Dipankara Buddha was the Buddha of the past, Shakyamuni Buddha is the Buddha of the present and Maitreya Buddha is the Buddha of the future. Our Maitreya Tibetan Thangka painting portrays Maitreya Buddha as he sits waiting in Tusita heaven. Additionally, Maitreya sits upright in contrast with other Buddhas. This is because he is ready to rise and return to the earthly realm when his time comes.
In Mahayana Buddhist beliefs, the Maitreya prophesy foretells that he will return to earth when the Dharma teachings of Shakyamuni have been forgotten. Additionally, sentient life will have fallen into disarray. Maitreya Buddha will return to rediscover the Dharma and achieve enlightenment similar to Shakyamuni. He will then reintroduce the Dharma teachings to sentient life.
Our Maitreya Tibetan Thangka painting shows Maitreya holding a lotus flower in his left hand between thumb and index finger. Additionally, there is a Dharma Wheel resting in the blossom. The lotus flower is very symbolic in Buddhism because it represents Nirvana. The lotus flower rises through the murky water of the pond to blossom on the surface in the clean air and sunshine. This is similar to sentient life that is born into the sea of suffering – samsara. They must rise through the murky water to blossom into enlightenment on the surface.