What is the evidence to show Gita and Upanishads are Pre Buddhist?The term Brahma-nirvana appears in verses 2.72 and 5.24-26 of the Bhagavad Gita. According to Zaehner, Johnson and other scholars, nirvana in the Gita is a Buddhist term adopted by the Hindus. Zaehner states it was used in Hindu texts for the first time in the Bhagavad Gita, and that the idea therein in verse 2.71-72 to "suppress one's desires and ego" is also Buddhist. According to Johnson the term nirvana is borrowed from the Buddhists to confuse the Buddhists, by linking the Buddhist nirvana state to the pre-Buddhist Vedic tradition of metaphysical absolute called Brahman.

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    Same motive and same question here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/43274/…
    – Rickross
    Dec 11, 2020 at 11:43
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    Okay but I don't know about such channels. I never watched such videos.
    – Rickross
    Dec 11, 2020 at 11:54
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    Oh. Please don't also sir-I edited my comment-They spread so much venom on us Dec 11, 2020 at 11:55
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    Unlike Zaehner, Johnson and others, according to van Buitenen the use of the term"Nirvana" was not confined to Buddhism only at the time the Bhagavad Gita. Dec 11, 2020 at 12:24
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    महाभारतम्, / Mahabharata, c.1000BC - 900BC predates The Buddha by about 500 years, उपनिषद् / Upanishads, c.800BC - 700BC predate The Buddha by about 300 years, The Buddha was an Ascetic prior to His Enlightenment, and The Buddha referred to Scriptures when Teaching. Thank you :)
    – M H
    Dec 11, 2020 at 13:58

3 Answers 3


Totally false claim. Adding Nirvana makes no sense later because the the concept was already present in in Mahabharata before that.

'Nirvana' is one of the names of Vishnu in Vishnu sahasranama of Mahabhrata, Here is excerpt from BORI CE translation- enter image description here

Note that I have highlighted the term 'Nirvana'. I referred to other Sanskrit cource the name mentioned is निर्वाणम् which means 'All-Bliss'. Its highly unlikely that people took a Buddhist name and made it one of the names of lord Vishnu.

Acharya's who opposed the Buddhist philosophy, in their commentaries of Vishnu-Sahasranama never objected on this particular name.

Before this also in Anusashan Parva the term 'Nirvana' occurs twice the reference are as follows-

The learned ones have said that nirvana is supreme.Therefore, one should not act in accordance with what is pleasant and what is unpleasant. However, a person who follows kama does not attach importance to this. I act wherever I have been appointed. All the beings have been appointed by destiny.

Here is another reference from Mahabharata itself-

It is my view that nirvana is extremely difficult to attain. There are many obstacles along the path. Therefore, those who follow this dharma, are devoted to truth, generosity and austerities, have the quality of not causing injury, are devoid of desire and anger, are engaged in the task of protecting the subjects, are based on supreme self-control and fight for the sake of cattle and brahmanas, obtain the supreme

Also the term Mentioned in Bhagwat gita is same as the name in Vishnu Sashranama-

लभन्ते ब्रह्मनिर्वाणमृषय: क्षीणकल्मषा:| छिन्नद्वैधा यतात्मान: सर्वभूतहिते रता: || 5.25||

कामक्रोधवियुक्तानां यतीनां यतचेतसाम् | अभितो ब्रह्मनिर्वाणं वर्तते विदितात्मनाम् || 5.26||

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    May Sri Krishna always bless you for such a great answer Anubhav Ji! _ / || \ _ Dec 23, 2020 at 5:25
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    why would anyone suggest or accept that Gita was added to Mahabharat later. Don't accept such arguments even for the sake of argument.
    – ram
    Dec 23, 2020 at 7:08
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    Except the Westerners argue that Mahabharata itself was composed after Buddha.
    – user22253
    Aug 31, 2021 at 8:30
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    @SethuSrivatsaKoduru Except the Westerners argue that Mahabharata itself was composed after Buddha
    – user22253
    Aug 31, 2021 at 8:30

How to prove that Nirvana term in Gita isn't borrowed from Buddhism?

The earliest Buddhist scriptures themselves mention Buddha talking about other doctrines of Nirvana (the word explicitly used is Nibbana, which is the Pali word for Nirvana). The Buddha mentions that these other doctrines of Nirvana are held by brahmanas and other recluses. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that Nirvana is an exclusively Buddhistic term.

Brahmajala Sutta of Digha Nikaya

Doctrines of Nibbāna Here and Now (Diṭṭhadhammanibbānavāda):

  1. "There are, bhikkhus, some recluses and brahmins who maintain a doctrine of Nibbāna here and now and who, on five grounds, proclaim Nibbāna here and now for an existent being. And owing to what, with reference to what, do these honorable recluses and brahmins proclaim their views?
  1. "To him another says: 'There is, good sir, such a self as you assert. That I do not deny. But it is not at that point that the self attains supreme Nibbāna here and now. What is the reason? Because, good sir, sense pleasures are impermanent, suffering, subject to change, and through their change and transformation there arise sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair. But when the self, quite secluded from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, enters and abides in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by initial and sustained thought and contains the rapture and happiness born of seclusion — at this point, good sir, the self attains supreme Nibbāna here and now.' In this way others proclaim supreme Nibbāna here and now for an existent being.
  1. "To him another says: 'There is, good sir, such a self as you assert. That I do not deny. But it is not at that point that the self attains supreme Nibbāna here and now. What is the reason? It is declared to be gross because a mental concern, 'Happiness,' exists there. But when, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the disappearance of previous joy and grief, one enters and abides in the fourth jhāna, which is without pleasure and pain and contains purification of mindfulness through equanimity — at this point, good sir, the self attains supreme Nibbāna here and now.' In this way some proclaim supreme Nibbāna here and now for an existent being.

Both the above ideas – (1) of the impermanence of everything and (2) of the abandonment of (attachment to) pleasure and pain, are in the Bhagavad Gita (at so many places in the Gita). Suffice to give one instance combining both doctrines from the Gita.

2.14 But the contacts of the organs with the objects are the producers of cold and heat, happiness and sorrow. They have a beginning and an end, (and) are transient. Bear them, O descendant of Bharata.

Therefore, there is no need to conclude that Gita borrowed the word Nirvana from Buddhism. One might say from the above that the Buddha was actually referring to the views of the Gita.

  • Yes good proofs. Are you reading about Buddhism?
    – Adiyarkku
    Aug 31, 2021 at 9:08
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    @Archit Thank you. I read a bit about Buddhism long back.
    – user23407
    Aug 31, 2021 at 11:06
  • @Adiyarkku Bro do you know the user23407? Aug 8, 2023 at 17:39
  • No. I don’t know him @SethuSrivatsaKoduru
    – Adiyarkku
    Aug 8, 2023 at 18:33
  • @Adiyarkku I see, I could from my own experience of knowing Buddhism say Shentong school is very similar to Advaita. Wanted to contact OP to ask more questions. Sadly, he isn't there : ( Aug 9, 2023 at 4:06

There is no easy way to refute the idea that Gita did not borrow from Buddhist idea. The only possible way is to point out that Gita was revealed according to Hindu tradition long before Buddha.

According to modern scholars these expressions [Brahma-nirvana (2.72, 5.24-26), Brahma-bhutam (6.27), Brahma-bhutah (5.24, 18.54), Brahma-bhuyam (14.26, 18.53), Brahma-yoga-yukta (5.21) etc.] show an attempt, on the part of the Gita, to accomodate certain Buddhist ideologies with its thought, just as it does with Sankhyan ideas as discussed in Appendix I. The acceptance of this modern view is complicated by the difficulty that such an acceptance will imply a post-Buddhistic date to the text, which is contrary to the Indian tradition that it was revealed at the time of Mahabharata war, shortly before the Kali era began in 3100 BCE or thereabout.

Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Appendix II, Swami Tapasyananda

Even the current view, according to Bibek Debroy, that Mahabharata war occurred around 1300 BCE would also suggest that Gita is pre-Buddhistic.

Of course this argument will fail if one says that while Mahabharata war happened before Buddha the Gita was written down in the post-Buddha period.

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