Maitreya, the “happy Buddha” of the future, represents the harbinger of a new age and will be reborn in a period of decline to renew the doctrine of Buddhism. The name Maitreya comes from the Sanskrit word maitri, which means “loving kindness.” This Buddha-to-be from China’s Ming dynasty sits in vajrasana, the left hand in varadamudra and the right hand in vitarkamudra, with his feet crossed at the ankles. The position represents reasoning, argumentation, or explanation of a teaching.
Assuredly a major sculpture from a Buddhist temple, this figure is approximately 650 years old, according to carbon-14 dating conducted on the object. Dressed in the clothes of either Bhiksu or Indian royalty and adorned with jewelry and high tiara, Maitreya exudes majesty and limitless tolerance and generosity. His images appear in Gandhara, possibly predating those of the Buddha.
The prophesy, which appears in the literature of all the major schools of Buddhism, holds that Maitreya’s purpose as the successor to the current Buddha is to achieve complete enlightenment. Physical events will mark his coming of Maitreya, including the shrinking of the oceans so that he can traverse them. It will also bring the unveiling of the true dharma, allowing the birth of a loving new society built on tolerance and health.