Nirvana Sutra

Appreciation of the "Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra"

"Buddha and God" (9)

 

     It is very interesting that Srila Prabhupada indicates Buddha’s “camouflaging” of his divinity. When we look carefully at some of the statements which issue from the Buddha (as we have done in earlier chapters), we see many clues as to his divine hypostasis. It is as though the Buddha did not wish totally to conceal his godlike identity. It peeks through here and there. And it seems that in this regard (as with Buddha’s vegetarianism) the Krishna devotees have preserved a vital aspect of Buddha-understanding which many “orthodox” Buddhists (in my view) mistakenly deny.

 

     But let us return to the Srimad Bhagavatam. Most fascinatingly, this scripture contains the following revelation, in which seeming UFOs and their malevolent operators find mention in connection with an interplanetary war, along with a saving Buddha:

 

“When the atheists, after being well versed in the Vedic scientific

knowledge, annihilate inhabitants of different planets, flying unseen

in the sky on well-built rockets prepared by the great scientist,

Maya, the Lord will bewilder their minds by dressing Himself

attractively as Buddha and will preach on subreligious

principles.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, tr. by Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, ISKCON, Los Angeles, Canto 2, Ch. 7, p. 63).

 

Srila Prabhupada comments on this passage:

 

     “This incarnation of Lord Buddha is not the same

      Buddha incarnation we have in the present history

      of mankind. According to Srila Jiva Gosvami, the Buddha

      incarnation mentioned in this verse appeared in a different

      Kali age. In the duration of life of one Manu there are more

      than seventy-two Kali-yugas, and in one of them

      the particular type of Buddha mentioned here would appear.

      Lord Buddha incarnates at a time when the people are most

      materialistic and preaches commonsense religious principles.”

      (ibid).

 

     In view of the Vaishnavite understanding that Buddha is Krishna come to help living beings in the form of Buddha, we should not be surprised to hear Srila Prabhupada aver:

 

     “ … we Vaisnava, we worship Lord Buddha,

      kesava dhrta-Buddha-sarira jaya jagadisa hare.

      Nindas yajna-vidher ahaha sruti-jatam” [“O Kesava!

      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.”]

      (Vedic Paradigm, op. cit., p. 325. A quote from “Sri

       Dasavatara-stotra”, from Gita-Govinda by Jayadeva

       Goswami).

 

For followers of Krishna, Buddha is nothing less than a divine incarnation with a special mission to liberate the animals from slaughter and abuse. He is a personalised embodiment of God, utterly and totally worthy of worship.

 

     But does Buddha himself ever actually state anywhere in the Buddhist sutras that he is God – or at least align himself with what is popularly viewed as God? According to the Vedic view, a divine incarnation (an avatar) never directly says “I am God” (see Vedic Paradigm, p. 137). But what of the specifically Buddhist scriptures? Does the Buddha indicate there that he is God? This fascinating question will form the subject-matter of our final chapter.

 

                      (Continued in “Buddha and God 10”)