Three Ages of Buddhism
In the Latter Day of the Law, people are tainted by the three poisons of greed, anger, and foolishness, and lose their aspiration for enlightenment; Buddhism itself loses the power to lead them to Buddhahood.
A third account has the Former Day lasting for one thousand years, and the Middle Day for five hundred years; and a fourth states that the Former Day lasts for five hundred years, and the Middle Day for one thousand years.
In China, Shakyamuni Buddha's death was placed in the fifty-second year of the reign of King Mu (949 B.C.E.) of the Chou dynasty, and the period of the Former Day was defined as five hundred years and that of the Middle Day as one thousand years.
Accordingly, it was believed that the Latter Day had begun in the mid-sixth century.
In Japan, Shakyamuni Buddha's death was placed in the same year as in China, but an account that defines each period of the Former Day and the Middle Day as one thousand years was accepted, and it was believed that the Latter Day had begun in 1052.
- The Former Day of the Law, also known as the Age of the Right Dharma (Chinese: 正法; pinyin: Zhèng Fǎ; Jp: shōbō), the first thousand years (or 500 years) during which the Buddha's disciples are able to uphold the Buddha's teachings;
- The Middle Day of the Law, also known as the Age of Semblance Dharma (Chinese: 像法; pinyin: Xiàng Fǎ; Jp: zōhō), the second thousand years (or 500 years), which only resembles the right Dharma;
- The Latter Day of the Law (Chinese: 末法; pinyin: Mò Fǎ; mòfǎ; Jp: mappō), which is to last for 10,000 years during which the Dharma declines.
The three periods are significant to Mahayana adherents, particularly those who hold the Lotus Sutra in high regard; e.g., Tiantai (Tendai) and Nichiren Buddhists, who believe that different Buddhist teachings are valid (i.e., able to lead practitioners to enlightenment) in each period due to the different capacity to accept a teaching (機根 Cn: jīgēn; Jp: kikon) of the people born in each respective period.
Further, in the Mahasamnipata Sutra, the three periods are further divided into five five-hundred year periods (五五百歳 Cn: wǔ wǔ bǎi sùi; Jp: go no gohyaku sai), the fifth and last of which was prophesied to be when the Buddhism of Sakyamuni would lose all power of salvation and a new Buddha would appear to save the people.
This time period would be characterized by unrest, strife, famine, and other, natural disasters.
Descriptions of the three periods also appear in other sutras, some of which ascribe different lengths of time to them (although most agree that Mappō will last for “10,000” years, though rather than a concrete figure, this merely signifies a long period of time).
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.
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
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.