Strong in Fighting During the Dharma-Ending Age
A Dharma talk given on June 5, 1988 at Gold Buddha Monastery, Vancouver, Canada
Anything in the world, whatever it is, has four stages of coming into being, dwelling, decaying, and ceasing to be (emptiness), which is also called the four great kalpa. “Coming into being ” takes twenty small aeons; “dwelling” takes twenty small kalpas; “decaying” takes twenty small kalpas, and “ceasing to be (emptiness)” also takes twenty small kalpas. A small kalpa is such a long period of time that even computers cannot calculate how long it is. Twenty small kalpas make up a medium kalpa. So, with twenty small kalpas for each of the four stages of coming into being, dwelling, decaying, and ceasing to be,” it adds up to four medium kalpas, and the four medium kalpas make up a major kalpa. During this period of time, we all go through a lot of complicated, inconceivable experiences.
In Buddhism, there are the Proper Dharma Age, the Dharma Image Age, and the Dharma-ending Age. The Proper Dharma Age is an age in which people are enthusiastic and strong in the practice of meditative concentration. The Image Dharma Age is an age in which people are enthusiastic and strong in building temples and monasteries. The Dharma-ending age is an age in which people are enthusiastic and strong in competing with and fighting each other. In this modern times, there are a lot of wars because we are in this Dharma-ending Age. We can see the misery of wars everywhere, as it is said, “when wars are waged to seize territorial possessions, those who are killed are strewn all over the battlefield. When battles are fought for control over cities, those who are massacred pile up in the cities,” this is what is called “devouring human flesh for the sake of conquering lands and territories, and death is not enough for the punishment of such crimes.”
In this age, few people practice meditation, and although there are people who build temples, they often get in arguments with each other, competing for superiority. You say that your temple is beautiful and resplendent, and you spend a large amount of money building it. He also competes for how his temple looks splendid in green and gold, glittering on all sides — people just work on these kinds of superficial things, while those who compete with and fight against each other are seen everywhere. Take a look at those scientists who use their worldly intelligence, which is not the true wisdom, and spend all their time racking their brain to create weapons that can annihilate mankind. What kind of phenomenon is this? It is a phenomenon indicative of the imminent destruction of the world. The world will perish and become extinct.
During the Proper Dharma Age, there are also image dharmas and “branch-tip ” dharmas (phenomena of the dharma’s ending). In the Proper Dharma Age, there are also people who enjoy building temples and hermitages, however, the majority of Buddhist practitioners are those who practice meditation, while those who build temples and monasteries are in minority; even less are those who are fond of fighting or competing. That is why such a period is considered the Proper Dharma Age.
How about the Dharma Image Age? It is an age where more people are building temples than practicing meditation. However, there is a growing number of people who love to fight in the Image Dharma Age, more of this kind of fighting people than in the Proper Dharma Age. Therefore this is called the Image Dharma Age.
Within the Dharma Image Age there are also elements of the Proper Dharma Age and the Dharma-ending Age. Right now we are at the Dharma-ending Age, in which we can still see elements of the Proper Dharma. If you do not fight, are not greedy, do not seek, are not selfish, and are not self-benefiting, but uphold the fundamental precepts laid down by the Buddha, and practice Chan samadhi, then this is also considered the Proper Dharma Age. However, if you build temples on one hand, and on the other hand, are fond of competition and fighting, you will help create a phenomenon of more and more Buddhists becoming fond of competition and fighting, while there are less and less people who build temples and practice Chan samadhi; in other words, they become the mainstream. Then, this is called the Dharma-ending Age. When discussing this topic in terms of ages, each stage or age has its own elements of Proper Dharma, Dharma Image, and Dharma’s ending.
It is very unfortunate for us to be born in this Dharma-ending Age, a time that is far away from that of the Buddha. With regard to the true Proper Dharma, we also do not know how to cultivate it. When the Buddha was about to enter nirvana during the Nirvana Dharma Session, Venerable Ananda was so grief-stricken that he forgot everything. Venerable Aniruddha reminded him that he should go ask the Buddha about the four things. During the Nirvana Dharma assembly all living beings wanted to make a last offering to the Buddha, but the Buddha remained silent without accepting these offerings. Demon King Papiya also wanted to make an offering to the Buddha, and so spoke a mantra. It was spoken very generally, and instead of mentioning that people should reform the offenses they’ve committed, it merely mentioned that people should not give rise to fear or fright. In fact, it was meant to tell people to be unafraid of the Law of Cause and Effect, and even to deny it — Ah, even the Law of Cause and Effect is no longer feared!