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Some Hindus believe that the Gautama Buddha is one of the Dashavatara; others replace him with Balarama (and sometimes other figures, but mostly Balarama). Which groups of Hindus believe that the Buddha was one of the principal avatars of Vishnu?

I vaguely remember reading that this is divided roughly along north-south geographic lines, with people living in the North (loosely, the non-Dravidian states) typically counting the Buddha as an avatar, and people in the South (loosely, the Dravidian states) typically counting Balarama as an avatar. Is this the case?

  • No,he is not ! The two are different –  Raju Jun 14 '15 at 17:26
  • I want to post an answer which is better than all here but sadly its locked? – MohitC Oct 23 '15 at 5:36
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    The Buddha in the dasavatara list is not Siddhartha Gautama of Sakya dynasty but a sanyasa avatara of Vishnu who aided Siva in the annihilation of tripura asuras – user1195 Nov 29 '15 at 15:05
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    @moonstar2001 Can you support your claims with any literary proof? – Yogi Jan 24 '17 at 20:54
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Putting aside what people say and believe if you go through the scriptures then you will find that Buddha was an incarnation of Vishnu.

The two prominent scriptures about Vishnu portray Buddha as His incarnation.

Shrimad Bhagavatam says, to delude the people who are envious to the gods, at the beginning of Kali Yuga Buddha will appear as the son of Anjani in Kikata (Gayā / Bihar province today) :

tataḥ kalau sampravṛtte sammohāya sura-dviṣām

buddho nāmnāñjana-sutaḥ kīkaṭeṣu bhaviṣyati [SB - 1.3.24]

Vishnu Puran says, for helping the gods (suras) Vishnu from His body produced Mayāmoha (Buddha):

ityukto bhagavāṃstebhyo mayāmohaṃ śarīrataḥ

samutpādya dadau viṣṇuḥ praha cedaṃ surottamān [VP - 3.17.41]

The thing is, because Buddha spread a non-Vedic tenet some did not like to accept Him as an incarnation of Vishnu who is a Vedic god. So they replaced Him with Balarama, Vitthal, etc. depending on their local culture and tradition. For example, I am from Odisha and we often place Jagannatha in the avatar list instead of Buddha. Sometimes we even consider Buddha to be an incarnation of Jagannatha.

Now if Buddha was indeed an incarnation of Vishnu, then there has to be at least one reference about one of Vishnu's incarnations in Buddha's Jātak tales which list many of Buddha's past births. And interestingly, the Jātaka tales do have such a reference in the Ghata Jātaka about Krishna. Of course, the story and characters are different, but that's just obvious. So I don't know what other groups and people believe, but personally, I believe Buddha to be an incarnation of Vishnu.

To be frank, if you decide not to go by the book (scriptures) then this is just a matter of personal preference. At the end of the day, every prominent god or goddess is a direct or partial incarnation of God, replace the position with whoever you like. In fact, the Gita Govinda while places Buddha as the 9th incarnation replaces Krishna with Balarama (Haladhara) as the 8th one, portraying Krishna as the source of all incarnation:

vahasi vapuṣi viśade vasanaṃ jaladābhaṃ

hala hati bhīti militayamunābham

keśava dhruta-haladhara-rupa jaya jagadīśa hare !

Disclaimer: I am thankful to Keshav for the question Does the Jataka account of Krishna have any basis in Hindu scripture? as it directly gave me the Jātaka tale I was looking for.

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    @AnkitSharma Thanks! you raised a valid point regarding Laxman. I was about to raise the point but saw you have already mentioned it in your answer. – Be Happy Jun 20 '14 at 6:13
  • That point always bothers me and i think you answer is well clear to show why buddha is not considered as Vishnu avatar by few believers. – Ankit Sharma Jun 20 '14 at 6:15
  • Why do you think the Ghata Jataka makes Buddha a brother of Krishna rather than Krishna himself? – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 24 '14 at 1:20
  • May be due to sectarian issues. I think if it mentioned Buddha as Krishna Himself then there would have remained no doubt or speculation regarding Buddha being the 9th avatar of Vishnu as stated by the Vedic scriptures. But during those times Buddhists were against the Vedic doctrines. Please come to chat, let's discuss about this. – Be Happy Jun 24 '14 at 1:40
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    If Buddha is an incarnation of Vishnu then why did he say that I doubt the existence of God? – user12458 Oct 29 '14 at 10:52
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From the Vaishnava perspective, Buddha is regarded as an avatar.

First from the poet Jayadeva, who lists him as one of the dasavatara:

nindasi yajna-vidher ahaha sruti-jatam
sadaya-hridaya darsita-pasu-ghatam
kesava dhrita-buddha-sarira jaya jagadisa hare

O Kesava! 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.

Furthermore, Buddha's incarnation is mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavatam (1.3.24):

tataḥ kalau sampravṛtte
sammohāya sura-dviṣām
buddho nāmnāñjana-sutaḥ
kīkaṭeṣu bhaviṣyati

Then, in the beginning of Kali-yuga, the Lord will appear as Lord Buddha, the son of Añjanā, in the province of Gayā, just for the purpose of deluding those who are envious of the faithful theist.

The Srimad Bhagavatam quotation is in the context of listing the avatars of Krishna.

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For strict Vaishnavism adherents, Balarama is part and parcel of the Dashavataram.

The Gautama Buddha of Buddhism is not an avatara of Lord Vishnu.

As described in previous posts Lord Vishnu came as Buddha avatara to mislead asuras. There is valid proofs in Vishnu purana and other puranas that Vishnu had taken Buddha avatara

Another version in Puranas is Lord Vishnu took the form of Buddha to mislead Tripurasura and thereby helped Siva in killing the Asura.

This Buddha is no way related to Gautama Buddha.

In Mahabharata and Vishnu Purana,

Lord Narayana plucked out two strands of hairs. One was black (Krishna) and one was white (Balarama).

Also, as per, Vaishnava texts, Lakshmana and Balarama are expansions of Sankarshana form of the Lord.

So, there is absolutely nothing wrong in counting Balarama as part of Dashavatara.

Now the question remains there are many instances that Balarama is considered the avatara of Adisesha, the primordial devotee of Lord Narayana/Vishnu/Krishna.

The Same Adisesha was Lakshmana in Rama avatara..So, still the question remains why "Balarama" is included in Dashavatara.

One the reasons provided is that the kind of service that Adisesha provides to Lord Narayana/Vishnu/Krishna and as Lakshmana to Rama during Rama avatarama is and was unparalleled. Lord made him his elder brother during Krishna avatara, so that he can serve his elder brother. But, Lord being the Lord and Adi sesha being his primordial devotee, Krishna couldn't match the services provided by Adisesha and serve "Balarama" to the extent, "Lakshmana" served his elder brother "Rama". So, to honor the services of Adisesha, "Balarama" is included in Dashavatara.

I found another excellent answers in one of the posting on Srivaishnvism on why Balarama is part of Dasavathara?

Another reason that is given:

Vasudeva’s first wife was ROhiNi. The second wife was Devaki. For the 7th time, Devaki conceived and it was Balarama. But, Lord’s “YOga Maaya” transferred the Lord Balarama from the womb of Devaki to that of ROhiNi. With this background, we have to see the explanation of Andal (one of the Alwars).

In Verse 17 of Tiruppavai “AmparamE…” while referring to Balarama, she says “Sempon kazhalaDi selvaa, Bala DEva”

Commentators explain that this expression heaps praise on the ‘TiruvaDI’ "the feet" of the elder Balarama. What did this feet do?

Because Balarama was born earlier, he had cleansed the womb of Devaki with his feet to make it fit for the birth of Krishna .

But this was not the case with fate of the earlier 6 children of vasudeva and devaki. Thus, Lord Balarama saved Krishna by cleansing the Womb of Devaki with his feet. Balarama started serving the Lord even before Lord Avatar took place, unlike Lakshmana who started his service much later (Lakshmana was born much after Lord Rama and started serving him after tha) and earned the sobriquet “LakshmaNO Lakshmi sampanna:

Thus, in recognition of this feat and “MahOPakaara’ of saving Lord KrishNa, Balarama is recognized as an Avataara.

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I think Buddha [Gautama] is an avatara of Vishnu. This is because Swami Vivekananda expresses this fact in his lectures at the parliament of religions at chicago. See here. Again, Jayadeva has also mentioned Buddha as an avatara in his works, particularly, the Gita Govinda. See also here The formation of a separate sect because of unorthodoxy i.e. nāstika seems not a great problem, as maybe it was best to adopt such a position at that time.

  • I think more authoritative scriptures would be puranas here rather than words of Swami Vivekananda. (BTW, i revere Swami Vivekananda). – The Destroyer Dec 27 '16 at 8:51
  • @TheDestroyer but puranas being many and their import confusing, I think its better to have an authoritative interpreter of them to be believed on. What do you think? – vidyarthi Dec 27 '16 at 8:59
  • did jayadeva mention gautama buddha ?? – Rakesh Joshi Nov 5 '18 at 0:08
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The answer is complex, but going by the wisdom put in IS GAUTAM BUDDHA CONSIDERED ONE OF THE DASHAVATARS?, the answer is NO.

It differentiates between Buddha of Sanatan Dharma and Gautam Buddha of Buddha Dharma.

  1. Their time of birth is considered different (do not have more details on this).
  2. Both are from Gautam Gotra. Therefore, it is possible that "Gautam" is prepended before Buddha of Sanatan Dharm and hence the confusion.
  3. There varnas are different. In Dashavatar, Buddha is considered a Brahmin while Gautam Buddha of Buddhism is Kshatriya.
  4. There place of birth wide apart. Buddha of Sanatan Dharm took birth at Gaya, Bihar while Gautam Buddha is known to taken birth at Lumbini, Nepal.
  5. Buddhism in its core does not believe in Bhagwan but focuses on method to achieve nirvana and also believes in Reincarnation. This is clearly against tenets of Vaishnavism which clearly considers Vishnu as Parameshwar.

From these arguments, one can infer that Buddha of Sanatan Dharm has got mixed up with Gautam Buddha of Buddhism. Because Gautam Buddha was actually named Siddhartha, it is possible that once he attained enlightenment, Buddha was attached to his name to provide him reverence equivalent to God. Please go through the video and assess this information by yourself.

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Budha and Budhism has more in common with shiva and shaivism than Vishnu and Vaishnavism. Most of today's puranas have been altered and many of the things have been added later on. ex:- Original mahabharata had half of the number of verses than what it has today. Please note that Budha arrived at a period when Viashnavism was very much strong and pervasive everywhere except few places like kashmir where shaivism was strong. After Rama and Krishna who both are seen as some sort of avatars of vishnu, vaishnavism was everywhere. It was also the time when Priest or Brahmin class was become corrupt. At this time brahmins were asking for heavy donations in terms of jewels, money, ornaments as a remedy for their ill will. This is the time when they were prescribing the donation of cows, cattle, golden cats to brahmins as a remedy to their ill will. So god was being used to make money, source of corruption. It has always been the case that Vishnu and Shiva have tried to balance each other's influence on earth whenever one is growing out of balance against the other. Shiva has been impartial when it comes to giving boons (raxasa, devas, humans, animals or anyone who loves him and prays to him) where as vishnu has promised to be the protector of Devagana and thus he won't answer prayers or give boons to anyone who is against devas or who are raxasas.

avatars of Vishnu like rama, krishna, shankaracharya have written poems and praises and prayed to Shiva/Shakti and they have come to gain popularity over time. Budha did no such thing.

Vishnu and his avatars have always been about re establishing faith in Gods, deity etc., Budha on the contrary gives you a way of having no belief system to god. An atheist way. Budha sets a level of awakening where anyone can become god. In effect Budha is not a person but a level of awakening. I, you or anyone can become Budha. Vishnu as a protector of devagana and devaloka has always fought those who have tried to conquer devaloka or anyone who has tried to challenge the position of devas. Thus Budha can not be Vishnu's avatar.

shiva's avatars have and had no rule since he is known to have or follow no rules and that is also why he is called as bholenath since anyone following any path can please him. raxasa, manava, deva, aghori, yogi, bhogi...etc., Now let us list the things which are common to budha, budhism and Shiva and shaivism.

chakras
kundalini
yoga and meditation
tantra
mantra
mandalas
alcohol, meat are not strictly prohibited unlike vaishnavism
swastika.

Shankaracharya is regarded as the last avatar of vishnu who debated and pushed budhism out of bharath. Why would he want to undo Budha's deeds who was himself or his own avatar? Unless he wasn't Budha and he was trying to balance out the Shiva's doing from his last avatar.

G(enerator)-brahm'A' 
O(perator)-vishnu'U'
D(estroyer)-'M'aheshwar(i)

are all one and they all complement each other and balance out each other. Shiva is the Best Vaishnava. Vishnu is the Best Shaiva. It is only human followers of each fight in their name.

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Yes. Budha was Vishnu avatar. There are many budhists oppose this claim but many great budhists personality accepted the truth.

Thomas William Rhys Davids (Founder of Pali taxt society) Budhism p 116-117:- "We should never forget that Budha was born and brought up a Hindu and lived and died a Hindu..........he was the greatest and wisest among Hindus."

Herman Oldenberg quoted in Ancient Indian Education :Brahmancial and Budhism by R K Mukherjee. ".......For hundred of years,movements of Vedas were in progress in Indian thought which prepared way for budhism"

Not only several indologists studied budhism but even Dalai lama the highest budhism personality today accepted it. He quoted in Elst Koenraad (2002)

"........When I say that budhism is the part of hinduism, certain people critisize me. But if I were to say that Hinduism and Budhism are different it would not be in conformity truth."

It is enough to prove budha as Vishnu avatar but I will provide some more proofs from scriptures. Many Hindus say that Krishna was ninth and balaram was eighth avatar of Vishnu and budha was not in the list but Garud puran separate both of them and says that balaram and budha were 20th and 21st avatar respectively. It gives the list as follows

Garud puran 1:1:-"His first incarnation was in the form of the eternal adolescent Sanat kumar and others who were all celibates and extremely virtuous.’

‘Lord Vishnu took his second incarnation in the form of a boar (Varah)**to protect the Earth from the mighty demon named Hiranyaksha, who had abducted her to Patal loka (Nether world). In his third incarnation as **Narad, he propagated the virtues of ‘nishkaam karma’ (performing one’s duties without bothering about the results). In his fourth incarnation as Nar-Narayan, he performed arduous austerities for the protection and propagation of Dharma or religiousness.

Lord Vishnu’s fifth incarnation was as Kapil, which he took to protect the Saankhya shashtra, which was on the verge of becoming extinct. He took his sixth incarnation in the house of Atri and Anusuya as Dattatreya with the specific objective of propagating the most secret Brahma vidya to worthy people. His disciples included virtuous souls like Prahalad and others. Lord Vishnu took his seventh incarnation as the son of Ruchi Prajapati and Aakuti and was known as Yagya deva. His eighth incarnation was as Rishabh deva- the son of sage Naabhi and Merudevi.

In this incarnation he established the norms for Grihashtha ashram, which later on became the guidelines for every householders. Lord Vishnu took his ninth incarnation as Prithu and ‘milked’(extracted) various nutrients (cereals, pulses etc.) from the Earth who had disguised herself as a cow and thus protected the populace from getting starved to death.

In his tenth incarnation as Matsya (fish),he protected the life of Vaivaswat Manu, who would not have survived otherwise. Lord Vishnu took his eleventh incarnation in the form of a tortoise (kurma) and held the Mandarachal mountain on his back at the time when the ocean was being churned. His twelfth incarnation was as Dhanvantari and thirteenth as the most enchanting beauty- Mohini to retrieve the ambrosia pot from the possession of the demons. He subsequently distributed it among the deities as the result of which they became immortal.

In his fourteenth incarnation, Lord Vishnu manifested himself as ‘Nrisimha’ (partly human and partly lion) and to protect his devotee- Prahlad killed the wicked demon Hiranyakashipu by tearing apart his abdomen with his sharp claws. His fifteenth incarnation was as Vaman (dwarf) in which he demanded all the three worlds from Bali-the most benevolent demon king and then sent him to Patal loka. In his sixteenth incarnation as Parshuram, he wiped out the whole caste of kshatriyas from the face of the earth for twenty-one times, as they had all become immoral.

In his seventeenth incarnation he was born as Vyas to Parashar and Satyavati and accomplished his mission of propagating the knowledge of Vedas by categorizing them into four parts. In his eighteenth incarnation he manifested himself as Sri Ram. His nineteenth incarnation was as Krishna and his twentieth incarnation as Balram. He will take his twenty-first incarnation as *"Buddha** to bring the mankind back to virtuous path by preaching against the rituals and proving that it is not proper for a seeker to get bound by them." Source :-https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/the-garuda-purana/d/doc59291.html

Now I will provide some proof from budhists scriptures. We all know that Vishnu is the supreme god and known as param Brahma.

Narayan Upanishad chapter two(https://i.stack.imgur.com/2qqGn.jpg)

Now budhists scriptures also Budha as Brahma. Madhupindak sutta (The ball of honey):-

"He is the Eye, he is Knowledge, he is Dhamma, he is Brahma. He is the speaker, the proclaimer, the elucidator of meaning, the giver of the Deathless, the lord of the Dhamma, the Tathagata." Source:- https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.018.than.html Note:- Tathagata is the name of budha. Budha also praised agnihotri. Wikipedia :-https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pāli_Canon#Use_of_Brahmanical_devices

The Pali Canon uses many Brahmanical terminology and concepts. For example, in Samyutta Nikaya 111, Majjhima Nikaya 92 and Vinaya i 246 of the Pali Canon, the Buddha praises the Agnihotra as the foremost sacrifice and the Gayatri mantra as the foremost meter:

aggihuttamukhā yaññā sāvittī chandaso mukham.

Sacrifices have the agnihotra as foremost; of meter the foremost is the Sāvitrī.[88]

Many budhists oppose the brahmin teachings while budha himself claimed that he was a brahmin. The Suttanipatta Mahagavvva-Sundarikhardwaja sutta verse 3:-

" sundarikabhardwaj asked:-'are you a brahmin' Budha replied:- If you say I am a brahmin and call nlme no brahmin then I ask you about savitti who consists three padas and twenty-four syllabus"

Here budha is admitting that he is a brahmin and he knew Gayatri mantra.

Dashrath jatak 461 page no. 82, budha said:-

"At that time the king Suddhodana 3 was king Dasaratha, >Mahāmāyā 3 was the mother, Rāhulā's mother 4 was Sītā, Ānanda was Bharata, and **I myself was Rāma-paṇḍita."**Source:-https://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/j4/j4025.htm

Many budhists like Wendy doniger says that Budha came before Rama and accepted that he was ram in his previous birth' i.e. he was Vishnu avatar.

Now what proof is left for accepting budha as Vishnu avatar? Some people say that Budha mentioned in puranas was born in Bodhgaya while Gautama Buddha born in Lumbini. The answer is that Hinduism Call the knowledge as second birth. Budha got knowledge in Gaya so it is his birthplace.

0

Various believes are as :-

  • Under Bhagavatism, during the Gupta period between 330 and 550 CE. By the 8th century CE the Buddha was declared an avatar of Vishnu in several Puranas. The mythologies of the Buddha and Vishnu share a number of structural and substantial similarities, which contributed to the assimilation of the Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu.

  • Some Vaishnavas, such as the Vishishtadvaita, refuse to accept the Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu, and instead believe that Balarama is the 8th incarnation, and Krishna the 9th. The Buddha is also not considered as an avatar of Vishnu in Madhva (Dvaita), Smarta and Advaita traditions.

  • In Maharashtra and Goa, Vithoba's image replaces Buddha as the ninth avatar of Vishnu in some temple sculptures and Hindu astrological almanacs.

  • In certain Oriya literary creations from Orissa, Jagannath has been treated as the Ninth avatar, by substituting Buddha.
  • Longer lists of the avataras usualyy also include incarnations as Vyasa, Garuda, and Narada.

Jayadeva, in his Pralaya Payodhi Jale includes Balarama and Buddha, where Krishna is equated with Vishnu and the source of all avatars.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Note:- Balrama is also stated as avatar of Shesha and shesa is avatar of Vishnu/god. So if Balrama is considered then why not Laxmana? It's pretty contradictory.

  • Yes, I have read the Wikipedia article, but it is rather fragmentary and not very comprehensive on the topic of the Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu. Also, my question was specifically about the Buddha - I am not concerned with sects that venerate other deities like Garuda as part of the Dasavataram. – senshin Jun 19 '14 at 21:54
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    @senshin not sure what you're referring to when you say that the Dasavataram venerates Garuda. – cheenbabes Jun 19 '14 at 21:57
  • @cheenbabes Sorry, I misread that part of the answer (perhaps I should have said Jagannath instead); the point is that this answer was not really answering the quetion. – senshin Jun 19 '14 at 21:58
  • @senshin kind of disagree with you, you said who believes Buddha is avatara. Then my point shows, who believes and who doesn't. I can't see anything wrong. – Ankit Sharma Jun 19 '14 at 21:59
  • @AnkitSharma Well, the other thing is that answers that consist exclusively of wikipedia quotes just aren't that great. Anybody can search wikipedia and find basic information on what they're looking for. More in-depth answers (especially those that go back to the original scripture, like cheenbabes's) are preferable. – senshin Jun 19 '14 at 22:01

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