Was Buddha an Incarnation of Hindu God Vishnu?

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“From the body into the mind, from the mind into ‘the doer’, from ‘the doer’ into ‘the knower’, one can then see that one is not ‘the knower’. It’s just causes and conditions. That’s all it is, just a process. Then one will understand why the Buddha said that he doesn’t teach annihilation. Annihilation means that there is some thing there that existed, which is now destroyed.” Ajahn Brahm

I believe the EBT’s offer us the following understanding? 'Right now, we are ‘emptiness in form’ - an empty process. However, in the EBT’s we also learn about the ‘not-conditioned’ - Nibbana! Both, the conditioned and the not-conditioned are not-self/empty. Some Mahayana teachings seem to conflate the two so we end up with Nagarjuna’s conclusion: Samsara and Nirvana are identical! As far as I can tell the EBT’s do not lead us to this conclusion? At least, this is what my Theravada teachers have had to say with regard to this teaching. Therefore, emptiness moving could be seen in this light - the emptiness of conditioned phenomena - empty phenomena ‘rolling’ on! However, there is this other emptiness - the emptiness of emptiness - Nibbana. Is there anything that moves ‘through it’ - no! Is there anything that can move away from it - no. Is there anything that can escape it - no.

“In ancient times when seafaring merchants put to sea in ships, they took with them a bird to sight land. When the ship was out of sight of land, they released the bird; and it flew eastward and westward, northward and southward, upward and all around. And if the bird saw no land, it returned to the ship; but if the bird sighted land nearby, it was truly gone.” - Andrew Olendzki

Follow your bird - enjoy the voyage!

An emptiness that is pervasive and ‘moving through’ may refer to the empty phenomena (rolling on) in samsara. Vishnu/Shunya is said to be: ‘immanent-samsaric’ and transcendent - the not-conditioned emptiness of emptiness. This may lead us back to Nagarjuna?

Is the paradox resolved?


Something that just occurred to me in relation to the OP.

The ascetic Gautama is, technically, depending on how you argue, canonized by the Roman Catholic Church as a saint. Perhaps twice. I kid you not.

If I may edit the OP:


This is a good point. The Buddha is recognized as a saint by Christianity, Ahmaddiya muslims, Bahai’i, Hindus, and of course Buddhists. I can’t think of another spiritual figure with those credentials off hand.


Yer, but the Roman-Catholics got rid of ‘Josaphat’ when they cottoned-on to the shady origins of his life-story. So, he is no longer in their heavenly good-books! The liberal-catholics may still list him and/or, the orthodox churches?


Taoists, too!


He must have been an all-round super-hero?


That’s a relief, because that online religion poll many of us took said I was actually a Taoist!


hmm … because the Buddha is a Taoist- Saint - DOES NOT MEAN YOUR OUT OF THE WOODS - yet.


Mind you, that is named after a Ruthenian saint named after Saint Josaphat.

So I had to go digging, because I am 99% sure there is no such thing as a “de-canonization ceremony” that can “defrock” a saint. Being a saint means “ur in heaven”, to say it as plainly as possible. You don’t un-get-into heaven.

As it turns out, Barlaam & Josaphat were never canonized, but this does not mean that they are not ‘saints’. They are classified as ‘martyrs’, who are also considered ‘saints’, it is almost the same thing, but not quite. Its easier to be a martyr because all you have to do is die for the right reason.

…which makes their legend even more sketchy because they don’t get martyred in it.

Someone clearly wanted them on that martyrology though.

It’s possible that the names appearing on the martyrology are two early Christian martyrs named after the Buddha being understood as a Christian saint. Just how that school is named after a saint named after a saint. Or how Saint Bridget is not an Irish goddess, but a Christian named after the Irish goddess.


the irish gods and goddesses are in heaven as well. the christians are behind a wall coz they like to think they are the only ones in residence! so, if you get there - keep quiet near the wall so as not to disturb the neighbours. xo


A new thread is on its way …


And the Cao Đài sect of Vietnam.

Actually thanks to Cao Đàism’s eclectic and eccentric pantheon several religious eminences have managed to score a double, a hat-trick or a quadruple in the saint stakes:

Joan of Arc: Catholicism and Cao Đài.
Muhammad: Islam, Bahai and Cao Đài.
Moses: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Cao Đài.

Not to mention a few first-timers, hitherto unsuspected of sainthood, such as Shakespeare, Louis Pasteur, Victor Hugo, Lenin and Sun Yat Sen. Victor Hugo ranks especially highly, frequently appearing alongside Sun Yat Sen and Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm in Cao Đài shrines and murals:

Victor 1

Victor 2


Don’t know if the discussion is aware of it, but Kane in his monumental “History Of Dharma Sastra” Vol.2 part 2 dedicated part of a chapter (p. 720 ff) to the question when the Buddha began to be recognized as a Vishnu avatar.

Also there is Holt, J. (2004). The Buddhist Visnu. There on p.12 we find

That is, before the eighth century, the Buddha and Buddhism enjoyed a sociopolitical status that the Brahmanical community simply could not ignore, and its attacks upon Buddhist institutions were more tempered or muted in fashion as a result. While Buddhism would not disappear from India for several centuries after the eighth, it is clear that royal proclivities for the cults of Visnu and Siva weakened its position within the sociopolitical context and helped to make possible its eventual eclipse and absorption by the priestly Brahmanical community.


In Thailand we find on shrines spiritual luminaries like David Beckham or Neo. No doubt these were added in the playful Thai spirit; but I love to think what future archeologists will make of them!


Do all Buddha’s call themeslf ‘Buddha’?


And over here, there’s this :


For other religions, such as Christianity, it is interesting to think how some of the saints possibly were Stream-Enterers, Once-Returners or Non-Returners.


…it is still up for debate if Jesus was either a Once-Returner or a Non-Returner (or fully Enlightened). :wink:


Shakyamuni Buddha was an incarnation of the Eternal Buddha, also known as the Dharmakaya, which is the true nature latent in all beings.


In Vajrayana there are considered to be 3 bodies of a buddha - the dharmakaya , the enlightenment body of transcendent wisdom; the sambhogakaya, or enjoyment body which is the means of compassionate communication with others; and the nirmanakaya or emanation body, which is the physical form inhabited by a buddha when appearing in a human realm.

What does all of that mean for my daily practice? Not a lot.