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Three Ages of Dharma

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The Three Ages of Dharma (simplified Chinese: 三时; traditional Chinese: 三時; pinyin: Sān Shí), also known as the Three Ages of the Buddhism, are three divisions of time following Buddha's passing that are identified within some traditions of East Asian Buddhism. "This tripartite system was not inherited from Indian Buddhism."[1]

The three divisions are:[2][3]

  1. 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;[4]
  2. 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;[5]
  3. Latter Day of the Law—also known as the Degenerate Age (Chinese: 末法; pinyin: Mò Fǎ; mòfǎ; Jp: mappō), which is to last for 10,000 years during which the Dharma declines.[6]

The three periods are significant to those who hold the Lotus Sutra in high regard, namely the Tiantai and Tendai and Nichiren Buddhism, 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.

Within different traditions

Pure Land 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 Amitābha, where they can practice the Dharma more readily.[7][8][9][10][11]

Nichiren Buddhism has taught that its teaching is the most suitable for the recent Mò Fǎ period.[12][13]

Teachers such as Dōgen and Hsu Yun had alternative views regarding dharma decline. Dōgen believed that there is no Mò Fǎ while Hsu Yun thought Mò Fǎ is not inevitable.[14][15]


  1. Robert E. Buswell Jr., Donald S. Lopez Jr., The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Princeton: 2014), s.v. mofa
  2. Tzu, Chuang (2012). Fa Xiang: A Buddhist Practitioner's Encyclopedia. Buddha's Light Publishing. pp. 4, 5. ISBN 978-1-932293-55-5. 
  3. Marra, Michele (1988). The development of mappō thought in Japan (I), Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 15 (1), 25. PDF
  4. Hattori 2000, pp. 15, 16
  5. Hattori 2000, pp. 15, 16
  6. Hattori 2000, pp. 15, 16
  7. “末法时期,净土成就”佛经出处考
  8. 溫金柯 (2006-04-18). "「末法」與「淨土念佛得度」考--由道綽《安樂集》衍生的重要觀念之檢討" (in 中文). 
  9. 仏教の「末法」キリスト教の「終末」
  10. Kyoshin Asano, The Idea of the Last Dharma-age in Shinran's Thought (Part 1), Pacific World, Third Series Number 3, 53-70, 2001 PDF
  11. Kyoshin Asano, The Idea of the Last Dharma-age in Shinran's Thought (Part 2), Pacific World, Third Series Number 4, 197-216, 2002 PDF
  12. 日莲心目中的《法华经》
  13. Asai Endo (1999). Nichiren Shonin's View of Humanity: The Final Dharma Age and the Three Thousand Realms in One Thought-Moment, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 26 (3-4), 239-240
  14. 佛教末法观的现代意义
  15. http://www.cttbusa.org/dharmatalks/properdharma.asp


External links

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