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The age of degeneration (Skt. kaliyuga; Tib. རྩོད་ལྡན་གྱི་དུས་, Wyl. rtsod ldan gyi dus, tsöden gyi dü) — a period when there are five degenerations: life span, negative emotions (the five poisons increase), beings (it is difficult to help them), times (wars and famines proliferate), views (false beliefs) that spread.

Four Ages

The age of degeneration or conflict refers to the last of four ages. These ages can refer to cycles of growth and decline of a world or the lifespan of a Buddha's teachings.[1]

Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé wrote about the first case:

The history of our continent unfolded in four distinct eras. The first era is called the era of completeness (because splen­dor and enjoyments were complete). The second is the era of three-quarters, so called because theft and sexual intercourse reduced the splendor and wealth of the environment and its in­ habitants by one quarter. Then, due to lying, the splendor and enjoyments were reduced to one half, and so the third era is re­ferred to as the era of two-quarters. The fourth and final period is the era of conflict, during which even the remnant quarter of wealth and splendor gradually diminishes due to murder and the other forms of non-virtue committed by humans.[2]

In relation to the lifespan of a Buddha's teachings, the same source describes the phases from when a Buddha is alive and teaching until their teachings disappear:

  1. Age of completeness, phase of spiritual attainment
  2. Age of three-quarters, phase of spiritual practice
  3. Age of two-quarters, phase of theoretical teaching
  4. Age of conflict, phase of mere outward appearance[3]

In terms of our current age, Patrul Rinpoche wrote in the 19th century:

These days we still have the teachings of the Buddha Shakyamuni. Their degree of survival follows a tenfold sequence. First, there are three periods, each consisting of five hundred parts. During this time, there appears the "teaching of the heart of Samantabhadra," which is the fruit. Then come three periods of five hundred parts for accomplishment. These are followed by three periods of five hundred parts for transmission. Finally, one period of five hundred parts arises when only the symbols are retained. Altogether, this makes ten periods, each of five hundred parts. At present we have reached the seventh or eighth period.
We live in an age of increase in the five degenerations - those of lifespan, beliefs, emotions, time and beings. Nonetheless, the Dharma of transmission and Dharma of realization does still exist. As it has not died out, we still possess the advantage of having the Dharma in its entirety.[4]

Alternative Translations

  • the 'dregs of time'
  • the degenerate age
  • the time of destruction and corruption
  • the age of decadence and corruption
  • the age of strife
  • the era of conflict


  1. When it is said that the extraordinary compassion of Buddha Shakyamuni is, that he appeared during an age of degeneration, when beings are so difficult to tame, it refers to this first type. See https://read.84000.co/translation/toh112.html#UT22084-050-003-988
  2. *Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé, Myriad Worlds (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1995), page 134
  3. Ibid., page 169
  4. The Words of My Perfect Teacher, page 27

Further Reading

  • Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Patrul Rinpoche, The Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones (Boston: Shambhala, 1993), Part One. The Shortcomings of our decadent age

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