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臺南市北區開元寺彌勒佛(陳美華攝)

彌勒是梵文Maitreya的音譯,意思是「慈氏」。按照佛教的理解,彌勒佛目前並未成佛,而是菩薩。由於佛陀預言彌勒佛是自己在這世界的接任者,因此彌勒佛應作彌勒菩薩,也稱「未來佛」或「當來下生彌勒尊佛」。彌勒佛的全名應作彌勒阿逸多,彌勒是他的姓。佛教描述彌勒佛下降世界時,一共講經說法三次,是為龍華三會,第一次說法時會有九十六億人成為阿羅漢,第二次九十四億人,第三次九十三億人。當時的世界五穀豐登,人類皆高大長壽,是地球上的新時代。因此,彌勒佛降世對信仰者而言,他的龍華會就代表著未來的此世天堂,彌勒也就具有新聖王的意義。結果自六起,彌勒信仰即流行中國,在政治上既被君王用來作為聖王的宣傳,也被有心人用以動大眾叛亂,與民間宗教新教派的興起有關。釋迦退位,彌勒接掌的說法便從原有的宗教意涵,變成具有十足政治意味的宣言。結果自北末起至明、清,彌勒始終是佛教裡備受政治操作的人物之一,元的白蓮教也變成彌勒信仰叛亂教派的原型和代稱。
另一方面,彌勒佛也始終有著另一條脈絡維繫著他和中國民間的關係,這是藉由他的轉世。傳說六一位與梁武帝交好的居士傅大士,即是彌勒菩薩的化身。後來五代時在浙江寧波一帶,有一位名契此的布袋和尚,更成為我們目前熟悉的彌勒佛形象來源。傳說布袋和尚出門總是手持扙,背著個布袋、破蓆子,四處向人乞食為生,號長汀子,少言語,無論到了那裡,多以神通開導世人,說完話即圓寂,卻又有人在其它地方見到他,於是大家競相立其像供奉。有布袋和尚歌傳世:「只箇心心心是佛,十方世界最靈物。縱橫妙用可憐生,一切不如心真實。騰騰自在無所為,閑閑究竟出家兒。若覩目前真太道,不見纖毫也大奇。法何殊心何異,何勞更用尋經義。心王本自絕多知,智者只明無學地。」依其歌詞內容,布袋和尚宣傳的佛教大致與宋之後的禪宗發展相同。
受希臘化佛教影響,彌勒的造形最早在中亞時深具希臘的塑像風格,身材瘦高,頭頂花冠或桂冠。傳入中國之後,彌勒的造形即逐漸中國化,至今已普遍成為滿臉笑容又大肚的造型。目前臺灣民間,除了部份佛教寺院以彌勒佛為主祀神外,最主要的信仰者是一貫道一貫道認為其十七祖路中一乃是彌勒佛降世,全台灣各地顯著的彌勒佛造像多由一貫道所設立。此外,彌勒佛也普為店家供奉,多作笑臉迎人狀,放置於門口或明顯的地方,主要是作為財神。
 
關鍵詞:彌勒佛、彌勒菩薩、未來佛、布袋和尚
 
考書目
 
  1. 何勁松主編。2003。《布袋和尚與彌勒文化》北京市:宗教文化出版社。
  2. 汪娟。1990。〈唐代彌勒信仰硏究〉中國文化大學中國文學研究所碩士論文。
  3. 張文良。2001。〈彌勒信仰述評〉,收於《中國佛教學術論典》第二十二冊。台北:佛光出版社。
  4. 黃柏棋。2005。〈古代印度與儒家的神聖秩序觀:以彌勒思想的救世觀之轉變為例 〉。《世界宗教學刊》,5:1-58。
  5. 楊惠宇。2005。〈彌勒信仰與輪王政治〉港:中文大學學位論文。

Mile Fo (彌勒佛), Maitreya, is a Chinese popular deity which originates from Buddhism. His surname Mile is a transliteration of the Sanskrit word Maitreya which is derived from the word maitrī meaning loving and kindness. Though Fo (佛) means Buddha in Chinese, Maitreya is not a Buddha at present but a bodhisattva who will be the successor of Śākyamuni (釋迦牟尼), the founder of Buddhism. In Chinese, Mi le Fo is called the Future Buddha (未來佛), or the Will-Be-Venerable Buddha Mile (當來下生彌勒尊佛) also.
One important aspect of Mile Fo’s idea is about the eschatology. Regarding to some Buddhist scriptures, once Maitreya comes to this world and enlighten as a Buddha, this world will be a wonder land or a paradise. All the people are long-lived, tall, and handsome or beautiful. There is no any disease and famine. It is a brand new era. Maitreya will preach the dharma three times and enlighten billions of people. This new era’s image is so brilliant and attractive to Chinese in Six Dynasties and the following dynasties. As a result, the belief on Maitreya’s coming becomes very popular in China from that time. Both the men of political ambition and the leaders of various cults took the image of Maitreya and his new world as an important ideology on propagating their ideas about their new world and promises to people. Many rebellions aroused in the name of Maitreya’s coming. Then the cult of Maitreya’s became an archetype of political-religious rebellion. The Whit-lotus cult (白蓮教) in Yuan dynasty (元, 1271-1368) is a typical example. All the imperial authority keeps an eye on this kind of cult.
However, there is still another thread about Maitreya in Chinese popular religions and Buddhism. According to Mahayana Buddhism, all live include bodhisattva will reincarnate in saṃsāra forever until become a Buddha. In other words, as a bodhisattva, even Maitreya incarnates as well. Chinese Buddhists believe that one incarnation of Maitreya is Fu Xi (傅翕, 497~569) who is a friend of emperor Lian Wu (梁武帝, 464?-549) . Another one is more famous than Fu Xi. He is a monk whose religious title is Qici (契此) in Five dynasties (五代, 907-960). He traveled around the Zhejiang (浙江) province, carried a sack all the time, and begged for a living. Qici’s words were few and each time when he was speaking, he was going to die. Strangely, every time people thought he was dead already, they would find he was still alive elsewhere. Qici was a thaumaturgical monk. Chinese thought that he is Maitreya’s incarnation and call him monk Budai (布袋)and set statue for him. Budai means cloth sacks in Chinese. As it mentions above, he always carried a sack. Besides, some Chinese popular sectarian thought their masters were Maitreya’s incarnation too. Such as I-Kuan Dao (一貫道), it’s members thought that Lu Zhongyi (路中一, 1849-1925), the seventeenth Patriarch of I-Kuan Dao, was the last Maitreya’s incarnation.
As the incarnation of Maitreya, Monk Bu-Dai’s image influences profoundly Maitreya’s image in China. Originally, the status of Maitreya was Greek style. Referencing to Greek aesthetics and myth, the status is slender and wears a corolla. It is because of Alexander the Great invading India and founding some Indo-Greek kingdoms. However, in China, Maitreya’s image was changed during Song Dynasty. Maitreya’s image became having a fat face with smile and a big stomach. These new image’s elements means he is open-minded and tolerance. As a result, Maitreya becomes a Cai shen (財神),a fortune god, now. In Taiwan, there are many shops or stores enshrining Maitreya. However, there are few Buddhist temples enshrining Maitreya. Most of the huge Maitreya statuses are settled by I-Kuan Dao, and Maitreya is majorly enshrined by the disciples of Yi-guan Dao. People even forget his Inido identity sometimes. Maitreya is one of the Buddhists figures who really come to term with Chinese culture.
 
Keywords: Maitreya, the Future Buddha, Monk Bu-Dai
 
References:
  1. 何勁松主編。2003。《布袋和尚與彌勒文化》北京市:宗教文化出版社。
  2. 汪娟。1990。〈唐代彌勒信仰硏究〉中國文化大學中國文學研究所碩士論文。
  3. 張文良。2001。〈彌勒信仰述評〉,收於《中國佛教學術論典》第二十二冊。台北:佛光出版社。
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