By Laura Ellis
On February 2nd 2019, H.E. Khöndung Avikrita Vajra Rinpoche bestowed the Maitreya initiation from the lineage of the Indian master Asanga’s pure vision. Rinpoche described Maitreya as the bodhisattva who made the determination to realize the Dharma and keep it relevant for our future. Lord Buddha Shakyamuni prophesized that Maitreya will be the future Buddha, abiding in the Tushita Heaven until the Dharma has faded from our world. Maitreya will then ascend to the World of Endurance to teach the Dharma.
The initiation that Rinpoche bestowed was intended to awaken the Maitreya within us. Reciting the Majestic Aspiration of Maitreya, Rinpoche explained, is a way to bring all the factors of the Mahayana to the forefront of our minds so, by reciting Maitreya’s words, which include the entire Mahayana Path, we will attain bodhi.
Rinpoche told the story of how this initiation originated with the fourth century Indian Mahapandita Asanga. Asanga was receiving an empowerment from his guru. At the time during the empowerment when it came to offer a flower in the sand mandala, the flower landed on the side figure of Maitreya. This was a portent that it would be beneficial for Asanga to meditate on Maitreya. Therefore, he meditated on the Maitreya practice for many years in caves.
Rinpoche explained that the Vajrayana is for those who have so much love and compassion that they resolve to save all of their loved ones and all sentient beings. He reflected that Asanga had an incredible brain – he had memorized all of the sutras and texts, but he knew that he hadn’t realized the transcendent meaning. Therefore, he undertook the Vajrayana practice of Maitreya in twelve years of retreat that didn’t seem to bear fruit. Upon leaving the retreat, while he was walking down the mountain he saw a dog with a wound that was infected with maggots and felt great compassion. The dog then disappeared and became Maitreya, and Asanga realised that this one moment of compassion transformed everything.
This Maitreya initiation that Rinpoche bestowed came from Asanga’s pure vision. He explained that while our true nature is Buddhahood, we don’t recognize it because the impact of our afflictions overwhelms us. Having recognized the root of our problem, who can help us? Only a perfectly complete Buddha, an unconditioned being with boundless love has the knowledge and skill to help us. The medicine is the Holy Dharma. The Sangha are the nurses to our healing.
Although Maitreya is the future Buddha, Rinpoche cautioned that we can’t wait around for him to solve our problems. In the ultimate reality we are already Buddhas. We have to embrace the determination that we can be Maitreya here and now. The most powerful meditation is that of love and compassion. We need to clear every trace of aggression from our hearts and so, by practicing, we bring benefit to ourselves and others just like Maitreya.