Articles about Buddha

Buddha of our century

Update: 11/02/2008
Shakyamuni Buddha taught that his teachings would brighten this world for a time only, next the mankind would step into the akin Dharma time. “Akin” means “similar", “alike”; “akin Dharma” means the doctrines are like Dharma, but not really Dharma. Subsequent to akin Dharma time, it would be the degenerate Dharma time when doctrines were depraved and lost in oblivion. At that time, a new alternative Buddha who would be born to open a new Dharma era for humanity is Maitreya Buddha…

Buddha of our century


When Buddhists meet with difficulties and dissatisfactory scenes on the way of Dharma practice, they often lament that “it is the degenerate Dharma time” with a negative resigned sense, sometimes boring. The degraded Dharma time is the stage when Dharma fall into decadence, decline from content to form, from cognition to practice. “Degenerate Dharma” means it’s time when the doctrines was at the end of decadence. Awareness that the doctrines was at the end of decadence time, who could be not sad, not frustrated? But we could be not very anguished, because we still keep alive the fervent hope in soul- the hope of the future Buddha, Maitreya Buddha. Maitreya Buddha will be born and Dharma will be shone again. Whenever I think to Maitreya Buddha, I often imagine that he will be a Buddha with portly beautiful body surrounded by bright halo, he will own thirty two good figures, eighty nice countenances and will be emitting light to preach to mass of Devas and human. He will be seating on the wide and high throne, and I, I am kneeling at his feet, listening to his words, seeing his body, smelling his kasaya rope’s fragrance. I’m joyful, and I’ve been waiting for (…)

The above were what I wished, thought, imagined and predicted when I was a child. You’re going to ask me whether I believe in that anymore, aren’t you? Yes, I do still, but with a different consciousness which is closer to Buddhism, I think. I realize the Buddha figure which I naively outlined in my mind seems too formulaic. I built this image from the scripture sections depicting Buddha’s preaching, from Buddha’s paintings of Chinese and from imagination of my own creed. I think it’s inconsequent if Buddha will appear in our century with a classical and formulaic figure like that. Buddha of our century will be Samyaksambuddha- completely enlightened, he perfectly well knows at human culture-history on our planet, understands thoroughly every existing ideology clarifying every situation and our mind. He will create the synthetic culture of humanity, trace the path of liberation for humanity. We’re becoming obstructed, we’re bound by misery, ignorance, afflictions, ten entanglements and illusory views which this century created and we used to fasten ourselves. In the new scriptures, there will be new noun. In new propagation of Buddhism, there will be new ways. In the practice of human liberation – we and others- there will be new methods. How the exceedingly modern things like that can express naively in a classical form as I imagined ten years something ago.

One day, I read the Diamond sutra to the sentence:“bất khả dĩ tam thập nhị tướng kiến Như Lai”(it’s unable to perceive the Tathagata through the physical body with thirty two good figures) and“nhược dĩ sắc kiến ngã dĩ âm thanh cầu ngã, thị nhân hành tà đạo bất năng kiến Như Lai”(whoever want to see me through characteristics of form and sound, practice heresy and never see me), I suddenly know that it’s not easy to perceive the Buddha of our century. He may be not named Compassionate Maitreya; He may not be in thirty- two- good- figure form; He may not call himself Buddhaya; He may not need two Bodhisattvas stand two sides for serving him; He may not wear yellow vastra; He may… I can’t say all, I just can say he may appear in any form as long as he is Samyaksambuddha, as long as he’ll be one who saves humanity in the solid struggle century, as long as he will create synthetic culture and lead people to peace, happiness, awakening and Nirvana. In other words, he is great personage who have the content with full of Buddha characteristics.

I rambled as above purely in order to come back to two words “degenerate Dharma”. I reckoned that the causes for Dharma degeneration were Buddhists’ heed only to protecting and beautifying the religious form without Buddha nature content anymore for a long time ago.

“Degenerate Dharma” means clinging to and worshiping form but letting the content ruined. Let me frankly tell my sincere feeling. The essential Buddha nature which I say is enlightenment, frequent contact between spirituality and truth, between spirituality and nature, between spirituality and Nirvana. The Buddha nature doesn’t mind form, prosperity and degeneration, organization, debate, regulations, worries, limestone tiles. Not mind, but know everything. I.E if Buddha nature exists, everything will exist. And vice versa, if Buddha nature doesn’t exist, everything will be meaningless, be nothing.

So Dharma is degenerate, not because we don’t preserve, but because we kept it too tight, embraced it too thoroughly.

And one day, we will miserably see that it is just a body without a soul, shiny painted corpse in our rigid and clasped arms.

The matter is implementation, uninterrupted implementation of Buddha nature’s living source, but not the entrenchment, protection.

Dharma only brings vitality in the era when there is practice and enlightenment. We shouldn’t wait for Maitreya Buddha naively. We must prepare to welcome him.

What do we prepare? Let’s prepare a context where people’s mind is inclined to the good, a context which is entirely appropriate to Buddhism, which is worthy of a Buddha’s sitting place. That context is built by our career inclined to the noble, our spirituality. Nowhere is deserved for his sitting than pure throne of our soul. Otherwise, he can appear anywhere and anytime that we’re still unaware, because our eyes are blind, our minds are cloudy, our hands are bound tight by the rope of form.

I believe that our world was too painful, so he’s appeared or he will. Human culture has been going to synthetic status. He will be luminous leader for all humanity. Do not complain this life is the degenerate age of dharma. Get rid of form. Flick away dust off hands. Stand up, leave a hash of the century out. Let the souls be pure and deposited. Receive full moon image appearing in our calm spiritual ocean.

Shakyamuni Buddha taught that his teachings would brighten this world for a time only, next the mankind would step into the akin Dharma time. “Akin” means “similar", “alike”; “akin Dharma” means the doctrines are like Dharma, but not really Dharma. Subsequent to akin Dharma time, it would be the degenerate Dharma time when doctrines were depraved and lost in oblivion. At that time, a new alternativeBuddha who would be born to open a new Dharma era for humanity is Maitreya Buddha.

Shakyamuni Buddha is the enlightened one, the king of Dharma. But he spoke with the human voice. For he’s a man who lived in human society, enlightened humanity about the truths, therefore we as a human could perceive the content of his speaking correctly. He raised an estimated period of time for the Dharma circulation thanks to his cognizance of the then society, time. His conception of years as well as whoever lived in more than two thousand five hundred years ago can’t be like ours, who are living in the new era. People and society in our time have been going to the future with the giant steps but not drifting slowly like six hundred years BC. Thus, we shouldn’t consider that 5,000 estimated years is the amount of time to separate two Buddhas: Sakyamuni and Maitreya. Only remember that when Buddhism arrives in the degenerate age, in other words, when humanity has come to the most extreme stage because of chaos, dispersion, pain; Maitreya Buddha must appear to open a new path for human society.

Dharma is degenerate, because we didn’t try to practice the line of Buddha nature living in ourselves and in living complexions of our society. We only preserve the old living complexions not meeting the social radical and therefore not showing the Buddhism’s principles. The principles are very flexible, and we can merely say that activity which is appropriate to doctrines must be appropriate to the context. Why? According with doctrines to fit the context. Buddhism aim is to serve people, if it isn’t suit people, how can we call it Buddhism? How can it be appropriate to Buddhism’s truths?

The Radical of new man and new society is very annoying, complex. Anyone is aware of the new man with full of desires, demands, concerns...In short, they are psychological activities too disturbing. New man lives in a new era, a new world, a new society with economic, politic, religious, literature activities… no longer resembling the old society thousand years ago. How can the living forms in two thousand five hundred years ago be accordant with current context (at least being accordant with the context completely)? There is a story, in the scriptures, about a Zen master; due to his compassion, he didn’t want to trample the creatures, so whenever going out, he always held a broom to swept the ground before putting a step. In ancient time, in the poetic scenery of villages, such behavior was found as a beautiful poem with full compassion, showed up the compassionate mind of the one who was deeply imbued with morality. But now supposing that there's a monk imitating such the same action on the Saigon streets, we try guessing how the mass will think about him. The public will think he would be an unusual person, that action was not in agreement with the capacity of people now (including the initiative one's capacity), also not being appropriate to the principles of Buddhism, on the contrary, being able to witherthose principles. The activities which are not appropriate to doctrines, not appropriate to the context like that can’t be called Buddhism and can’t be Buddhism, Why must we entrench so strictly?

So the emergence of Maitreya Buddha must be identified as a new campaign to revive stream of Buddha nature living in the activities which are both accordant with human's capacity and accordant with Buddhism’s principles. If not accordant with people's capacity, the activities named Buddhism’s can be only old corpse no longer containing Buddha nature; if not accordant with Buddhism’s principles, the activities will merely be bad karmas serving desires and obscure mind of Mara, of beings. Buddhism’s history has recorded hallmarks of the essential revolution for reviving vigor of Buddhism such as:Ma Minh, Long Tho, Vo Truoc, etc. They are the great revolutionists of Buddhism. The large part of existing cultural heritage that we inherited from Buddhism in East Asia was due to the achievements of the machos like them.

Those great ones are the cultural experts, religionists who understood thoroughly people and society of their age and met the demands of every separate cultural area where they’re living. But now it is different. There are no private cultural areas anymore. The cultural sectors are widely opened. The cultural boundaries were unbound. Humanity is moving towards synthetic culture. This great synthesis work must be made by a man who is full of human knowledge, human society identification, intellect and consciousness to be able to guide mankind, to stand up for leading. The cultural expert who has enough Samyaksambuddha, great courage, great compassion, great power, great vow like that must be called a Buddha. That is Maitreya Buddha, the imperative human of our century.

Zen monk Nhat Hanh

Quoted according to “Buddhism enters life”

Translated into English byNguyen Thi Thuy Oanh

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