Degeneration[edit source | editbeta]
Traditionally, this age is supposed to begin 2,000 years after Sakyamuni Buddha's passing and last for "10,000 years". (The first two ages are the Age of Right Dharma (正法 Cn: zhèngfǎ; Jp: shōbō), followed by the Age of Semblance Dharma (像法 Cn: xiàngfǎ; Jp: zōbō).) During this degenerate third age, it is believed that people will be unable to attain enlightenment through the word of Sakyamuni Buddha, and society will become morally corrupt. In Buddhist thought, during the Age of Dharma Decline the teachings of the Buddha will still be correct, but people will no longer be capable of following them.
Maitreya[edit source | editbeta]
Buddhist temporal cosmology assumes a cyclical pattern of ages, and even when the current Buddha's teachings fall into disregard, a new Buddha will at some point (usually considered to be millions of years in the future) be born to ensure the continuity of Buddhism. In the Lotus Sutra, Bodhisattva Superior Practices is entrusted to spread Buddhist law in this age and save mankind and the earth. He and countless other Bodhisattvas, specifically called Bodhisattvas of the Earth (of which he is the leader), vow to be reborn in a latter day to re-create Buddhist law, thus turning the degenerate age into a flourishing paradise. Shakyamuni entrusts them instead of his more commonly known major disciples with this task since the Bodhisattvas of the Earth have had a karmic connection with Shakyamuni since the beginning of time, meaning that they are aware of the Superior Practice which is the essence of Buddhism or the Dharma in its original, pure form. Ksitigarbha is also known for his vow to take responsibility for the instruction of all beings in the six worlds, in the era between the death of Gautama (Shakyamuni) Buddha and the rise of Maitreya Buddha.[clarification needed] Teacher Savaripa would also live in the world to teach someone.
Teachings of different groups[edit source | editbeta]
The teaching appeared early. References to the decline of the Dharma over time can be found in such Mahayana Buddhist texts as the Diamond Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, but also to a lesser degree in some texts in the Pali Canon such as the Cullavagga of the Vinaya Pitaka. Huisi was an early monk who taught about it.
Traditional sects were aware of it.
The Three Stages Sect (三階教) was an early sect that taught about Mappō. It taught to respect every sutra and all sentient life.
Late Buddhism in Central Asia taught the building of auspicious signs or miraculous Buddhist images.
The Pure Land schools of Buddhism in China and Japan believe we are now in this latter age of "degenerate Dharma". Pure Land followers therefore attempt to attain rebirth into the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha, where they can practice the Dharma more readily.
Nichiren Buddhism has taught that its teaching is the most suitable for the recent Mappō period.
Vajrayana Buddhism has taught that its teaching would be popular when "iron birds are upon the sky" before its decline. The Kalachakra Tantra contains a prophecy of a holy war in which a Buddhist king will win.
Theravada Buddhists taught that Buddhism would decline in five thousand years.
Some monks such as Dōgen and Hsu Yun thought that there is no mappō or that mappō is not inevitable.
Some Chinese folk religious movements taught that the three ages were the teaching period of the three Buddhas Dipankara, Sakyamuni and Maitreya (now).
Vajrayana Buddhism has taught that its teaching would be popular when "iron birds are upon the sky" before its decline.