Maitreya is a bodhisattva who Buddhists believe will eventually appear on earth, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma. The Maitreya Buddha will be the successor of the Gautama Buddha or Shakyamuni Buddha. He is predicted to be a “world-ruler,” uniting those who he rules over. Maitreya is comparable to second coming prophecies in other religions, such as the coming of Kalki, the final avatar of Vishnu, in Hinduism, the return of Jesus or the enthronement of the final Pope, Peter the Roman in Christianity, or of Saoshyant in Zoroastrianism.
The Maitreya’s coming coincides with a new school of teaching to surpass that of the original Gautama Buddha. The Maitreya is predicted to attain Bodhi in a single year rather than other prolonged pursuits of enlightenment, which take a minimum commitment of several years.
The Maitreya’s coming is characterized by a number of physical events. The oceans are predicted to decrease in size, allowing the Maitreya to traverse them freely. The event will also allow the unveiling of the “true” dharma to the people, in turn allowing the construction of a new world. The coming also signifies the end of the middle time in which humans currently reside (characterized as a low point of human existence between the Gautama Buddha and the Maitreya).