Gautama Buddha in Hinduism
In the Vaishnavism sect of Hinduism, the historic Buddha or Gautama Buddha, is considered to be an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. Of the ten major avatars of Vishnu, Vaishnavites believe Gautama Buddha to be the ninth and most recent incarnation.
Buddha's portrayal in Hinduism varies. In some texts such as the Puranas, he is portrayed as an avatar of Vishnu born to mislead those who deny the Vedic knowledge.[note 1] In others, such as the 13th-century Gitagovinda of Vaishnava poet Jayadeva, Vishnu incarnates as the Buddha to end the animal slaughter in vedic sacrifices. In contemporary Hinduism, state Constance Jones and James D. Ryan, Buddha is revered by Hindus who usually consider "Buddhism to be another form of Hinduism".
Avatar of Vishnu
The Buddha has been important to Hinduism since the ancient times, given his teachings and royal support. The Hindu views for the Buddha have neither been consistent nor constant. They have ranged from actively contesting the Buddhist premises and theology to sharing or adopting terminology, concepts as well as more recently, the persona of Siddhartha as someone who was born in and matured into the Buddha in a Brahmanical system. One such integration is through its mythology, where in Vaishnava Puranas, the Buddha is adopted as the ninth avatar of Vishnu.
Buddha is considered as an avatar of Vishnu, by traditions within Hinduism. Buddhists traditionally do not accept the Buddha to be a Vishnu avatar. The adoption of Buddha may have been a way to assimilate Buddhism into the fold of Hinduism. Much like Hinduism's adoption of the Buddha as an avatar, Buddhism legends too adopted Krishna in their Jataka tales, claiming Krishna (Vishnu avatar) to be a character whom Buddha met and taught in his previous births.[note 2] The adoption of the Buddha in texts relating to Hindu gods, and of Hindu gods in Buddhist texts, is difficult to place chronologically. According to Alf Hiltebeitel and other scholars, some of the stories in Buddha-related Jataka tales found in Pali texts seem slanderous distortions of Hindu legends, but these may reflect the ancient local traditions and the complexities of early interaction between the two Indian religions.
Interaction between Buddhism and Brahmanical traditions
In contemporary Hinduism, state Constance Jones and James D. Ryan, Buddha is revered by Hindus. They usually consider "Buddhism to be another form of Hinduism". However, regional Hindu texts over the centuries have presented a spectrum of views on Buddhism, possibly reflecting the competition between Buddhism and the Brahmanical traditions. Some pre-13th-century Hindu texts portray the Buddha as born to mislead the asuras to the false path, some to stop all killing of animals. Some pre-14th-century Hindu temples include Buddha reliefs with the same reverence they show for other avatars of Vishnu. In recent and contemporary Hinduism in India, Buddha is considered a holy being and revered as one who was awakened. Outside India, some contemporary Hindus revere the Buddha along with other gods during their festivals.
Scholars contest whether the Hindu perceptions and apologetic attempts to rationalize the Buddha within their fold are correct. Though an avatar of Vishnu, the Buddha is rarely worshipped like Krishna and Rama in Hinduism. According to John Holt, the Buddha was adopted as an avatar of Vishnu around the time the Puranas were being composed, in order to subordinate him into the Brahmanical ideology. Further adds Holt, various scholars in India, Sri Lanka and outside South Asia state that the colonial era and contemporary attempts to assimilate Buddha into the Hindu fold are a nationalistic political agenda, where "the Buddha has been reclaimed triumphantly as a symbol of indigenous nationalist understandings of India's history and culture".
According to Lars Tore Flåten, Hindu perceptions, particularly in the literature by Hindu nationalists, are that "Buddha did not break away from the spiritual ideas of his age and country". They claim that scholars such as Hermann Oldenberg, Thomas Rhys Davids and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan state there is much in common between "Buddhism and the contemporary Hinduism". These perceptions cite, for example, the Pali scholar Rhys Davids' analysis in Buddhism: Being a Sketch of the Life and Teachings of Gautama, the Buddha, where he wrote, "But the foregoing account will be sufficient, I hope, to remove at least one misconception – the prevalent notion that Gautama was an enemy to Hinduism, and that his chief claim on the gratitude of his countrymen lies in his having destroyed a system of iniquity and oppression and fraud. This is not the case. Gautama was born, and brought up, and lived, and died a Hindu". In present-day scholarly consensus, Buddhism is considered very different from pre-Buddhist Indian religion, however. For example, Indologist Richard Gombrich wrote that the Buddha was a radical religious reformer, making religious practice and salvation a more personal matter than it was before the arising of Buddhism.
The Oxford professor and later President of India, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan states that "as a matter of fact, nowhere did Buddha repudiate the Upanishad conception of Brahman, the absolute"; that Buddha, if anything, "accepted the Upanishad's position". Buddhologists like K.R. Norman and Richard Gombrich meanwhile, argue that the Buddha's anatta theory does indeed extend to the Brahmanical belief expounded in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad that the Self (Atman) is the Universal Self, or Brahman. They point to the Pali Alagaddūpama-sutta, where the Buddha argues that an individual cannot experience the suffering of the entire world.
Gombrich and other scholars have argued that the Buddha did not begin or pursue social reforms, nor was he against caste altogether, rather his aim was at the salvation of those who joined his monastic order. According to Gombrich, modernists keep picking up these erroneous assumptions "from western authors".
B. R. Ambedkar, the Dalit leader who in 1935 declared his intention to convert from Hinduism to Buddhism and converted about 20 years later, rejected that Buddha was an incarnation of Vishnu. Ambedkar, while he was a Hindu and before he launched a new form of Buddhism, reinterpreted Buddha's teachings into what he called Navayana (New Vehicle), wherein he developed a Marxist interpretation of said teachings. He founded and converted to a new version of Buddhism, a version which criticized and rejected Hinduism, but also Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism because, according to Ambedkar, they all misrepresented the Buddha.
According to Donald Swearer, the understanding of Buddha in Hinduism is a part of his wider and diverse influences. Even within Buddhism, states Swearer, Buddha and his ideas are conceptualized differently between Theravada, Mahayana, Tibetan, Japanese and other traditions. Similarly, in various traditions of Hinduism (and elsewhere), Buddha is accepted and interpreted in different ways.
|Part of a series on|
The Buddha is mentioned as an avatar of Vishnu in the Puranas and the epics such as:
- Harivamsa (1.41)
- Vishnu Purana (3.18)
- Bhagavata Purana (1.3.24, 2.7.37, 11.4.22) 
- Garuda Purana (1.1, 2.30.37, 3.15.26) 
- Agni Purana (16)
- Naradiya Purana (2.72)
- Linga Purana (2.71)
- Padma Purana (3.252)
In the Puranic texts, he is mentioned as one of the ten Avatars of Vishnu, usually as the ninth one. Another important scripture that mentions him as an avatar is Parashara's Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra (2:1-5/7).
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.
The times ascribed to one "Buddha" figure are contradictory and some put him in approximately 500 CE, with a lifetime of 64 years; they 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.
Mutual adoption of iconography
Mutual adoption of revered figures
While Hinduism adopted the Buddha in its mythology, Buddhism adopted the Hindu god Krishna in its own mythology. The story of Krishna occurs in the Jataka tales in Buddhism, for example. The Vidhurapandita Jataka mentions Madhura (Sanskrit: Mathura); the Ghata Jataka mentions Kamsa, Devagabbha (Sk: Devaki), Upasagara or Vasudeva, Govaddhana (Sk: Govardhana), Baladeva (Balarama), and Kanha or Kesava (Sk: Krishna, Keshava).
The Arjuna and Krishna interaction is missing in the Jataka version. In the Buddhist version, Krishna laments in uncontrollable sorrow when his son dies, and a Ghatapandita feigns madness to teach Krishna a lesson. The Jataka tale also includes an internecine destruction among his siblings after they all get drunk. Krishna also dies in the Buddhist legend by the hand of a hunter named Jara, but while he is traveling to a frontier city. Mistaking Krishna for a Deer, Jara throws a spear that fatally pierces his feet, causing Krishna great pain and then his death.
At the end of this Ghata-Jataka discourse, the Buddhist text declares that Sariputta, one of the revered disciples of the Buddha in the Buddhist tradition, was incarnated as Krishna in his previous life to learn lessons on grief from the Buddha in his prior rebirth:
Then he [Master] declared the Truths, and identified the Birth: 'At that time, Ananda was Rohineyya, Sariputta was Vasudeva [Krishna], the followers of the Buddha were the other persons, and I myself was Ghatapandita."— Jataka Tale No. 454, Translator: W. H. D. Rouse
While the Buddhist Jataka texts co-opt Krishna-Vasudeva and make him a student of the Buddha in his previous life,[note 2] the Hindu texts co-opt the Buddha and make him an avatar of Vishnu. Similarly, in Dasaratha Jataka Buddha identifies himself as Rama.
Differences between Buddhism and Hinduism
Buddhism, like Hinduism and other major Indian religions, asserts that everything is impermanent (anicca), but, unlike them, also asserts that there is no permanent self or soul in living beings (anattā). The ignorance or misperception (avijjā) that anything is permanent or that there is self in any being is considered a wrong understanding in Buddhism, and the primary source of clinging and suffering (dukkha).
Buddha endorsed and taught the concept of rebirth. This refers to a process whereby beings go through a succession of lifetimes as one of many possible forms of sentient life, each running from conception to death. In Buddhist thought, however, this rebirth does not involve any soul, unlike Hinduism and Jainism. According to Buddhism the atman concept is incorrect, untrue.
- The reverse is found in Buddhist texts which similarly caricature Hindu sacred figures. According to Alf Hiltebeitel and other scholars, some of the stories in Buddha-related Jataka tales found in Pali texts seem slanderous distortions of Hindu legends, but these may reflect the ancient local traditions and the complexities of early interaction between the two Indian religions.
- Krishna and Buddha interact in several Jataka tales such as number 454, 530 and 536. Vishnu appears in some Buddhist manuscripts as Venhu, but not as consistently as Krishna. In the Ghata Jataka, the Hindu god Krishna is depicted as an immature person and Buddha teaches him wisdom.
- Charles Russell Coulter (2013). Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities. Routledge. p. 109. ISBN 978-1-135-96390-3., Quote: "According to some, Buddha was the ninth avatar of Vishnu. Buddhists do not accept this theory."
- James G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M. The Rosen Publishing Group. pp. 73, 128. ISBN 978-0-8239-3179-8.
- John Clifford Holt (2008). The Buddhist Viṣṇu: Religious Transformation, Politics, and Culture. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 18–21. ISBN 978-81-208-3269-5.
- Constance Jones; James D. Ryan (2006). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-8160-7564-5.
- Alf Hiltebeitel (1990). The Ritual of Battle: Krishna in the Mahabharata. State University of New York Press. pp. 64–68. ISBN 978-0-7914-0250-4.
- Srinivasan, Amrutur V. (2011). Hinduism For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. p. 182. ISBN 9781118110775.
- Constituting Communities: Theravada Buddhism and the Religious Cultures of South and Southeast Asia. SUNY Press. 2012. ISBN 9780791487051.
- John Clifford Holt (2008). The Buddhist Viṣṇu: Religious Transformation, Politics, and Culture. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 8–22. ISBN 978-81-208-3269-5.
- E.B. Cowell; WHD Rouse (1901). The Jātaka: Or, Stories of the Buddha's Former Births. Cambridge University Press. p. 57.
- Bruce M. Sullivan (1999). Seer of the Fifth Veda: Kr̥ṣṇa Dvaipāyana Vyāsa in the Mahābhārata. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 103–105 with footnotes. ISBN 978-81-208-1676-3.
- Stella Kramrisch (1946). The Hindu Temple. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 349–350. ISBN 978-81-208-0224-7.
- Timothy P. Daniels (2005). Building Cultural Nationalism in Malaysia: Identity, Representation, and Citizenship. Psychology Press. pp. 129–130. ISBN 978-0-415-94971-2.
- Holt, John. The Buddhist Visnu. Columbia University Press, 2004, p.12,15 "The replacement of the Buddha as the "cosmic person" within the mythic ideology of Indian kingship, as we shall see shortly, occurred at about the same time the Buddha was incorporated and subordinated within the Brahmanical cult of Visnu."
- John Clifford Holt (2008). The Buddhist Viṣṇu: Religious Transformation, Politics, and Culture. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 18–23, 31–32. ISBN 978-81-208-3269-5.
- Lars Tore Flåten (2016). Hindu Nationalism, History and Identity in India: Narrating a Hindu past under the BJP. Taylor & Francis. pp. 90–93. ISBN 978-1-317-20871-6.
- K N Jayatilleke (2013). Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge. Routledge (Originally published in 1963). pp. 369–370, see paragraph numbered 625. ISBN 978-1-134-54287-1.
- Gombrich, Richard F. (2006). Theravāda Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo (PDF) (2nd ed.). Routledge. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-203-01603-9.
- TRV Murti (1992). Paul Arthur Schilpp (ed.). The Philosophy of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 572–573. ISBN 978-81-208-0792-1.
- S Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, Volume 1, George Allen, page 682
- Gombrich; Recovering the Buddha's Message © The Buddhist Forum, Vol I, Seminar Papers 1987–1988
- Norman, KR; A note on Attā in the Alagaddūpama Sutta – 1981
- Richard Gombrich (2012). Buddhist Precept & Practice. Routledge. pp. 344–345, context and discussion: 343–370. ISBN 978-1-136-15623-6., Quote: "Unlike the customs concerning property and succession it is admitted by traditionalists to be doctrinally indefensible, and it is of course heartily attacked by modernists. Some modernists go so far as to say that the Buddha was against caste altogether: this is not the case, but is one of mistakes picked up from western authors".
- Randall Collins, The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. Harvard University Press, 2000, page 205-206
- Christopher S. Queen; Sallie B. King (1996). Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia. State University of New York Press. pp. 17–18. ISBN 978-0-7914-2844-3.
- Michael Jerryson (2016). The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Buddhism. Oxford University Press. pp. 47–48. ISBN 978-0-19-936238-7.
- Christopher Queen (2015). Steven M. Emmanuel (ed.). A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 524–529. ISBN 978-1-119-14466-3.
- Skaria, A (2015). "Ambedkar, Marx and the Buddhist Question". Journal of South Asian Studies. Taylor & Francis. 38 (3): 450–452. doi:10.1080/00856401.2015.1049726., Quote: "Here [Navayana Buddhism] there is not only a criticism of religion (most of all, Hinduism, but also prior traditions of Buddhism), but also of secularism, and that criticism is articulated moreover as a religion."
- Eleanor Zelliot (2015). Knut A. Jacobsen (ed.). Routledge Handbook of Contemporary India. Taylor & Francis. pp. 13, 361–370. ISBN 978-1-317-40357-9.
- Donald Swearer (2016). Michael Jerryson (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Buddhism. Oxford University Press. pp. 678–683. ISBN 978-0-19-936238-7.
- "Bhagavata Purana 1.3.24". Srimadbhagavatam.com. Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2012-08-14.
- Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 1982.
- Dhere Ramchandra Chintaman, Shri Vitthal: ek maha samanvaya, Shri Vidya Prakashan, Pune, 1984 (Marathi)
- von Glasenapp 1962 page 113, cited in O'Flaherty, page 206.
- Singh, p.266.
- Hajime Nakamura (1964). The Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples: India-China-Tibet-Japan. University of Hawaii Press. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-8248-0078-9.
- "Andhakavenhu Puttaa". www.vipassana.info. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- Law, B. C. (1941). India as Described in Early Texts of Buddhism and Jainism. Luzac. pp. 99–101.
- Jaiswal, S. (1974). "Historical Evolution of the Ram Legend". Social Scientist. 21 (3–4): 89–97. doi:10.2307/3517633. JSTOR 3517633.
- Gunapala Piyasena Malalasekera (2007). Dictionary of Pāli Proper Names: A-Dh. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 825–826. ISBN 978-81-208-3021-9.
- H. T. Francis; E. J. Thomas (1916). Jataka Tales. Cambridge University Press (Reprinted: 2014). pp. 314–324. ISBN 978-1-107-41851-6.
- Daniel E Bassuk (1987). Incarnation in Hinduism and Christianity: The Myth of the God-Man. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-349-08642-9.
- Edward Geoffrey Parrinder (1997). Avatar and Incarnation: The Divine in Human Form in the World's Religions. Oxford: Oneworld. pp. 19–24, 35–38, 75–78, 130–133. ISBN 978-1-85168-130-3.
- Anatta Buddhism, Encyclopædia Britannica (2013)
- [a] Christmas Humphreys (2012). Exploring Buddhism. Routledge. pp. 42–43. ISBN 978-1-136-22877-3.
[b] Gombrich (2006), page 47, Quote: "(...) Buddha's teaching that beings have no soul, no abiding essence. This 'no-soul doctrine' (anatta-vada) he expounded in his second sermon."
- [a] Anatta, Encyclopædia Britannica (2013), Quote: "Anatta in Buddhism, the doctrine that there is in humans no permanent, underlying soul. The concept of anatta, or anatman, is a departure from the Hindu belief in atman ("the self").";
[b] Steven Collins (1994), Religion and Practical Reason (Editors: Frank Reynolds, David Tracy), State Univ of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791422175, page 64; "Central to Buddhist soteriology is the doctrine of not-self (Pali: anattā, Sanskrit: anātman, the opposed doctrine of ātman is central to Brahmanical thought). Put very briefly, this is the [Buddhist] doctrine that human beings have no soul, no self, no unchanging essence.";
[c] John C. Plott et al (2000), Global History of Philosophy: The Axial Age, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120801585, page 63, Quote: "The Buddhist schools reject any Ātman concept. As we have already observed, this is the basic and ineradicable distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism";
[d] Katie Javanaud (2013), Is The Buddhist 'No-Self' Doctrine Compatible With Pursuing Nirvana?, Philosophy Now;
[e] David Loy (1982), Enlightenment in Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta: Are Nirvana and Moksha the Same?, International Philosophical Quarterly, Volume 23, Issue 1, pages 65–74
- Brian Morris (2006). Religion and Anthropology: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge University Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-521-85241-8., Quote: "(...) anatta is the doctrine of non-self, and is an extreme empiricist doctrine that holds that the notion of an unchanging permanent self is a fiction and has no reality. According to Buddhist doctrine, the individual person consists of five skandhas or heaps – the body, feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness. The belief in a self or soul, over these five skandhas, is illusory and the cause of suffering."
- Richard Francis Gombrich; Cristina Anna Scherrer-Schaub (2008). Buddhist Studies. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 209–210. ISBN 978-81-208-3248-0.
- Frank Hoffman; Deegalle Mahinda (2013). Pali Buddhism. Routledge. pp. 162–165. ISBN 978-1-136-78553-5.
- Keown, Damien (1996). Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. p. 107.
- Oliver Leaman (2002). Eastern Philosophy: Key Readings. Routledge. pp. 23–27. ISBN 978-1-134-68919-4.
- [a] Christmas Humphreys (2012). Exploring Buddhism. Routledge. pp. 42–43. ISBN 978-1-136-22877-3.
[b] Brian Morris (2006). Religion and Anthropology: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge University Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-521-85241-8., Quote: "(...) anatta is the doctrine of non-self, and is an extreme empiricist doctrine that holds that the notion of an unchanging permanent self is a fiction and has no reality. According to Buddhist doctrine, the individual person consists of five skandhas or heaps – the body, feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness. The belief in a self or soul, over these five skandhas, is illusory and the cause of suffering."
[c] Gombrich (2006), page 47, Quote: "(...) Buddha's teaching that beings have no soul, no abiding essence. This 'no-soul doctrine' (anatta-vada) he expounded in his second sermon."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gautama Buddha in Hinduism.|