The Significance of the Year 2012 in Buddhist Chronology

The current year 2012 has attracted a lot of attention in the media as the end of the Mayan epoch that began in 3114 BCE, 5,125 years ago. This year, 3114 BCE, is very close to the traditional date of the advent of the Kali Yuga (the Buddhist “age of degeneration”) in 3102 BCE, 5,113 years ago – a difference of just 11 years. Interestingly, the mappo theory of Buddhism, which describes the degeneration of time (entropy), is also based on 5,000, 2,500, and 500 year cycles (the Kalachakra also has a 5,104-year cycle).

The final tantra of the Tibetan Buddhist dispensation is the Kalachakra (“wheel of time”) tantra, which is concerned with Buddhist chronological cycles. The central date of the Indian Kalachakra is 1012 CE. The mappo theory predicts that the final 100, 500 and 1,000 year periods of the 2,500 year cycle will be a time of greatest devolution or degeneration, during which the Buddhadharma will become less and less effective in the lives of humanity, followed by renewal at the end of the cycle. If one looks at the five 500-year cycles, commencing with the parinirvana of the Buddha, historically, one sees that the first three correspond to Outer (Hinayana), Inner (Mahayana), and Secret (Vajrayana) Buddhism, followed by a millenium of  complete exotericism. The Buddha himself predicted that the sangha would disappear after 500 years, which corresponds almost exactly to the fundamental division between Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism in the first century of the common era, which split the sangha and continues to do so to this day.

The only exact dates in the foregoing account are the date of the Kalachakra, previously stated to be 1012 CE, and the date of the advent of the Kali Yuga in 3102 BCE. If one adds 1,000 years to the former date, one arrives at the current year – 2012.[1]

Moreover, if one subtracts 2,500 years, itself the midpoint of the main 5,000 year cycle, from 2012 one arrives at 489 BCE. Although not exact, this date corresponds very closely to revised scholarly estimates of the parinirvana of the Buddha in 483 or 487 BCE (see Hajime Nakamura, Gotama Buddha: A Biography Based on the Most Reliable Texts, Tokyo: Kosei Publishing Co., 2000, Vol. 1, p. 69). Alternatively, if we take 489 BCE as the birth of the Buddha, then His death occurred in 409 BCE, which is very close to another school of thought cited by Professor Nakamura that places the parinirvana close to 400 BCE (ibid, p. 71). In any case, the Buddha flourished between about 400 and 500 BCE.

Another remarkable synchronicity is that the midpoint of this 2,500 year cycle is 762 CE, which falls squarely in the middle of the 32-year period during which Padmasambhava visited Tibet, according to Professor Guenther (see Herbert Guenther, The Teachings of Padmasambhava, [Leiden: E.J. Bill, 1996], p. 1). Other authorites state the year as being 747 CE. Padmasambhava was instrumental in the construction of Samye Monastery between 775 and 779 CE (Wikipedia).

The 2,500 anniversary of the parinirvana of the Buddha was celebrated in 1956, based on the old Sri Lankan chronology, but this is certainly too early. It seems indisputable that the end of the first 2,500 cycle of Buddhadharma, and therefore the inauguration of the period of renewal, corresponds much more accurately with the 21st century of the common era.[2]


1. Padmasambhava hid numerous terma texts that (he stated) would begin to be discovered at the beginning of the Age of Degeneration (mappo). The first terma discoverer was the Nyingma Sangye Lama (c.1000–80 CE). Consequently, the millenium of dharma degeneration began at this time.

2. The Buddhist 5,000-year cycle is not arbitrary. It is a rounded-off value based on the universal astronomical cycle called the Precession of the Equinoxes. The approximate value of the Precession of the Equnoxes is 1 degree per 72 years. The currently accepted value is 25,771.57534 or 25,771.4 years (1.396887832 degrees per century, or one degree per 71.58770927 years), but the true value accelerates over time. Since the original zodiac was divided into ten 36-degree sections (not the current division into 12), a single “astrological age” is actually 2,577 years. Two such cycles, representing a complete binary cycle is 5,154 years. This is very close to the Mayan Long Count of 5,125 years. Consequently, the Buddhist “millenium” is really 1,031 years, pointing to 2043 CE as the end of the first Kalachakra “millenium.” This differs from Ray Kurzweil’s Year of the Singularity by only two years! The end of the first 5,000 year cycle of the Kali Yuga is therefore 2053 CE. Using the revised calculation, one century = 103 years, or 1909-2012. The exact midpoint of this final cycle of degeneration is 1959, the year that HH the Dalai Lama was forced to flee Tibet before the onslaught of the Chinese occupying army.