Some philosophers have the idea that humanity is undergoing a spiritual evolution. The most famous representative of this idea is G. W. F. Hegel (whose ideas Marx used and later Communism tried to put into practice). There are also many, more esoteric and religious thinkers, with ideas like that. Rudolf Steiner is one of them; he thinks humanity is evolving spiritually. The common idea between them is that we are in a better position to become acquainted with ourselves as spirit (this idea does not pertain to Marx’ materialist view, though).

One of my teachers, a Plato researcher, said: “we understand Plato better than Plato could understand himself”? How is this in Buddhism? Is mankind now, 2500 years after the historical Buddha, in a better position to make use of the Dharma? Are we better “equipped for enlightenment”? Is the understanding and insights growing as time goes by?

Or perhaps it is the other way around? Maybe the distance in time since the start of the spreading of the Dharma makes it more and more difficult for us? Could talk about a spiritual devolution?

Or is it not changing at all, neither spiritual evolution nor devolution of mankind?

  • 1
    This note is not really true in the context of Buddhism. Buddhism, including Pali Buddhism, has specific teachings concerning the topic of this question, so while it may seem to you that it is primarily opinion based, it can be addressed from a sutta perspective accurately and objectively.
    – user4970
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 16:24
  • @AlexanderDuncan Theoretically you (or the OP or anyone) could edit the question (or ask a different question) so that it asks what you're talking about, i.e. ask what are the orthodox/scriptural doctrines on that subject. I don't want to do that myself, however, because it's my feeling that that's not what the OP wanted to ask: I like to make edits which clarify the OP's question, and don't like to make edits which contradict the OP's intent.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 14:29
  • You could also try posting that answer by suggesting it as an edit/addition to @JoseB's existing answer.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 14:31

1 Answer 1


According to Mahayana Buddhism there are Three Ages of Buddhism:

  1. The Former Day of the Law, also known as the Age of the Right Dharma, which lasts between 500-1000 years during which the Buddha's disciples are able to uphold the Buddha's teachings.
  2. The Middle Day of the Law, also known as the Age of Semblance Dharma, (second 1,000 years) during which the teaching only resembles the right Dharma.
  3. The Latter Day of the Law, during which the Dharma declines.

So, according to this, there is devolution in the sense that the Dharma declines over time until it disappears and then the true Dharma will only be re-established by the next Buddha.

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