The Illusion of “Future Buddha”


Most Mahayana schools hold the belief that Buddhism is currently heading towards decline:

a decline which will end in disintegration of its teachings in the future.

This self-destructive doctrine of Traditional Buddhism is contained within the belief in a “Future Buddha” yet to appear. 


In this way, Traditional Buddhism predicts both: the future decline of current Buddhism  and the coming of a “new Buddha Maitreya”. Various schools of Buddhism teach that Maitreya is currently “practicing Buddhism in Tusita Heaven”, awaiting to be born on Earth to start Buddhism anew, portraying him as a “Savour from Heaven”.


The origin of Maitreya myth:  Buddhism developed - as it is traditionally accepted among all schools – over three distinguished periods of time, called: the Former, Middle and Latter Day of the Dharma. 

The Latter Day of the Dharma refers to a time when Shakyamuni’s early and provisional (or preparatory) teachings would lose their power to help people, while - at the same time - his final teaching (of the Lotus Sutra) would emerge and flourish all over the world.

PreLotus teachings predict the decline of Buddhism and the end of Shakyamuni’s teachings, a perspective, which requires a new Future  Buddha. 


Only in the Lotus Sutra, Buddhism is predicted to flourish in this current age. There is no decline in Lotus Buddhism.  The mission to propagate Buddhism is entrusted to the Bodhisattvas (of the Lotus Sutra) and not to a “special future Buddha”.  However, various Mahayana schools still follow the Buddha’s transient (preparatory) teachings expounded before the Lotus Sutra.  In these pre-Lotus teachings Shakyamuni had not yet revealed the Eternal Dharma (The Law of the Lotus: Myoho-Renge-Kyo) - which is the final teaching of Buddhism.  The Eternal Dharma - being the Truth, which the Buddha arrived to - does not experience decline.


The schools of Buddhism, which do not follow the Lotus Sutra (as the final and complete teaching of the Eternal Dharma) - had no other option but to follow a myth of anticipation of a “new Buddha” who would renew the Dharma.  To “fil the gap” of the anticipated decline and death of Buddhism - Maitreya is suggested as a Future Buddha.  This - in itself - suggests that Traditional Buddhism does not consider that Shakyamuni had taught the Eternal Dharma (because a teaching which is eternal does not vanish and does not need renewal).


Belief in a “future Buddha” indicates doubts that Shakyamauni could deliver to humanity the final eternal message of Buddhism.  The idea that a new Buddha (Maitreya) hides doubts that Shakyamuni Buddha was capable of teaching the Eternal Dharma for future generations.


Doomsday Beliefs: Similar stories of the “end of the world” in great destruction and sufferings, and the coming up of a saviour from heaven - are found in various doomsday beliefs.  In fundamentalist Christian beliefs, the current world is filled with evil and destruction, and to save people from sufferings Jesus will appear again descending from Heaven.  The concept of Mahdi - in Islamic beliefs - follows the same pattern: the world is going to be filled with sufferings, the effect of religions will be lost, chaos awaits humanity - and a saviour from Heaven will appear.  The Maitreya belief fits in this pattern of beliefs as a Buddhist version of this trend of end of the world, end of teachings, refreshing religion anew by a heavenly saviour..


Why is Maiterya redundant ?

1/     There is absolutely nothing new that a Future Buddha would reveal or teach. 

The Buddhist teachings are expressions of abiding laws which do not vanish in time.

Nichiren quotes the Lotus Sutra :


                “All the characteristics of the world are eternal” WND1 p 423 .


There is no “expiry date” for the Buddhist truth. For example, the Law of Impermanence, the Principle of Non-duality, the nature of Sunyata (emptiness of individual nature), the truth of Dependant Origination, the Inherent Buddhanature in all people…etc… those principle are consistent and non-changing in time or space.  They are final, complete and their validity does not depend on the passage of time, because they describe the original truths of life.


Like the laws of nature, the Principles of Buddhism do not “decline” - because they describe an abiding reality of the Law of Life (MyohoRengeKyo).  For this reason, the assumed “new Buddha” will not bring anything “new” to the teachings available now in the Lotus Sutra, and as such the concept of New Buddha is redundant.


The eternal Dharma of the Lotus Sutra does not need “correction” or “renewal”:

        If Nichiren’s compassion is truly great and encompassing,

        Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo will spread for ten thousand years and more, for all eternity”.

WND1 p 736


2/  All people inherently possess their own Buddhanature.  The Buddhanature requires awakening, and Nichiren taught the practice to reveal the Buddhanature.  All people who aim at revealing the Buddhanature can do so - without a special Saviour from Heaven. In this perspective of the inherent Buddhanature in each individual - a future Buddha is redundant. 

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Author: Safwan Darshams


The Lotus Sutra and the Future of Buddhism

                                              

                                                       Nichiren views on Maitreya


The Myth of Maitreya, Future Buddha


Frequently Asked Questions



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