The Coming Buddha, Ariya Metteyya

Sayagyi U Chit Tin


INTRODUCTION

Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahatto Sammasambuddhassa

We have gathered here all the information we could find in the Theravada tradition concerning the coming Buddha.[1] In Burma and Sri Lanka, the coming Buddha is generally spoken of as Ariya Metteyya, the Noble Metteyya.[2] The term Ariya was already added to the name in some post-canonical Pali texts, and it shows the deep respect felt for the Bodhisatta who will attain Awakening in the best of conditions. Indeed, all aspects of his career as a Buddha rank among the highest achievements of Buddhas of the past as recorded in the Buddhavamsa (The Chronicle of Buddhas).

It is only natural that over the years many people have aspired to meet Buddha Ariya Metteyya-not only because it has become less common for people to attain Awakening, but also because of a natural desire to encounter such a rare occasion. In his introduction to his edition and translation of the Dasabodhisatt-uppattikatha (The Birth Stories of the Ten Bodhisattas), Ven. H. Saddhatissa has given several texts included in Pali commentaries and chronicles and in Sinhalese Buddhist texts in which the writers express the wish to meet the coming Buddha.[3]

The commentary on the Jataka stories ends with a poem in which the writer aspires to be with the Bodhisatta Metteyya in the Tusita Deva world and to receive a sure prediction of future Buddhahood from him when he becomes a Buddha.[4] Sinhalese versions of the Visuddhimagga end with a poem in which the writer aspires to rebirth in the Tavatimsa Deva world and then to final liberation under Buddha Metteyya.[5] Ven. Sadhatissa attributes these verses to Ashin Buddhaghosa, but they seem to be written by a copyist. Another aspiration to encounter Buddha Metteyya is found at the end of Sinhalese manuscripts of Ashin Buddha- ghosa's Atthasalini.[6]

Ven. Saddhatissa also cites many instances from the Pali chronicles (Mahavamsa and Culavamsa) in which Sinhalese kings honoured Metteyya.[7] King Dutthagamani of the second century B.C. was considered to be destined to become the next Buddha's chief disciple.

Royalty and high-ranking officials in Burma often made similar aspirations. This seems to have led to building pagodas with five sides at Pagan. Paul Strachan points out that with the Dhamma-Yazika (Dammrazik) Pagoda, completed in 1196 by King Sithu II, "The addition of a fifth side to temple and stupa ground plans in Burma is without precedent throughout the Buddhist world and the Burmese were possibly the first society throughout the world to attempt this pentagonal type of plan for a major architectural work. The origins of this movement lie in contemporary religious thought: the cults of Mettaya, the future buddha, and the present cycle of five buddhas."[8] Two thirteenth-century inscriptions at the temple in Buddha Gaya record that repairs on the temple were carried out through the generosity of King Kyawswa of Burma, and the concluding verse is an aspiration to become a disciple of Buddha Metteyya.[9] As in Sri Lanka, many Buddhist texts end with the aspira- tion to meet Buddha Ariya Metteyya.

Just as the future Buddha Metteyya became more important for Buddhists as the centuries went by, many of the texts giving infomation about him are fairly late. The Anagatavamsa is said to have been written by the author of the Mohavicchedani, Ashin Kassapa (1160-1230 A.D.)[10] It is very difficult to know how far back information goes when it is given in the Pali commentaries, sub-commentaries, chronicles, and other texts written down after the canon. We have given all the information available to us that is part of the Theravada tradition, but we must be careful to remember that texts such as the Dasabodhisattuppattikatha (The Birth Stories of the Ten Bodhisattas), the Dasabodhisattauddesa, the Dasavatthuppakarana, and the Sihaavatthuppakarana seem to contain information that was added at a relatively late date. This is especially evident in the many variants in various texts for names and numbers.

It takes more than just a wish if a person is to encounter a Buddha and attain Nibbana, however. Sayagyi U Ba Khin taught his meditation students that they must practise Sila, Samadhi, and Panna (virtue, concentration, and wisdom) as Buddha Gotama taught we should. Sayagyi U Ba Khin made every effort to make sure that his own practice and what he taught was consistent with what his teachers passed on to him and with the Teachings of the Buddha in the Pali canon and commentaries.

There are many pressures in the world today to modify the Teachings of the Buddha. The Buddha foresaw that this would happen and warned his disciples to be careful to maintain the practice just as he had taught them. Ven. Maha-Kassapa convened the First Buddhist Council shortly after the Buddha's demise in order to rehearse the Teachings. The Sangha has kept these Teachings intact over the centuries, and the Sixth Buddhist Council, held in Burma in 1954-1956, was the most recent effort to make sure the three collections of texts (Tipitaka) are kept pure.

Sayagyi U Ba Khin repeated the Burmese tradition that those who live in accordance with these Teachings will meet Buddha Ari Metteyya. It is even believed that the coming Buddha's power will be such that he will be able to reach people who have lived up to the Teachings in this life but who have done deeds in the past which lead to their being born in lower realms before he comes. Some hints of this are found in Pali texts which show the power of sharing merits.

Sayagyi also often repeated a saying of the Buddha's found in Dhammapada verse 354: Sabbadanam dhammadanam jinati. "The gift of the Dhamma surpasses all other gifts." This, of course, does not mean that we should not give material gifts. Sayagyi himself was always very generous with gifts to the Sangha and others. But the gift of the Dhamma can only be given while the Teachings of a Buddha are available, and by laying emphasis on this quotation of the Buddha's, Sayagyi reminded us that we must never become so involved in material considerations that we neglect the most important gift of all. (See also paragraph 2, page 12 below. If we assume that Bodhisatta Metteyya's last human life before attaining Buddhahood is during a Buddha's Dispensation, he would be able to give the gift of the Dhamma, unlike Vessantara, who lived outside such a period.)

May all make the right effort here and now in this life so that they will attain Nibbana!


Introduction to the Revised Edition

This new edition includes corrections and additions to the first two editions. We wish to thank Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi was his suggestions for this second revision of our text. For reasons of space, we have not included the Pali text of the Anagatavamsa. Mother Sayamagyi and I were pleased that the first revised edition of this text was included among the publications marking the tenth anniversary of our coming out of Burma to continue our work in teaching the Buddha-Dhamma in the tradition of our esteemed teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin. We hope that this new edition in the Wheel series will make the text available to a larger audience.

Sayagyi U Chit Tin
International Meditation Centre
Heddington, Calne, U.K.
October 12, 1992

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FOOTNOTES:

  1. One text, the Mahasampindanidana, was not available to us. For the story in it concerning Ven. Maha-Kassapa, see Dbk, pp. 43-45. According to this text, the body of an Arahat name Kassapa who lived after the time of the Buddha Kassapa is inside Kukkutasampata Mountain and will come out at the time of the next Buddha to be cremated then. Some works which include discussions of the material found in Pali texts have not added any new information, and so are not quoted. See, for example, Emile Abegg,Der Messiasglaube in Indian und Iran (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1928); Emil Abegg, 'Der Buddha Maitreya,' Mitteilunger der Schwizerischen Gestellschaft der Freunde Ostasiasticher Kultur, VIl (1945), pp. 7-37. For a discussion of the importance of Metteyya in Sri Lanka, see Culte, pp. 86-96.
  2. The name is also shortened in Burma to Arimetteyya.
  3. See pp. 32-43.
  4. These verses are given in Pali and English in Dbk, pp. 381. They are not included in the English translation of the Jataka.
  5. The Path of Purification, pp. 837f. and Dbk, p. 40.
  6. Expos., p. 542.
  7. See Dbk, pp. 42f.
  8. Pagan, Art and Architecture of Old Burma (Whiting Bay: Kiscadale Publications, 1989), p. 122. See also p. 32.
  9. See Dipak K. Barua, Buddha Gaya Temple: Its History (Buddha Gaya Temple Management Committee, 1981), pp. 195-200.
  10. According to the Gandhavamsa (61, 1). See K.R. Norman, Pali Literature (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1983), pp. 147, 161.



Published by the Sayagyi U Ba Khin Memorial Trust, IMC-UK, Splatts House, Heddington, Calne, Wiltshire SN11 0PE, England,
Tel: +44 1380 850 238, Fax: +44 1380 850 833.
Registered Charity No 280134.

This publication is one of several marking the tenth anniversary of Mother Sayamagyi and Sayagyi U Chit Tin's
coming out of Burma to continue their work in the Tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin
by teaching the Buddha-Dhama in the West.
 

The gift of the Dhamma surpasses all other gifts. 

Dedicated to our much revered teacher the late Sayagyi U Ba Khin (Thray Sitthu)
to mark the 89th anniversary of his birth in March 1899.

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Source: Sayagyi U Ba Khin Memorial Trust, IMC-UK,