Maitreya Project's old plan; below, new conception (skyscrapercity.com)
Significance of the Maitreya Project By Seven Jaini
Creating the "eighth wonder of the world" in Kushinagar, India (ancient Kusinara, where the Buddha chose -- contrary to the protests of his contemporaries) to pass into final nirvana. Shakyamuni Buddha chose this site quite purposely because, as he explained, in ancient times, this had been the center of a famed and prosperous kingdom and one known to previous buddhas.
20. "'Here the Tathagata passed away into the state of Nirvana in which no element of clinging remains!' This, Ananda, is a place that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence.
21. "These, Ananda, are the four places that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence. And truly there will come to these places, Ananda, pious bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen, reflecting: 'Here the Tathagata was born! Here the Tathagata became fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment! Here the Tathagata set rolling the unexcelled Wheel of the Dhamma! Here the Tathagata passed away into the state of Nibbana in which no element of clinging remains!'
22. "And whoever, Ananda, should die on such a pilgrimage with his heart established in faith, at the breaking up of the body, after death, will be reborn in a realm of heavenly happiness."
Ananda, on discerning what the Buddha was intending to do in Kusinara, cried:
32. Then the Venerable Ananda went into the vihara [monastic residence] and leaned against the doorpost and wept: "I am still but a learner [i.e., unenlightened], and still have to strive for my own perfection. But, alas, my Master, who was so compassionate towards me, is about to pass away!"
33. And the Blessed One spoke to the monastics, saying: "Bhikkhus, where is Ananda?" "The Venerable Ananda, Lord, has gone into the vihara and there stands leaning against the door post and weeping: 'I am still but a learner, and still have to strive for my own perfection. But, alas, my Master, who was so compassionate towards me, is about to pass away!'"
34. Then the Blessed One asked a certain recluse to bring the Venerable Ananda...And the Venerable Ananda went to the Blessed One, bowed down to him, and sat down on one side.
35. Then the Blessed One spoke to the Venerable Ananda, saying: "Enough, Ananda! Do not grieve, do not lament! For have I not taught from the very beginning that with all that is dear and beloved there must be change, separation, and severance? Of that which is born, come into being, compounded, and subject to decay, how can one say: 'May it not come to dissolution!'? There can be no such state of things. Now for a long time, Ananda, you have served the Tathagata with loving-kindness in deed, word, and thought, graciously, pleasantly, with a whole heart and beyond measure. Great good have you gathered, Ananda! Now you should put forth energy, and soon you too will be free from the taints" [i.e., enlightened].
Ananda then protested that Kusinara was not sufficiently famous for such a great thing to happen there:
The Past Glory of Kusinara
41. When this had been said, the Venerable Ananda spoke to the Blessed One, saying: "Let it not be, Lord, that the Blessed One should pass away in this mean place, this uncivilized township in the midst of the jungle, a mere outpost of the province. There are great cities, Lord, such as Campa, Rajagaha, Savatthi, Saketa, Kosambi, and Benares — let the Blessed One have his final passing away in one of those. For in those cities dwell many wealthy nobles and brahmins and householders who are devotees of the Tathagata [Buddha], and they will render due honor to the remains of the Tathagata."
42. "Do not say that, Ananda! Do not say: 'This mean place, this uncivilized township in the midst of the jungle, a mere outpost of the province.' In times long past, Ananda, there was a king by the name of Maha Sudassana, who was a universal monarch, a king of righteousness, a conqueror of the four quarters of the earth, whose realm was established in security, and who was endowed with the seven jewels. And that King Maha Sudassana, Ananda, had his royal residence here at Kusinara, which was then called Kusavati, and it extended twelve yojanas [84 miles] from east to west, and seven [49 miles] from north to south.
43. "And mighty, Ananda, was Kusavati, the capital, prosperous and well populated, much frequented by people, and abundantly provided with food. Just as the royal residence of the deities, Alakamanda, is mighty, prosperous, and well populated, much frequented by deities and abundantly provided with food, so was the royal capital of Kusavati.
44. "Kusavati, Ananda, resounded unceasingly day and night with ten sounds — the trumpeting of elephants, the neighing of horses, the rattling of chariots, the beating of drums and tabours, music and song, cheers, the clapping of hands, and cries of 'Eat, drink, and be merry!'
- The Great Passing Away Discourse (Maha-pari-nirvana Sutra)
IMAGES: Kushinagar (India) and the Buddha's final passing away into nirvana (medicinebuddha.com); Ananda weeping below (sacredthangkas.com)
This is the site chosen by the Tibetan Maitreya Project. Maitreya ("friend" Pali, Metteyya) is the "buddha to come." The historical Buddha mentioned that the next fully-enlightened one was already residing in the Tusita deva world awaiting rebirth on earth to strive toward full enlightenment and re-establish the true Dharma for the benefit of devas and humans.
This has sometimes become a basis for laxity, as some Buddhists mistakenly await a messianic figure -- perennially claimed to have already arrived in the form of a self-aggrandizing person. This claim is mistaken because in the distant past, humans lived far longer. So too in the distant future, by slow increments, they will live far longer lives than they do now. (The time between buddhas is better measured in geologic than historical terms). Imagine a time when the average human lifespan is 200 or 1,000 or 10, 000 or 20,000 years. That will happen much sooner than the arrival of the Maitreya the historical Buddha was talking about. The Buddha gave a clear indication of WHEN Maitreya would be arriving by saying:
"And in that time of the people with an eighty-thousand-year lifespan, there will arise in the world a Blessed Lord, an arahant fully enlightened Buddha named Metteyya, endowed with wisdom and conduct, a Well-farer, Knower of the worlds, incomparable Trainer of [persons] to be tamed, Teacher of [devas] and humans, enlightened and blessed, just as I am now."
— DN26 The Long Discourses of the Buddha (formerly Thus Have I Heard), Maurice Walshe (trans.), Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1987, p. 403f.
Until such time as Maitreya arrives to again turn the Wheel of the Dharma, which will have by then completely disappeared, a wonderfully tall statue of him will sit facing Nepal and Tibet in Kushinagar, India. The Maitreya Project and the Relics Tour are committed to funding a structure so massive that it will be the "eighth wonder of the world."