How solid is the mention of Mettaya in the Canon?

I am fascinated that EBTs and the Mahayana share this figure which is both different and the same… is this Magpies at work or a conversation?

From the wiki- Cakkavatti-Sīhanāda Sutta

“Most of the Buddha’s sermons are presented as having been presented in answer to a question, or in some other appropriate context, but this sutta has a beginning and ending in which the Buddha is talking to monks about something totally different. This leads scholar Richard Gombrich to conclude that either the whole sutta is apocryphal or that it has at least been tampered with.”


I am not an expert in the theories of scholars like this. But one can always conceive of alternate theories. That’s the responsible thing to do. For example, the fact that what appears to us to be unrelated could actually mean that the sutta is earlier and devoid of systematic editing that one might find in later texts.

These attempts to divine meaning from “clues” is always going to be speculative.

There are some “odd” texts in the EBT’s, that are still considered EBT’s because they are shared across traditions, and are likely still fairly early. Whether they were all taught by the Buddha himself is difficult to say.

In general, the core ideas in Buddhism should be expected to be repeated many times across the canon. Whether the Buddha taught about Maitreya or not, we can probably say that the idea of Maitreya as the future buddha is a very peripheral idea in the overall scheme of the EBT’s.

Is that really the most responsible thing? Some biblical scholars tried to do this to come up with far-flung narratives to explain away apparent contradictions in the Bible. But at least in my mind, pointing out oddities, discrepancies, or apparent contradictions, and not jumping to create a narrative to “cover” for them, seems like a more open approach.

Of course it is. I don’t care about what Biblical scholars do. I care about people coming up with theories to discount texts without acknowledging that they are just theories and that there may be alternative explanations.

There are no records of changes being made to the texts we have. This doesn’t mean they haven’t been changed. But it does mean that speculations about them are simply that. Speculations.

Look at what is happening right here with this text. There is absolutely nothing problematic with the sutta in question. But because some scholar feels that the last part couldn’t have been spoken by the Buddha at the same time as the rest of the sutta, we have someone doubting the authenticity of the whole sutta. These are the far-flung narratives I’m concerned with. It’s amazing to me that someone can label something so innocuous as “odd” and then build on that to come up with theories about the authenticity of the text.

Problematic? I suppose that depends on the person making that judgment. But if a text says something quite different from the normal content of early Buddhist texts, it’s fair to ask why. Tradition is not automatically correct by default.

Personally, I think it’s fair to expect that ideas held to be important by the Buddha himself, should reasonably be found in at least several EBT’s, and should be at least relatively consistent with other core doctrines.

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Did Gombrich explain his objections beyond being historically/scholarly accurate? In other words, what kind of damage would this possible act of tampering cause to the consistency of the doctrine?

Metteyya (sanskrit: Maitreya) is not the same as mettāya in the Pāli, (and there is no word such as mettaya, with a short ‘a’ before the ‘y’) - mettāya is either an instrumental or dative case form of mettā (sanskrit: maitrī = friendship or friendliness or amiability or geniality, derived from the word ‘mitra’ which means ‘friend’) - mettāya is not a name.

The name Metteyya (note the e after the ‘tt’, and the ‘yy’ here) is mentioned just twice, first in the Pārāyaṇa praśnas / pañhas (questions) of Tiṣya Maitreya at snp5.3, and again at dn26 where the name Maitreya is said to be that of a future buddha. Apart from this single reference to the future Buddha Maitreya / Metteyya, there doesn’t seem to be any other mention of him elsewhere in the Pāli EBTs.

What does his name indicate? Structurally, the -eyya taddhita suffix (which is cognate with -eya in sanskrit) is added to feminine nouns, in this case mettā (skt: maitrī). This suffix conveys the sense “born/derived from or born to”. So the name has the sense ‘one whose origin is rooted in friendliness’, and which also means ‘one whose whole being is suffused with that quality’ (the quality of maitrī-bhāva / mettā-bhāva).

The mention of a future buddha Metteyya in DN26 appears to be in keeping with the character of the whole sutta which is talking also about past buddhas.

He appears in the Agamas too.

In the Discourse on an Explanation about the Past (MĀ 66) and also in EĀ 20.6, EĀ 42.6, EĀ 27.5.

There’s also archeological evidence, IIRC he appears at Sanchi


Except that he is the last Buddha in the Kalpa, which should bring things to a conclusion after all the tampering that took place across the board.

From Etienne Lamotte- History of Indian Buddhism
History of Indian Buddhism.pdf (3.6 MB)


The main theme of DN 26 is discussing about how monks should take themselves and Dhamma as their own island/refuge then it procceeds to tell the story of the past wheel-turning kings (cakkavati) up to the future cakkavati Sankha. The mention of Metteyya is rather out of topic because it appears in the end of the discourse after it mentions the future cakkavati. The parallel of DN 26 in Sarvastivadin Madhyama Āgama (MĀ 70) only mentions Sankha in the end without mentioning Metteyya after that. It seems that the parallel version is more faithful in its topic by not mentioning the future Buddha at all.

But another Madhyama Āgama discourse (MĀ 66 which is no parallel in Pali) mentions about the future king Sankha and the future Buddha Metteyya at second half of its content. The first half of the discourse is about Anurruddha telling the monks his past meritorious deed offered food to a Pacceka Buddha which had caused him to reborn as king of gods and king of humans then finally achieved Arahantship in his last life. After listening the story of the past event, the Buddha showed up and offered the monks another story of the future event which the monks agreed to hear it.

Then the Buddha related how in the future a cakkavati named Sankha will rule the Jambudipa and finally go forth to become a monk which will end rebirth. A monk named Ajita interrupted and aspired to become Sankha in which the Buddha rebuked him because he had to be reborn once again only to end rebirth after that. Then the Buddha continued with appearance of the future Buddha Metteyya. This time a monk named Metteyya interrupted and aspired to become the future Buddha in which the Buddha praised him and predict him to be the future Buddha. Therefore, in the MĀ 66 the mention of the future Buddha is much out of topic and doesn’t fit the discourse theme.

So, in this two instances of Theravadin DN and Sarvastivadin MĀ the prediction of Metteyya is not quite fit the context of its discourse theme.

I asked the right place :smile:

I really don’t understand how it could be considered out of topic. Naturally mention of a future Buddha would come at the end. And who is really to say what is on or off topic. The DN suttas are (naturally) very long and cover a range of topics.

Futher reading:

1. The Cult of Mithras

2. Mithra the god

The Greco-Roman Mithraism, the Avestan/Persian Mithra, and the Vedic god Mitra - are all from the same Indo-European origins.

The Vedic Mitra is attested a few centuries before the other two, but evidently the tradition goes back to pre-historic origins.

The buddha claims to be ādiccagotta (āditya-gotra) and ādiccabandhu (āditya-bandhu) i.e. a kinsman of that Mitra (as Āditya is otherwise known as). In this he seems to be following Yājñavalkya and his tradition, who also claimed descent from an Āditya clan.

However the word maitrī underlying Pāli mettā is derived not from the masculine name Mitra (i.e. the name of the above god) - but rather from the neuter word mitra, which means ‘friend’.

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