Maitreya (Skt.; Tib. བྱམས་པ་, Jampa, Wyl. byams pa) or Maitreyanatha (Skt. Maitreynātha; Tib. བྱམས་པ་མགོན་པོ་, Jampé Gönpo, Wyl. byams pa'i mgon po) is the bodhisattva who will be the next samyaksambuddha after Shakyamuni Buddha. For now he resides in Tushita. He transmitted teachings to Asanga, who transcribed them as the ‘Five Treatises of Maitreya’. As one of the eight great bodhisattvas, he is sometimes depicted as whitish-yellow in colour and holding an orange bush which dispels the fever of the destructive emotions.
Maitreya transmitted the root teachings to Asanga. Among the five, four are classed as shastras (commentaries) proper, and one falls into the class of oral instructions. The four that are shastras are extensive are:
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- The Ornament of Clear Realization (Skt. Abhisamayālaṃkāra; Tib. མངོན་རྟོགས་པའི་རྒྱན་, Wyl. mngon par rtogs pa'i rgyan).
- The Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras (Skt. Māhayānasūtrālaṃkāra; Tib. ཐེག་པ་ཆེན་པོའི་མདོ་སྡེ་རྒྱན་, theg pa chen po'i mdo sde rgyan).
- Distinguishing the Middle from the Extremes (Skt. Madhyāntavibhāga; Tib. དབུས་དང་མཐའ་རྣམ་པར་འབྱེད་པ་, dbus dang mtha' rnam par 'byed pa).
- Distinguishing Dharma and Dharmata (Skt. Dharma-dharmatā-vibhāga; Tib. ཆོས་དང་ཆོས་ཉིད་, chos dang chos nyid rnam par 'byed pa) is very brief and direct in its presentation and is included within the class of oral instructions.
- The Sublime Continuum (Skt. Uttaratantra Śāstra; Tib. རྒྱུད་བླ་མ་, Wyl. rgyud bla ma).
Despite his central role in the Mahayana tradition, there are very few canonical texts devoted exclusively to the bodhisattva career of Maitreya, and there are no extended hagiographies concerned with this figure. In the Tibetan Kangyur, we find:
- Maitreya’s Setting Out, an important resource for anyone interested in Maitreya.
There are also a few short sutras, such as:
- The Sutra on Maitreya’s Birth in the Heaven of Joy, and
- The Prophecy of Maitreya (Skt. Maitreyavyākaraṇa), describing the circumstances leading to his awakening, his future appearance in the world, and the methods to apply if one wishes to be reborn close to him at that time.
Other sutras in which previous lives of the bodhisattva Maitreya are recounted include:
- The White Lotus of the Good Dharma (Toh 556),
- The Sublime Golden Light (Toh 557),
- The Question of Maitreya, and
- The Fortunate Aeon: How the Thousand Buddhas Became Enlightened (Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1986), volume 2, page 521-523.
- Hiroshi Nemoto, The Myth of Maitreya in Tibet, Journal of Tibetology, 2015
- Jamgön Mipham, A Garland of Jewels, translated by Lama Yeshe Gyamtso (Woodstock: KTD Publications, 2008)
- Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, pages 125-126.
- Mainly 84000, Introduction to Maitreya's Setting Out