Excerpt from "Modern Thoughts on Buddhism" from Robert ThurmanPosted December 04 2013
We are pleased to bring you this excerpt from this Classic Course from Robert Thurman which was recorded in the mid 1980's as we neared the end of the second- Christian Millenium, many prophetic voices were being raised to speak of revelation and other apocolyptic visions. Some western mystics even mentioned the future Buddha.
So Buddha is when they incarnated in the world, according to the legend. They had come down to this Tusita from which they could see the earth or the human level fairly well. It’s like a kind of staging area, they come there and they live in a certain area of Tusita which is known as Sudanba which is this area, where Maitreya is depicted in this palace, Maitreya is depicted in, and in this Sudanba they then dwell and they look at the earth and they wait for the earth to evolve to a certain point and then they incarnated the earth. And when a Buddha leaves, like when Sedata left there, to come to the earth 2,500 years ago, he left Maitreya, the Bodhisattva Maitreya, who is depicted there to come after him, to the regions of the Buddhist area of Tusita.
Tusita has a larger area than just where the Buddhist settlers are, there are many gods who live there also, but he left Maitreya in charge of that area and to teach the dharma there as he is doing there, and he will come himself. When, we do not know. Some people say 100,000 years from now, some people say 5,000 years from now, some people say 2,500 years from now. It’s difficult to say, when exactly Maitreya will come.