Thursday, January 6, 2011

The World to Come (Buddhist "prophecy")

Sayagyi U Chit Tin (BuddhaSasana), Wisdom Quarterly edit
The Buddha gave this famous advice before explaining the world of the future.

[To Be an Island]
Dwell, meditators, with yourselves as an island, with yourselves as a guide, with no one else as a guide, with the Dharma (Doctrine) as an island, with the Dharma as a guide, with no other as a guide.

And how, meditators, does one dwell with oneself as an island, with oneself as a guide, with no one else as a guide, with the Dharma as an island, with the Dharma as a guide, with no other as a guide?

Here (in this Teaching), meditators, a meditator lives [as explained in detail in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness sutra] contemplating

  1. body in body
  2. sensations in sensations
  3. consciousness in consciousness
  4. mental objects in mental objects

ardent, attentive, mindful, having removed covetousness and discontent with regards to the world.

Thus, meditators, does one dwell with oneself as an island, with oneself as a guide, with no one else as a guide, with the Dharma as a guide, with no other as a guide (Digha Nikaya III 58, 77).

So begins the sutra in which the Buddha describes the coming buddha, Metteyya (or in Sanskrit, Maitreya).

The ancient lost city of Pagan in the Burmese wilderness, site of thousands of temples

[The Cycles of Human History]
The Buddha first describes the ideal conditions that existed on Earth long ago when there was a succession of seven Wheel-Turning Monarchs.

Eventually, there was a ruler who neglected to provide for the poor. As a consequence, theft arose in the world. Gradually, people became more and more immoral and killed others. Because of this, the average human lifespan declined from 80,000 to 40,000 years.

Then people began to tell lies, and the human lifespan declined to 20,000 years. Next, malicious speech became prevalent, and the lifespan decreased to 10,000 years.

Then sexual misconduct became prevalent, with the result that people lived for 5,000 years. Harsh speech and frivolous talk became prevalent, and people lived for 2,500 years and 2,000 years. With the advent of covetousness and ill will, the lifespan declined to 1,000 years.

When people began to entertain wrong views, their lifespan decreased to 500 years.

Then three things became rampant: incest, unnatural greed [or perhaps perverse lust], and homosexuality [Note 2]. As a result, the human lifespan decreased to 250 years and 200 years.

Then there was a lack of filial duty [honoring] towards parents, failure to fulfill duties towards spiritual seekers (wandering recluses and brahmin priests), and failure to respect community leaders [elders, all of which is explained in the Sigalovada Sutra or Lay-Buddhist's Code of Ethics].

And the lifespan decreased to 100 years. This was the human life span at the time of the historical Buddha (Gotama or Gautama, also known as Shakyamuni, the "Sage of Shakya Clan").

Whenever the lifespan is shorter than 100 years, there can be no Buddha in the world [Note 3]. [Time is cyclical, so although the average lifespan decreases, it eventually increases again.]

The Buddha explained that unethical and immoral behavior will continue to increase, and the human lifespan will continue to decrease until it is only 10 years! At that time, girls will be married at five years of age.

People who have no respect for their parents, spiritual seekers, or elders, and will not honor and praise them. Promiscuity will be so common that human beings will be more like animals.

Animosity, ill will, and hatred will be so strong that people will want to kill members of their own family.

There will be a seven-day war that results in a great slaughter. Some people will hide for those seven days. Afterwards, they will rejoice to see those who have survived. They will determine to stop killing. And their lifespans will increase to 20 years.

Seeing this, they will undertake to keep other ethical and moral precepts, and gradually the human lifespan will increase again.

[1] DN III 58-79, translated in DB III 59-76 and TS 347-370. Miss Horner seems to overlook this when she says that there is no mention in the Pali Canon or Commentaries that Buddha Gotama made a declaration of future buddhahood for Maitreya (CB xvi).
[2] See also GS I 142, where the Buddha says that these three things were already prevalent in his day.
[3] See CSM 391.

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