By Dr. Young Oon Kim
From World Religions, Vol. 2
The Coming Buddha
The Coming Buddha Until recently, almost no Buddhist scholar, Western or Eastern, would term Buddhism messianic. While all books on the religion mentioned briefly the traditional hope in a Buddha-to-come, no one felt that it deserved more than passing notice. Messianism, however, has reappeared in contemporary Theravada Buddhism, especially in Burma.
According to Buddhist scripture, Gautama predicted that at some future time another Buddha would come to help men set up an ideal kingdom of righteousness and peace. The coming Buddha is called Mettaya, (Sanskrit: Maitreya) meaning "love." In Theravada temples he is portrayed as a king rather than a monk because of his role as a ruler in the new world order. Most of the time the Maitreya hope has not been a major part of Buddhist piety. However, when Theravada monks and laymen were freed from colonial subjection after World War II, in the excitement of win- ning their independence, a new age seemed at hand. If the first 2500 years was a time of toil and trial for them, the next 2500 years would be filled with dazzling victories.
In one of his speeches Dharmapala briefly explained the Maitreya hope. The present cosmic aeon is called the great good one because four Buddhas have already come and a fifth is expected when a new race of men appears. The present human race will continue to deteriorate; righteousness will gradually disappear as injustice, cruelty and lust increase. This aeon (Kaliyuga) will last for 2,500,000 years, and then will begin the dawn of a new era. Men as we know them now will gradually die off but the remnant will provide the nucleus for a better race to come. The next Buddha, declared Dharmapala, would be born at Benares in a family of Brahmin caste. With his advent a reign of perfect righteousness will commence. There will no longer be any killing, stealing, adultery, drunkenness, filth or mud huts. The cities will all be lighted; parks and gardens will abound. Then, man will enjoy heaven on earth.
However, Burmese nationalists today believe in an imminent messianic age without the advent of a personal messiah. Premier U Nu reminded his fellow countrymen of man's original bliss in a long-lost Paradise. According to an old Burmese tale, in the early days of our world there was a magic tree whose fruit gave people everything they needed. Everybody was happy, until a few men got greedy. When the covetous grabbed more than their share at the expense of their brethren, the magic tree promptly disappeared. According to the Burmese statesman, Buddhist socialism could lead the nation back to the perfect age of the magic tree. Paradise will reappear because Burmese leftists will restore society to one based on needs alone. Certain aspects of Maitreya messianism deserve brief consideration. First of all, Buddhists clearly distinguish between Gautama and Maitreya. In Buddhist eschatalogy, Gautama is not expected to return; Maitreya is a different person whose mission and status are identical to that of Gautama. According to the oldest texts, Buddha does not promise to come back; what he promises is that Maitreya will become the next Buddha whose success will be far greater than his own. Also, Maitreya will bring to fulfillment the Buddhist Dhamma and inaugurate an era of cosmic bliss; he will do so as a teacher and holy man. As the Dialogues of the Buddha report, Maitreya will be "fully awakened, full of wisdom and a perfect guide, himself having trodden the path to the very end; with knowledge of the worlds, unsurpassed as an educator, teacher of gods and men, an Exalted Buddha.... From his own understanding and penetration of it, he will proclaim (the nature of) this universe...and (the nature of) living beings. And he will proclaim the teaching that is lovely in its origin, lovely in its progress, and lovely in its consummation...the higher life will be made known in all its fullness and in all its purity.... He will be the head of an order of many thousand monks, just as in the present period I (Gautama) am the head of an order of many hundred."
In the past Buddhism offered to the Orient the hope for the highest kind of individual contentment based on liberation from worldly cares. Without denying this supreme goal, Buddhists today stress the value of creating a just and prosperous social order. This is the necessary prerequisite for the pursuit of the higher joys of the spirit; only in a just environment will men have the security and leisure they need for spiritual advancement. Gautama Buddha and Maitreya Buddha actually complement each other, the first reminding us of individual self-perfection, the second challenging us to bring about the messianic age of justice and material abundance for all.
The Buddhist Satan
Books on Buddhism written for Westerners pay scant attention to the fact that Buddhists believe in a personal devil. Nevertheless, the Evil One whom the Christians call Satan appears in Buddhism as Mara, the lord of misfortune, sin, destruction and death." Mara is the ruler of desire and death, the two evils that chain man to the wheel of ceaseless rebirth. Mara reviles man, blinds him, guides him toward sensuous desires; once man is in his bondage, Mara is free to destroy him.
Buddhist tradition holds that Buddha encountered Mara on several occasions. When he abandoned the traditional ascetic practices of Hinduism, Mara reproached him for straying from the path of purity. Mara later reappeared as a Brahmin, criticising him for neglecting the techniques of the yogins. At another time, Mara persuades householders in a village to refuse to give alms to the Buddha. Mara also accuses Buddha of sleeping too much, and not keeping busy like the villagers.
In a famous incident similar to Jesus' temptation, Mara urges Buddha to become a universal king and establish a great empire in which men can live in peace. He reminds Buddha that he can turn the Himalayas into gold if he but wishes so that all men will become rich. Buddha replies that a single man's wants are so insatiable that even two such golden mountains would fail to satisfy him."
While Mara is unable to subjugate Buddha, he is more successful with Buddha's followers. As the source of evil, he causes misunderstanding between teachers and pupils, casts doubt on the value of Buddha's sayings by calling them nothing but poetry, or encourages monks to waste their time on abstruse speculations. Worse, he appears in the guise of a monk, nun, relative or prominent Brahmin, bringing false news that a disciple is destined to be a new Buddha. If the disciple succumbs to the temptation, he will be filled with sinful pride. Mara could even appear in the form of Gautama Buddha in order to confuse Buddhists or lead them astray.
Mara is lord of all men who are bound by sense desires. His origin, according to Theravada commentators, was as a rebellious prince who seized control of our world from the supreme god of the highest heaven. As prince of this world, Mara can boast of possessing great majesty and influence. Though he has only a spirit body, he is endowed with the five modes of sensual pleasure, has plenty to eat and drink, and lives to amuse himself.
Besides controlling a host of servants and a vast arm of demons, Mara has wives, three daughters and five sons. His daughters are named "craving " "discontent," and " passion," and appear as beautiful and seductive young women whose chief ambition in life is to ensnare monks. Nevertheless, for Buddhists, sooner or later all living souls, even Mara, will attain Nibbana.'
Because many scholars do not believe in a personal Satan, they imply that Buddha's references to Mara are mere figures of of speech; but the Buddhist texts do not necessarily imply anything of the sort. In Theravada countries, veneration of good spirits and the placation of evil spirits are characteristic Buddhist practices. For example, the Burmese hang a coconut tied with a bit of red cloth near their home altars as an offering to the spirits. Special dances are also performed during the winter harvest season, during which a participant becomes "possessed" by spirits in order to bless the crops."
Buddhism has a specific, living prince of evil; but Budhist writers take pains to point out, it has no Adam and Eve story and no doctrine of original sin. Yet for Buddhists, the present state of human existence is "fallen" in that men are caught in a web of illusion, and long for liberation. Even though, according to Buddhist theory, men have not inherited the guilt flowing from an original sin, they are still trapped in a present state of suffering as result of evil committed in numerous past lives. Buddhism and Christianity agree that man is far from what he should be and his world is subject to the control of a malicious spirit, a powerful king of desire.
Ref. 1 Quote: Ford sitting 1965
From the east comes mysticism - a willingness to be absorbed in God - God is not something apart - he is something within. From the south comes all the beauty, the ritual - these things which adorn and make beautiful the message. From the north came rational thought clear thinking - reformation - and change. From the west came the critical, scientific analysis.
And now in the New Age, it is an age of orchestration - of a symphony - of unity. And the New Teacher will be neither Christian, Buddhist, Moslem, or anything else. The Holy Spirit speaks in universal terms - and God will no longer be fragmented. God will be the one God - who sent forth his Son not once but many times.
Ref. 2 Divine Principle