|Bhutan's historical Shakyamuni: Buddha Dordenma statue (Michael Foley/blog.dwbuk.org)|
As the last "Himalayan Buddhist Kingdom," now abdicated by the king for the sake of modernization, Bhutan is constructing a massive Buddha statue.
While seen here in the famous Earth-witnessing mudra, which recalls the time the Earrth Goddess Bhumi (Greek, Gaia) saved Siddhartha's, the tendency in Vajrayana Buddhism is to build statues of the future Buddha Maitreya.
The Maitreya Project is an international organization launched in 1990 to construct a 152 meter statue of Maitreya Buddha in the town of Kushinagar in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh near Nepal (which may not be the actual location of the historical Buddha's passing) along with education and healthcare facilities for the local population.
The largest monuments are forward looking in a messianic (Messiah/Mettayya/Maitreya/ and possibly the proto-Christian Indo-Iranian deity Mithra) move to beckon him, Bodhisattva Maitreya, whom the historical Buddha Gautama said is currently living in a world in space known as Tusita, awaiting a time when he will be reborn on Earth to strive for supreme teaching-enlightenment (sammasambuddha-hood).
This is most evident today in the rolling "Relics Tour" efforts of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhists culminating in building the world's most massive statue in Kusinagar (Kusinara), India, where the last buddha attained final-nirvana.
Buddhas do not come back by rebirth, having been freed of that bond by full enlightenment. New ones arise, whether silently or as universal teachers. Until then they are known as bodhsattvas, "beings bent on supreme enlightenment."
|The massive Buddha in the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu: Buddha Dordenma on Changri Kuensel Phodrang at Buddha Viewpoint (Jokertrekker/flickr)|
Buddhist lore states that a bodhisattva, prior to a potential final rebirth, looks down from the Tusita world in space onto Earth in search of specific signs: Does the Dharma (Teaching) still exist? Is the human lifespan sufficient for the average person to attain liberation if they were taught? Do appropriate parents exist? ...
Interestingly, amusingly, Vajrayana Buddhists seem to be confounding those signs with a visible monument that might be visible from space for the future-Maitreya ("Friend") to see. The signs are "seen" psychically, and they appear in accordance with Universal Laws (niyama-dhamma) are announced by devas ("shining ones") in space and on Earth.
So which one is Maitreya?
The most famous and perhaps most beautiful depiction of Maitreya is behind the Himalalyas in Thiksey Lamasery, Ladakh, India. In the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara (Northwest India/Pakistan/Afghanistan/Iran), in the first centuries of the common era in northern India, Maitreya is represented as a Central Asian/Northern Indian noble (kshatriya) holding a "water pot" (kumbha) in his left hand, sometimes a "wisdom urn" (bumpa). He is flanked by his two acolytes, the brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu.