(c. 600 B.C.E.)
   founder of Buddhism
   The Buddha (the Awakened One) is revered among contemporary Hindus, who usually con-sider Buddhism to be another form of Hinduism. The flag of India even shows the Dharma Chakra or “wheel of the law,” which is a Buddhist symbol. The places where the Buddha was born (Lumbini in NEPAL), preached his first sermon (Sarnath near BENARES [Varanasi]), where he died (Vaishali), and where he reached enlightenment (Bodhgaya) are still visited as holy places by Hindus. Addition-ally, many old sites in India that preserve Buddhist sculpture and painting, such as Barhut, AJANTA, and ELLORA, are preserved by India and are very popular tourist places.
   The story of the Buddha’s life is well known to Hindus. The prince Gautama was shielded as a child and young man from witnessing any sor-row: disease, old age, and death. The one time he managed to elude the protection of his family and went out to see the world, he was shocked by what he saw. With the permission of his wife, he left her and their son and ventured off as a renunciant. He tried many different paths includ-ing severe asceticism, which withered his body and nearly killed him. Eventually, he decided that neither severe asceticism nor a worldly life of indulgence was the true path, and he formulated his famous “Middle-Way.”
   Finally, under the sacred Bodhi tree in Bodh-gaya, Gautama reached his enlightenment; he spent the rest of his life as an awakened teacher wishing to lead the ignorant out of the bonds of karma into a release from birth and rebirth. Though recent and contemporary India looks upon the Buddha as an AVATA R and a holy being, in past eras Indian tradition witnessed great conflict between Buddhism and the Brahminical tradi-tion. Hindu saints of South India, both Shaivite and Vaishnavite, reviled the Buddhist monks and accused them of following a false path. The great BHAGAVATA PURANA, which depicts the 10 incarna-tions of VISHNU, shows Buddha as the ninth, but in this account he has gone to Earth to preach a creed designed to mislead the ASURAS, or antigods, and not to save humanity.
   Further reading: Edward Conze, Buddhist Thought in India (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1982); Richard H. Robinson, The Buddhist Religion (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1986).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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