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 great Buddha yet to appear, in this way predicting both: the future decline of current Buddhism  and the coming of a “new Buddha Maitreya”.

Traditional Buddhism teaches that Maitreya is currently “practicing Buddhism in Tusita Heaven”, awaiting to be born on Earth to start Buddhism anew, after the destruction of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings.

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.

Only in the Lotus Sutra, Buddhism is predicted to flourish in this current age.   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.

For this reason most schools of Buddhism (which do not accept the Lotus Sutra as the final and complete teaching, in which Shakyamuni revealed the Eternal Dharma) - had no other option but to follow a myth of anticipation of a “new Buddha” who would renew the Dharma: starting Buddhism anew after its predicted decline.  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 not needs 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) is necessary to declare a “new Dharma” undermines the capacity and the validity of Shakyamuni as a Buddha.

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 Mahdi - in Islamic beliefs - follows the same pattern: sufferings, lost effect of religious teaching, chaos awaiting 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 ?

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 or non-substantiality, 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 eternal, because they describe life, which is eternal.

The Principles of Buddhism do not “decline” - because they describe an abiding reality of the Law of Cause and Effect.

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


Author: Safwan Zabalawi

                                                Nichiren views on Maitreya

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