Are We In the Dharma-Ending Age?

I wrote the below for The Daily Enlightenment newsletter, TDE Book 2 and The Buddhist Channel circa 2006. Am here presenting a slightly edited version, especially for the calculation of dates.

A Call for Oiling & Turning the Wheel of the Dharma

The wheel of Dharma turns only as steadily
as your diligent practice of the Dharma. – Stonepeace

According to the sutras, the Buddha predicted his teachings (the Dharma) to undergo three major phases. The first 500 years after his Enlightenment is the True Dharma Age, when the Dharma is practised very seriously and accurately, when Enlightenment is often attained. The next 1,000 years is the Dharma Semblance Age, when forms and rituals representing the Dharma are embraced more than learning and realising its essence, leading to less attaining Enlightenment.

The next 10,000 years is the Dharma-Ending (Degenerate) Age, when the Dharma becomes increasingly diluted and corrupted with non-Dharma elements, leading to rare attaining of Enlightenment, while moral chaos proliferate. In a natural cyclic manner, the True Dharma Age returns later, with the “arrival” of the next Buddha.

This year, 2009, marks the 2553rd anniversary of the Buddha’s Parinirvana. This means it’s about 2,598 (2553 + 45) years since the Buddha taught (for 45 years), which makes 2009 about 1,098 years or 10.98% into the Dharma-Ending Age. Looking at the rapid growth of Buddhism in the West and its general decline in India, perhaps the prediction might be a phenomenon more regional than international?

In reality, the timeless Dharma (or the path to Enlightenment) cannot “end”; what might happen is that less and less seek and realise the essence of the Dharma in time. When is the real Dharma-Ending Age? It begins the very moment you lose interest in learning, practising, realising, sharing and/or defending the Dharma. Dharma propagation’s mission is the attempt to infinitely delay the Dharma-Ending Age in our world, to revive and infinitely prolong the True Dharma Age. It need not be the Dharma-Ending Age for you if you are still enthusiastic about the Dharma. Yes, the Dharma-Ending Age can be both individualistic and collective.

If even Buddhists do not stand up to uphold the integrity of the Dharma, this is truly the Dharma-Ending age; because if Buddhists do not stand up for Buddhism, who will? Non-Buddhists? And if we consider ourselves as Buddhists, while neither proactively standing up for it, nor supporting others who do so, we need to reassess our identity as Buddhists, and whether we have sufficient understanding and confidence in Buddhism.

Everything that the Buddha taught was out of perfect Compassion and Wisdom. The Buddha did not teach about the Dharma-Ending age as a depressing prophecy for us to self-fulfill, but as a reminder to be diligent. We cannot deny it when symptoms of the distortion of the Dharma by practitioners (lay and/or monastic) are seen – in terms of corrupted morality and Dharma understanding. But once again, this only means we need to be even more vigilant, not to give up setting things right.

The teaching of the Dharma-Ending Age should only serve to motivate; not to discourage us. If we see amber light at the junction to the other shore of liberation, we should pull up our socks and strive forward, instead of resigning to the upcoming red light. Even a red light should not stop us. Chronologically, we are not even in the thick of the Dharma-Ending Age! The fact that you are reading this and are concerned, there is hope! Interestingly, as the Dharma-Ending Age progresses, the sutras will disappear – not necessarily into thin air, but by “fading away” with neglect and lack of understanding… rendering them as good as physically gone.

Can the Dharma-Ending Age be reversed? It would be fatalistic not to try. To be realistic, we should do our best before hoping for the best – the results will only thereafter be left to karma. As good Buddhists, we need to bear personal responsibility for the state of the Dharma, and not push the responsibility of safeguarding the Dharma to other Buddhists, accusing them of not doing a good job upholding it. If everyone does that, the Dharma would indeed be ending. To clarify ethical and doctrinal misrepresentations of Buddhism, we first need to learn and practise Buddhism properly.

In the Surangama Sutra, the Buddha instructed Bodhisattvas and Arhats to skilfully manifest in as many ways as possible to inspire us to realise the Dharma in the Dharma-Ending Age. We too can manifest our Compassion and Wisdom, by doing what we can to inspire others! It is said that in the final stretches of the Dharma-Ending age, beings would be so severely deluded that they will disregard the Dharma – to the extent of slandering it. Out of great Compassion, to not give conditions for creating negative karma, the enlightened will choose not to manifest! It’s not too late to heed the call of the Dharma now!

Each Buddhist is a spoke in the wheel of Dharma,
who either helps it to turn or not. – Stonepeace

8 thoughts on “Are We In the Dharma-Ending Age?

  1. “It is said that in the final stretches of the Dharma-Ending age, beings would be so severely deluded that they will disregard the Dharma – to the extent of slandering it. Out of great Compassion, to not give conditions for creating negative karma, the enlightened will choose not to manifest!”

    >> When a Buddha gives a prediction or whatever label you think appropriate, it will definitely happen.

    Of course, as Buddhists we can and should also do our very best to help ourselves and others heard of and eventually realise the Dharma, both individually and collectively. There is no disagreement at all with that.

    However, do recognise and remind yourself of the law of impermanence: The best period in Dharma had arrived when the Buddha was still alive and teaching actively. On the other hand the worst period will also eventually come no wonder how altruistic and diligent our human efforts are.

    This is a natural law of cause and effect, and of impermanence which affects the individual and collective livelihoods of each living being on earth.

    Buddhism is neither pessimistic or optimistic. It is realistic. If some very good is mentioned to happen by the Buddha, we recognise and accept it. This should also apply for the worst of the worst that will happen as said by the Buddha.

    We are told not to fear death on both secular and religious levels, so we should also not fear the death (complete fading away) of the dharma due
    to neglience and lack of understanding as this is merely part of the law of impermanence.

    I go by the motto of prepare for the worst, hope and work for the best. 🙂

  2. We should just do our best – it is what all Buddhas hope we’ll do. The Buddha taught the prophesy to urge us to pull up our socks – as high as we can, and to urge one another do the same. Amituofo

  3. Can someone tells me why did Sakyamuni Buddha live for a short period of time?I saw one of the Buddha in the past who lived for 10 thousand years

  4. A Buddha’s lifespan in a world is determined by factors like the collective positive karma of the people in the world at that time, plus the general lifespan of humans then – so that we will not take his presence for granted by assuming he will be with us forever or by assuming that we will all live as long as him and neglect to practise the Dharma in time. The good news is that Buddhas leave only when their teachings are fully dispensed. Amituofo


  5. Time is relative. In a world where a higher being’s life span is in the thousands or millions or more, it can be considered a “clean” world (jin tu) and great sages’ life span will correspondingly longer so as to teach…

    However, there is also the case in a world where a higher being’s life span is in the thousands or millions or more but their life is too “luxurious” or they don’t really cultivate bad karmas… so in such worlds (in the north), there won’t be any sages… this belongs to one of the “ba nan” mentioned in scriptures…

    Our world is considered a “dirty” world (wu zhuo e shi)… with mountains or uneven grounds, with sea and lakes, etc… it is because of our past petty bad deeds or karma that we end up here as someone tiny (typical average height of 2m, considered a dwarf in some worlds) and out of great compassion, Lord Buddha manifest as a human to this world to teach us…

    So in human form, the life span is limited although with Tathagatha’s wisdom, this is not really a limitation… and when he was ailing he did ask Anand whether he would like him to stay… and Anand kinda hesitated…

    As shian have mentioned, the good news is that Buddhas leave only when their teachings are fully dispensed… everything is documented in Chinese Buddhist Canon… so we should all start to learn and practice this great treasure… as in information tech age, they are all in electronic form… Amituofo

  6. To add, only Pure Lands are really ‘clean’; while the heavens are of varying degrees, and are impermanent. Ananda’s failing to request the Buddha to stay longer was actually a reflection of the collective karma of the people then. Yes, let’s all treasure the Dharma and practise well now! Amituofo


  7. Dharma ending age implies that Pure Land is best suit for all level as it mostly based on dualism of loving kindness and compassion amongst one another. And simultaneously chanting Namo Amitabha, Namo Amituofo, Namo Jesus, Namo Nembutsu, Namo Shiva etc as a form of signalling to connect with Pure Land Amitabha. The frequencies of chanting is not as important to faith, earnestly and sincerity. Namo Amitabha

  8. What is ‘dualism of loving kindness and compassion’? Dualism refers to pairs of opposites. They are not opposing qualities.

    Chanting of Namo Jesus, Namo Nembutsu, Namo Shiva are NOT Buddhist practices. Namu Amida Butsu is chanted in Japan.

    Jesus and such CANNOT lead to Pure Land. Please don’t mix up Buddhist teachings with external paths. Jesus-based beliefs, according to the Bible, is supposed to lead to heaven (which is not definitely the case, from Buddhist perspective).

    “Christians generally believe most of us will go to ‘eternal hell’ (while only 144,000 virgin ‘sons of Israel’ will make it to ‘eternal heaven’, according to the Bible at Revelation 7:3-8 and Revelation 14:3-5), some try hard to impress the threat of eternal hell on others, to convert as many as they can (who are many more than 144,000 though, including many virgin and non-virgin females, non-virgin males and non-descendants of Israel)”

    The subjects of mindfulness IS very important. FAITH as one of the provisions for birth in Pure Land is SPECFIC. Not a case of anything goes.

    What is meant by Faith?

    1. Faith in the power of Amitabha Buddha’s Vows
    2. Faith in Shakyamuni Buddha’s spoken teachings
    3. Faith in the praises of all Buddhas of the six directions [of Amitabha Buddha]

    Lacking such Faith, one cannot be truly rescued [by Amitabha Buddha]. Therefore, one should first give rise to deep Faith, and not give rise to doubts. – Great Master Ou Yi

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