The Buddha said that his teaching, the Dharma is to come and to see by yourself. You can touch the Dharma directly. And he said that his Dharma transcends time. He doesn't have to be caught in time. "Akarika (Ajasrika)?" means "free of time". The moment when you begin to apply the Buddha, to apply the teaching of the Buddha in your life, you can see already the result.
And you don't need someone who represents the Buddha, represents the Dharma, because the Buddha you can get in touch directly. The Dharma also. The Dharma does not need to be spoken or to be written down. The Dharma can be recognized when someone walks with the freedom, with the solidity, with joy, when someone sits with peace.
And compassion. When someone speaks with compassion, with tolerance, with lovingkindness, we call it a living Dharma. The living Dharma is available and it can be recognized by all of us. And if the living Dharma is there, you know that the living Buddha is also there. Because what makes the Buddha, is the living Dharma. Shakyamuni embodies the living Dharma. And his disciples, many of them are capable to continue him and to embody the living Dharma.
The Buddha is the Dharma and the Dharma is Sangha. So, we, practitioners are the Buddha, or the continuation of the Buddha. And the Buddha is still alive. When we apply the Dharma in our daily life, we can experience the effects right away. And the Dharma starts from mindful breathing. When we stop thinking, the part-time Buddha (awareness) revives. And when we throw away all notions, the fulltime Buddha (awareness) revives.
Thích Nhất Hạnh