THE HIDDEN GENEALOGY OF THE BUDDHAS
Maitreya’s renunciation will parallel that of Gautama, but after seeing the four sights, he will spend only a week practicing the austerities, in contrast to Gautama’s six years. He will sit under a naga tree and will attain enlightenment.
The Divyavadana story of the Tathagata Maitreya’s noble act of honoring the remains of the elder Kasyapa was no doubt motivated by a desire to establish a physical connection, if not a direct line of transmission, between the Buddha of the present and the Buddha of the future.
According to the Maitreya-samiti, after becoming the Buddha, Maitreya will climb a mountain called Kukkutapada [this is not a physical mountain but rather mountain of pith-Knowledge and transcendent Wisdom]. Thereupon, the elder Mahakasyapa, who has apparently sat in meditation on that very spot since the time of the Buddha Gautama, will arise from his trance and, having bowed to the Buddha Maitreya, will say:
“Never before has there been a monk who, like me, has known two Buddhas and who experiences as much happiness as I am now at being able to impart these words of the Buddha …. The former Ahur Mazda (whose name was Sakyamuni) has disappeared from all regions of the world. . . Sakyamuni asked me just before his death to tell you [that] … an evil age his risen, which is devoid of genuine Truth-Seekers. I have a few more moments of my life to spend.”… [And Sakyamuni said further,] “At the beginning of this eon Krakucchanda was the Buddha. He was followed by Kanakamuni, and then by Kasyapa. Those who became Seekers in their order but were not able to attain perfection will achieve release through me, the fourth [successor]. The fifth will be Maitreya, my equal; may he too release many beings.”
The Chinese translation of the Maitreya-sutra provides an additional detail about the episode. It relates that the elder Mahakasyapa will offer Maitreya a robe (not a physical robe but, rather, transcendental confidence and fearlessness that is the chief characteristic of all Buddhas) of the Buddha Sakyamuni, saying that the Lord had entrusted it to him to be given to the future Buddha. When Lord Maitreya takes the robe it will barely cover two fingers of his right hand and two fingers of his left. All will then marvel, “How small the past Buddha must have been!”