Thus I have heard:
At one time the Buddha, together with bhikṣus and Bodhisattvas, was staying in the city kingdom of Kuśinagara, where He would enter parinirvāṇa in three months. Uncountable multitudes came to the Buddha and bowed their heads down to the ground. Surrounded by His devotees longing to hear the Dharma, the World-Honored One remained silent, and His radiance did not manifest.
The venerable Ānanda made obeisance to the Buddha and asked Him, "When the World-Honored One pronounces the Dharma, His awesome radiance is always displayed before and after. Now in this huge assembly, His radiance does not appear. Why is this so? There must be a reason. I pray to hear its implication."
The Buddha remained silent, not responding. After Ānanda asked this question for the third time, the Buddha told Ānanda, "After my parinirvāṇa, as the Dharma comes to an end, the way of the māras will thrive in this world of the five turbidities. Māras will appear as śramaṇas so as to undermine and destroy my Way. They will wear lay clothing and delight in the monk's robe dyed with a mixture of five colors. To gratify ravenous appetites, they will drink alcohol, eat flesh, and kill sentient beings. Devoid of any lovingkindness, they will hate and envy others.
"At that time, there will be Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Arhats, who energetically cultivate virtue and treat all with respect. Esteemed by all, they will teach and transform others impartially. They will pity the poor and old, and help the needy and unfortunate. They will teach others to revere and uphold the sūtras and the holy images. Kind and benevolent in nature, they will do meritorious karmas. Never harming others, they will disregard any harm to themselves in order to help others. Kind and friendly, they will endure abuse, not protecting themselves.
"Though there will be such good people, all māra bhikṣus will be jealous of them. They will slander, malign, and banish them. Afterward, individually and as a group, the māra bhikṣus will not cultivate virtue. Temples will be deserted, falling into disrepair and then into ruins. Greedy for material wealth, they will accumulate things, not using them to achieve merit. They will sell slaves to work in the fields. Devoid of lovingkindness, they will burn mountain forests, harming sentient beings. Male slaves will become bhikṣus, and female slaves will become bhikṣuṇīs. Devoid of morality, they will engage in sexual debauchery and perversion, whether with men or women. Such people will cause my Way to fade away.
"Some of them will seek sanctuary in my Order to escape prosecution by the law. They will become śramaṇas but will not observe the precepts and regulations. Although they will, in appearance, recite the precepts on the new-moon and full-moon days, they will be reluctant and indolent, not wanting to hear the recitation. They will omit some precepts, not wanting to recite all of them. They will not recite and study the sūtras. If there are readers who do not know the words [in the sūtras], they will claim that they know them. They will not consult the learned ones, but will instead seek fame for self-elevation. They will glorify themselves with fake elegant ways, expecting offerings from others. For committing any of the five rebellious acts, these māra bhikṣus after death will fall into the hell of uninterrupted suffering. They will then be reborn as animals and hungry ghosts for as many kalpas as the sands of the Ganges. After their sins have been purged, they will be reborn [as humans] in a fringe country where the Three Jewels will not be accessible.
"When the Dharma is ending, women will diligently do meritorious karmas while men will be indolent and arrogant. Men, having no faith, will not use the words in the Dharma, and they will regard śramaṇas as feces and dirt. When the Dharma is ending, gods will shed tears. Flood and drought will ravage, and five kinds of grain will not ripen. Epidemics will be prevalent and many will die. People will endure a hard life, and government officials will exploit them. People will not follow good principles, thinking only of pleasure and strife. The evil ones will become as numerous as the sands in the sea. The good ones will decrease to one or two. As a kalpa is ending, the sun and the moon will be unstable and human lifespan will shorten. At the age of 40, one's hair will turn white. Men indulging in sexual acts may die prematurely from depletion of their semen, or may live to only 60. While men will live short lives, women will live long, to 70, 80, 90, or even 100 years. Faithless people will say that the situation can be permanent.
"A massive flood will suddenly rise, lasting endlessly. Various species of sentient beings, noble or lowly, will drown or drift in the waters, and they will be eaten by fish and other sea creatures. Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Arhats, driven away by the māras, will not convene. [These holy beings of] the Three Vehicles will enter the meritorious grounds in the mountains. There they will live a long life, tranquilly biding their time. They will meet with one another when the god-kings escort Moonlight Bodhisattva to appear in the world. Together they will revitalize my Dharma for fifty-two years.
Then the Śūraṅgama Sūtra and the Pratyutpanna Buddha Sammukhāvasthita Samādhi Sūtra will be destroyed, to be followed by all other sūtras in the twelve categories. Their words will not be seen again. The monk's robe will naturally turn white. When my Dharma perishes, it will be like [the flame of] an oil lamp. When it is dying, its light becomes brighter for a while and then dies out. When my Dharma perishes, it will be like the extinction of a lamp. What will happen afterward is hard to describe. Eventually, after tens of millions of years, Maitreya Bodhisattva will descend to this world to become a Buddha. All toxic gases will then be eliminated, and the world will be safe and peaceful. The rains will be harmonious and the five grains will thrive. The trees will be tall, and humans will each be eighty feet tall, with a lifespan of 84,000 years. Countless sentient beings will be delivered."
The venerable Ānanda made obeisance to the Buddha and asked Him, "What should we call this sūtra? How should we uphold it?"
The Buddha replied, "Ānanda, this sūtra is called the Total Annihilation of the Dharma. Pronounce it to all and let them know its significance. Your merit will be immeasurable, beyond reckoning."
The four groups of disciples, having heard this sūtra, were distressed and downcast, but they all activated their resolve to attain the unsurpassed bodhi. Then they made obeisance to the Buddha and departed.