About the Project

Maitreya Project History: A Quick Recap

Lama Yeshe initiated the Maitreya Project in 1982 after returning from his first visit to Tibet since fleeing Tibet in 1959. Lama’s vision was to build a huge statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha in Bodhgaya, Bihar State. The statue would achieve several goals.

The first was to make a statement that the loving kindness Maitreya Buddha will embody is the most critical human quality, and the only cause of peace and happiness in human society. The statue had to be huge to make such a statement and to move people’s minds and bring about the understanding that loving kindness is so important to humanity.

A second goal was that Lama Yeshe felt to offer such a great monument as a token of gratitude for the kindness Government of India and Indian society showed in receiving and accommodating Tibetans from 1959 onwards. 

Despite many difficulties, setbacks, and challenges over the years, the Project has moved forward and Lama Yeshe’s vision developed under the spiritual guidance of Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche.

Decision to move the Maitreya Statue Project to Uttar Pradesh:

By 2001 Bihar had become an extremely difficult place to work. The law and order environment had been deteriorating for more than a decade and Government at all levels was essentially dysfunctional. Although by this time Maitreya Project was far advanced in planning and design of a magnificent statue building in Bodhgaya, the extraordinarily adverse circumstances in Bihar, forced the difficult decision to relocate the Project to Uttar Pradesh where the State Government welcomed Maitreya Project and the prospect of its helping to develop the Eastern part of Uttar Pradesh.

The reason Kushinagar was selected from among several potential sites is explained by Rinpoche; “The State Government of Uttar Pradesh previously had the idea to build a large Buddha statue when they heard that the great Buddha statues of Bamiyan were destroyed. Then State Government heard about the Maitreya Project and on a number of occasions requested His Holiness the Dalai Lama to bring the Maitreya Project to Uttar Pradesh. The State Government offered several possible sites and we sought His Holiness’ advice as to which would bring the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people for the longest time.

On a visit to Bodhgaya, in 2002, His Holiness suggested that we should re-consider check where to build the Maitreya statue, because in Bodhgaya there had been so many obstacles. In front of the main Guru Shakyamuni Buddha statue inside the Bodhgaya Mahabodhi Temple, His Holiness Dalai Lama used the traditional ‘dough ball’ method of divination. This was done very carefully and His Holiness held my hand while conducting the investigation himself and the answer came Kushinagar.”

The State Government offered the land in Kushinagar and prospects looked bright but in Uttar Pradesh, Maitreya Project faced a different set of challenges. A comprehensive shared vision for the Project was developed together with the State Government and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2003. Actualizing the MoU and shared vision took a further 10 years of relentless efforts on the side of the Maitreya Project team.

Bodhgaya on hold for 10 years until 2012:

While the Project worked towards locating in Uttar Pradesh, and with continuing difficulties in Bihar, plans for Bodhgaya were put on hold and remained so until 2012. By this time the situation in Bihar had improved significantly under a new Bihar State Government. Companies were moving back into Bihar, law and order had been restored, and all around there was new optimism. Lama Zopa Rinpoche decided that Maitreya Project in Bodhgaya could go ahead albeit with a slightly different vision. That meant there would now be 2 Maitreya Projects in adjacent States – both part of the, “Buddhist Circuit”, each with many holy sites denoting where Buddha Shakyamuni visited and taught.

Two Maitreya Statue Projects:

Lama Zopa Rinpoche explained the 2 Maitreya Projects, in a letter of February 2014 which may be read in full hereThe following paragraphs are extracted from Rinpoche’s letter;

“My very dear students, kind benefactors, friends and others who have compassion to sentient beings – not just compassion, but taking responsibility too free all sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings – to all, I am expressing hello and hope you are all well.

Now we have two Maitreya Projects in India. As you may have already heard, Maitreya Project Bodhgaya has started and the process is happening, but now the statue will be smaller; this is due to the situation of the world and my advice. Maitreya Project Bodhgaya has been taking a long time. The reason is that there were many and continual difficulties which arose principally from trying to operate in an environment of political dysfunction at that time.

The other Maitreya Project is happening in Kushinagar – Maitreya Buddha Kushinagar Project. Kushinagar is where the Buddha showed the holy deed of passing away and where the future Buddha Maitreya will take birth, which is part of the 12 deeds.

Due to karma these two projects happened, so now we need to complete both of these Maitreya statues for the benefit of all sentient beings. In addition to these projects, I also want to build other large Maitreya statues in different parts of the world…Then the particular benefits: the more statues of Maitreya Buddha there are in the world the more it helps to minimize or stop wars, famine, diseases, tsunamis, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. in this very dark period when so many people suffer so much. Due to the result of building many Maitreya statues, this decreases the very dark time of so much suffering. So this is my reason for building many Maitreya statues.”… – With much love and prayers, Lama Zopa

Rinpoche’s explanation of the 2 Maitreya Statue Projects continued on another occasion as follows:

“For the Kushinagar Maitreya Project, there is a plan to develop it with other traditions of Buddhism, not only Tibetan Buddhism’s four lineages. The traditions or entities which join FPMT in developing the Kushinagar land would have their own area, and draw up their own plans under the oversight and with the approval of Maitreya Project Kushinagar. However FPMT would work with them as a group. This joint collaboration would develop a Conference Centre with the goal of promoting better inter tradition communication.”