Articles by alphabetic order
 Ā Ī Ñ Ś Ū Ö Ō
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

Three Ages of Buddhism

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
(Redirected from Three periods)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Gyalwa Janchub.jpg
1380449 6165fghf.jpg
15bnn33 n.jpg

The Three Ages of Buddhism, also known as the Three Ages of the Dharma, (simplified Chinese: 三时; traditional Chinese: 三時; pinyin: Sān Shí) are three divisions of time following Buddha's passing.

The Latter Day of the Law is the third and last of the Three Ages of Buddhism.

Mappō or Mofa (Chinese: 末法; pinyin: Mò Fǎ): ; Jp: mappō), which is also translated as the Age of Dharma Decline, is the "degenerate" Third Age of Buddhism.

three periods

三時 (Jpn san-ji )

Former Day

Middle Day

(1) The Former Day, Middle Day, and Latter Day of the Law.

Three consecutive periods or stages into which the time following a Buddha's death is divided.

These are also referred to as the periods of the Correct Law, the Counterfeit Law, and the Decadent Law (or the Final Law).

During the Former Day of the Law, the spirit of Buddhism prevails, and people can attain enlightenment through its practice.

During the Middle Day of the Law, although Buddhism becomes firmly established in society, it grows increasingly formalized, and fewer people benefit from it.

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.

There are several explanations of the lengths of the three periods following the death of Shakyamuni Buddha.

One describes the Former Day and the Middle Day as each lasting one thousand years, and another, five hundred years.

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.

All accounts agree that the Latter Day will continue for ten 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.

Usually these three periods refer to the time after Shakyamuni Buddha's death, but they also pertain to other Buddhas who appear in the sutras.

For example, according to the Lotus Sutra, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging lived toward the end of the Middle Day of the Law of the Buddha Awesome Sound King.

See also Former Day of the Law; Latter Day of the Law; Middle Day of the Law.

(2) A reference to the teachings of the three periods. See three periods, teachings of the.

Three Ages of Buddhism

The Three Ages of Buddhism are three divisions of time following Buddha's passing:

Former Day of the Law

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;

Middle Day of the Law

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;

Latter Day of the Law

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.

The three periods and the five five-hundred year periods are described in the Sutra of the Great Assembly (大集經 Cn: dàjí; Jp: Daishutu-kyō, Daijuku-kyō, Daijikkyō, or Daishukkyō).

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).

Latter Day of the Law


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.


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.[9][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.

Huisi was an early monk who taught about it.

Traditional sects were aware of it.

The Sanjiejiao 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 had alternative views regarding dharma decline.

Dōgen believed that there is no mappō while Hsu Yun thought 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)