Gautama Buddha in Hinduism
Buddha in Hinduism is sometimes viewed as an Avatar of Vishnu. In the Puranic text Bhagavata Purana, he is twenty fourth of twenty five avatars, prefiguring a forthcoming final incarnation. A number of Hindu traditions portray Buddha as the most recent of ten principal avatars, known as the “Dasavatara” (Ten Incarnations of God). The Buddhist Dasharatha Jataka (Jataka Atthakatha 461) represents Rama as a previous incarnation of the Buddha as a Bodhisattva and supreme Dharma King of great wisdom.
Buddha’s teachings deny the authority of the Vedas and consequently Buddhism is generally viewed as a nāstika school (heterodox, literally “It is not so”) from the perspective of orthodox Hinduism.
Due to the diversity of traditions within Hinduism there is no specific viewpoint or consensus on the Buddha’s exact position in reference to the Vedic tradition:
In the Dasavatara-stotra section of his Gita Govinda, the influential Vaishnava poet Jayadeva Goswami (13th C AD) includes the Buddha amongst the ten principal avatars of Vishnu and writes a prayer regarding him as follows:
O Keshava! O Lord of the universe! O Lord Hari, who have assumed the form of Buddha! All glories to You! O Buddha of compassionate heart, you decry the slaughtering of poor animals performed according to the rules of Vedic sacrifice.
This viewpoint of the Buddha as an avatar who primarily promoted non-violence (ahimsa) remains a popular belief amongst a number of modern Vaishnava organisations, including ISKCON.
Other prominent modern proponents of Hinduism, such as Radhakrishnan and Vivekananda, consider the Buddha as a teacher of the same universal truth that underlies all religions of the world:
Vivekananda: May He who is the Brahman of the Hindus, the Ahura Mazda of Zoroastrians, the Buddha of Buddhists, the Jehovah of the Jews, the Father in Heavens of Christians, give strength to you to carry out your noble ideas!
Radhakrishnan: If a Hindu chants the Vedas on the banks of the Ganges, … if the Japanese worship the image of Buddha, if the European is convinced of Christ’s mediatorship, if the Arab reads the Koran in the mosque … It is their deepest apprehension of God and God’s fullest revelation to them.
Within Hinduism, avatars such as Rama or Krishna are popularly worshipped as the Supreme God, but it is much less common to find Buddha the avatar being worshipped by Hindus in the same way.
Reaction to reforms instigated by the Buddha within Hinduism
A number of revolutionary figures in modern Hinduism, including Gandhi have been inspired by the life and teachings of the Buddha and many of his attempted reforms.
Buddhism finds favor in contemporary Hindutva movement, with Lama Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama being honored at Hindu events, like the Vishva Hindu Parishad’s second World Hindu Conference in Allahabad in 1979.