Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": THE BUDDHA FORETELLS THE GRADUAL DECLINE OF RELIGION


('Anagatavamsa')

Praise to that Lord, Arahant, perfect Buddha.

Thus have I heard: At one time the Lord was staying near Kapilvatthu in the Banyan monastery on the bank of the river Rohani

Then the venerable Sariputta questioned the Lord about the future

Conqueror:

'The Hero that shall follow you,

The Buddha-of what sort will he be?

I want to hear of him in full.

Let the Visioned One describe him.'

When he had heard the Elder's speech

The Lord spoke thus:

'I will tell you, Sariputta,

Listen to my speech.

In this auspicious aeon

Three leaders have there been:

Kakusandha, Konagamana

And the leader Kassapa too.

'I am now the perfect Buddha,

And there will be Metteyya [i.e., Maitreya] too

Before this same auspicious aeon

Runs to the end of its years.

'The perfect Buddha, Metteyya

By name, supreme of men.'

(Then follows a history of the previous existence of Metteyya . . . and then the description of the gradual decline of the religion:)

'How will it occur? After my decease there will first be five disappearances. What five? The disappearance of attainment (in the Dispensation), the disappearance of proper conduct, the disappearance of learning, the disappearance of the outward form, the disappearance of the relics. There will be these five disappearances.

'Here attainment means that for a thousand years only after the lord's complete Nirvana will monks be able to practice analytical insights. As time goes on and on these disciples of mine are nonreturners and once-returners and stream-winners. There will be no disappearance of attainment for these. But with the extinction of the last stream-winner's life, attainment will have disappeared.

'This, Sariputta, is the disappearance of attainment.

'The disappearance of proper conduct means that, being unable to Practice jhana, insight, the Ways and the fruits, they will guard no lore the four entire purities of moral habit. As time goes on and on they will only guard the four offences entailing defeat. While there are even a hundred or a thousand monks who guard and bear in mind the four offences entailing defeat, there will be no disappearance of proper conduct. With the breaking of moral habit by the last monk- or on the extinction of his life, proper conduct will have disappeared.

'This, Sariputta, is the disappearance of proper conduct.

'The disappearance -of learning means that as long as there stand firm the texts with the commentaries pertaining to the word of the Buddha in the three Pitakas, for so long there will be no disappearance of learning. As time goes on and on there will be base-born kings, not Dhamma-men; (dharma) their ministers and so on will not be Dhamma-men, and consequently the inhabitants of the kingdom and so on will not be Dhamma-men. Because they are not Dhamma-men it will not rain properly. Therefore the crops will not flourish well, and in consequence the donors of requisites to the community of monks will not be able to give them the requisites. Not receiving the requisites the monks will not receive pupils. As time goes on and on learning will decay. In this decay the Great Patthana itself will decay first. In this decay also (there will be) Yamaka, Kathavatthu, Puggalapannati, Dhatukatha, Vibhanga and Dhammasangani. When the Abhidhamma Pitaka decays the Suttanta Pitaka will decay. When the Suttantas decay the Anguttara will decay first. When it decays the Samyutta Nikaya, the Majjhima Nikaya, the Digha Nikaya and the Khuddaka-Nikaya will decay. They will simply remember the jataka together with the Vinaya Pitaka. But only the conscientious (monks) will remember the Vinaya Pitaka. As time goes on and on, being unable to remember even the jataka, the Vessantara-jataka will decay first. When that decays the Apannaka-jataka will decay. When the jatakas decay they will remember only the Vinaya-Pitaka. As time goes on and on the Vinaya-Pitaka will decay. While a four-line stanza still continues to exist among men, there will not be a disappearance of learning. When a king who has faith has had a purse containing a thousand (coins) placed in a golden' casket on an elephant's back, and has had the drum (of proclamation) sounded in the city up to the second or third time, to the effect that: "Whoever knows a stanza uttered by the Buddhas, let him take these thousand coins together with the royal elephant"-but yet finding no one knowing a four-line stanza, the purse containing the thousand (coins) must be taken back into the palace again-then will be the disappearance of learning.

'This, Sariputta, is the disappearance of learning.

'As time goes on and on each of the last monks, carrying his robe, bowl, and tooth-pick like Jain recluses, having taken a bottle-gourd and turned it into a bowl for almsfood, will wander about with it in his forearms or hands or hanging from a piece of string. As time goes on and on, thinking: 'What's the good of this yellow robe?" and cutting off a small piece of one and sticking it on his nose or ear or ill his hair, he will wander about supporting wife and children by agriculture, trade and the like. Then he will give a gift to the Southern community for those (of bad moral habit). I say that he will then acquire an incalculable fruit of the gift. As time goes on and on, thinking: "What's the good of this to us?", having thrown away the piece Of yellow robe, he will harry beasts and birds in the forest. At this time the outward form will have disappeared.

'This, Sariputta, is called the disappearance of the outward form.

'Then when the Dispensation of the Perfect Buddha is 5,000 years old, the relics, not receiving reverence and honour, will go to places where they can receive them. As time goes on and on there will not be reverence and honour for them in every place. At the time when the Dispensation is falling into (oblivion), all the relics, coming from every place: from the abode of serpents and the deva-world and the Brahma-world, having gathered together in the space round the great Bo-tree, having made a Buddha-image, and having performed a "miracle" like the Twin-miracle, will teach Dhamma. No human being will be found at that place. All the devas of the ten-thousand world system, gathered together, will hear Dhamma and many thousands of them will attain to Dhamma. And these will cry aloud, saying: "Behold, devatas, a week from today our One of the Ten Powers will attain complete Nirvana." They will weep, saying: "Henceforth there will be darkness for us." Then the relics, producing the condition of heat, will burn up that image leaving no remainder.

'This, Sariputta, is called the disappearance of the relics.'


Translation and explanatory material by Edward Conze, in Conze et al., Buddhist Texts through the Ages (Oxford: Bruno Cassirer (Publishers) Ltd., 1954).

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