Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu

The Buddha in Hinduism is viewed as an Avatar of Vishnu. Buddhist Dasharatha Jataka (Jataka Atthakatha 461) represents Rama as a previous incarnation of the Buddha and as a Bodhisattva and supreme Dharma King of great wisdom.[1]

Buddha's teachings deny the authority of the Vedas[2] and consequently Buddhism is generally viewed as a nāstika school (heterodox, literally "It is not so")[3] from the perspective of orthodox Hinduism.

Buddha in the Puranas

Template:Vaishnavism The Buddha is described in important Hindu scriptures, including almost all the major Puranas. It is considered that not all of them refer to the same person: some of them refer to other persons, and some occurrences of "buddha" simply mean "a person possessing buddhi"; most of them, however, refer specifically to the founder of Buddhism.[4] They portray him with two roles: preaching false views in order to delude demons, and criticizing animal sacrifice.[5] A partial list of major Puranic references of the Buddha is as follows:

In the Puranic texts, he is mentioned as one of the ten Avatars of Vishnu, usually as the ninth one.

Another important scriptures that mentions him as an Avatar is Rishi Parashara's Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra (2:1-5/7).

He is often described as a yogi or yogācārya, and as a sannyāsi. His father is usually called Śuddhodhana, which is consistent with the Buddhist tradition, while in a few places the Buddha's father is named Añjana or Jina. He is described as beautiful (devasundara-rūpa), of yellow skin, and wearing brown-red or red robes.[8]

Only a few statements mention the worship of Buddha, e.g. the Varahapurana states that one desirous of beauty should worship him.[9]

In some of the Puranas, he is described as having taken birth to "mislead the demons":

mohanārthaṃ dānavānāṃ bālarūpī pathi-sthitaḥ । putraṃ taṃ kalpayām āsa mūḍha-buddhir jinaḥ svayam ॥ tataḥ saṃmohayām āsa jinādyān asurāṃśakān । bhagavān vāgbhir ugrābhir ahiṃsā-vācibhir hariḥ ॥
Brahmanda PuranaBhāgavatatātparya by Madhva, 1.3.28
Translation: To delude the demons, he [Lord Buddha] stood on the path in the form of a child. The foolish Jina (a demon), imagined him to be his son. Thus the lord Sri Hari [as avatara-buddha] expertly deluded Jina and other demons by his strong words of non-violence.

In the Bhagavata Purana Buddha is said to have taken birth to restore the devas to power:

tataḥ kalau sampravṛtte sammohāya sura-dviṣām
buddho nāmnāñjana-sutaḥ kīkaṭeṣu bhaviṣyati
—srimad-bhagavatam , 1.3.24
Translation: Then, in the beginning of Kali-yuga, for the purpose of confusing the enemies of the devas, [he] will become the son of Anjana, Buddha by name, in the Kīkaṭas.[2]
In many Puranas, the Buddha is described as an incarnation of Vishnu who incarnated in order to delude either demons or mankind away from the Vedic dharma. The Bhavishya Purana contains the following:
At this time, reminded of the Kali Age, the god Vishnu became born as Gautama, the Shakyamuni, and taught the Buddhist dharma for ten years. Then Shuddodana ruled for twenty years, and Shakyasimha for twenty. At the first stage of the Kali Age, the path of the Vedas was destroyed and all men became Buddhists. Those who sought refuge with Vishnu were deluded.[10]

Views of the Buddha in Hinduism

Buddha as an avatara of Vishnu

In 8th-century royal circles, the Buddha started to be replaced by Hindu gods in pujas.[11] This also was the same period of time the Buddha was made into an avatar of Vishnu.[12]

In the Dasavatara stotra section of his Gita Govinda, the influential Vaishnava poet Jayadeva (13th century) includes the Buddha amongst the ten principal avatars of Vishnu and writes a prayer regarding him as follows:

O Keshava! O Lord of the universe! O Lord Hari, who have assumed the form of Buddha! All glories to You! O Buddha of compassionate heart, you decry the slaughtering of poor animals performed according to the rules of Vedic sacrifice.

This viewpoint of the Buddha as the avatar who primarily promoted non-violence (ahimsa) remains a popular belief amongst a number of modern Vaishnava organisations, including ISKCON.[14]

Additionally, there is the Vaishnava sect of Maharashtra, known as Varkari, who worship Lord Vithoba (also known as Vitthal, Panduranga). Though Vithoba is mostly considered to be a form of the little Krishna, there has been a deep belief for many centuries that Vithoba is a form of Buddha. Many poets of the Maharashtra (including Eknath, Namdev, Tukaram etc.) have explicitly mentioned him as Buddha, though many neo-Buddhists (Ambedkaries) and some western scholars often tend to reject this opinion.

The concept of "Vishnu Tatva" & "Jeeva Tatva" can be explained in terms of incarnations. Lord Krishna as the 8th incarnation of Vishnu is a perfect "vishnu" tatva, who has the all pervading quality. Sri Krishna in Bhagavat Gita told, that all living &nonliving things are part and parcels of him. Krishna as an incarnation of Vishnu, he descended from Goloka(The permanent world of Krishna) through Vaikuntha-loka, the ream or abode of vishnu. When the incarnation from those higher worlds happening, they naturally possess all pervading quality in this world. On the other hand Lord Buddha as a jeeva tatava, or a living being in this material universe, practiced perfections known as Parami / paramita to get the qualification to become a Buddha. When the Bodhisatva getting the Buddha hood he should attend the all pervading Vishnu tatva first. Without this all pervading quality of Vishnu tatva, nobody can get Buddha hood, because Buddha hood surpasses Vishnu tatva. In that terms, Hinduism sees the Buddha is the 9th incarnation of Vishnu and that is more or less accepted. If somebody as a jeeva tatva approaches to a Vishnu tatva he also can become a "Universal Monarch / Chakravarti Raja" , a king of universe. That also you can explain, with the all pervading power of Vishnu tatva. This, explained correctly the ceremony of giving the name to prince Siddhartha, in the Shakya palace at Kimbulvat. Out of 8 brahmin scholars gathered in the Palace of King Suddhodhana, 7 indicated that, if the prince stayed at home, he would be a Universal Monarch (Sakviti Raja), if he left the home he would be a Lord Buddha. The youngest of the Brahmins, named Kondañña, mentioned that the prince would definitely become the Lord Buddha.

Buddha as an inspirational figure

Other prominent modern proponents of Hinduism, such as Radhakrishnan and Vivekananda, consider the Buddha as a teacher of the same universal truth that underlies all religions of the world:

Vivekananda:- May he who is the Brahman of the Hindus, the Ahura Mazda of Zoroastrians, the Buddha of Buddhists, the Jehovah of the Jews, the Father in Heavens of Christians, give strength to you to carry out your noble ideas![15]

Radhakrishnan: If a Hindu chants the Vedas on the banks of the Ganges... if the Japanese worship the image of Buddha, if the European is convinced of Christ's mediatorship, if the Arab reads the Koran in the mosque... It is their deepest apprehension of God and God's fullest revelation to them.[16]

A number of revolutionary figures in modern Hinduism, including Gandhi, have been inspired by the life and teachings of the Buddha and many of his attempted reforms.[17]

Steven Collins sees such Hindu claims regarding Buddhism as part of an effort - itself a reaction to Christian proselytizing efforts in India - to show that "all religions are one", and that Hinduism is uniquely valuable because it alone recognizes this fact.[18] This idea, however, is disputed by scholars.[19]

Buddha in politics

Buddhism finds favor in contemporary Hindutva movement, with Lama Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama being honored at Hindu events, like the Vishva Hindu Parishad's second World Hindu Conference in Allahabad in 1979.[20]


According to Wendy Doniger, the Buddha avatar which occurs in different versions in various Puranas may represent an attempt by orthodox Brahminism to slander the Buddhists by identifying them with the demons.[21] Helmuth von Glasenapp attributed these developments to a Hindu desire to absorb Buddhism in a peaceful manner, both to win Buddhists to Vaishnavism and also to account for the fact that such a significant heresy could exist in India.[22]

The times ascribed to one "Buddha" figure are contradictory and some put him in approximately 500 CE, with a lifetime of 64 years, describe him as having killed some persons, as following the Vedic religion, and having a father named Jina, which suggest that this particular figure might be a different person from Siddhārta Gautama.[23]

Opinions and reactions

B. R. Ambedkar, who revived Buddhism in India, denied that Buddha was an incarnation of Vishnu. Among the 22 vows he gave to the neo-Buddhists, the 5th vow is "I do not and shall not believe that Lord Buddha was the incarnation of Vishnu. I believe this to be sheer madness and false propaganda."[24]

In 1999, at the Maha Bodhi Society in Sarnath, Jagadguru Sankaracharya, Jayendra Saraswati of Kanchi matha and Vipassana Acharya S. N. Goenka after having a mutual discussion, gave a joint communiqué agreeing on the following three points.[25] The Maha Bodhi Society Office, Sarnath, Varanasi. 3:30 p.m., 11 November 1999

  1. Due to whatever reason some literature was written in India in the past in which the Buddha was declared to be a re-incarnation of Vishnu and other various things were written about him, this was very unpleasant to the neighbouring countries. In order to foster friendlier ties between Hindus and Buddhists we decide that whatever has happened in the past should be forgotten and such belief should not be propagated.
  2. A misconception has spread in the neighbouring countries that the Hindu society of India is organising such conferences to prove its dominance over the followers of the Buddha.To forever remove this misconception we declare that both Vedic and Samana are ancient traditions of India (Vishnu belongs to the vedic tradition and Buddha belongs to the Samana tradition). Any attempt by one tradition to show it higher than the other will only generate hatred and ill will between the two. Hence such a thing should not be done in future and both traditions should be accorded equal respect and esteem.
  3. Any body can attain high position in the society by doing good deeds. One becomes a low person in society if one does evil deeds. Hence anybody by doing good deeds and removing the defilement’s such as passion, anger, arrogance, ignorance, greed, jealousy and ego can attain a high position in society and enjoy peace and happiness.
  4. We agree on all the three things mentioned above and wish that all the people of India from all the traditions should have cordial relations and the neighbouring countries should also have friendly relations with India.

See also


External links

  • Buddha: The Refiner of Hinduism? (hinduism.about.com)
  • The Buddha as an Avatar of Vishnu (article by A. Seshan from The Times of India)
  • Mahatma Gandhi and Buddhism (pdf file)
  • Buddhism, the Fulfilment of Hinduism, by Swami Vivekananda
  • Fostering Friendly Relations
fr:Bouddha dans l'hindouisme

mr:बुद्ध अवतार

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