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Many times I've heard of Budai (pictured below) being associated with Maitreya, the future Buddha. Why is this so and how widespread is this belief? Wikipedia lists a short verse uttered before Budai's death:

Maitreya, the true Maitreya has billions of incarnations. Often he is shown to people at the time; other times they do not recognize him.

Is there more to this association or was the simple utterance of that verse so long ago the sole reason for believing that Budai was the bodhisatta? enter image description here

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Here is a reference to the Japanese Miroku Bodhisatva.

Another reference says that Hotei was Kaishi Zen priest and a Boddhisattva, the future Maitreya:

Hotei stands out from the other six Lucky Gods because he is the only one known to have been a real person, rather than a mythical being. According to Chiba, his Chinese name was Kaishi. His birth date is unknown, but his date of death was in March of the year 916. He was a Zen priest who could quote Buddhist text verses almost nonstop. Some sources affirm that he was an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Miroku (Maitreya in Sanskrit), the Buddhist Savior of the Future (Giraud 404). However, some of his actions would not be considered particularly saintly. For example, he would beg for meat and fish even though they were foods forbidden to priests.

Bits of details about claims to Maitreya and where references of it could be found in the pali canon.

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  • Thank you for your answer. In many SE sites this would be considered a link-only answer, as the answer is not here, but can only be found in links, which like everything else, are impermanent. ;-) I've just asked a somewhat related question How did Maitreya become so large and rich?, you may be able help there as well. – uhoh Nov 13 '18 at 2:28
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In China, the Budai monk (or the Laughing Buddha) has long been considered as the manifestation of Bodhisattva Maitreya. In fact, as foretold by Buddha Sakyamuni in the Maitreya Vyakarana Sutra, the Laughing Buddha (Bodhisattva Maitreya) will become the next or future Buddha of this Saha World.

Maitreya Buddha is to come when Buddhism has been perished in this world. When Bodhisattva Maitreya comes to this world, he will achieve enlightenment and become the Enlightened One, the Buddha, just like what Sakyamuni did some 2,500 years ago in this world. There will be a Renaissance of Buddhism spread by the Bodhisattva Maitreya during that time.

As read from the Infinite Life Sutra (also known as Buddha Speaks of the Infinite Life Sutra of Adornment, Purity, Equality, and Enlightenment of the Mahayana School), the most invaluable message that Maitreya will be preaching in that future will be introducing the Amitabha Buddha and the Pure Land to all beings. Maitreya will be teaching all beings that in order to end their sufferings of the cycles of life and death, one should believe in the inconceivable power of Amitabha and make a vow to be reborn in Amitabha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss, or the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha.

Amitabha, who has created this Western Paradise (the Land of Ultimate Bliss), is speaking the Dharma right now. This is an immense blessing to whomever heard about Amitabha and believed in Amitabha in this world, because Amitabha is helping all who are truly sincere in their vows to be reborn there.

Thus, the Buddha-name chanting would probably be the most invaluable method to the benefits of all beings to learn and end their cycles of life and death and attain perfect enlightenment with the help of Amitabha Buddha in this lifetime.

Given that Buddhism will disappear in the future, we are extremely lucky and grateful that we exist at this time when we can easily get our hands on to the sutras of Buddhism, in particular Pureland Buddhism, so we can get to practice Buddhist teachings in this lifetime.

The simple and easy way to solicit help from Amitabha is to practice on a daily basis the Buddha-name chanting of Amitabha Buddha. For those who are interested, one can check out the chanting method here.

For those interested in the Infinite Life Sutra, one can read the Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra here:

For those interested in understanding more of the Amitabha Buddha and his Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, one can read here:

And to learn more about the method of Buddha-name chanting, one can check it out here:

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