The Latter Day of the Law
“In an evil age, the courage of the Buddha shines all the more brightly.”
In discussions about Buddhism, we sometimes hear that we live in the Latter Day of the Law, the third of three periods following Shakyamuni Buddha’s passing described in various sutras. The first two time periods are the Former Day of the Law and the Middle Day of the Law.
Buddhist sutras predict that the Latter Day, which includes the present day and is said to last for 10,000 years and more, will be an “age of quarrels and disputes,” when monks will disregard the Buddhist precepts—or rules of discipline—when erroneous views will prevail, and when Shakyamuni’s teachings will “be obscured and lost,” and lacking the power to lead people to enlightenment.
During Nichiren Daishonin’s time, many were well aware of the sutras’ predictions of calamities, confusion and disorder in the Latter Day, viewing these things as proof that the sutras’ dire warnings were coming true.
In his treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” Nichiren describes the “disturbances in the heavens, strange occurrences on earth, famine and pestilence, all affecting every corner of the empire and spreading throughout the land . . . Over half the population has already been carried off by death, and there is hardly a single person who does not grieve” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 6).
Religious leaders took advantage of people’s sense of foreboding and despair, promoting interpretations of Buddhism that taught that happiness and enlightenment were impossible in this life, instead encouraging people to look only to the next world, a mythical “pure land,” after death.
In contrast to this gloomy outlook, Nichiren found cause for great joy and hope for the future. In “The Selection of the Time,” he explains: “After the pure Law is obscured and lost, the great pure Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the heart and core of the Lotus Sutra, will surely spread and be widely declared throughout the land of Jambudvipa” (WND-1, 541).
He realized that in the depths of their hearts people yearn for peace, truth and spiritual strength; they seek the empowering and uplifting philosophy of the Lotus Sutra. He taught there is no pure land other than the world in which we live. SGI President Ikeda points out:
The Mystic Law gives us the strength not to be defeated when something bad happens, be it in our personal lives or in society; indeed, it gives us the power to create something good and positive out of that negative event.
The Latter Day of the Law is truly an age of conflict. It is a relentlessly swirling vortex of quarrels and disputes. In the midst of this most difficult and troubled realm of the saha world, we of the Soka Gakkai have courageously taken on the challenge of propagating the Mystic Law across the globe. In an evil age, the courage of the Buddha shines all the more brightly. In a defiled age, the wisdom of Buddhism sparkles all the more brilliantly. (September 14, 2007, World Tribune, p. 1)