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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?

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  • No,he is not ! The two are different
    –  Raju
    Jun 14, 2015 at 17:26
  • I want to post an answer which is better than all here but sadly its locked?
    – MohitC
    Oct 23, 2015 at 5:36
  • 1
    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, 2015 at 15:05
  • 1
    @moonstar2001 Can you support your claims with any literary proof?
    – Yogi
    Jan 24, 2017 at 20:54

6 Answers 6

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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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  • 1
    @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, 2014 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. Jun 20, 2014 at 6:15
  • Why do you think the Ghata Jataka makes Buddha a brother of Krishna rather than Krishna himself? Jun 24, 2014 at 1:20
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    @gaj Lord Buddha was out of mind if he ate it because he himself preached nonviolence! And yes, if he is considered as an avatar then that would be in the Kaliyuga.
    – Be Happy
    Sep 2, 2014 at 16:12
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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, 2014 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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  • Question is : is the Buddha mentioned in scriptures same as the one from Lumbini?
    – sbharti
    Jul 10, 2021 at 6:06
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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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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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Yes. He was Vishnu's incarnation.**Dalai Lama quoted in Elst Koenard(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."

Many Hindus say that Krishna was ninth and balaram was eighth avatar of Vishnu and Buddha was not in the list but Garuda Purana separate both of them and says that Balarama and Buddha were 20th and 21st avatar respectively. It gives the list as follows

Garuda Purana:-"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- Prahlada 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."

Moreover, S.B. 1:3:24 conveys the same message.

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.

Now I will provide some proof from budhists scriptures.

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

" sundarikabhardwaj asked:-'are you a brahmin' Buddha 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 Buddha is admitting that he is a brahmin and he knew Gayatri mantra.

Dashrath Jataka,

"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. "

Lalitavistara chapter 7

So texts of both religions, accept this thing that Buddha was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

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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.

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  • I think more authoritative scriptures would be puranas here rather than words of Swami Vivekananda. (BTW, i revere Swami Vivekananda).
    – The Destroyer
    Dec 27, 2016 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, 2016 at 8:59
  • did jayadeva mention gautama buddha ?? Nov 5, 2018 at 0:08

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