In the famous Mahabharata translation of Kisori Mohan Ganguli, he remarks at the start of Shanti Parva

The Santi Parva is a huge interpolation in the Mahabharata, in the genre known as 'wisdom literature.' The narrative progression is placed on hold almost from the first page. Instead we get a long and winding recapitulation of Brahmanic lore, including weighty treatises on topics such as kingcraft, metaphysics, cosmology, geography, and mythology. There are discussions of the Sankya and Yoga philosophical schools, and mentions of Buddhism. It is apparent that the Santi Parva was added to the Mahabharata at a later time than the main body of the epic.

Is this claim true? Is Buddha or Buddhism mentioned explicitly anywhere in Mahabharata. If yes, please give citations.

Note: Please ignore ambiguous verses which can as well be a reference to Jain monks

1 Answer 1


There is no explicit mention of Buddha or Buddhism. However, Nilakantha the 16th century commentator of Mahabharata, whose commentary is used by Mahabharata translators, claims to see the mention of Buddhism in Santi Parva. I think Nilakantha is right that the bolded parts in Vyasa's speech are clearly referring to Buddhism.

"Suka said, 'What is that Knowledge? Is it that learning by which, when error is dispelled, the truth becomes discovered? Or, is it that course of duties consisting of acts to be done or achieved, by the aid of which the object sought may be understood or attained? Or, is it that course of duties, called abstention from acts, by which an extension of the Soul is to be sought? Do tell me what it is, so that by its aid, the two, viz., birth and death, may be avoided.' 1

"Vyasa said, 'That fool who believing that all this exists in consequence of its own nature without, in fact, an existent refuge or foundation, fills by such instruction the aspirations of disciples, dispelling by his dialectical ingenuity the reasons the latter might urge to the contrary, succeeds not in attaining to any truth. 2 They again who firmly believe that all Cause is due to the nature of things, fail to acquire any truth by even listening to (wiser) men or the Rishis (who are capable of instructing them). 3 Those men of little intelligence who stop (in their speculations), having adopted either of these doctrines, indeed, those men who regard nature as the cause, never succeed in obtaining any benefit for themselves. 4 This belief in Nature (as the producing and the sustaining Cause), arising as it does from a mind acting under the influence of error, brings about the destruction of the person who cherishes it. Listen now to the truth with respect to these two doctrines that maintain (1) that things exist by their own nature and (2) that they flow (in consequence of their own nature) from others that are different from and that precede them. 5 Wise men apply themselves to agriculture and tillage, and the acquisition of crops (by those means) and of vehicles (for locomotion) and seats and carpets and houses. They attend also to the laying of pleasure-gardens, the construction of commodious mansions, and the preparation of


172:6 Brahmanam is arsha for Brahmam.

173:1 I follow Nilakantha's gloss in rendering the words Vidya, Pravritti and Nivritti, as used in this verse. By the first, the commentator thinks, is meant that course of instruction in consequence of which error may be dispelled and truth acquired. The usual illustration of the cord and the snake is given. The former maybe mistaken for the latter, but when the mistake ceases, correct apprehension follows. Pravritti has been sufficiently indicated in the text in which the words of the gloss has been incorporated. By Nivritti is meant the doctrine of the Sunyavadins and Lokayatikas (evidently the Buddhists) who seek annihilation or extinction as the only true Emancipation. Both the Vernacular translators are wrong. The Burdwan translator, as usual, citing the very words of the gloss, misunderstands them completely.

173:2 The construction of the first line is 'yastu achetanah bhavam vina swabhavena (sarvam bhati iti) pasyan, etc., etc., pushyate (sa na kinchana labhate).' Bhavan is explained as 'adhishthanasattam.' The commentator is of opinion that the speaker refers in this verse to the Sunyavadins.

173:3 The Bombay text reads Putwatrinamishikamva.

173:4 Enam is singular. The commentator thinks it should be taken distributively. In verse 3, the doctrine of the Nihilists (Sunyavadins) has been referred to. In verse 4, that of the Lokayatikas. In both, Nature is spoken of as the cause, with this difference that the former regard the universe to be only an erroneous impression of an existent entity, while the latter regard it as a real entity flowing from and manifesting itself under its own nature. Both doctrines, the speaker says, are false.

Mahabharata Santi Parva, Section CCXXXVII, English translation by Kishori Mohan Ganguli

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    Excellent answer as always Pradip. But how do you consider it happened as Mahabharata is supposed to have written before Buddha? Is it interpolated??
    – user22253
    Oct 25, 2021 at 12:28
  • Interpolation is the usual suspect. It just confirms the claims made by many scholars that parts of Mahabharata were written long after Buddha. Oct 25, 2021 at 12:36
  • I disagree this text could just as easily mention Ajvikas and Ajannas.
    – Haridasa
    Jan 21 at 2:02

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