Miroku Bodhisattva is already prominent in Japan by the 7th century AD. By the 9th century, Miroku becomes extremely popular among believers of the Shingon Sect, a form of Esoteric Buddhism. Founded by Kobo Daishi (774 to 835 AD), the Shingon sect believes that, far in the future, Miroku Bodhisattva will become a Buddha, and then appear on earth to save those unable to achieve enlightenment, thus bringing universal salvation to all sentient beings. Even today, Shingon followers are awaiting Miroku's return, scheduled to occur 5.6 billion years after the death of the Historical Buddha.
Buddha of the Three Worlds
Sanskrit Seed Syllable
for Miroku Bodhisattva
YU in Japan
Jizo promised to remain
in this world until the
advent of Miroku Buddha
Sanskrit, Chinese, and Japanese Spellings
Miroku, The Buddha of the Future. According to Buddhist lore, the Days of the Dharma (Buddhist Law) are divided into three periods, called the Three Periods of the Law (Jp. = 三時 sanji, shouzoumatsu). There are various schemes used to represent the Days of the Dharma, with varying lengths for each period, but the below scheme is the most widely recognized in Japan. Below text gives the Japanese spellings. :
- First phase (Age of Shoubou ), which lasts 500 years. It symbolizes the Turning of the Wheel of the Law (a metaphor for teaching the way to enlightenment); the first phase refers to the spread and acceptance of Buddhist teachings; sometimes known as the "Age of Correct Law."
- Second phase (Age of Zouhou ), which lasts 1,000 years; during this period the practice of the Law begins to deteriorate. Also called the "Age of Copied Law."
- Last phase (the Age of Mappou ), which lasts 3,000 years; during this period, the practice of the Law declines until no one follows the Buddhist tenets; also called the "Age of the Decline of the Law." Commonly spelled in English as "Mappo."
In the very last period, Buddhism will weaken and fade, but a new Buddha will then appear to once again "turn the wheel of the law" and bring universal salvation to all sentient beings. This Future Buddha is Maitreya (Miroku). Technically speaking, Miroku is a Bodhisattva who resides in the Tusita heaven -- the place where Bodhisattva dwell before incarnation -- but Miroku is still considered a Buddha in light of Miroku's impending arrival. This explains why Miroku can be represented as either a Bodhisattva or Buddha. Nonetheless, it is rather unclear why Japan's Shingon Sect believes Miroku Buddha will appear 5.6 billion years following the death of the Historical Buddha. According to the timeframe set forth in the Days of the Dharma, isn't that supposed to be around 4000 AD?
Miroku in Japan. In Japan and Korea, the majority of Miroku artwork depicts Miroku as a Bodhisattva -- not sure if this holds true for Asia in general. Also, in Japan and Korea, the Miroku Bodhisattva is typically shown seated, with the finger of the right hand touching the cheek, as if in deep meditation or musing, and the ankle of the right foot resting atop the left knee. The left hand is typically shown resting on the ankle of the right foot. These are characteristic of Miroku statuary -- indeed, the half-lotus sitting position and cheek-touching gesture are rarely found on other Buddha and Bodhisattva statues. Sometimes Miroku's hands form the Fear Not Mudra and Charity Mudra, much like the Historical Buddha, for Miroku is the future heir to the Buddha of the Present, who is noneother than Shaka Buddha (the Historical Buddha). Since Miroku will return as the Buddha of the Future, statues of Miroku are not generally portrayed with the ornaments, princely clothing, and headdresses found on most Bodhisattva statues. Rather, Miroku Bodhisattva is generally portrayed in a form more akin to a Buddha (i.e., simple clothing, unadorned, without an elaborate headdress).
Jizo Bodhisattva (who appears with Miroku in our Praying Hands model) vowed to remain on earth doing good deeds until the advent of Miroku in the distant future. Along with Kannon Bodhisattva, Jizo is perhaps the most popular deity of the common people in Japan today, a friend to all, never frightening, even to children. Jizo's many manifestations -- often cute and cartoon-like in modern Japan -- incorporate attributes from both Buddhist and Shinto traditions. See the Jizo page for background notes.
Japanese Mantra for Miroku Bosatsu
On Maitareiya Sowaka
LEARN MORE ABOUT MIROKU AT THE
A-TO-Z PHOTO DICTIONARY (SISTER SITE)