Sutras

The Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of The Dharma’s Complete End《佛说法灭尽经》

Written by Purelanders

The below sūtra includes subjects on the following and more:  

[A] Did the Buddha Teach The Dharma-Ending Age To Discourage Us?
【佛陀的末法教理是要我们气馁吗?】
[B] What Are 32 Signs Of This Dharma-Ending Age? 
【末法时期有什么32现象?】
[C] Did The Buddha Warn About The Climate Crisis? 
【佛陀警告过气候危机吗?】
[D] Why Even The Enlightened Cannot Prevent The Dharma-Ending Age 
【为何甚至觉者阻止不了末法时期】
[E] How Is The Monastic Community Destroyed In The Dharma-Ending Age?
【僧团如何在末法时期被破坏?】
[F] How Do Sūtras Disappear In This Dharma-Ending Age? 
【佛经如何在末法时期消失?】
[G] What Will Happen To The Demonic In The Dharma-Ending Age?
【末法之魔将受什么报应?】
[H] What Will Happen After This Dharma-Ending Age? 
【末法之后将会如何?】


《佛说法灭尽经》
[Beginning of ‘The] Sūtra [In Which The] Buddha Speaks [Of The] Dharma’s Complete End’

序分 Preface

闻如是。一时佛在拘夷那竭国。如来三月当般涅槃。

[As I] heard [was] thus, [that at] one time, [Śākyamuni] Buddha [was] in Kuśinagara state. [The] Thus Come [One in] three months, would [then be entering] Parinirvāṇa.

Note 1: This is one of the Buddha’s final teachings warning of the grave dangers of this present Dharma-Ending Age (末法时期).

[A] Did the Buddha Teach The Dharma-Ending Age To Discourage Us? 
【佛陀的末法教理是要我们气馁吗?】

与诸比丘及诸菩萨。无央数众来诣佛所稽首于地。

With many Bhikṣus and many Bodhisattvas, [and a] boundless number [of] sentient beings, [they] came [to] visit where [the] Buddha [was], prostrating [with their] heads on [the] ground.

正宗分 Main Teachings 

世尊寂静默无所说光明不现。

[The] World-Honoured [One was] still [and] silent, without that said, [and with his] bright light not appearing.

贤者阿难作礼白佛言。世尊前后说法威光独显。今大众会光更不现。何故如此。其必有故。愿闻其意。

[The] virtuous one Ānanda prostrated [and to the] Buddha said, ‘[The] World-Honoured [One], before [and] after speaking [the] Dharma, [has] awe-inspiring light [that is] uniquely prominent. Now, [before this] great assembly, [your] light [is] not even appearing. [For] what reason [is this] thus? It must have [a] reason. May [we] hear its meaning.’

Note 2: What the Buddhas do and not do both have skilful meanings. Just as the Buddha usually radiates light and speaks to inspire, his non-radiating of light and initial silence, as we will see, are to inspire us to be more diligent in Dharma learning and practice, in anticipation of the deepening of this Dharma-Ending Age.

佛默不应。

[The] Buddha [remained] silent without reply.

如是至三佛告阿难。吾涅槃后法欲灭时。五逆浊世魔道兴盛。

Thus until [there were] three [requests, did the] Buddha tell Ānanda, ‘After my Parinirvāṇa, when [the] Dharma [is] about to end, [in this] Five Heinous [Transgressions’ and] Five Defilements’ [Evil] Age, demonic paths [will] flourish.

Note 3: The Buddha replied only after the third request, so as to let the requester most sincerely request for the Dharma, that might be challenging to receive, and to let all in the assembly brace themselves, to pay more attention on that to be said.

Note 4: The Right Dharma Age (正法时期) lasts for 500 years after the Buddha’s Parinirvāṇa, the Dharma Resemblance Age (像法时期) for 1,000 years that follow, and the Dharma-Ending Age (末法时期) for 10,000 years next, when the overall quality of the Dharma being taught, learnt and practised will decline. According to a Chinese Buddhist record, of the Buddha’s Parinirvāṇa being 3,046 years ago (in this year 2019 C.E.), this means we are already 15.46% into the last age, with 8,454 years left. (This is calculated by adding the years of the three ages together, to subtract 3,046 years.) With a generous estimate of 100 years per generation, about 84 generations later, the Dharma in our world will be completed ended.

Note 5: The Five Heinous Transgressions (五逆罪) are killing of Father (杀父), Mother (杀母), Arhat (杀阿罗汉), causing a Buddha to bleed (出佛身血) and breaking up of the Saṃgha (破和合僧). The Five Defilements (五浊) are defilements of the kalpa (劫浊), views (见浊), afflictions (烦恼浊), sentient beings (众生浊) and lifespans (命浊). The Evil Age (恶世) is this period with the Five Defilements gathered.

Note 6: With repentance (忏悔), as taught by the Buddha in the Contemplation Sūtra《观经》, even those who had created the Five Heinous Transgressions can reach Amitābha Buddha’s (阿弥陀佛) Pure Land (净土) if they practise mindfulness of his name sincerely.

[B] What Are 32 Signs Of This Dharma-Ending Age? 
【末法时期有什么32现象?】
[E]
How Is The Monastic Community Destroyed In The Dharma-Ending Age?
【僧团如何在末法时期被破坏?】

[1] 魔作沙门坏乱吾道。[2] 著俗衣裳 [3] 乐好袈裟五色之服。

[1] Demons [will] become “Śramaṇas” [to] ruin [and] confuse my path [taught], [2] wearing secular clothes, [3] [with] fond delight [for] kaṣāya [robes] of five colours.

Note 7: Some ‘Buddhist monastics’ switch to lay clothes secretly, to disguise themselves while conducting themselves in non-monastic ways. Some switch to lay clothes openly, claiming it is alright, when there are rules against this. Some wear increasingly fanciful ‘robes’ out of vanity, instead of remaining plain, as meant to, for ascetic simplicity.

[4] 饮酒 [5] 啖肉 [6] 杀生贪味。[7] 无有慈心 [8] 更相憎嫉。

[4] Drinking alcohol, [5] eating meat, [6] [and] killing sentient beings [with] greed [for their] taste, [7] without having [the] mind [of] loving-kindness, [8] even [being] jealous [of] one another.

Note 8: Some ‘monastics’ who do not seek alms food eat meat, (thus creating demand for supply of killed animals), and drink alcohol, the latter of which breaks even the Fifth Precept for laypeople. Intoxication leads to loss of mindfulness for observing all the other precepts.

时有菩萨辟支罗汉。精进修德一切敬待。人所宗向教化平等。

At that time, [there] are Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas [and] Arhats, diligently cultivating virtues, [with] all respectfully received, [of] people who revere [and are] inclined [towards them, they are] taught [and] transformed equally.

怜贫念老鞠育穷厄。恒以经像令人奉事。

[With] empathy [for the] poor [and] mindfulness [of the] old, nourishing [and] educating [those with] poverty [and] adversities, constantly with sūtras [and Buddhist] images, enabling [these] people [to] worship.

作诸功德志性恩善。不侵害人捐身济物。不自惜己忍辱仁和。

Creating much meritorious virtues, [with] disposition [for] kindness [and] goodness, not encroaching [on] people, contributing [their] bodies [for] helping people, not [with] self-cherishing [of] oneself, [with] patience, benevolence [and] harmony.

设有是人。[9] 众魔比丘咸共嫉之诽谤扬恶。摈黜驱遣不令得住。[10] 自共于后不修道德。

Supposing [there] are these people, [9] many demonic “Bhikṣus” all together [will be] jealous of [them], slandering, propagating “evil” [about them], rejecting, dismissing [and] driving [them] away, [to] not [be] able [to] attain dwelling, [10] personally together after, not cultivating [the] path’s virtues.

Note 9: The Buddhist community can only be torn apart by those who manifest within as ‘proper’ Buddhists, who create schism to break it up inside out, often with false accusations of truly proper Buddhists. while they themselves are the improper ones.

[11] 寺庙空荒无复修理转就毁坏。

[11] Monasteries [will be] empty [and] desolated, without [being] restored [and] managed, in turn then damaged.

[12] 但贪财物积聚不散不作福德。

[12] However, [with] greed [for] money [and] goods gathered together, [yet] not spreading [to share them, and] not [for] creating blessed virtues.

Note 10: This is when those in charge of ‘monasteries’ become rich and powerful, while not caring for the actual monasteries, or their devotees, both spiritually and materially – not offering help when needed.

[13] 贩卖奴婢耕田种植。焚烧山林伤害众生无有慈心。

[13] Selling slave servants [for] tilling fields [and] growing [crops], burning mountains [and] forests, harming sentient beings, without having [the] mind [of] loving-kindness.

[14] 奴为比丘。婢为比丘尼。无有道德婬妷浊乱男女不别。

[14] [These] slaves [will] be “Bhikṣus”, [and these] servants [will] be “Bhikṣuṇīs”, without having [the] path’s virtues, lasciviously indulgent, corrupted [and] disorderly, [with] males [and] females without differentiation.

令道薄淡皆由斯辈。

Enabling [of the] path [to be] slighted [and] weakened, [is] all due [to] this kind of persons.

Note 11: Spiritual corruption begins from not observing the precepts well. Even laypeople are not supposed to trade in slavery, as taught by the Buddha to be of Wrong Livelihood, what more for monastics. Destroying of vegetation, especially of much is also wrong, if for no good reason. Monastics are not supposed to have any sexual conduct, what more to indulge in them.

[15] 或避县官依倚吾道。求作沙门不修戒律。

[15] Perhaps [for] avoiding county officials, “relying” upon my path, seeking [to] become “Śramaṇas”, [yet] not cultivating precepts [and] rules.

Note 12: This is how those without the pure motivation to even observe the precepts, who pretend to do so, might enter to begin corrupting a spiritual community.

[16] 月半月尽虽名诵戒。厌倦懈怠不欲听闻。

[16] [At each] month’s half-month, although [in] name reciting [the] precepts, weary [and] lazy, not desiring [to] listen [and] learn [about them].

Note 13: Such is going through motion, without really being mindful of the precepts to check themselves. Without strict adherence to the precepts as foundation, there is already corruption at the base, with no true spiritual progress possible.

Note 14: The Bodhisattva Precepts (菩萨戒) are to be recited twice monthly by monastics and laypersons walking the Bodhisattva path. As the 48th and aptly last secondary Bodhisattva precept in the Brahmā Net Sūtra《梵网经》, the Buddha most seriously reminded his disciples that ‘similar to worms inside a lion’s body, themselves eating the lion’s flesh, not by other worms outside, thus are the Buddha’s “disciples” who self-destroy the Buddhadharma [i.e. Buddha’s teachings], which external paths and celestial demons [that deviate from the Buddhadharma] are not able to destroy. If having received the Buddha’s [Bodhisattva] precepts, they should protect the Buddha’s precepts [by upholding them well], similar to being mindful of one’s only child, similar to serving one’s Father and Mother, they must not intentionally break them.’ 「如师子身中虫,自食师子肉,非余外虫。如是佛子自破佛法,非外道天魔能破。若受佛戒者,应护佛戒,如念一子,如事父母,不可毁破。」This sums up how very important and precious the precepts are.

[17] 抄略前后不肯尽说。经不诵习。

[17] Copying approximately [that] before [and] after, not willing [to] completely speak [them, of] sūtras not reciting [and] practising [accordingly].

Note 15: This is to not learn the Buddha’s teachings systematically and comprehensively for proper practice.

[18] 设有读者不识字句。

[18] Supposing [there] are those [who] read [them, but they do] not know [the meaning of their] words [and] lines. 

为强言是。不谘明者贡高求名。

[Yet] for forcibly saying [what] is [assumed], not consulting wise ones, [for] arrogantly seeking fame, [speaking wrongly].

虚显雅步以为荣冀望人供养。

[They will] falsely display “elegant” steps [in reply] for glory, hoping [for] people’s offerings.

Note 16: Such ‘elegance’ might seem calm and peaceful, while not being aligned with the actual Dharma. To pridefully misrepresent scriptural teachings, for selfish gain, while possibly harming others with sharing of wrong interpretations is triply wrong. This is how the otherwise Right Dharma (正法) gets increasingly corrupted.

[G] What Will Happen To The Demonic In The Dharma-Ending Age? 
【末法之魔将受什么报应?】

众魔比丘命终之后。精神当堕无择地狱。五逆罪中。

After [these] many demonic “Bhikṣus” lives end, [their] consciousnesses will fall [into] uninterrupted hells, [for those with the] Five Heinous Transgressions within.

Note 17: Of the Five Heinous Transgressions, these ‘monastics’ have created the breaking up of the Saṃgha by sowing discord. Serious slander of the Dharma (谤法) can also lead to the deepest hell.

饿鬼畜生靡不经历恒河沙劫。

[Also as] hungry ghosts [and] animals [after, with] none not experiencing [as so for] Ganges rivers’ sands’ [number of] kalpas.

罪竟乃出生在边国无三宝处。

[When their] transgressions [are] completely [exhausted] then exiting, [to be] born at border lands, where [they are] without [the] Triple Gem.

Note 18: Due to the gravity of the negative karma created, there is a slow ‘crawl’ up from the lowest hell, and to the realm of hungry ghosts and animals, eventually attaining the lowliest human rebirth, probably in a ‘Dharma-Ended Age’ (‘无法时期’) or the equivalent, missing the Triple Gem (三宝), of the Buddhas (佛), Dharma (法) and Saṃgha (僧). The Triple Gem is instead always available in Pure Land, where one will become part of it too.

法欲灭时 [19] 女人精进恒作功德。

When [the] Dharma [is] about to end, [19] women [will be] diligent [and] constantly create meritorious virtues.

Note 19: This is very noticeable in present times, in contrast to that in the next line.

[20] 男子懈慢不用法语。

[20] Men [will be] lazy [and] undisciplined, not using Dharma words [learnt for practice].

[21] 眼见沙门如视粪土无有信心。

[21] [With their own] eyes seeing Śramaṇas, [to be] like seeing dirty soil, without having [the] mind [of] faith.

Note 20: This could also be partly due to much presence of fake ‘monastics’ as warned by the Buddha, such that it becomes confusing for laypeople to discern who are true monastics, thus leading to general loss of faith in monastics.

[C] Did The Buddha Warn About The Climate Crisis?
【佛陀警告过气候危机吗?】

法将殄没。登尔之时诸天泣泪。

[With the] Dharma going to disappear, when ascending thus, all gods [will] weep tears.

Note 21: The gods can who will ascend to depart for the heavens, if they cannot bear to see this literally ‘godforsaken’ world turning evil, to be with more suffering, in ways that they might be unable to help reverse.

[22] 水旱不调五穀不熟。疫气流行死亡者众。

[22] Waters [will] dry [up and] not [be in] harmony, [with the] five grains not ripening. Epidemics [by] air [will] spread [with the] deaths [of] many.

Note 22: This seems to be the beginning of the climate crisis, which we are currently experiencing, with the elements out of balance, and with increase of viral diseases, due to mismanagement of livestock. Many of these bred animals are also killed when there are disease outbreaks among them.

[23] 人民勤苦县官计克。不顺道理皆思乐乱。

[23] [With] the people hardworking [yet] suffering, county officials scheme [to] restrain [them], not according [with moral] principles, [with] all thinking about [personal] joy [with] confusion.

Note 23: Such is political corruption, that lacks political will to reverse the climate crisis, that aims to profit off people instead of helping them, while also suppressing them. The rich and politically powerful might even deny the severe effects of the crisis for their monetary benefits, while being comfortable, remaining relatively out of the crisis’ reach with their wealth for the time being.

[24] 恶人转多如海中沙。善者甚少若一若二。

[24] Evil persons [will] multiply [to be] many, like sands’ [number] within [the] ocean. Good ones [will be] extremely few, perhaps [with] one or two.

劫欲尽故 [25] 日月转短人命转促。四十头白。

[As the] kalpa [is] about to end, thus [25] [will] days [and] months turn shorter, [and] human lifespans [will] turn [to be] hastened. [At] forty years [of age], heads’ [hair will turn] white.

Note 24: Even though there might be increase of average physical lifespans in some countries, the actual lifespans that matter are spiritual lifespans, that is, the number of years spent fruitfully living the spiritual life. Also, physical lifespans that increase do not guarantee the quality of life, as there is increase in the aged with many chronic illnesses.

[26] 男子婬妷精尽夭命。或寿六十。

[26] Men lasciviously indulgent, [with] vitality exhausted [will have] prematurely ended lives, perhaps [at] sixty years [of age].

[27] 男子寿短女人寿长。七八九十或至百岁。

[27] [As] men’s lifespan shorten, women’s lifespan [will] lengthen, [to] perhaps seventy, eighty, ninety, or reaching [one] hundred years [of age].

[28] 大水忽起卒至无期。世人不信故为有常。

[28] Great waters [i.e. floods] [will] suddenly rise [and] abruptly end [at] no fixed times. [With] common people not believing thus, becoming [that which is] frequent.

Note 25: This seems to be furthering of the climate crisis, with natural cycles going out of predictable seasons. Worldly people will lack faith in this as reflective of their moral deterioration, due to increase of the Three Poisons (三毒) of greed, hatred and delusion (贪嗔痴), thus worsening the crisis.

[29] 众生杂类不问豪贱。没溺浮漂鱼鳖食啖。

[29] Sentient beings [of] mixed kinds, disregarding [the] grand [or] lowly, [will] sink, drown, float [or] drift, [by] fish [and] turtles eaten.

Note 26: This seems to be a warning of the climate crisis again, about the deaths of many with the rise of sea levels, by melting of the polar ice caps from global warming, and other water-related disasters like tsunamis and hurricanes.

Note 27: In the Buddhist teachings, disasters with great waters (大水) are metaphorically linked to the flooding of overwhelming greed, with great fires (大火) linked to the burning of fierce hatred, with hurricanes and typhoons linked to the blowing of the ‘black winds’ (黑风) of delusion that obscure clarity of vision. Just as these Three Poisons are intertwined, they can be mixed to have cross-manifestations during environmental disasters too.

Note 28: These are some of many good reasons to reach Amitābha Buddha’s Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss (极乐净土), which is free from supportive conditions (助缘) that power ‘spiritual disasters’, (due to being overrun by the Three Poisons), and physical disasters, (due to these poisons spilling over to be expressed externally). Liberated from inner and outer suffering, it is the safest place for spiritual practice towards Buddhahood. There, remnant poisons will most swiftly be transformed to be their antidotes.

[D] Why Even The Enlightened Cannot Prevent The Dharma-Ending Age 
【为何甚至觉者阻止不了末法时期】

时有 [30] 菩萨辟支罗汉。众魔驱逐不预众会。

At that time, [there] are [30] Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas [and] Arhats, [by] many demons driven out, [to] not [be able to] participate [in] assemblies [and to] meet.

Note 29: As this Dharma-Ending Age deepens, when demonic forces unite and increase in power, the limited pure ones will not be ‘strong’ enough even to unite, what more to counter them. These evil forces are able to gain strength due to humans collectively choosing to be more evil. As much as many enlightened ones wish to help, their ability to help us then is limited by our lack of supportive collective positive karma, along with much obstructive collective negative karma, the latter of which conditioned the great growth of evil in this world in the first place. Thus, it is never the fault of the enlightened that we have much evil and suffering here, but our very own fault.

三乘入山福德之地。恬怕自守以为欣快寿命延长。

[These] Three Vehicles [will] enter mountains’ lands of blessed virtues. Peacefully [and] simply fending for themselves, with joyful happiness [and] lifespans lengthened.

Note 30: At this point, even these noble ones, who wish to help the rest who are wayward, have to wisely retreat from them, for their own safety.

诸天卫护月光出世。得相遭值共兴吾道。

All gods [will] protect [them, with] moon light coming into being, attaining encountering [and] meeting [of] one another, together thriving [on] my path.

Note 31: This community can still practise among themselves to advance on the path to Buddhahood. Note that their members, other than the gods mentioned, are already enlightened to some extent. Perhaps, some unenlightened humans, who are eager to follow them can still do so.

[F] How Do Sūtras Disappear In This Dharma-Ending Age?
【佛经如何在末法时期消失?】

五十二岁。[31] 首楞严经。般舟三昧。先化灭去。

[In] fifty-two years, [31] [the] Śūraṅgama Sūtra, [and the] Pratyutpanna Samādhi [Sūtra, will be the] first [sūtras to] transform [and] disappear.

十二部经寻后复灭。尽不复现。不见文字。

[The] twelve divisions [of the] sūtras soon after, [will] also disappear, completely [and] not reappearing, not [further] seeing [their] texts’ words.

Note 32: When the Dharma-Ending Age further deepens, the sūtras will vanish, first by negligence due to lack of interest, thus fading from people’s minds, before also disappearing physically, due to lack of meritorious virtues to deserve encountering them. They also ‘transform’ and vanish when their meanings are ‘accidentally’ misinterpreted by the personally deluded, and when wilfully distorted by those who wish to delude others.

Note 33: As the Śūraṅgama Sūtra contains strict and unequivocal moral guidelines on the Four Heavy Precepts (四重戒) in its Pure [And] Clear Instructions’ Section《清净明诲章》and the Fifty Aggregates’ Demons’ Section《五十阴魔章》, it will karmically first disappear, thus ‘allowing’ demonic forces to thrive.

Note 34: In it is also the Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva’s Perfect Penetration [Via] Mindfulness [Of] Buddha《大势至菩萨念佛圆通章》, which summarises the Pure Land path ‘most’ briefly in essence. This is while the Pratyutpanna Samādhi Sūtra《般舟三昧经》contains teachings on perhaps the most challenging Pure Land practice, requiring much meditative walking.

Note 35: The twelve divisions contain all the sūtras, which will all disappear. However, the last scripture to disappear is the Immeasurable Life Sūtra《无量寿经》, as stated by the Buddha within it, which contains the easiest yet still true Pure Land Practice (实行), requiring only mindfulness of the name of Amitābha Buddha with profound Faith (深信) and sincere Aspiration (切愿).

Note 36: The above means mindfulness of Buddha (念佛) is the most enduring and only feasible teaching for liberation in this Dharma-Ending Age. As such, the Buddha will ensure that existence of this practice is maximised, to benefit as many beings as possible.

As taught by Śākyamuni Buddha in the Immeasurable Life Sūtra, ‘When it is the last period of the Dharma-Ending Age [which is this era], I will specially retain this sūtra, for one hundred [more] years in this world, to receive and guide sentient beings, for rebirth in that [Pure] Land [of Amitābha Buddha: 阿弥陀佛: Āmítuófó].’「末世法灭之时,特驻此经,百年在世,接引众生,往生彼国。」

Also taught by him in the Mahāvaipulya Mahāsannipāta Sūtra《大方等大集经》, ‘In the Dharma-Ending Age [which is this era], when 100 million of 100 million people practise the Dharma, it is rare that one will attain the path; only relying upon mindfulness of Buddha, is there attainment of deliverance from the cycle of birth and death.’「末法亿亿人修行,罕一得道;唯依念佛,得度生死。」

[32] 沙门袈裟自然变白。

[32] Śramaṇas’ kaṣāya [robes will] naturally turn white.

Note 37: This represents when the monastic robes will have no more significance, becoming the same colour(s) as lay clothes, when no one becomes deserving of the robes any more. This is the literal complete fading away of the noble monastic ideal.

吾法灭时譬如油灯。临欲灭时光明更盛。于是便灭。吾法灭时亦如灯灭。

When my Dharma [is] ending, like [an] oil lamp, when approaching [being] about to [be] extinguished, [has] bright light [that is] even [more] vigorous, thereupon then extinguishing. My Dharma when ending, [is] also like [the] lamp extinguishing.

Note 38: We must not mistake occasional or final ‘splutters’ of bright light to mean hope for reversal of the Dharma-Ending Age, which the Buddha did not teach to be reversible. However, we should still do our best to protect the light of the Dharma while we are here, to let it burn as brightly, and for as long as possible. The above community in exile will be this world’s final splutter.

Note 39: Thus, it is not that the enlightened ones do not wish to maintain the Dharma in this world in the last stretch of the Dharma-Ending Age, but that they are forced to retreat by evil ones beyond redemption in this defiled land (秽土) then. Out of compassion, the enlightened ones will back off, so as to not let them karmically harm themselves by harming the Triple Gem, which will create strong negative karma bound for hell. This is a grave reminder that for the extremely wayward, there is a limit even of the most skilful means, unless they repent (忏悔) with knowledge of their great wrongs. Therefore, we must not take manifestations of the enlightened for granted, lest we eventually become these wayward ones.

Note 40: In the Śūraṅgama Sūtra’s Section On Clear Instructions For Purity《楞严经》(清净明诲章), which the Buddha taught in the sūtra above, to be the first sūtra to disappear in the Dharma-Ending Age, he already instructed many enlightened ones to help in this age. ‘I command all Bodhisattvas and Arhats, to manifest bodies to be born within that Dharma-Ending Age, to become various forms, to deliver all from rebirth. Perhaps becoming Śramaṇas, white-robed laypersons, kings, officials, young males, young females, as such, and even “licentious” women, widows, “outlaws”, “thieves”, “butchers”, “peddlers” [i.e. “traffickers”, who do not truly break precepts], with them working together, praising the Buddha vehicle [to Buddhahood], to enable their bodies and minds to enter samādhi [concentration].’ (敕诸菩萨及阿罗汉,应身生彼末法之中,作种种形,度诸轮转。或作沙门、白衣居士、人王宰官、童男童女,如是乃至淫女寡妇、奸偷屠贩,与其同事,称赞佛乘,令其身心入三摩地。)

‘To the end, they do not say, “I am a true Bodhisattva, or a true Arhat,” which is to divulge the Buddha’s secret cause, to carelessly say so to those yet to learn [the Dharma]. Only except when approaching the end of life, secretly as last words, [can they be said]. Why would these persons, confuse and disturb sentient beings, by accomplishing great false speech?… Such as I have spoken, is named Buddhas’ speech. Not such as spoken, is Pāpīyān’s [i.e. Māra: the evil demon king] speech.’ (终不自言: “我真菩萨、真阿罗汉,” 泄佛密因,轻言未学。唯除命终,阴有遗付。云何是人,惑乱众生,成大妄语?… 如我所说,名为佛说。不如此说,即波旬说。)

Even as the world will be with many evil ones during the Dharma-Ending Age, the Buddha specially ordered for many skilful manifestations of the enlightened to represent him. The only way to help transform and liberate those still spiritually redeemable then, is to blend in with them discreetly, to teach them the path to Pure Land. If their true identities are leaked before they are ready, there might be disgust and slander, with their manifestations will no longer being skilful. The Buddha also stated that those who ‘carelessly’ claim to be enlightened then are with ‘great false speech’, which will lead to hell. Such liars will become rampant in this age, whose words and deeds are on the same side as Māra. Instead of attracting only with the pure Dharma and moral integrity, they confound and distract others, while seeking personal fame and fortune.

[H] What Will Happen After This Dharma-Ending Age? 
【末法之后将会如何?】

自此之后难可数说。

Henceforth, [what occurs] after this, [is] difficult [to] enumerate [and] speak [of].

Note 41: This world after the light of the Dharma burns out completely is with spiritual darkness, in a state with chaotic evil and suffering – so much so, that even the Buddha said it is hard to speak of it in detail. It can be called the ‘Dharma-Ended Age’. If we do not ensure there is departure in time, most safely by reaching Pure Land, this age might be entered karmically.

如是之后数千万岁。弥勒当下世间作佛。

Thus after numerous thousands of ten thousand years [i.e. about 5.6 billion years], Maitreya [Bodhisattva] will descend [in this] world [to] become [a] Buddha.

Note 42: It should not be forgotten that before Maitreya Buddha manifests, there is this wide window period with no presence of the Triple Gem at all. It is thus wise to not wait so long for the next Buddha to arise here, when a Buddha can be met in his Pure Land directly.

天下泰平毒气消除。雨润和适五穀滋茂。

[Then, the] world [will have] great peace, [with its] poisonous air eliminated. [With] rain moistening harmoniously, suitable [for the] five grains [to] grow lushly.

树木长大人长八丈。皆寿八万四千岁。众生得度不可称计。

Trees [will] grow tall, [and] humans [will] grow [to be] eight zhàngs [tall] [i.e. 26.4 metres, with 1 zhàng being 3.3 metres]. All [their] lifespans [will be] 84,000 years. Sentient beings [who] attain deliverance [then] cannot [be] calculated.’

Note 43: The environmental conditions by the time Maitreya Buddha manifests are those with extreme reversal of the climate crisis, through the increase of much positive collective karma. Not only will flora flourish, even humans will grow well physically and in years. Note that this world will not be a Pure Land immediately with the arrival of Maitreya Bodhisattva, and that although many will attain liberation, not all in this world will then do so. Even with such a long lifespan, it is incomparable with the immeasurable life (无量寿) we will attain in Amitābha Buddha’s Pure Land, who also has immeasurable life personally. This ensures our ability to meet him directly at the end of this life, and to have ample time to learn from him, which guarantees Buddhahood most swiftly.

流通分 Conclusion

贤者阿难作礼白佛。当何名斯经。云何奉持。

[The] virtuous one Ānanda prostrated [and] said [to the] Buddha, ‘What should [be the] name [of] this sūtra? How [should it be] received [and] upheld?’

佛言。阿难。此经名为法灭尽。

[The] Buddha said, ‘Ānanda, this sūtra [is] named as “[The] Dharma’s Complete End.”

Note 44: The Buddhas’ Dharma teachings, being lasting paths for realisation of lasting truths, cannot truly end. However, as interest in the Dharma can end, this is how the Dharma in our world can seem to as if ‘completely end’.

宣告一切宜令分别。功德无量不可称计。

Proclaiming [it to] all, [to] properly enable differentiation, [such] meritorious virtues cannot be calculated.’

Note 45: There are incalculable merits from sharing this sūtra’s teachings as they help to discern signs of deepening of the Dharma-Ending Age, so as to not play a part in its deepening, or to be confused by those playing a part. Also, as exemplified below, this sūtra is able to urge all to give rise to greater spiritual diligence. Even as we are in this Dharma-Ending Age, we must ensure the Dharma does not end within us, while ensuring we will reach the best place with a lasting Right Dharma Age, to expedite progress to Buddhahood without fail. That place is Pure Land.

四部弟子闻经悲惨惆怅。皆发无上圣真道意。

[When the] four divisions [of] disciples heard [this] sūtra, [they were] sorrowful [and] depressed. [Yet], all gave rose [to the] aspiration [to attain the] unsurpassable noble [and] true path.

Note 46: The fourfold assembly consists of Buddhist monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen. Although grave in message, they were able to use these teachings to spur themselves to give rise of Bodhicitta (菩提心), to learn and practise the Dharma even more diligently. Likewise should we.

As such, the Buddha did not teach on the Dharma-Ending Age to discourage us, but to encourage us to pull up our socks spiritually. Again, what the Buddhas do and not do both offer skilful teachings. This age is spoken of, to urge us to not let the Dharma die with us, even when supportive conditions are dying. In this and immeasurably more ways, all Buddhas are always compassionately maximising their efforts to guide us. However, we must heed their advice to be truly benefitted.

悉为佛作礼而去。

All to [the] Buddha prostrated, [and] then departed.

《佛说法灭尽经》
[Ending of ‘The] Sūtra [In Which The] Buddha Speaks [Of The] Dharma’s Complete End’

僧祐录中失译经人名今附宋录
[From] Sēngyòu Records within [with] translator’s name lost, [as] now appended [to the] Sòng Annals.

Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
(Suggestions for improvement are welcomed)


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