Maitreya Buddha Statue

Maitreya, "The Friendly and Benevolent One," or "One Who Possesses Loving-kindness," is widely adored by the Chinese Buddhists for his willingness to grant help to those who direct their minds towards him. He is also known as Ajita, 'the Unconquerable One' and ranks equal with the other great Bodhisattvas such as Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Samanthabadra, Mahasthamaprata and Ksitigarbha. As the next Buddha-to-be he alone enjoys the distinction of being the only Bodhisattva recognized and popularly accepted by both Mahayanist and Theravada countries.

Although he is, strictly speaking, still a Bodhisattva of the ninth stage, the tenth being that of a fully Enlightened Buddha, he is often worshipped as a Buddha in anticipation of his becoming the next Blessed One in the future. Both as Bodhisattva and Buddha he now resides in the Tusita Heaven, where all the Buddha-to-be will always reside; pending their appearance as Buddha on earth to save mankind and thereby traversing the tenth and final stage or 'Bhumi', to attain Supreme Buddhahood for the sake of benefitting all sentient beings.

Generally the Chinese worship him for wealth and happiness and there are those who even believe strongly that he is able to bequeath them with children as one of his most popular forms is that with five children surrounding him. However the images of him that are found in the temples normally depict a fat genial laughing figure with a mountainous belly, in a sitting posture, and having a large bag beside him.

Maitreya Buddha's birthday is celebrated on the 1st day of the 1st moon of the Chinese lunar calendar which coincides with the Chinese New Year Day, a day of joy in which all families traditionally keep pure and holy by avoiding the eating of any meat.

Because of his appearance, many people choose to call him 'The Laughing Buddha'. The future Buddha, called Maitreya, always portrayed as a laughing Buddha, is waiting in Heaven to come to earth and continue Buddhist teachings.

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