Buddha means enlightener. There is Buddha who is at the centre of Buddhism and then Buddha who is an avataraof Maha Vishnu. Are they the same or two different figures? If both are same how did the avatara of Vishnu taught Buddhism? The former is at the base of the Buddhism system and the latter is narrated in the Vishnu Purana. Both are known for preaching non-violence and against animal killing and sacrifice. A few scholars argued that Buddha as described in the Srimad Bhagavatam and Buddha the founder of the Buddhist system of religion have nothing in common.
Thousands of years ago, the intensity of rivalry between Buddhism and Hinduism were high. Is it possible that the personification of two different Buddhas was a product of this rivalry?
Buddhism dates back 2500 years ago and the Vishnu Purana is as old as some 3000 years. Both started at the commencement of the Kali-yuga. The Srimad Bhagavatam states that Buddha will appear as the son of Anjani in a place called Kikata for the purpose of deluding the enemies of the Gods. This place is actually in Bihar state today. It precisely states, “Then, in the beginning of Kali-yuga the Lord will appear as Lord Buddha, the son of Anjana, in the province of Gaya (Bihar) just for the purpose of infatuating those who are envious of the faithful demigods.”
During the ancient time, the misinterpretation of the vedas by powerful few led to extensive killing of animals as part of sacrifice for their respective village gods. Maha Vishnu then descended in the form Buddha and rejected this misinterpreted portion of the Vedas by the ignorant and also those who are capable of understanding truly the teachings of the vedas.
On the other hand, Buddha who is at the centre of Buddhism, was called Siddharta. His family name was Gautama. His father was called Suddhodana and was married to Maya. He was the heir to the Sakya kingdom, and was brought up in Kapilavastu by the second wife of Suddhodana, Mahayapati. Gautama’s mother died seven days after his birth. After his marriage he was disturbed by the uncertainty of life. He became more aware of the source of suffering and sin. For this reason he renounced power, wealth and the ease of life to meditate to be able to escape from the meanness of life and illusion. He left his home and family and renunciated at the age of twenty-nine. He had six full years of intense ascetic discipline he came out with a purified body through abstinence, a mind refined by humility and a heart attuned by solitude. He succeeded in finding wisdom in the wilderness. He found enlightenment after years and preached the eight fold path to the distracted world which preaches for virtue, meditation and wisdom.
Buddhism and Hinduism are two separate religions, but the aim of both religions is the redemption from sin and suffering. Whoever He is and wherever His source, He is one of the rare avatara who is not shown as a demon-killer. He is presented in an esoteric form by teaching people how to kill the demon within their own-self. Instead, He came as a hermit-teacher to teach the world and save people from ignorance. When people could not understand vedas, the puranas were written in the form of stories for the laymen to understand spirituality and religion. At this particular time, stories were written, told and interpreted differently to suit the material and spiritual needs of a few leaders to please themselves. That’s why we have several Buddhas out of the One and Only Buddha.