with difficult scriptural passages...
In Korea Maitreya took on roles that in China were normally ascribed to Kuan Yin. He is known as the bestower of children, sons in particular, and is worshiped as a protector of sailors. In Japan some look to Maitreya as the mediator in relationships between men and women.
He is also referred to as The Monk with the Cloth Bag. However, that image is based upon Chang Dingzi (907-1060) a Buddhist monk who was a native of Chekiang Province. He was an itinerant who wandered about at the end of the Tang and beginning of the Wu-Tai Dynasties propagating the Dharma. Though dressed only in thin monk's robes, he could lie on the snow without getting cold and wet, and he also had the ability of foreseeing the future. One story says that he had an eye on his back; perhaps he saw the past, too.
Besides being a yogi, he was also a learned man, but everyone addressed him as Pu Tai -- 'calico bag' or 'cloth bag' after the large bundle that he carried wherever he went. He soon became worshipped as the incarnation of Maitreya.
It is possible that the fat belly is symbolic shorthand for the Chinese idiom that is used to express someone who is exceedingly tolerant -- has a "big stomach." The monk may really have been fat, or since Maitreya is a bodhisattva with limitless compassion, the quality of character that is shown by an actual "big stomach" is further emphasized by the laughing expression and a version that has numerous, little children (noisy, too, no doubt) swarming over him. As Laughing Buddha, he is called in one Chinese transliteration, "Ta-pao Mi-Lei-Fwo."
The fat belly and the children later led women to rub the belly of images of Mileh Fo a.k.a. Pu Tai, in hopes of conceiving children through his influence. Since his death, the Chinese monk Budai (Hotei) has been popularly regarded as an incarnation of the bodhisattva Maitreya. His depiction as the Laughing Buddha continues to be very popular in East Asian culture. While a number of persons have proclaimed themselves to be Maitreya over the years following the Buddha’s nirvana, none have been officially recognized by the sangha and Buddhists. A particular difficulty faced by any would-be claimant to Maitreya's title is the fact that the Buddha is considered to have made a number of fairly specific predictions regarding the circumstances that would occur prior to Maitreya's coming- such as that the teachings of the Buddha would be completely forgotten, and all of the remaining relics of Sakyamuni Buddha would be gathered in Bodh Gaya and cremated.
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Buddha of Wealth - Maitreya Buddha