Monday, February 1, 2010

Buddha: The ninth incarnation of Vishnu

When earth’s rulers and citizens were taking pride in torturing life forms, Vishnu felt that it was time to teach them about compassion and ahimsa (non-violence) towards both humans as well as animals. Accordingly, he incarnated as Buddha in Kapilvastu in 6th century BCE.

Because it had been prophesized that Prince Siddhartha (Buddha’a name in early life) may give up the material world one day, his father tried his best to keep him away from spirituality and distress. But at the right moment, simple observations of human suffering (a sick person, an elderly, and a corpse) led him to renounce his kingdom and family, and he began his search for realization. One could argue that he was already detached (from birth) and only needed a slight initiation. He began his search with philosophical learning, asceticism, and travels to religious places, but these alone could not give him what he was looking for. Finally, meditation under a tree worked, and he turned into the “enlightened one” in Bodhgaya in present-day Bihar.

For the liberation of the commoner, Buddha established and propagated the eightfold path, which involved perfection in understanding, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, awareness, and concentration. Interestingly, from a Hindu perspective, there is a lot in common between this path and the mental training and cleansing needed to succeed in Karma Yoga or Jnana Yoga.

Fun fact: Astrologically, Buddha’s incarnation is connected to Mercury, the planet of intellect and communication, and symbolizes intellectual perfection.

4 comments:

Karthik said...

I have been enjoying reading your blog for quite a while now!

However, I have my concerns about Gautama Buddha being regarded as an avataram. I understand that historians have commonly confused Gautama Buddha with Buddha, the avataram of Lord Vishnu.

Shri Jayadeva in his gIta govindaM clearly describes the avataram:

निन्दसि यज्ञविधॆः अहहाश्रुतिजातम्|
सदयहृदयदर्शितपशुघातं कॆशव! धृतबुद्धशरीर!

The description of Buddha from the Puranas also differs significantly from Gautama Buddha, who no doubt was a great and enlightened soul, was not an avataram of Lord Maha Vishnu.

I would be glad if you can clarify your sources, since it would be helpful in improving my understanding.

M. Shri said...

Like the Gita Govinda, the Srimad Bhagavata Purana and the Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra (my source for the fun fact) mention a Vishnu avatar named "Buddha". Is this Buddha the Gautam Buddha of Buddhism? According to common knowledge in today's North India, which I have depended upon, the answer is "Yes." But my ancient sources do not clearly substantiate this view.

A quick internet search shows that the view remains arguable. In fact, different viewpoints exist on the 8th, 9th, and 10th incarnations of Vishnu. Gita Govinda does not count Krishna as an "incarnation." Other lists may replace Buddha (or Kalki) with Balarama.

PS: If Buddha of the Gita Govinda, who was compassionate towards animals, was born after Rama and Krishna but was not Gautam Buddha, wouldn't Hindus (the Indian society) have more available information on the life of Vishnu-incarnate Buddha?

MoonChild said...

I agree with the author here. I see Lord Balrama is included as the 8th AVatar of the Lord these days, but that is more a twisted view of scriptures. If Lord Balarama was the 8th Avatar, then the concept of KRSNA will totally change, and if Lord Balarama was an avatar of Lord Vishnu, how can He be referred to as an avatar of Adishesha?

With the limited knowledge that I have in my 40 years, I still remember in my younger days, Lord Gouthama Buddha was considered as the 9th Avatar.

Abhik Sur said...

I believe that Buddha is the 9th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Incarnations comes to earth with a specific purpose which was well served by Lord Buddha. So he is the avatar of Vishnu...

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