Miroku Bosatsu, Maitreya Bodhisattva (弥勒菩薩)

Miroku Bosatsu (Maitreya Bodhisattva in Sanskrit) is one of the Buddhas of Buddhism. It is called Jishi Bosatsu, as freely translated from the Sanskrit name. Azana (字), another name, is Ajita and is translated as 無勝等. He was born in Varanasi, India, studied under Shakabutsu and was given a clarification to become Buddha in the future.

The symbol of Sanmayagyo is a tower on a lotus and a wise bottle (suihei, a small water bottle). Shushi, Shuji, Bija in Mikkyo is yu.

Future Buddha

Miroku (Maitreya) is a Bosatsu who is promised to become Buddha next to Gotama Siddhartha (Shakamuni-butsu, Buddha at present); it is said that he appears in the future 5670 million years after Gotama Siddhartha's demise and will bring relief to many people. It is said that he is presently in ascetic training (or that he preaches) at Tosotsuten; the belief in going to Tosotsuten of Miroku Bosatsu (上生信仰) after death was popular in China, Korea and Japan.

Generally, it is believed that Miroku appears 5670 million years later; such enormous years originating from the formula 4000×400×360=576000000, based on the belief that the life of Miroku at Tosotsuten is 4000 years and a day at Tosotsuten equals 400 years in this world (it is thought that 576000000 years changed to 5670000000 years during a later age).

The other old Buddhism sutra asserts that he appears 3000 years later, so that the time when future Buddha appears is not certain in a precise sense; another thesis claims it's a metaphor for 'the distant future.'
It is said that Miroku Bosatsu appears as Brahman in this corrupt world, obtains enlightenment under the Ryuge-ju tree (竜華樹) after becoming a priest in the same way as Siddhartha, and brings people relief by preaching three times (which is called Ryuge-sankai, the three sermons at Ryuge). There is a description in "Maitreyavyakaranas" that he brings relief to 9.6 billion people the first time, 9.4 billion people the second time and 9.2 billion people the third time.

Additionally, he is called Miroku-nyorai or Miroku-butsu by taking in advance the figure of appearance 5670 million years later in some cases. The statue called 'Great Buddha of Trial' at Todai-ji Temple is 'the seated statue of Miroku-nyorai (wooden figure)', which is small at less than 40 cm high, but it looks heavy.

In the faith for Miroku, there are 下生信仰 as well as 上生信仰, and the former was more popular in China. While 上生信仰 is a wish to be relieved again at Tosotsuten of Miroku Bosatsu, 下生信仰 is the faith that we have to be ready for Miroku Bosatsu's appearance 'at present' rather than 5670 million years in the future.

As opposed to 上生信仰, which is similar to the Pure Land Faith, 下生信仰 is a kind of eschatology and a hope for the savior's appearance such as that this world should be changed in accordance with Miroku's appearance (下生). For this reason there were many examples in each period where 下生信仰 was utilized by dissident groups or 下生信仰 groups became anti-establishment. 大乗の乱 of the northern Wei dynasty and Byakuren sect in the northern Sung dynasty, the southern Sung, the Yuan, the Ming dynasty and the Qing dynasty were good examples of them.

During the age of civil war in Japan, the faith that Miroku Bosatsu would appear in this world was popular and the appearance of 'the world of Miroku-butsu' as Utopia in this world was expected. Although it is a kind of messianism, it shows the strong idea of an agricultural people that considers Miroku as a spirit of grain and that the world of Miroku is a peaceful world with a good harvest of rice. Based on this idea, the belief that Miroku's ship came from the Eastern sea spread along the coastal areas of the Pacific Ocean, which can be seen as a style of the Miroku Odori dance (弥勒踊り). During the Edo period it was mixed with the faith for Fuji, and trainees of Fuji-ko and Jikigyo Miroku were seen from 1688 to 1703. Additionally, it is pointed out that peasant revolts, particularly the revolt for social reform, was strongly influenced by the Miroku faith.

観弥勒菩薩上生兜率天経, Maitreyavyakaranas, 弥勒大成仏経 are in some cases called Miroku sanbukyo. Additionally, in the Muryoju-kyo sutra of the Jodo sect, Shakamuni-butsu asked Miroku Bosatsu to preach the Hongwan (本願) of Amitabha Buddha against people in anguish of a later age.

Miroku Bosatsu appears as a future Buddha at the very early stage of Buddhism, and is described in the Agon-kyo sutra. The concept of a future Buddha is thought to have developed from that of the "past seven Buddhas."

Master of Vijnaptimatra

He was one of the founders of Yogacaravada, of India, who preached Vijnaptimatra around 300. He was considered to be the same person as Miroku Bosatsu (mentioned above as a future Buddha) in a legend of a later age. His works are "Yugashijiron," "Daijo-shougonkyoron," "中弁分別論,""現観荘厳論," "法法性弁別論," and so on.

In Tibet it is said that Yugashijiron is made by Muchaku Bosatsu and Kukyoichijohoshoron is made by Miroku Bosatsu, while it is regarded to be made by Kenne Bosatsu (堅慧) in a translation of Chinese.

Relationship with ミスラ神

Another thesis asserts that Miroku Bosatsu was created by incorporating the sun god ミスラ, who had been admired in Western Asia and believed in as Bosatsu, so that its character as the savior stemmed from this.

ミスラ has the same origin as Mitra, which is one of the gods of Aditya (アーディティヤ神群) in Indian mythology and was a god of contracts who was admired in the ancient Aryan civilization. In Zoroastrianism it is one of the middle-class gods, Yazata, and it has an important role as a hero and sun god. On the other hand, in ancient Greece and Rome it was called ミトラース and was admired as the sun god and a hero. In Kusana, ミスラ was called Miiro, a name of Bactrian origin, and it is thought that this form of the word became the origin of Miroku. Although Miiro's character as a god is not known other than as the sun god, Akira SADATAKA assumes that it had a character as a savoir, considering the influence of Manichaeism.

Miroku's Sanskrit name 'Maitreya' has the same origin as the name of ミスラ神. Mitra/miθra' originally meant only 'contract' but later meant 'a sworn friend' with an intimate relationship by contract. Maitreya means 'amicable, friendly and merciful (person)' in its derived adjective and noun.

Milk god
In Okinawa Miroku Bosatsu is called 'the milk god' or 'Milk-san,' and the belief in Miroku is popular.

In a festival, the milk god who wears a mask of milk walks around with a smile.

It is pointed out as being related to Hotei-son, which was considered to be an incarnation of Miroku Bosatsu.

Statues of Miroku Bosatsu

While in India Miroku Bosatsu was shaped as a statue having suihei in his hand, in China it was shaped as a statue sitting cross-legged on a chair until the Tang and was shown as a corpulent figure of Hotei, an incarnation of Miroku after the Yuan and Ming dynasties. On the other hand, during the Asuka period in Japan it was shaped as a hanka-shiyui image (半跏思惟像). It is a figure meditating with the right foot on the left knee and the right hand softly on the cheek, being seated on a chair.
The gold-and-bronze statue of Yachu-ji Temple in Osaka (an important cultural property) is the oldest hanka-shiyui image having the inscription 'Miroku Bosatsu.'
The Miroku Bosatsu statue of Koryu-ji Temple in Kyoto (a wooden statue) is especially well known and is designated as a national treasure (see Bangasayusang). However, a hanka-shiyui image is not always a statue of Miroku Bosatsu. In the Heian and Kamakura periods, no hanka-shiyui image would be seen, but standing or seated images were produced. The wooden statue of Daigo-ji Temple in Kyoto, made by Kaikei, is a good example.

The statues of Miroku Nyorai, such as the wooden statue of Todai-ji Temple in Nara (known as the 'Great Buddha of Trial,' an important cultural property) mentioned above, and the statue of Taima-dera Temple Kondo (made during the Nara period and now a national treasure) and the wooden statue shaped by the Unkei group of Kofuku-ji Temple Hokuendo (a national treasure) are known.

Mantra, Shingon

Aum Maitreya svaahaa

The statue of Hotei

The priest Hotei-son, who is known in Japan as one of the seven deities of good luck, is considered to be an incarnation of Miroku in China; he is enshrined and depicted as a relaxed figure with a smile and a fat stomach, as Miroku Nyorai appeared in this world at the front of the Buddhist hall.

[Original Japanese]