oil on canvas
48 x 24 inches
Maitreya is the bodhisattva of loving kindness. His name is derived from the Sanskrit word maitri (Pali: metta), which means loving kindness. Maitreya is considered to be the next Buddha who will incarnate on earth, the last of the five Buddhas to gain supreme enlightenment in this aeon (kalpa). Gautama was the fourth Buddha of this kalpa.
Maitreya plays an important role in the development of Buddhism since he, like Gautama (and Vajrapani), appears in all three phases of Buddhism, in Theraveda, Mahayana, and Vajrayana texts, and is earlier than Amitabha or Avalokiteshvara. Maitreya was particularly important in the Mahayana tradition in which the bodhisattva doctrine was developed.
Maitreya is shown here with a miniature Buddhist temple (stupa) in his hair, and in his left hand a small waterpot, the emblem of an ascetic brahmin. The texts predict that Maitreya will be born into the brahmin caste, whereas Gautama was born into a warrior noble clan. His right hand is held in the teaching gesture (vitarka mudra), with thumb and index finger touching, reflecting the belief that he will constantly be giving teachings at his residence in the Tushita Heaven until the time when he descends into this world as the next Buddha.
Maitreya’s mantras include: OM MAITREYA MAIM and MAITRI MAITRI MAHA MAITRI SVAHA. His seed syllable (bija) is MAIM.
This image was taken from a photograph of a gilded copper sculpture made by Zanabazar (1635-1723), a Mongolian Buddhist monk, artist, and politician.