A Bhadra kalpa is a long geological period of time, when five Buddhas appear in the world. The Buddhas Kakusanda, Konagama, Kasyapa and Gautama, have already appeared, and the one to come is Buddha Metteyya (Maitreya), the last in the lineage of Buddhas, whose Sasana is said to exist for 80,000 years. The life- span of the present Buddha’s Sasana is only 5,000 years of which 2,545 years have already lapsed.
According to the ‘puranas’ (sacred books of the Hindus), the long phases of geological time are governed by mythical periods of solar variance, known as ‘kirita-yuga’ (1,728,000 years), ‘Treta uga’ (1 ,296,000 years), ‘Dwapara-yuga’ (864,000 years) and ‘kali-yuga’ (432,000 years), These four ‘yugas’ conjointly make one Maha yuga (4,320,000 years), 71 ‘Maha-yugas’ make one ‘Manvantaras (306, 720,000 years) and 1,000 Manvantaras’ make one ‘kalpa’, Le., approximately 306,720 million solar years. All periods of Buddaha’s time have been reckoned by ‘kalpas’ (eons).
The present ‘Kali-yuga’ (time period) is attributed to a period of gradual degeneracy of moral, marked with low estimation of human conduct, continued deterioration of the human values, slow disappearance of righteousness, and giving rise to viciousness, resulting in injustice, deviation from truth, covetousness, sexual misconduct, crime, cruelty, terrorism etc. Only the appearance of a Buddha can put things in a proper social order, for the well-being of mankind. In the Anagathavamsa desana the Buddha, spoke about human conduct under such ignoble conditions, and said “Dasavassesu kesu, bhikkhave, manussesu panca masika kumarika alampatheiya bhavissati” (The life span of a person, my bhikkus, will not exceed ten years, and marriages will be solemnized when girls attain the age of five months). Kinship will not be a taboo for cultural tidings and passionate desires and any man will marry any woman regardless of relationship.
The treatise Anagathavamsa desana (which gives an account of the future Buddha Metteyya) is said to have been written by the erudite scholar Kassapa (1160-1230). Some have ascribed the book to the Ven. Wilgammula Maha Thera, who had written it at the request of king Parakramabahu IV (1303-1333), during the Kurunegala period. The commentaries on Jataka stories refer to Bodhisatta Metteyya in the Tusitha celestial abode, and Pali chronicles mention that Sinhala kings had honoured the Bodhisatta, and aspired to meet him and listen, to his discourses, to attain Nlbbana, a total state of extinction from desires and suffering.
The present Buddha Gautama, addressed one of his two chief disciples, Ven. Sariputta, and said: “When Buddha Muhurtha alias Padu Muttara (the 12th in the lineage of Buddhas) appeared in the world, the universal monarch Prabhavanta received his initiation’ to become a Buddha, having perfected the ten ‘paramitas’ (perfections) necessary to become a Bodhisatta. (These are transcendental virtues practiced by Bodhisatta to gain Enlightenment, i.e., Samma Sambodhi. After his death, the monarch Prabhavanta, would be born in the Tusitha heaven, as Bodhisatta Metteyya awaiting an opportunity to descend to the earth and become a Buddha.”
Thusita is the Heaven of Satisfaction, and the fourth of the six celestial abodes, the other five being Catummaharajika, Thavatimsa, Yama, Nimmanarati and Paranimmita-vasavatti. It is said that Bodhisattas are reborn in the Tusitha heaven, just before their last birth in the human world, when they will attain Enlightenment. Gotama Buddha was also born in the Tusitha heaven as Bodhisatta Setaketu, before appearing in the world.
The ten ‘paramitas’ are to be developed and brought to maturity by the Bodhisattas in their past existences, and how to practice them is illustrated in numerous Jataka stories and are regarded as canonical. They are ‘dana’. (generosity), ‘si/a’ (morality) ‘nekkhamma’ (renunciation), ‘panna’ (wisdom), ‘viriya’ (energy), ‘khanti’ (patience), ‘sacca’ (truthfulness), ‘adhittana’ (determination), ‘metta’ (loving-kindness) and ‘upekkha’ (equanimity). According to the Cariya Pitaka commentary, ‘parami’ are those virtues which are cultivated with compassion, guided by reason, uninfluenced by selfish motives, and unsullied by misbilief and all feelings of self-conceit.
According to the Anagathavamsa desana (Discourse on the future Buddha), “Buddha Metteyya, having made the great five surveys (‘panca-maha-vi/okana), i.e., the continent, the country, the time, the caste and the mother, will descend to the earth, at the right time, and conceive in the womb of Brahmawathie, the Brahmin consort of Subrahma, the chief priest (‘agra purohitha’) of the univereal monarch Sankha, whose kingdom will be Ketumati (the present Benares). During her gestation period of ten months, she will be protected by the ‘devas’ (deities), and she will observe the five precepts (‘pancaseelaJ, without a breach, during pregnancy, “with the Bodhisatta seated cross-legged inside her womb”.
As the great child is born, he will be named Ajitha, and will bear the 32 marks common to Buddhas. The ‘devas’ present at the time will address the mother saying “Rejoice, 0 Great Lady, for mighty is the son born to you. In his young days, the child will live in four palatial mansions named Sirivadda, Vaddhamana, Siddhatta and Candaka. He will enjoy all the luxuries of life, and in his youth will marry the beautiful damsel Candamukhi of equal age. Both will enjoy conjugal harmony akin to the ‘devas’, and life on earth will be similar to that of the celestial abodes. Their child will be named Brahma vaddana.
At the age of 18 years, the prince will renounce the world after seeing the four signs, viz: an old man, a sick man, a dead man and a contented man (a hermit) who had gone forth from lay life. These same signs made the present Buddha Gautama to renounce the world at the age of 29 years). This yellow-robed recluse Ajitha, better known as Bodhisatta Metteyya, will sit under a ‘nuga’ (Ficus bengalensis), and strive for seven days to attain Buddhahood.
The Dasabodhisatta·uddesa states the ‘devas’ of the ten thousand world systems will take flowers and honour the Bodhisatta in his effort to release from human bondage and suffering. The king of the ‘asuras’ (demons), Vysravana or Vesamuni will guard the palace. The king of the Nagas will offer him a precious gem, the king of the Suppannas will offer him a jewelled necklace, and the king of the Gandhabbas will honour him with music and dancing.
In the Mahavamsa (ch.32:81-84) it is stated that the Metteyya Buddha’s chief disciples will be king Dutugemunu and his brother Saddha Tissa. His parents will be king Kavantissa and his consort Viha~amaha-devi. King Dutugemunu’s son Saliya will be the son of prince Ajitha, prior to renunciation. The Thupavamsa too makes a similar forecast. The Anagathavamsa desana gives a different story. It says that the two Chief Disciples of the Buddha Metteyya will be Asoka ana Brahma deva. His chief attendant (‘purohitha’) will be Maha Thera Seeha. His chief female disciples will be Maha Theri Paduma and Sumana. His two male attendants will be
Sudhanna and Sangha, and the two female attendants will be Yasawathie and Sanghi.
According to the Mahayana tradition, the Metteyya Bodhisatta Avalokitheswara Natha, now dwelling in Thusita heaven, is expounding the Dhamma (doctrine) to the celestial cohorts of the inner celestial mansion. He will appear in the world, several million years later, after the existing Sasana of Buddha Gautama becomes defunct. The popular belief among the Buddhists in Sri Lanka is that god Natha (one of the four guardian gods of the island), will make his appearance in the world as Buddha Metteyya. Hence, he is honoured above other gods of the Buddhist pantheon.
The Buddha Metteyya will preach his first discourse and proclaim his doctrine in Nagavana (the Snake Grove) at Isipatana near Ketumati, and king Sankha will be present to hear the sermon. Many are supposed to attain penetration (‘ abhisamaya’) into the Four Noble Truths. The king Sankha will give his Jewelled palace to the disciples of the Buddha Metteyya. People will be ordained with the words ‘ehi bhikkhave’ (Come 0 bhikku!). In the Digha Nikaya it is said that just as Buddha Gautama was accompanied by hundreds of bhikkus, ‘Buddha Metteyya will be accompanied by thousands in number”.
According to the Anagathavamsa desana, those who qualify themselves to meet the Buddha Metteyya are “those who do meritorious deeds, who observed ‘siI’ on uposatha days, who observed ‘vas’ (religious retreat), who observed celibacy, who built cetiyas and reliquaries, plant Bodhi trees, renovate temples a other religious edifices, and write religious books, and those who work for the establishment of the Sasana.”