The greatest confusion that I came across is that Buddha mentioned in the Dasha Avatars of Vishnu is mixed or referred to be Gautama Buddha or Shakyamuni Buddha and the Buddhist deny of it. If Gautama Buddha is different from the Vishnu Avatar Buddha then were there Two different identities that got mixed up and people denoted to be the same. ? To answer this confusion I thought of writing this article.
Who is a ‘Buddha’?
‘Buddha’ is a title and this given to anyone who has achieved Buddhahood or enlightenment. The word Buddha means “awakened one” or “the enlightened one”. “Buddha” is also used as a title for the first awakened being in a Yuga era.
Were there more Buddhas before Gautama Buddha?
In most Buddhist traditions, Siddhartha Gautama is regarded as the Supreme Buddha of the present age. Also, he was the last one to achieve Buddhahood but the Theravada Buddhism shows that there were 27 Buddhas that preceded Gautama Buddha and Maitreya will be the Buddha of the future. Also According to Mahayana tradition, each kalpa has 1,000 Buddhas. The previous Kalpa was the Vyuhakalpa, and the present Kalpa is called the Bhadrakalpa. the Buddha of the present Kalpa is Gautama Buddha. So now we come to a conclusion that Gautama Buddha was not the only Buddha, he was but the last one till now as we are awaiting Maitreya Buddha of the future. Some famous Buddhist texts like Prajna-Paramita Sutra, Astasahastrika Prajna-Paramita Sutra, Sata-Shastrika Prajna-Paramita Sutra, Lalita Vistara, reveals the three categories of Buddha, namely:
Human Buddhas: Personalities who became Buddha after enlightenment.
Bodhisattva Buddhas: Personalities who were born enlightened.
Adi Buddha: the Primordial Buddha.
Who is Vishnu Avatar Buddha?
Avatar Buddha is the first Buddha who is also known as Adi Buddha or Primordial Buddha, Mahayana and Vajrayana sects of Buddhism believes Vairochana or Mahavairochana to be the Primordial Buddha and Sakyamuni Buddha to be the Incarnation of Vairochana Buddha. we find the reference of this in “Brahmajāla Sūtra”:
“Now, I, Vairocana Buddha am sitting atop a lotus pedestal; On a thousand flowers surrounding me are a thousand Sakyamuni Buddhas. Each flower supports a hundred million worlds; in each world, a Sakyamuni Buddha appears. All are seated beneath a Bodhi-tree, all simultaneously attain Buddhahood. All these innumerable Buddhas have Vairocana as their original body.”
This verse clearly says that there is one eternal Buddha and there are infinite Sakhyamuni Buddhas all sitting beneath Bodhi tree.
Also, there are some schools of Vajrayana Buddhism and Tantric Buddhism that refer to Vajradhara Buddha or some also say Samamtabhadra Buddha to be Adi Buddha or the Primordial Buddha. therefore the Concept of the First Buddha or Primordial Buddha is well established in Buddhist Literature.
Before looking deeply at the Vishnu Avatar Buddha Let us examine the Cause of Lord Vishnu incarnating as Buddha. In Jayadeva Goswami’s Gita Govindam it is said that he came to stop slaughtering of animals in name of Vedic sacrifice.
nindasi yajna-vidher ahaha sruti-jatam
keshava dhrita-buddha-sharira jaya jagadisha hari
“O Keshava! O Lord of the universe! O Lord Hari, who have assumed the form of Buddha! All glories unto You! O Buddha of compassionate heart, You decry the slaughtering of poor animals performed according to the rules of Vedic sacrifice.”
In the Srimad Bhagavatam 1.3.24, Lord Vishnu’s Advent as Buddha is mentioned as :
tatah kalau sampravritte
“Then at the beginning of Kali-yuga, the Lord will appear as Buddha, son of Anjana, in the province of Kikata Pradesh (Gaya), just for the purpose of deluding those who are envious of the faithful theist.”
Also in chapters 3.17-18 of Vishnu Puran and Srimad Bhagavatam’s 10th Canto mentions a prayer by Akrura once when he saw Krishna in his four-handed form, he prayed with the following verse mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam (10.40.22)
namo buddhaya shuddhaya daitya-danava-mohine
mleccha-praya-kshatra-hantre namas te kalki-rupine
“O, Lord! I offer my obeisance unto Your form of Buddha, who, possessing a faultless nature, deluded the miscreants by composing anti-Vedic scriptures. I also offer obeisance unto Your Kalki form, the annihilator of the wicked kshatriyas who are no better than barbarians.”
There is another prayer by Indra in Srimad Bhagavatam (6.8.19), buddhas tu pashanda-gana-pramadat. Indra prayed, “O Lord Buddha! Save me from the defect of indifference born out of atheistic hypocrisy.”
Madhavacharaya Mentions a Story referring from Bhramanda Puran in His Treaties Bhāgavatatātparya.
mohanārthaṃ dānavānāṃ bālarūpī pathi-sthitaḥ
putraṃ taṃ kalpayām āsa mūḍha-buddhir jinaḥ svayam
tataḥ saṃmohayām āsa jinādyān asurāṃśakān
bhagavān vāgbhir ugrābhir ahiṃsā-vācibhir hariḥ
— Brahmanda Purana, Bhāgavatatātparya by Madhvacharya
“To delude the demons, he stood on the path in the form of a child. The foolish Jina (a demon), imagined him to be his son. Thus the Lord Sri Hari expertly deluded Jina and other demons by his strong words of non-violence.”
There are many mentions in Scriptures about Vishnu incarnating as Buddha to delude demons and people from the path of Vedas, the mentions can be found in Harivamsa (1.41),Vishnu Purana (3.18), Garuda Purana (1.1, 2.30.37, 3.15.26),Agni Purana (16),Naradiya Purana (2.72) Linga Purana (2.71),Padma Purana (3.252). we can thus identify with the cause of the advent of Lord Vishnu as Buddha. People of those times were not following the Vedas correctly, the religion was deteriorating so to establish the philosophy of non-violence and to convince followers of Vedic customs who were bent towards animal slaughter in name of sacrifice and rituals, to give up such violent acts and follow him on the path of Non-violence.
The Birth of Adi Buddha