The Hindu Buddha
BY: EDMUND WEBER
Pakistan, Gandhara, 2-3rd c.
Jun 14, CANADA (SUN) According to the Theology of the Bengali Vaishnava Acharya Bhaktivedanta
"In the broad Indian religious culture we find two basic concepts of the inner structure of the Holy. The Advaita religion believes in the 'not-two' will say absolute 'oneness' of the ultimate reality. The Dvaita religion yet believes in 'two' will say the dual structure of the whole. Nevertheless, the latter one is no radical dualism because it recognises nothing to be outside the last reality. It is a kind of 'dualist monism' and insofar fundamentally different to West Asian and European moderate or radical dualism.
The Dvaita religion experiences the inner structure of the Holy as everlasting dynamic relation of the whole and its parts. As a rule, the representation of the whole is the personal God, mostly called Bhagavan. The representation of the parts are the soul or jivas. Mostly following the idea the whole being a personal God the Dvaita religion is something like theism; yet, it is an Indian or Hindu theism teaching that the Godhead comprises within herself souls and matter, too.
By the way, many of the jivas aren't conscious of their role within the Holy. They erroneously take themselves for empty monads and believe that they would get their realisation only by implementing themselves with 'matter'. Experiencing in this concern the uselessness of matter, the maya energy of the Godhead, they can get the true consciousness of their role as divine co-players in the inner divine play or lila.
The co-called Vaishnavas  constitute the majority within
the fold of the Dvaitas. They admire Vishnu (mostly under his name of Krishna)
as the only, universal and personal God. They realise Vishnu-Krishna as the
highest personality of Godhead and realise themselves as 'smaller' personalities
of the Divine. Vishnu is understood as a saviour. When the world order, the
dharma, has become disturbed he leaves the heaven, vaikuntha, into the world as
welfare-bringing God incarnate. Such a descending saviour called by the Indian
'avatar', has been according to the Vaishnavas Gautama Buddha.
No wonder, quite standing in that tradition and initiated in its guru line
the world-well-known Gaudiya Vaishnava teacher and founder of the International
Society of Krishna Consciousness [ISKCON], Bhaktivedanta Swami (1896-1977)
, described the Buddha
as God incarnate, as a manifestation of the highest personality of Godhead.
Although being the highest personality himself, Krishna completed [and
completes until today?] as the Buddha a closely circumscribed redeeming task.
Bhaktivedanta Swami quotes in that connection a Vaishnava poem, where that
particular task is sung very beautifully: "O Lord Krishna, You have assumed the
form of Lord Buddha, taking compassion on the poor animals." God came thus as Buddha into
this world, to spread as lord and protector of the animals ahimsa, non-violence.
In his comment on the Shrimad Bhagavatam, one of the most authoritative holy
writings of the Vaishnavas, Bhaktivedanta Swami goes more in detail about the
Buddha; the text regarding this issue is translated by him with the following
words: "Then, in the beginning of Kali-yuga, the Lord will appear as Lord
Buddha, the son of Anjana, in the province of Gaya, just for the purpose of
deluding those who are the faithful theist." The commentator interprets
that passage as follows: "Buddha, a powerful incarnation of the personality of
Godhead, ..., preached his own conception of nonviolence and deprecated even the
sacrifices sanctioned in the Vedas."
During Buddha's time most humans were atheists and preferred animal meat of
every other food. Under the pretext of executing Vedic sacrifices they had
almost every place transformed into a slaughter house, where the animal were
killed without any restriction. Since those humans indulged in
atheism, Krishna appeared as an atheist so that he could easier convince the
people. Therefore, by reasons of missionary tactics and not at all by religious
enlightenment Buddha become an atheist. The (in reality) theistic Buddha stated
his (not real) disbelief of the Vedas assessing them as extremely harmful for
However, he made these apparently anti-Vedic statements only to divert the
animal murdering atheists from the Vedas which were wrongly interpreted by
asuras or so-called scholars of Vedic literature teaching the necessity of
animal-killing. For avoiding those killings "Lord Buddha superficially denied
the authority of the Vedas."
Krishna incarnated as the atheistic Buddha rejecting the Vedas to liberate
the misled souls from the sin of animal-killing and to save the animals to be
killed. He is the saviour and protector of souls which are reincarnated in the
shape of human and animal bodies: "This rejection of the Vedas by Lord Buddha
was adopted in order to save people from the vice of animal-killing as well as
to save the poor animals from the slaughtering of their big brothers."
Krishna-Buddha stopped that animal-killing particularly because it is
immediately connected with atheism, in disbelief in the real God. Therefore,
upbringing the people to ahimsa he prepared them for the re-conversion to the
theism: "Less intelligent men of age of Kali, who had no faith in God, followed
his principle, and for the time being they were trained in moral discipline and
nonviolence, the preliminary steps for proceeding further on the path of God
Krishna had to use the strategy of accommodation in order to bring the humans
of his atheistic time on the necessary preliminary stage of God realisation. He
did not only delude the people by acting as an atheist agitator but also by
offering himself as a real gurudeva. Therefore, his atheist followers "kept
their absolute faith in Lord Buddha". The miracle of Buddha's mission is clear:
"Thus the faithless people were made to believe in God in the form of Lord
The mission tactics based on deception rises from the loving-kindness of
Krishna to those humans, who cannot notice him in his actual nature; in spite of
their inability, he gives them nevertheless the possibility of doing this in
other way, through the guru-religion: "That was the mercy of Lord Buddha: he
made the faithless faithful to him."
The God of Baktivedanta Swami is thus a God, who regarding the faith does not
leave his creatures alone, but comes to meet them in a shape appropriate to
their mentality and situation.
Not only the gurudeva-religion of Buddha but also the mission of the Adavaita
philosopher Shankaracharya  lead to real God realisation
integrating in this way the traditional main adversaries of the Vaishnavas into
Krishna's order of salvation: "Lord Buddha preached the preliminary principles
of the Vedas in a manner suitable for the time being (and also did Sankaracarya)
to establish the authority o the Vedas. Therefore both Lord Buddha and Acaraya
Sankara paved the path of theism."
In the Adi Lila of the Shri Caitanya-caritamrita Bhaktivedanta Swami says
once more that the Advaita philosopher Shankaracharya tried to convert the
atheists of his time. In order to lead those atheists back to the Dvaita theism:
"Unfortunately, Shri Shankaracarya, by the order of the Supreme Personality of
Godhead, compromised between atheism and theism in order to cheat the atheists
and bring them to theism." To re-establish the
authority of the Vedas, he did not teach the Vedas in their original purely
theistic understanding, but in a sub-theistic Advaita interpretation. 
However, this concept of restoring theism conflicts with Shiva's words to his
wife Parvati quoted by Bhaktivedanta Swami: "Similarly, in explaining Vedanta I
describe the same Mayavada philosophy in order to mislead the entire population
toward atheism by denying the personal form ogf God."
While Shankaracharya deceived humans in the name of Shiva by the wrong
Vedanta interpretation of the Vedas, in order to entice to atheism or to bind
over the atheists fraudulently again to the Vedas in the name of Krishna, the
mission of the Buddha existed in an action-oriented moral preparatory course for
In the Madhya-Lila of the Shri Caitanya-caritamrita Bhaktivedanta Swami
represents the salvation-bringing task of the Buddhism still more clearly than
in the Shrimad Bhagavatam: "Lord Buddha's intention was to stop atheists from
committing the sin of killing animals. Atheists cannot understand God; therefore
Lord Buddha appeared and spread the philosophy of nonviolence to keep the
atheists from killing animals. Unless one is free from the sin of animal
killing, he cannot understand religion or God. Although Lord Buddha was an
incarnation of Krishna, he did not speak about God, for the people were unable
to understand. He simply wanted to stop animal killing."
While Shiva incarnated as the brahmin Shankaracarya falsified the Vedas in
the sense of Mayavada philosophy to entice the humans to atheism , Buddha came down on earth
as Krishna's avatar to lead the atheists indirectly to the Krishna
consciousness. Bhaktivedanta Swami understands thus the Buddhism as redeeming
ethics, the Hindu Shivaism of Shankaracarya yet as havoc racking religion of the
However, that judgement on Buddha has an important theological consequence
for the religious relationship of Vaishnavas and Buddhists: the followers of
both religions admire the same God. The Buddhism smoothes by its preparatory
ahimsa morals the way to the realisation of Buddha's true nature which is
nothing else than Krishna consciousness. Yet, the pre-condition of this
statement is that God's realisation is only possible by a previous ahimsa
practice . Therefore,
bhakti without ahimsa is only a worthless pseudo-piety.
In the context of that his Buddha theology Bhaktivedanta Swami's amazing
statement referring to the today's Buddhism becomes clear: "We are glad that
people are taking interest in the nonviolent movement of Lord Buddha.". It's very important to see
that he doesn't continue his statement with a call for conversion to the pure
Krishna consciousness, i.e. to his own religious community; instead he continues
his statement with a Buddhist inquiry to the Buddhists: "But will they take the
matter very seriously and close the animal slaughterhouses altogether?"He closes with a just as
Buddhist warning: "If not, there is no meaning to the ahimsa cult."
Even thus the radical Hindu theism does not question the fundamental
affiliation - as it means - atheist Buddhism to the own religion. He commits
himself in this regard rather theologically so much that the acknowledgement of
the Buddhists as devotees does not depend on their position to the theists. Even
the strict Vaishnavas are too strong rooted in the common Dharma religion of
India that they can't judge the Buddha devotees as disbelieving ones. One could
do nearly think, that regarding salvation the Buddhism would be in the view of
the Vaishnavas closer to themselves than the Hindu Advaita religion of
However, concerning his answer to our question about the relationship of
Hinduism and Buddhism Bhaktivedanta Swami never doubts despite all criticism
 that Buddha was a
Hindu and Buddhism, therefore, is part of Hinduism. When a journalist without
knowing any Indian sophistications once asked the Swami in the jargon of Western
religious terminology, whether the Krishna consciousness was linked with any
other religion or is due to Hinduism or Buddhism, he although being by such a
roughness of the question a little bit disconcerted finally answered in a
typical Hindu manner and blowing up all sectarian isolation - with the
confession of his own Hinduism and his acknowledgement of the Hinduism of
Buddha: "Yes, you can call it Hinduism, but actually it does not belong tons any
'ism'. It is a science of understanding God. But it appears like Hindu religion.
In that sense Buddha religion is also Hindu religion, because Lord Buddha was a
Hindu and he started Buddha religion."
Amongst the Hindus, in particular those adhering the Hindu modernism,
developed by Swami Vivekananda , there is consent over the
fact that Buddhists belong to the Hindu Dharma equally. Bhaktivedanta Swami has
been of the same opinion.
However, this is all the more considerable, as the Vaishnava theists and
Bhaktivedanta Swami too believe that the Buddhism is atheistic and therefore
reject that particular Hindu Dharma religion as possible way for themselves."
For technical reasons no diacritical indications haven been used.
1] Literally: The devotees of Vishnu, usually
2] Born in Calcutta, Bengal. It was brought up in
the Radha Krishna religion of his hometown and received there from Scottish
missionaries his college training. See Peter Schmidt: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
im interreligiösen Dialog [Bhaktivedanta Swami in the Inter-religious dialogue],
THEION - Annual for Religious Culture, vol. X, Frankfurt am Main etc.
3] Lectures on Bhagavadgita, 20. 7. 1966, New York.
Bhaktivedanta VedaBase, Featuring the Complete Teachings of His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, 1995 [CD-Rom], No. 326520.
4] Srimad Bhagavatam (=SB), Canto 1, c.3.24. Translation probably
better: " With the intention to mislead 'sura dvisam ', the God envious people,
i.e. the asuras, the Buddha, with name Añjana's son, will appear in Gaya [?
5] SB, ibid.
6] SB, ibid.
7] SB, ibid.
8] SB, ibid.
10] SB, ibid. Yet, in the Vishnu Purana c. 17 we read:
"When the mighty Vishnu heard their [sc. the Gods; the author] requests, he
emitted from his body an illusory form, which he gave to the gods, and thus
spoke: 'This deceptive vision shall wholly beguile the Daityas [sc. the enemies
of the gods; the author].
11] SB, ibid.
Hindu philosopher and monk from Kerala (8th century), promoting of Hinduism and
critisising Budhhism. Cf., Sylvia Mangold: Sri Adi Sankaracarya, THEION - Annual
of Religious Culture IV, Frankfurt am Main etc. 1994.
14] Shri Caitanya-caritamrita (= SCC), Adi-lila, c.
15] SCC, ibid.
16] SCC, ibid.
17] SCC, Madhya-lila, c. 25.42
Swami doesn't give any reason for Krishna's deeds not deserving salvation.
19] Atheism is obviously caused by animal killing; cf., SCC
20] SB, ibid.
22] SB, ibid.
23] SCC, Madhya-lila, c.
9.48-61. In this passage Bhaktivedanta Swami presents the essential differences
to the Buddhist religion.
24] Room Conversations with
Journalist. May 19, 1975, Melbourne. 750519rc.mel. Bhaktivedanta VedaBase,
Featuring the Complete Teachings of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Prabhupada, 1995 [CD-Rom], No. 455204.
25] Cf., Edmund Weber:
Swami Vivekananda and the Buddhism. Journal of Religious Culture No.05b (1997)
This article is from the Journal of Religious Culture No. 15b
Journal für Religionskultur, edited by Edmund Weber
Irenics /Institut für wissenschaftliche Irenik
Johann Wolfgang Goethe
University of Frankfurt/Main
ISSN 1434-5935 - © E.Weber