The left side of the image depicts the two recent incarnations of Vishnu:
Buddha as a monk with umbrella and blue-skinned Krishna with flute
Many people know, Buddha is viewed as an Avatar of one of the highest Hindu gods, Vishnu. So, in a way, Buddhism and Hinduism seem to be reunited. Really?
The incarnations of Vishnu are described in scriptures called Puranas, which are the most significant sources concerning Hindu mythology. In the series of 10 classical incarnations (Avatars) of Vishnu the last four are Rama, Krishna, Buddha and the future saviour Kalkin. So the Buddha as the ninth Avatar seems to be the most important Avatar of Vishnu’s past incarnation. So Hinduism appears to have adapted Buddhism. But though “inclusivism” is a tendency of Hindu history to integrate other religions instead of denying or persecuting them, the inclusion of the Buddha in Hinduism remains to be quite dubious.
The Buddhist schools were never integrated into the Hindu teachings but considered to be “unorthodox”, for at least four reasons:
1. Buddhists denied the authority of the Hindu’s most venerated scriptures, the Vedas.
2. Buddhists denied the religious relevance of the Hindu caste system.
3. Buddhist monks are a kind of spiritual elite differing from hereditary Brahmin priesthood.
4. Buddhists believed the veneration of Hindu gods to be irrelevant for enlightment.
Some alienation or even hostility against Buddhism can even be seen in those Puranas that seem to integrate the Buddha as Vishnu’s Avatar. The Puranas do not mention much about the Buddha, contrasting to the many stories they tell about Krishna, for example. They only report that the Buddha taught an atheistic Dharma and critized animal sacrifice.
Tellingly, some Puranas mention the purpose of Vishnu’s ninth incarnation, the Buddha, as a cunning way to fight the demons by misleading them. The trick to mislead the enemies of mankind is to teach them a wrong Dharma. So the teachings of the Buddha are not truthful but deceiving, that’s the message of those Purana stories about the Buddha being an Avatar of the highest god. This does not express a real appreciation of the Buddha’s teaching. So not surprisingly, Buddhists usually feel not they are honoured by declaring the Buddha to be an incarnation of Vishnu. This Hindu inclusivism indeed expresses an attempt of subordinating the Buddha to a deity, a concept Buddhists would never approve since in their beliefs a Buddha is a much higher being than a deity.
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