Maitreya is often figured gathered around Shakyamuni to listen to his teaching of the UniversalVehicle discourses. He and Manjushri are often paired there in dialogues, or in alternatinginterlocution of the Buddha.
Maitreya in the Mahayana Tradition
It is considered (especially in the Tibetan tradition,with the Chinese and Japanese agreeing in general,although differing in particulars) that Maitreyaauthored five great treatises, using Asanga as ascribe, that serve as the basis of the idealistic schoolof Universal Vehicle philosophy, the Experimentals(Yogacara), or Idealist (Vijnana-vada) school.One of the common icons in Tibet is called the"refuge field" that presents the Buddha Shakyamuniin the center of a host of Indian, Tibetan andsupernatural teachers. To Shakyamuni's left isManjushri, at the head of the lineage of the profound view. To his right is Maitreya, at the headof the lineage of the magnificent deeds. BeneathMaitreya sit Asanga and Vasubandhu at the head of succession of ethically oriented philosophers. TheBuddha in the center of this icon represents theunification of both these lineages. The team of Maitreya and Manjushri, heading the two main branches of the great tree of philosophical tradition,assure that the balance never goes too far in either direction, either toward the sentimental and mystical extreme that Maitreya himself favors, or toward the cold and skeptical extreme that Manjushri might manifest in single-minded pursuit of the transcendent wisdom of selflessness.
Shakyamuni Buddha predicted that due to the inevitable degeneration of the times, his ownteachings would last just five thousand years before disappearing from this world. People willgrow more and more immoral and their lifespan will gradually decrease, as will their health,stature and fortune. While such delusions as miserliness, hatred and jealousy gain strength, theworld will go through prolonged periods of famine, disease and continuous warfare until iteventually resembles a vast battlefield of graveyard. Thereupon Maitreya will appear, not in hisfully evolved buddha form, but as a person of regal bearing, very handsome and taller than thosearound him. On seeing this unusual being, people will be filled with wonder and faith, and willask how he came to have such an attractive appearance. Maitreya will reply that this is due to his practice of patience, avoiding giving harm to others, and if others will also abide in love andtolerance, they could become similar to him.