Middle Day of the Law ［像法］ ( zōbō): Also, age of the Counterfeit Law, age of the Simulated Law, or age of the Semblance of the Law. The second of the three consecutive periods following Shakyamuni Buddha’s death. During this time, the Buddha’s teaching gradually becomes formalized, the people’s connection to it weakens, and progressively fewer people are able to gain enlightenment through its practice. According to The Forest of Meanings in the Mahayana Garden of the Law, in the Former Day of the Law, the Buddha’s teaching, its practice, and proof of its efficacy (people’s attainment of enlightenment through its practice) all exist; in the Middle Day of the Law, only the teaching and practice exist, but no longer any proof. That is, the Buddhist teaching and its practitioners exist, but among those practitioners few if any achieved enlightenment. Sources differ as to the length of the Middle Day of the Law. The Great Collection Sutra defines it as lasting a thousand years and the Compassionate White Lotus Flower Sutra as five hundred years. The Middle Day of the Law corresponds to two of the five five-hundred-year periods defined in the Great Collection Sutra: the age of reading, reciting, and listening and the age of building temples and stupas. In these ages, the spirit of seeking the Buddhist teachings declines.
The three stages following Shakyamuni Buddha’s death, that is, the three successive periods of the Former Day, the Middle Day, and the Latter Day of the Law were applied to the other Buddhas appearing in Buddhist scriptures. Accordingly, the teaching of each Buddha has its own Middle Day of the Law.