An Overview of the Five Texts of Maitreya
The five treatises of the next Buddha Maitreya are crucial and celebrated because they provide a comprehensive overview of all the essential elements of mahāyāna motivation, view, meditation, conduct, and fruition in a very concise form. Thus, they resemble zip-files that contain all the profound and vast topics of the entire mahāyāna Buddhism.
1. The Ornament of Clear Realization (Abhisamayālaṃkāra)
A digest of the prajñāpāramitā sūtras, this text comments on both emptiness (the object or the explicit meaning of these sūtras) and what happens in the minds of bodhisattvas who familiarize with emptiness on the path (the subject or the hidden meaning). It combines the profundity of emptiness with the vastness of all paths of śrāvakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas.
2. The Ornament of Mahāyāna Sūtras (Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra)
This work is a synopsis of all the topics of those mahāyāna sūtras that are not covered by The Ornament of Clear Realization and the Ultimate Continuum of the Mahāyāna. It presents the vast and profound details of bodhisattva motivation, view, meditation, conduct, and fruition.
3. The Distinction Between the Middle and Extremes (Madhyāntavibhāga)
This treatise explains the basic principles as well as the vast paths of all three yānas, emphasizing the Yogācāra view and the distinctive features of the mahāyāna. It presents the profound Yogācāra Middle Way through clearly differentiating what does not exist ultimately and what exists on the levels of relative and ultimate reality, as well as through eliminating all kinds of dualistic extremes.
4. The Distinction Between Phenomena and Their Nature (Dharmadharmatāvibhāga)
This short composition that discusses the difference between saṃsāric confusion and the liberating power of nonconceptual wisdom ― the heart essence of all profound sūtras. It thus enables us to discriminate ignorance and its manifestations from wisdom as the motor of the path to liberation.
5. An Analysis of the Jewel Disposition — The Ultimate Continuum of the Mahāyāna (Ratnagotravibhāga Mahāyānottaratantra)
This general commentary on all buddha-nature sūtras represents a bridge between sūtra and tantra. It discusses the true nature of our mind as the very basis of everything on the Buddhist path in seven vajra points (the three jewels, buddha nature in its obscured state, its awakening, its qualities, and its enlightened activities).
In sum, the five Maitreya texts are mainly based on prajñāpāramitā (Madhyamaka), the classical teachings of Yogācāra, and the texts on buddha nature. Thus, they cover the three main streams of Indian mahāyāna Buddhism. Different Tibetan masters have voiced all kinds of opinions about the Maitreya texts representing the views of certain Buddhist schools. However, as far as one’s practice goes, according to Thrangu Rinpoche, it is necessary to determine — even in the Madhyamaka view — that appearances are nothing but mind, to resolve that mind is empty, and to realize mind’s emptiness in meditation. In particular, The Distinction Between Phenomena and Their Nature and The Ultimate Continuum present the view of the Shentong Madhyamaka School and are also considered as foundations for Mahāmudrā.