|A man feeling spent after a night of debauchery|
Detail from "Marriage a la Mode" by Hogarth (1743)
Likewise, in Mahayana Buddhism, which originated in northern India but is now most common in NE Asia, there is a very old and widely accepted prophecy which speaks of the inevitable decline of Buddhism. It describes three ages. The first begins with the life of the Buddha of the Shakya clan, at some point between the 1th-5th century BCE (the exact century of the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha is unknown), and lasted between 500 to 1000 years. This was a golden age of Buddhism, when it was comparatively easy to follow the Buddha’s teachings and achieve enlightenment. The second period represents a time of the weakening of Buddhist spirituality, it also lasts between 500-1000 years. The third age is said to last for 10,000 years. According to Japanese tradition it began in the 11th century CE (which coincides with the Islamic conquest of south Asia; Muslims massacred Buddhist monks and destroyed their monasteries, universities and libraries, thus causing Buddhism to almost disappear from these regions where it had previously flourished: Reat at 76). During this latter age it is said that it will become increasingly difficult for people to follow the Buddha’s teachings, though there will be a period of flourishing before finally becoming obscured and lost. Following this there will be an extremely long period of spiritual darkness, after which a new golden age of Buddhism will eventually emerge, ushered in by the Maitreya Buddha.