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Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of their Faith, fulfills the prophecies of Buddhism.

Among Baha’u’llah’s messianic claims, the Baha’i International Community, in a statement “prepared at the request of the Universal House of Justice,” included the future Buddha:

He [Baha’u’llah] is the one promised in all the scriptures of the past, the “Desire of all nations,” the “King of Glory.” To Judaism He is “Lord of Hosts”; to Christianity, the Return of Christ in the glory of the Father; to Islam, the “Great Announcement”; to Buddhism, the Maitreya Buddha; to Hinduism, the new incarnation of Krishna; to Zoroastrianism, the advent of “Sháh-Bahrám.”—Baha’i International Community, Baha’u’llah, p. 26.

Similarly, Shoghi Effendi stated that Baha’u’llah is “to the Buddhists the fifth Buddha” (God Passes By, p. 94) and, further:

He [Baha’u’llah] alone is meant by the prophecy attributed to Gautama Buddha Himself, that ’a Buddha named Maitreye, the Buddha of universal fellowship’ should, in the fullness of time, arise and reveal ’His boundless glory’” – God Passes By, p. 95.

The Sanskrit word, “Maitreya” (Pali: Metteya) which means, “The Benevolent One,” simply refers to the future Buddha. Maitreya is the same as the “fifth Buddha.”

There are a number of Buddhist texts foretelling Maitreya. Of these, the most important is the Anāgatavasa (“The Chronicle of the Future [Buddha]”). Of this prophetic text, The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism states:

Anāgatavasa. In Pāli, “Chronicle of Future Events”; a medieval Pāli work in verse detailing the advent of Metteya (Maitreya) Buddha in the far distant future of this auspicious eon. The current eon is deemed auspicious because five buddhas—Maitreya being the fifth—appear during its duration, the maximum number possible. … [T]he Anāgatavasa claims to have been preached to Śāriputra by the Buddha. The text elaborates upon the prophecy of the coming of Maitreya found in the Cakkavattisīhanādasutta of the Dīghanikāya. – Donald S. Lopez, Jr., and Robert E. Buswell, Jr., “Anāgatavasa,” in The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, pp. 251–252.

Scholar K.R. Norman (Professor Emeritus of Indian Studies, Cambridge University) published a new translation of this Buddhist apocalypse in 2006: “The Anāgatavasa Revisited,” Journal of the Pali Text Society 28 (2006): 1–37. Here are a few excerpts to give the reader a fair impression of the nature of these Buddhist prophecies:

105. That Conqueror will be eighty-eight cubits in height. That Teacher’s chest will be twenty-five cubits in diameter.

106–107. The Seer will have wide eyes, thick eyelashes, clear eyes. Not blinking day or night, with his physical eye he will see things, small or large, in all directions for twelve leagues without obstruction. His radiance will stream forth as far as twenty-five [leagues].

133. At that time a lifetime there will be 80,000 years. Remaining so long, [the Buddha] will bring many people to the other shore.

134. When the Perfect Buddha has attained Nibbāna, his Teaching will remain for 180,000 years. After that, there will be a terrible disappearance in the world.

135. Thus, the constituent elements are impermanent, not firm, temporary; existences are transitory, liable to destruction and old age, and empty.

138. Therefore, in order to see the Buddha Metteyya here, act rightly, energetically, firmly, with agitated mind.

139. Those who do good things here and dwell vigilant, monks and nuns, male and female lay followers,

140. … who have performed great auspicious honour to the Buddha[s], they together with the Devas will see the auspicious assembly at that time.

141. Practise the holy life. Give suitable gifts. Keep the observance day. Practise loving kindness carefully.

142. Be those who delight always in being vigilant in meritorious actions. Having done good here, you will make an end of misery. – Translated by K.R. Norman, “The Anāgatavasa Revisited,” pp. 28, 30–32.

The life of the future Buddha, Maitreya, as portrayed above, has many similarities to the traditional life of the historical Buddha, except that the circumstances seem comparatively more extravagant and exalted. The Anāgatavasa is meant, in part, to inspire Buddhists to be “vigilant in meritorious actions” in hope of being reborn in that auspicious future time and place, when Maitreya will transform the world into a Buddhist paradise.

Obviously this particular prophecy is highly unlikely: “At that time a lifetime there will be 80,000 years.” Not humanly possible! Such prophecies tend to use richly symbolic numbers, which operate by way of hyperbole, i.e. figurative exaggeration, to make a point.

As stated in a previous article on the return of Krishna, a prophecy such as this Buddhist prophecy operates as a social mandate—a messianic “job description,” as it were.

Baha’i scholar Moojan Momen has written an excellent article comparing Buddhist and Baha’i teachings. See “Buddhism and the Bahá’í Faith.” Here, Dr. Momen’s comparison of Buddhist and Baha’i teachings is favorable.

There are some doctrinal differences between contemporary Buddhist and Baha’i teachings, of course. That Buddhism today is atheistic—and holds that the “self” or soul is impermanent and ultimately nonexistent—is quite obvious.

Of course, Baha’i teachings are anti-anthropomorphic, and represent God as an “Unknowable Essence.” In other words, God is a Mystery with traces of the Creator throughout creation.

As for the self, Baha’is believe the self is always changing and evolving. In this sense, there is no static “self,” because the self itself is a flowing river of consciousness. In similar ways, later Buddhist texts speak of the “Buddha nature self,” which is the potential in each of us to achieve enlightenment.

For all of its profound psychological teachings, early Buddhism lacked a specific doctrine of social justice. This is not a criticism—it’s simply an observation. In this respect, Baha’u’llah has complemented and supplemented the teachings of the Buddha by bringing clear teachings of social justice.

The claim that Baha’u’llah is Maitreya, the fifth Buddha, is not a matter of certain proof. Buddhists, after all, generally expect the future Buddha to renew and reestablish Buddhism worldwide, in a new era in which Buddhist teachings and practices prevail. Obviously Baha’u’llah was not a Buddhist. The Baha’i teachings, moreover, are not specifically Buddhist, either.

But the fact remains that Baha’u’llah—and a number of essential Baha’i teachings—are qualitatively or equivalently “Buddhist” in spirit and in nature. Absent a similarly worthy candidate, a case can be made for regarding Baha’u’llah as the fifth Buddha, as Buddhists who have embraced the Baha’i Faith can attest, as a matter of personal faith and witness.

11 Comments

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  • Christopher Buck
    Feb 01, 2018
    Aubrey J. Bacon:
    You wrote:
    “Many Taoist sects have already recognised L. Ron Hubbard (scientology religion founder) as the 5th Buddha, Maitreya.”
    Which Taoist sects?
    Or did you mean Buddhist sects?
    In “Hymn of Asia” (written in 1955 or 1956), L. Ron Hubbard ends his poem:
    “Am I Metteyya? I have spoken to you. You will study soon. Meanwhile Good-bye.”  
    There are other Maitreya claimants as well.
    Space does not permit a list here.
    I invite you to compare Baha’u’llah’s message with L. Ron Hubbard’s message.
    • Aubrey J. Bacon
      Jun 04, 2018
      Taoist sects for the most part respect and follow Buddhist teachings. I'm not sure which sects. I heard this from a source who showed me the hymn of Asia; who also told of Buddhist prophecy which calculate his return as being between 1943 and 1957 a.d. Dianetics was released in 1950. I have checked out prophecies validation. Sanskrit sources point to his description mentioning red hair or something to that effect. A bonafide religion claimant I feel has more credibility, and the time is bang on. The only way to know is to observe him for yourself. ... I'm not saying Baha'u'llah is not the return of Christ, I'm just saying that matreyah has a "supportive?" yet seperate role to Christ. Hubbard, like Buddha were not holy.
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  • Aubrey J. Bacon
    Jan 30, 2018
    Many Taoist sects have already recognised L. Ron Hubbard (scientology religion founder) as the 5th Buddha. Maitreya. I have to agree the nature of it is quite Buddhist in approach. Not talking about contemporary Buddhism, but yes still identifiable in today's Buddhism. Advanced of course. It's a bonafide religion folks! So what is it?
  • Rosslyn and Steven Osborne
    Jan 27, 2018
    I am a little surprised that the connection was not clear than portrayed here, and the noted part of social justice. It would be lovely and interesting to hear from those who transitioned from the former to Baha'i? Perhaps a deeper insight to how they were able to make the connection of the Fifth Buddha and embrace Him.... Thank you.
  • Mark David Vinzens
    Jan 26, 2018
    Maitreya's name is derived from the Sanskrit maitri, which means “universal loving- kindness.” May we all become the “The Benevolent One” to each other, the universal Buddha of the future, vehicles of enlightenment and the awakening Christ Consciousness.
  • Christopher Buck
    Jan 26, 2018
    Mark: Most Buddhists view Maitreya as the future (“Fifth”) Buddha. “The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism” states: “Maitreya. … In Sanskrit, “The Benevolent One”; the name of the next buddha, who now abides in TUṢITA heaven as a BODHISATTVA, awaiting the proper time for him to take his final rebirth. Buddhists believed that their religion, like all conditioned things, was inevitably impermanent and would eventually vanish from the earth. … At the conclusion of this long disappearance, Maitreya would then take his final birth in India (JAMBUDVĪPA) in order to reestablish the Buddhist dispensation anew. … Maitreya … evolved … into ...one of the most popular figures in Buddhism across Asia in both the mainstream and MAHĀYĀNA traditions.”
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  • Mark David Vinzens
    Jan 26, 2018
    The Buddha taught that any human can become a Buddha. I suspect that the appearance of the Buddha Matreya doesn't mean a individual person, but the collective breakthrough into a new consciousness. In the same way as the bodhisattva is an ideal type, not a depiction of an historical person.
    • Mark David Vinzens
      Jan 28, 2018
      @ Stephen: „In view of Nichiren Buddhism, each person embodies the character of “the Maitreya” because Maitreya is a metaphor for the function of compassion : “The name Maitreya means ‘Compassionate One’ and designates the Votaries of the Lotus Sutra” Orally Transmitted Teachings p 143.“ (http://sokahumanism.com/)
    • Jan 27, 2018
      That's exactly the Wikipedia part of the Maitreya under the In Nichiren Buddhism section is about. Then, there are the articles for Bodhisattva, Bodhi, Enlightenment in Buddhism, Mahasattva, Bhumi (ground of enlightenment), Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and any other related articles I forgot to mention. Soka Humanism is another website with articles on this topic. Sutras are divided into: Agama/Nikaya/Hinayana/Theravada, Mahayana, Prajanaparamita/Perfection-of-Wisdom, Avatamsaka/Flower-Garland, and Nirvana & Threefold Lotus. This division of sutras must be kept in mind whenever a sutra is quoted. Anyway, all the articles I mentioned earlier have more info on the topic than I can remember off ...the top of my head.
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  • Eðvarð Taylor Jónsson
    Jan 26, 2018
    Very informative. Thanks very much for these excellent articles.
  • Eðvarð Taylor Jónsson
    Jan 25, 2018
    Very informative. Thanks very much for these excellent articles.