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A Japanese term meaning ‘the end of the Dharma’. During the medieval period in Chinese Buddhism (see China), the Buddhist community came to accept that the history of Buddhism would be divided into three periods: that of the True Dharma, that of the Counterfeit Dharma, and that of the End of the Dharma. During the first, which would last 500 years, the teachings of the Buddha would be transmitted with minimal distortion, and beings had a good chance of understanding and practising them, and of achieving enlightenment (bodhi). During the second period, also 500 years, the substance would be gone and only the outer forms of practice would remain. Fewer beings would attain the goal at this time. During the third period, even the semblance of genuine practice would disappear, and beings would be left to their own devices. According to most calculations of the time of the Buddha's death, the world was already in the period of mappō. While this may appear to be cause for despair, many in east Asia actually responded to this analysis not by giving up, but by advocating new and creative doctrines. In response to mappō, new schools arose, such as the Pure Land and Nichiren schools, asserting that the Buddha had foreseen and provided for the advent of this final age by preparing texts and teachings suited for beings born in this time. These teachings had been discovered and propagated to counter the adverse conditions of mappō and give beings hope for liberation. This assertion validated texts, teachings, and practices that obviously conflicted with what was known of early Buddhism by arguing that the difference between the first period of the True Dharma and the present period made it necessary that the teachings be significantly different. It was felt that the degenerate conditions of the present age demanded it. See also shō-zō-matsu; three periods of the teachings.

Subjects: Buddhism.

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