Buddhist eschatology

There are two major points of Buddhist eschatology: the appearance of Maitreya and the Sermon of the Seven Suns.


Buddha described his teachings disappearing five thousand years from his passing,[1] corresponding approximately to the year 4600 CE. At this time, knowledge of dharma will be lost as well. The last of his relics will be gathered in Bodh Gaya and cremated.[1] There will be a new era in which the next Buddha Maitreya will appear, but it will be preceded by the degeneration of human society. This will be a period of greed, lust, poverty, ill will, violence, murder, impiety, physical weakness, sexual depravity and societal collapse, and even the Buddha himself will be forgotten.[2] This will be followed by a new golden age (see below).

The earliest mention of Maitreya is in the Cakavatti (Sihanada) Sutta in Digha Nikaya 26 of the Pali Canon.

“At that period, brethren, there will arise in the world an Exalted One named Maitreya, Fully Awakened, abounding in wisdom and goodness, happy, with knowledge of the worlds, unsurpassed as a guide to mortals willing to be led, a teacher for gods and men, an Exalted One, a Buddha, even as I am now. He, by himself, will thoroughly know and see, as it were face to face, this universe, with Its worlds of the spirits, Its Brahmas and Its Maras, and Its world of recluses and Brahmins, of princes and peoples, even as I now, by myself, thoroughly know and see them”

— Digha Nikaya, 26.

Maitreya Buddha is then foretold to be born in the city of Ketumatī in present-day Benares, whose king will be the Cakkavattī Sankha. Sankha will live in the former palace of King Mahāpanadā, but later will give the palace away to become a follower of Maitreya.[3][4]

In Mahayana Buddhism, Maitreya will attain bodhi in seven days, the minimum period, by virtue of his many lives of preparation. Once Buddha, he will rule over the Ketumati Pure Land, an earthly paradise sometimes associated with the Indian city of Varanasi or Benares in Uttar Pradesh. In Mahayana Buddhism, Buddhas preside over a Pure Land (the Buddha Amitabha presides over the Sukhavati Pure Land, more popularly known as the Western Paradise).[5]

At this time he will teach humanity of the ten non-virtuous deeds (killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, divisive speech, abusive speech, idle speech, covetousness, harmful intent and wrong views) and the ten virtuous deeds (the abandonment of: killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, divisive speech, abusive speech, idle speech, covetousness, harmful intent and wrong views). He is described by Conze in Buddhist Scriptures:

The Lord replied, 'Maitreya, the best of men, will then leave the Tuṣita heavens, and go for his last rebirth. As soon as he is born he will walk seven steps forward, and where he puts down his feet a jewel or a lotus will spring up. He will raise his eyes to the ten directions, and will speak these words: "This is my last birth. There will be no rebirth after this one. Never will I come back here, but, all pure, I shall win Nirvana."'

— Buddhist Scriptures by Edward Conze

He currently resides in Tushita, but will come to Jambudvipa as successor to the historic Śākyamuni Buddha. Maitreya will achieve complete enlightenment during his lifetime, and following this reawakening, he will bring back the timeless teaching of dharma to this plane and rediscover enlightenment.

Sermon of the Seven Suns

In the Sattasūriya sutta (sermon of the "Seven Suns") in the Aňguttara Nikăya of the Pali Canon, the Buddha describes the ultimate fate of the world in an apocalypse that will be characterized by the consequent appearance of seven suns in the sky, each causing progressive ruin until the Earth is destroyed:

All things are impermanent, all aspects of existence are unstable and non-eternal. Beings will become so weary and disgusted with the constituent things that they will seek emancipation from them more quickly. There will come a season, O monks, when after hundreds of thousands of years, rains will cease. All seedlings, all vegetation, all plants, grasses and trees will dry up and cease to be...There comes another season after a great lapse of time when a second sun will appear. Now all brooks and ponds will dry up, vanish, cease to be.

— Aňguttara-Nikăya, 7.66[2]

The canon goes on to describe the progressive destruction of each sun. A third sun will dry the mighty Ganges and other great rivers. A fourth will cause the great lakes to evaporate, and a fifth will dry the oceans. Finally the final suns will appear:

Again after a vast period of time a sixth sun will appear, and it will bake the Earth even as a pot is baked by a potter. All the mountains will reek and send up clouds of smoke. After another great interval a seventh sun will appear and the Earth will blaze with fire until it becomes one mass of flame. The mountains will be consumed, a spark will be carried on the wind and go to the worlds of God....Thus, monks, all things will burn, perish and exist no more except those who have seen the path.

— Aňguttara-Nikăya, 7.66[2]

The sermon completes with the planet engulfed by a vast inferno.[2]


Buddhists believe that the historical Buddha Shakyamuni is only the latest in a series of Buddhas that stretches back into the past. The belief in the decline and disappearance of Buddhism in the world has exerted significant influence in the development of Buddhism since the time of the Buddha. In Vajrayana Buddhism and various other forms of esoteric Buddhism, the use of tantra is justified by the degenerate state of the present world. The East Asian belief in the decline of the Dharma (called mappo in Japanese) was instrumental in the emergence of Pure Land Buddhism. Within the Theravada tradition, debate over whether Nirvana was still attainable in the present age helped prompt the creation of the Dhammayutt Order in Thailand.

In China, Buddhist eschatology was strengthened by the Daoist influence: the messianic features of Maitreya are widely emphasized. The figure of Prince Moonlight 月光童子 obtains prominence unknown in the Sanskrit sources. Thus, one of the Tang dynasty apocrypha predicts his rebirth in the female form, thus creating religious legitimacy for the Wu Zetian Empress's usurpation. Furthering the Daoist associations, the "Sutra of Samantabhadra" portrays Prince Moonlight dwelling on the Penglai Island in a cave.

Buddhism believes in cycles in which life span of human beings changes according to human nature. In Cakkavati sutta the Buddha explained the relationship between life span of human being and behaviour. As per this sutta, In the past unskillful behavior was unknown among the human race. As a result, people lived for an immensely long time — 80,000 years — endowed with great beauty, wealth, pleasure, and strength. Over the course of time, though, they began behaving in various unskillful ways. This caused the human life span gradually to shorten, to the point where it now stands at 100 years, with human beauty, wealth, pleasure, and strength decreasing proportionately. In the future, as morality continues to degenerate, human life will continue to shorten to the point where the normal life span is 10 years, with people reaching sexual maturity at five.

Ultimately, conditions will deteriorate to the point of a "sword-interval," in which swords appear in the hands of all human beings, and they hunt one another like game. A few people, however, will take shelter in the wilderness to escape the carnage, and when the slaughter is over, they will come out of hiding and resolve to take up a life of skillful and virtuous action again. With the recovery of virtue, the human life span will gradually increase again until it reaches 80,000 years, with people attaining sexual maturity at 500. According to the Pali Canon, it is at the zenith of this new golden age that Maitreya will appear (DN 26:25).

According to Tibetan Buddhist literature, the first Buddha lived 1,000,000 years and was 100 cubits tall while the 28th Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama (563BC–483BC) lived 80 years and his height was 20 cubits. This is on par with the Hindu eschatology which says this age to be the 28th Kaliyuga.

In other traditions, such as Zen, a somewhat utilitarian view is taken. The notion often exists that within each moment in time, both birth and death are manifest. As the individual "dies" from moment to moment, they are equally "reborn" in each successive moment, in what one perceives as an ongoing cycle. Thus the practitioner's focus is shifted from considerations regarding an imagined future endpoint, to mindfulness in the present moment. In this case, the worldview is taken as a functional tool for awakening the practitioner to reality as it exists, right now.

See also


  1. ^ a b Germano, David (2012). Embodying the Dharma: Buddhist Relic Veneration in Asia. State University of New York Press. p. 14. ISBN 9780791484401.
  2. ^ a b c d Hooper, Rev. Richard (April 20, 2011). End of Days: Predictions of the End From Ancient Sources. Sedona, AZ. p. 156.
  3. ^ "Sutta Pitaka, Digha Nikaya, Pāli Canon". p. 26. Archived from the original on 2012-05-05.
  4. ^ Vipassana.info, Pali Proper Names Dictionary: Metteyya
  5. ^ "《彌勒上生經》與《彌勒下生經》簡介" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-11-27.

Apocalypticism, eschatological (end-time) views and movements that focus on cryptic revelations about a sudden, dramatic, and cataclysmic intervention of God in history; the judgment of all men; the salvation of the faithful elect; and the eventual rule of the elect with God in a renewed heaven and earth. Arising initially in Zoroastrianism apocalypticism was developed more fully in Judaic, Christian, and Islamic eschatological speculation.Apocalypticism is often conjoined with the belief that esoteric knowledge that will likely be revealed in a major confrontation between good and evil forces, destined to change the course of history. Apocalypses can be viewed as good, evil, ambiguous or neutral, depending on the particular religion or belief system promoting them. Although it is not exclusively a religious idea and there are end times or transitional scenarios based in modern science and technology.

Buddhism and Christianity

Although analogies have been drawn between Buddhism and Christianity, there are differences between the two religions beginning with monotheism's place at the core of Christianity, and Buddhism's orientation towards non-theism (the lack of relevancy of the existence of a creator deity) which runs counter to teachings about God in Christianity; and extending to the importance of grace in Christianity against the rejection of interference with karma in Theravada Buddhism, etc. Another difference between the two traditions is the Christian belief in the centrality of the crucifixion of Jesus as a single event believed to act as the atonement of sins and its direct contrast to Buddhist teachings.Though some early Christians were aware of Buddhism which was practiced in both the Greek and Roman Empires in the pre-Christian period, the majority of modern Christian scholarship has roundly rejected any historical basis for the travels of Jesus to India or Tibet or direct influences between the teachings of Christianity in the West and Buddhism; and has seen the attempts at parallel symbolism as cases of parallelomania which exaggerate resemblances. However, in the East syncretism between Nestorian Christianity and Buddhism was widespread along the Silk Road in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and was especially pronounced in the medieval Church of the East in China, as evidenced by the Jesus Sutras.

Comparison of Buddhism and Christianity

Since the arrival of Christian missionaries in India in the 13th century, followed by the arrival of Buddhism in Western Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, similarities were perceived between the practices of Buddhism and Christianity. During the 20th century the differences between these two belief systems were also highlighted.Despite surface level non-scholarly analogies, Buddhism and Christianity have inherent and fundamental differences at the deepest levels, beginning with monotheism's place at the core of Christianity and Buddhism's orientation towards non-theism and its rejection of the notion of a creator deity which runs counter to teachings about God in Christianity; and extending to the importance of Grace in Christianity against the rejection of interference with Karma in Theravada Buddhism, etc.The central iconic imagery of the two traditions underscore the difference in their belief structure, when the peaceful death of Gautama Buddha at an old age is contrasted with the harsh image of the crucifixion of Jesus as a willing sacrifice for the atonement for the sins of humanity. Buddhists scholars such as Masao Abe see the centrality of crucifixion in Christianity as an irreconcilable gap between the two belief systems.Most modern scholarship has rejected the claims for the travels of Jesus to India or Tibet or influences between the teachings of Christianity and Buddhism as not historical, and has seen the attempts at parallel symbolism as cases of parallelomania which exaggerate the importance of trifling resemblances.

End time

The end time (also called end times, end of time, end of days, last days, final days, doomsday, or eschaton) is a future time-period described variously in the eschatologies of several world religions (both Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic), which teach that world events will reach a final climax.

The Abrahamic faiths maintain a linear cosmology, with end-time scenarios containing themes of transformation and redemption. In Judaism, the term "end of days" makes reference to the Messianic Age and includes an in-gathering of the exiled Jewish diaspora, the coming of the Messiah, the resurrection of the righteous, and the world to come. Some sects of Christianity depict the end time as a period of tribulation that precedes the second coming of Christ, who will face the Antichrist along with his power structure and usher in the Kingdom of God.

In Islam, the Day of Judgement is preceded by the appearance of the al-Masih al-Dajjal, and followed by the descending of Isa (Jesus). Isa will triumph over the false messiah, or the Antichrist, which will lead to a sequence of events that will end with the sun rising from the west and the beginning of the Qiyamah (Judgment day).

Non-Abrahamic faiths tend to have more cyclical world-views, with end-time eschatologies characterized by decay, redemption, and rebirth. In Hinduism, the end time occurs when Kalki, the final incarnation of Vishnu, descends atop a white horse and brings an end to the current Kali Yuga. In Buddhism, the Buddha predicted that his teachings would be forgotten after 5,000 years, followed by turmoil. A bodhisattva named Maitreya will appear and rediscover the teaching of dharma. The ultimate destruction of the world will then come through seven suns.

Since the development of the concept of deep time in the 18th century and the calculation of the estimated age of the Earth, scientific discourse about end times has centered on the ultimate fate of the universe. Theories have included the Big Rip, Big Crunch, Big Bounce, and Big Freeze (heat death).


Jambudvīpa (Sanskrit: जम्बुद्वीप) is the dvīpa ("island" or "continent") of the terrestrial world, as envisioned in the cosmologies of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, which is the realm where ordinary human beings live.The word Jambudvīpa literally refers to "the land of Jambu trees" where jambu (also known as jamun) is the Indian Blackberry (Syzygium cumini) and dvīpa means "island" or "continent".

Surya Siddhanta, an astronomical text, refers to Northern Hemisphere of the earth as Jambudvipa whereas the Southern hemisphere is referred to as Patala.


Jìngwǎn 靜琬 (Pinyin Jìngwǎn) (died 639) was a Buddhist monk who flourished in the 7th Century, based at Yunju Temple, Fangshan, China. Inspired by apocalyptic stories of the decline of Buddhism, in about 609 CE he conceived a project to carve Buddhist sutras onto stone tablets or steles to preserve them. . The project began ca. 611 with major donations from the Empress and her brother Xiao Yu in 611 CE. Other donations soon followed and Leiyin Cave was completed ca 616 CE. Once begun, the project was to continue, off and on, for 1000 years and produced the most extensive collection of sutra engravings in China.

Jingwan lived in a tumultuous period of Chinese history. He lived through the persecution of Buddhism during the Northern Zhou dynasty. The Sui Dynasty finally reunited China as one empire after almost two centuries of division, but then rapidly seemed to lose control. A series of failed military campaigns against Korea, by Emperor Yang led to widespread rebellion and the eventual assassination of the Sui Emperor in 618. The Tang Dynasty quickly replaced the Sui, but it took some years to impose order on the empire, and thus for much of Jingwan's career there was social and political turmoil, which seems to have fuelled his apocalyptic tendencies.

Jingwan left notes on his progress and in them also a moving account of his belief that the world was falling into a dark period in which Buddhism would disappear completely.

"The True Law and the Counterfeit Law, too, have been lost in the depths, all living beings are heavily stained and faithful hearts are no more... I fear for the day when the scriptures with disintegrate and dissolve, for paper and palm leaves are hard to maintain for a long period of time. Whenever I pinder these matters my tears flow in compassion and sorrow. In order to preserve the True Law, I, Jingwan, have led my followers to this mountain ridge to engrave in stone the sutras in the twelve divisions".

Like Christian millennialists, Buddhist eschatology had long predicted the end of the world, although in Buddhist terms this was a cyclic phenomena, occurring in three ages. Jingwan had used scriptural references to determine that he was living in the age of the End of the Dharma (末法 Mòfǎ), in which the Buddha's teachings would completely disappear. Indeed he estimated that the dark age had begun in 553. Unlike Christian eschatology, after a long period of no Buddhism, the Dharma would be re-established by the next Buddha Maitreya.

The 17th Century travelogue, 帝京景物略 (pinyin: Dìjīng jǐngwù è) by Liu Tong, links Jìngwǎn to the Tiantai monk and noted prophet of the decline of Buddhism, Huìsī, however there are no earlier references to this association.

Latter Days (disambiguation)

Latter Days may refer to:

Latter Days, a 2003 American romantic drama film about a gay relationship between a closeted Mormon missionary and his openly gay neighbor

The Cerebus graphic novel Latter Days

The album Latter Days: Best of Led Zeppelin Volume Two

Latter days, a term for End time, a time period described in the eschatological writings in the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and in doomsday scenarios in various other non-Abrahamic religions, including:

The Latter Day of the Law, in Buddhist eschatology.

List of eschatological topics

The following topics pertain to eschatology, a part of theology, physics, philosophy and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events of history, the ultimate destiny of humanity — commonly referred to as the "end of the world" or "end time".


Maitreya (Sanskrit), Metteyya (Pali), is regarded as a future Buddha of this world in Buddhist eschatology. In some Buddhist literature, such as the Amitabha Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, he is referred to as Ajita.

According to Buddhist tradition, Maitreya is a bodhisattva who will appear on Earth in the future, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma. According to scriptures, Maitreya will be a successor to the present Buddha, Gautama Buddha (also known as Śākyamuni Buddha). The prophecy of the arrival of Maitreya refers to a time in the future when the dharma will have been forgotten by most on the terrestrial world.

Maitreya has also been adopted for his millenarian role by many non-Buddhist religions in the past, such as the White Lotus, as well as by modern new religious movements, such as Yiguandao.

Maitreya (Theosophy)

In Theosophy, the Maitreya or Lord Maitreya is an advanced spiritual entity and high-ranking member of a hidden Spiritual Hierarchy, the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom. According to Theosophical doctrine, one of the Hierarchy's functions is to oversee the evolution of humankind; in accord with this function the Maitreya is said to hold the Office of the World Teacher. Theosophical texts posit that the purpose of this Office is to facilitate the transfer of knowledge about the true constitution and workings of Existence to humankind. Humanity is thereby assisted on its presumed cyclical, but ever progressive, evolutionary path. Reputedly, one way the knowledge transfer is accomplished is by Maitreya occasionally manifesting or incarnating in the physical realm; the manifested entity then assumes the role of World Teacher of Humankind.

The Theosophical concept of Maitreya has many similarities to the earlier Maitreya doctrine in Buddhism. However, they differ in important aspects. The Theosophical Maitreya has been assimilated or appropriated by a variety of quasi-theosophical and non-theosophical New Age and Esoteric groups and movements.

Maitreya (disambiguation)

Maitreya is the future Buddha in Buddhist eschatology.

Maitreya may also refer to:

Maitreya (Mahābhārata), a sage in the Indian epic Mahabharata

Maitreya (Share International), an organization that claims Maitreya has been living in London, England since the 1970s

Maitreya (Theosophy), a member of the so-called Masters of the Ancient Wisdom

Maitreya-nātha, the reputed co-author of a number of Yogacara Buddhist treatises

Maitreya Great Tao, a Yiguandao splinter sect founded by Wang Hao-te

Maitreya teachings, a set of beliefs that developed in China as early as the 6th century CE

Maitreya Upanishad, one of the minor scriptures of Hinduism

Akshay Kumar Maitreya, Indian historian and social worker

Arya Maitreya Mandala, a Tibetan Buddhism Order founded by Anagarika Govinda

Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Thero, a Sri Lankan monk and scholar

Sananda Maitreya (fka Terence Trent D'Arby), an American singer-songwriter

Naraka (Buddhism)

Naraka (Sanskrit: नरक; Pali: निरय Niraya) is a term in Buddhist cosmology usually referred to in English as "hell" (or "hell realm") or "purgatory". The Narakas of Buddhism are closely related to diyu, the hell in Chinese mythology. A Naraka differs from the hell of Christianity in two respects: firstly, beings are not sent to Naraka as the result of a divine judgment or punishment; and secondly, the length of a being's stay in a Naraka is not eternal, though it is usually incomprehensibly long, from hundreds of millions to sextillions (1021) of years.

A being is born into a Naraka as a direct result of his or her accumulated actions (karma) and resides there for a finite period of time until that karma has achieved its full result. After his or her karma is used up, he or she will be reborn in one of the higher worlds as the result of karma that had not yet ripened.

In the Devaduta Sutta, the 130th discourse of Majjhima Nikaya, the Buddha teaches about hell in vivid detail.

Physically, Narakas are thought of as a series of cavernous layers which extend below Jambudvīpa (the ordinary human world) into the earth. There are several schemes for enumerating these Narakas and describing their torments. The Abhidharma-kosa (Treasure House of Higher Knowledge) is the root text that describes the most common scheme, as the Eight Cold Narakas and Eight Hot Narakas.

Outline of Buddhism

Buddhism (Pali/Sanskrit: बौद्ध धर्म Buddha Dharma) is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha, "the awakened one".

The following outline is provided as an overview of, and topical guide to, Buddhism.

The Eight Cold Hells

The Eight Cold Hells [八寒地獄] ( Jpn hakkan-jigoku ) as opposed to the Eight Hot Hells are part of Buddhist eschatology. They are said to lie under the continent of Jambudvipa next to the eight hot hells but outside the boundary of the eight great hells. Residents of these hells are tormented by unbearable cold.

According to the Nirvana Sutra, they are

the Hahava hell,

the Atata hell,

the Alalahell,

the Ababa hell,

the Utpala hell (the hell of the blue lotus),

the Padma hell (the hell of the crimson lotus),

the Kumuda hell (the hell of the scarlet lotus),

the Pundarika (the hell of the white lotus).The first four names reflect the cries uttered by sufferers in these hells because of the intolerable cold. The latter four hells are named for the changes one's flesh is said to undergo when exposed to the intense cold there. For instance, in the hell of the crimson lotus the cold is said to be so severe that one's back breaks open and bloody flesh emerges, resembling a crimson lotus flower.

According to the Dharma Analysis Treasury, the eight cold hells are

the Arbuda hell (the hell of chilblains),

the Nirarbuda hell (the hell of enlarged chilblains),

the Atata hell,

the Hahava hell,

the Huhuva hell,

the Utpala hell (the hell of the blue lotus),

the Padma hell (the hell of the crimson lotus),

the Mahapadma hell (the hell of the great crimson lotus).In the first hell, the intense cold produces chilblains all over one's body. In the second hell, one's chilblains worsen and finally burst. The following three hells are named for the shrieks of sufferers who inhabit them. In the sixth hell, one's flesh turns blue from the intense cold. In the last two hells, the cold makes one's flesh crack open, resembling a crimson lotus.

Three Ages of Buddhism

The Three Ages of Buddhism, also known as the Three Ages of the Dharma, (simplified Chinese: 三时; traditional Chinese: 三時; pinyin: Sān Shí) are three divisions of time following Buddha's passing in East Asian Buddhism. Mappō or Mofa (Chinese: 末法; pinyin: Mò Fǎ, Japanese: Mappō), which is also translated as the Age of Dharma Decline, is the "degenerate" Third Age of Buddhism, also known as The Latter Day of the Law.

Zsóka Gelle

Zsóka Gelle (born October 12, 1967) is a Hungarian Tibetologist, translator, writer, filmmaker and guide.

Topics in Buddhism
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