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Maitreya is 'the Buddha of the future'. He is currently giving teachings to the heavenly beings at his residence in the Tusita heaven and waiting for his time to take the place of Sakyamuni as the Buddha of the fifth world cycle. In the future Maitreya will be like Sakyamuni, a great savior and re-newer to establish on earth a new era and guide the mankind to the path of Buddha. Maitreya, 'the offer joy one' is an important and popular deity who is widely worshipped in the Himalayan and East Asian regions. Because he is also frequently alluded to in Pali exegetical literature, Maitreya is hence the only Bodhisattva recognized throughout Theravadin and Mahayana.
As predicted by Shakyamuni Buddha, due to the inevitable cycle of Samsara (the wheel of life) his teachings would last fifteen thousand years before disappearing from this world. People's immorality, after that, will gradually increase. As the merit of life decrease their life-span and fortune will thus degenerated, the world will result in a vast battlefield of graveyard. After 5670000000 years, as the cycle of lifespan changing from decrease to increase, people's health and spiritual quality will gain positive improvement. As the human lifespan increased again to 80 thousands of years, the world will be entirely dominated by a benevolent wheel-turning sovereign named Shankha. The world in this time will be politically neutralized, and therefore the warrior class and its martial virtues will be obsolete. People will be living in a prosperous society with peaceful and joyful environment. That is the time when Maitreya Buddha will descend from the Tushita heaven to this world. Maitreya will be born the son of a priest, and will renounce the world and attain enlightenment in a single day, unlike Shakyamuni's six-year of practice. Due to the high intellect of the audience, Maitreya will only offer three Dharma lectures to the public. The principle of his teachings will not deviate from any previous Buddhas' Dharma, except for the emphasis in the perfection of liberation techniques. Unlike Shakyamuni's asceticism, Maitreya's followers will not have any material and spiritual obstacle; this new teachings will offer joy and happiness to interpret Dharma for the ultimate enlightenment.
Shakyamuni Buddha has predicted that those who followed Maitreya's teachings would be reborn in the Tusita heaven and would be able to complete the spiritual path under Maitreya's guidance.
A Chinese monk called Shi-Ts (?-916) was believed as an emanation of Maitreya (called Mi-Lo-Fo). His laughing figure with a fat belly uniquely represents Maitreya in China and has been commonly adopted by Vietnamese (called Di-Lac), Korean and Japanese (called Miroku) Buddhist since. This localized transformation is one of the most popular Buddhist figures in East Asia.
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