Mi-Lo-Fwo -- Maitreya Buddha  

Maitreya, "e Friendly and Benevolent One" or "One Who
Possesses Loving-kindness" is widely adored by the Chinese
Buddhists for his wil ingness to grant help to those who direct
their minds towards him. He is also known as Ajita, `the Un-
conquered' and ranks equal with the other great Bodhisat vas
such as Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Samanthabadra, Mahastham-
aprata and Ksitigarbha. As the next Buddha-to-be he alone en-
joys the distinction of being the only Bodhisat va recognised
and popularly accepted by both Mahayanist and eravadin
Maitreya has taken numerous incarnations in the various Buddhist
countries and China has had quite a fair share of them. Histori-
cal y, the most important amongst them, is said to be that as the
son of a King of Varanise in Central Asia. Record has it that he
was born with the ful thirty-two marks of a superior being who
subsequently became a disciple of Sakyamuni Buddha and was
one of the main interlocutors in the Mahayana Sutras where he
conversed with some of the great disciples of the Buddha.
Although he is, strictly speaking, still a Bodhisat va of the nineth
stage, the tenth being that of a ful y Enlightened Buddha, he is

often worshipped as a Buddha in anticipation of his becoming
the next Blessed One in the future. Both as Bodhisat va and
Buddha he now resides in the Tusita Heaven, the Heavenly
Realm of the Devas, where all the Buddhas-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 benefit-
ting all sentient beings.
Being compassionate, Maitreya always grants help wil ingly to
those who pray to him with faith and the simple prayer to recite
e manner of praying to Maitreya is similar to those methods
as described in the Chapters on Kuan Shih Yin and Amitabha
Buddha. Firm faith, purity of intention and effort will be the
main factors of success of their prayers. Among the many rea-
sons for worshipping Maitreya or Mi-Lo Fwo are these two
most outstanding aspects:
1. To take rebirth in Tusita Heaven, a kind of Pure Land, so as
to receive the teaching of the Dharma.
2. To gain sufficient merits so as to obtain a rebirth during His
appearance on earth, to hear His teachings and be saved by

General y the Chinese worship him for wealth and happiness
and there are those who even believed 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 normal y depict a fat genial
laughing figure with a mountainous bel y, in a sit ing posture,
and having a large bag beside him.
Because of this appearance, many people choose to cal him `e
Laughing Buddha'. Such a depiction by his Chinese devotee is a
far cry from what other Buddhists of other lands imagined him
to be, but this does not mean that the Chinese do not revere
him as much as others do. is portraiture of him came about
as a result of one of his memorable emanations in China during
the end of the Tang period and the beginning of the Wu-Tai
Dynasty (9071060). ere was a learned monk whom every-
one addressed as Pu Tai, meaning `Cloth Bag', as he was always
seen carrying a large hemp bag wherever he went. He was a na-
tive of the Chekiang Province who went about propagating the
Buddha-dharma. No one real y knew his true name although
he had cal ed himself `Chi Tze', and because of his bag, the peo-
ple preferred to refer to him as `the monk with the sack'. Here
he appeared as one who is extremely kind, jovial and helpful
and although he had no home or temple which he could cal his
own, he is always in a cheerful mood. He wandered about here
and there to beg for food, giving advice and teaching to those
who care to hear him, or he could be seen col ecting al kinds
of things which he would put into his bag. To the worldly ones
this act may be reckoned as an act of greed but it real y meant


that he was ever seeking to help deliver beings into his Pure
As the people got to know him bet er they soon discovered that
he was also extremely good at reading their fortune and pre-
dicting the weather. Even by his daily actions they were able to
guess the outcome of the weather conditions for whenever he
was seen hurrying around in wet sandals, rain was sure to fol ow,
and whenever he was seen wearing shoes and relaxing here and
there, bright and sunny days would prevail. He also had many
other peculiarities some of which bore similarities with those of
another famous monk CHI KUNG of the Sung Dynasty. Pu Tai
was often seen to be sleeping very comfortably on the snow dur-
ing the cold winters and at the same time resisted taking a bath
during the hot summers. He died in a sit ing posture at the cor-
ridor of a temple and left behind a verse which said:
"Maitreya is a real Maitreya, who manifests
uncountable transformed bodies.
Constantly he manifests before living beings
who are not able to recognise them."
rough this verse, people later began to accept him as an incar-
nation of the Maitreya Buddha which also explains the accepted
appearance of the current day's depiction of him.
In his many other recorded incarnations in China, he frequently
appeared as great and learned persons whose lives have been re-
corded in many books. e fol owers of the Tien Tao Movement,


an energetic religious Order which embraces all the three great
Chinese religions of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism,
claimed that Maitreya made his appearance in China as their
great teacher at the beginning of this century. However all these
are but the minor transformed bodies of the Great Being whose
real essence is now residing in the Temple of the Palace of the
Seven Jewels of the Tusita Heaven. Buddhists are more con-
cerned with his final incarnation when he ascends to the state of
a Ful y Enlightened Buddha to save countless beings from the
world. In the meantime one should direct his energy to develop
a strong affinity with Maitreya Buddha by reciting his name
daily and living in a virtuous manner.
Maitreya Buddha's birthday is celebrated on the 1st day of the 1st
moon of the Lunar calendar which coincides with the Chinese
New Year Day, a day of joy in which all families traditional y
keep pure and holy by avoiding the eating of any meat.