Personally, I don't put too much stock in the whole 'we're living in a degenerate age' thing. One reason is that much of what forms the textual basis for this idea is of a fairly late date and/or commentarial literature. The Anagatavamsa, for example, is a relatively late text and isn't canonical. The Gandhavamsa ascribes authorship to the elder Kassapa, the author of the Mohavicchedani (12th -13th century CE). And the 500 year prophecy, which deals with both
the brute survival of the teaching and the survival of the teaching unadulterated with 'synthetic Dhamma' (saddhamma-patirupa
), isn't only somewhat controversial
and considered by many to be a later addition these days, but also held by many who do accept it as being conditional (i.e., subject to change). Many hold, for example, that the acceptance of the additional rules on the part of the bhikkhunis and the subsequent council after the Buddha's death altered this, acting as conditions for the teachings' survival far into the future.
Whatever the case, one of the things I like about the Thai Forest Tradition, besides their focus on practicing, is their belief that awakening is still a possibility and open to all. There was a time not that long ago in Theravada when it was generally believed that it's no longer possible to become an arahant
— that we're living in a 'degenerate age' full of false teachings and ineffectual practitioners — therefore monks usually spent most of their time studying the texts in order to preserve what's left of the 'true Dhamma' and try to become at least stream-enterers by intellectually understanding concepts such as not-self. Both monastics and non-monastics alike thought it was better to study the texts and to make merit than to practice meditation, hoping to eventually be reborn in a better time and place where the Dhamma and the ability to attain awakening will be restored by the next Buddha, Mettaya (hence the popularity of the Anagatavamsa). But thanks to monks like Ajahn Sao and Ajahn Mun in Thailand, as well as other contemporaries like Mingun Jetavana Sayadaw in Burma, who decided to start putting the Buddha's teachings on meditation back into practice and strive for liberation, that's changed.
Certainly things aren't perfect, and there are many challenges facing sincere practitioners; but far from being in a 'degenerate age' here in the West, I think things are actually looking up. I attended the ordination of Tan Sudhiro's at Abhayagiri last month, for example, and the ceremony seemed especially auspicious as it had a full quorum of ten monks — double the number of monks needed to perform it outside of the Ganges valley (ten vs. five) — illustrating the growing strength of Buddhism in the West. On top of that, monks are going on tudong
(we actually managed to time our trip down to Abhayagiri so that we could meet up with and offer a meal to the two tudong monks walking from Abhayagiri to the Pacific Hermitage in White Salmon, Washington), and new and dedicated lay-groups and monasteries are popping up everywhere. In addition, we have access to a vast storehouse of teachings, from ancient Pali and Sanskrit texts to those of many skilled teachers, helping point the way forward.