Bhagavan Lord Buddha

BY: SUN EDITORS - 17.9 2018

Lord Buddha's Birth (Bharhut)
Brahmi text: bhagavato rukdanta

While researching the article on the Transcendental Arts of Srimati Radharani, we came across an interesting passage that reflects the Vaisnava conclusion that Lord Buddha is an incarnation of Sri Krsna. The comment is actually a footnote in The Lalita-vistara, or Memoirs of the Early Life of Śákya Siñha, which was published by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1882. The work is a translation by Rajendralal Mitra from the original Sanskrit.

Lalita-vistara, or Lalitavistara Sutra is a Buddhist sutra of the Mahayana tradition. It describes the life story of Gautama Buddha. The title 'Lalitavistara' has been translated as "The Play in Full" or "Extensive Play", referring to the Mahayana view that the Buddha's last incarnation was a "display" or "performance" given for the benefit of the beings in this world.

The text tells the story of the Buddha from the time of his descent from the Tushita heaven until his first sermon in the Deer Park, near Benares. The original Sanskrit text dates back to the 3rd Century A.D. The narrative takes place in the presence of Bhagavan at Srivasti with His followers, where He is absorbed in Samadhi. The Devaputras request him to recite the Lalita-vistara.

It's interesting to note that in the Lalita-vistara, the name 'Bhagavan' is used to refer to Lord Buddha, and the term translates as Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is contrary to the common conception that the Buddhist texts do not identify Buddha as an incarnation of Krsna/Visnu, but simply present Him as a liberated, transcendental personality who is not God.

In the footnotes, the author of this translation of Lalita-vistara, Rajendralal Mitra offers the following comment about the references to Buddha as 'Bhagavan':

"Bhagavan, nominative singular of the crude form Bhagavat -- Bhagava, Pali, Btchcom Idandasa, Tibetan. The technology of the Buddhists is to a great extent borrowed from the literature of the Brahmans. The Vija-mantra of Buddha begins with Om, their metaphysical terms are exclusively Hindu, and the names of most of their divinities are taken from the Hindu pantheon.

The word Bhagavan, which, according to the Abhidharma-kosha-vyakhya, a Bauddha work of great repute, "is not an arbitrary or superflous, but the most appropriate title of Buddha," has been, by the Vedas, used to designate the Deity's self. It is said in the Vishnu Purana, in accordance with the interpretation of Yaksa, that, "the essence of the Supreme is defined by the term Bhagavan: the word Bhagavan is the denomination of the primeval and eternal god: and he who fully understands the meaning of that expression is possessed of holy wisdom, the sum and substance of the three Vedas. The word Bhagavan is a convenient form to be used in the adoration of that Supreme Being, to whom no terms is applicable, and therefore Bhagavan expresses that supreme spirit, which is individual, almighty, and the cause of all things."

The dissyllable Bhaga indicates the six properties, dominion, might, glory, splendour, wisdom, and dispassion. The purport of that va is that elemental spirit in which all beings exist, and which exists in all beings." (The usual itymon of the word, however, is Bhaga with the possessive affix.) "This word, therefore, which is the general denomination of an adorable object, is not used in reference to the Supreme in a general, but a special signification. When applied to any other (person) it is used in its customary or general import. In the latter case, it may purport one who knows the origin and end and revolutions of beings, and what is wisdom, what ignorance. In the former it denotes wisdom, energy, dominion, might, glory, without end, and without defect."

All the Sutras invest S'akya Sinha with this title, and, next to Tathagata, it is perhaps the most common appellation of Buddha."