HISTORIC BUDDHA IS AN AVATAR OF VISHNU, WHY NOT THEN JINA?
(I-Discourse by N. R. Srinivasan, June 2011)
April 16, this year, celebrated the birthday of Mahavir Jain, the 24th Teerthankara of Jain Religion. He was the son of King Siddhaarta and Queen Trisula who had difficulty for having a child. According to a legend Devananda, wife of a Brahmin named Rishbhaananda conceived him. It is also believed that gods transferred the embryo to the womb of Trisula. Even though this story is dismissed by many as impossible and a myth, of late many believe in it as surrogating has become a common feature, in the modern wonder of science which as usual they say Hindus knew it long before anybody else which may or may not be true! He was born on the 13th day of the rising moon fortnight of Chaitra in 615 B.C.E. as believed by the Digambara sect. He was born in 599 B.C.E. according to Svetambara sect of Jains.
The first Tirthankara of Jain Religion is sage Rishabha of Ikshvaaku race, son of King Nabhi and Merudevi. Valmiki says in the last chapter of Uttara Khanda Sloka 10: “Ayodhyaapi Puree ramyaa soonyaa varshaganaan bahoon| Rishabham praapya Rajaqnam nivaasamupaayaasyati || The beautiful Ayodhya remaining desolate for long years, will become habitable again having secured the protection of King Rishabha. King Rishabha is the father of Bharata. He is also called Adinatha. Rishabha was so named because he was a bull amongst men. Rishabha ruled wisely, teaching men seventy-two vocational skills and sixty-four domestic arts prevalent in Vedic culture during Vedic period. He is also credited with establishing Varna system, a sound system for peaceful and harmonious growth of society. Rishbha had many children. His daughter Brahmi invented the Brahmi Script as given in the discourse on "Hindu Education through the Ages". His son Bharata is believed to be the great King Bharata of fame after whom India was named Bharatavarsha, (Kingdom of Bharata) according to Jains. Foreign invaders had difficulty in pronouncing this ancient name and so gave it a new name India, which also gave them an opportunity to twist the history of India to their convenience, as we discussed before. His second son is Baahubali, whose gigantic 57 feet monolithic granite statue stands on a hillock in Sravanabelgola near Mysore for more than thousand years. He is also called Gomateswara. Kalidasa made Bharata of Puru race famous in his Drama Saakuntala. Sakuntala was the daughter of Viswamitra and Menaka. Bharata was born to Dushyanta and Sakuntala. He is also a fore-runner of Pandavas. With the result the earlier famous king Bharata who turned a sage later like his father went to background and Bharata of Puru dynasty came to limelight and fame. The name Bharatavarsha is now attributed to him. The Jain Harivamsa mentions Krishna as the cousin and contemporary of the celebrated Ford-maker, Neminaatha (who is believed to have lived about eight centuries earlier than Christ). The famous battle of Kurukshetra is dated about eighth or ninth century B.C.E. by historians. Rishabha succeeds Rama as an incarnation of Vishnu and is acceptable to both Jains and Hindus like Buddha.
When Vishnu was asked how he could be identified on mortal earth he replied, "I am Vishnu, I am Omnipresent. I pervade everything, but I express myself best in all that is ideal, perfect, harmonious and beautiful". He then gives a list of all such ideal things which includes, "Amongst ascetics, I am Rishabha".
In Bhagavata Purana it is said: "Ashtame Merudevaayam Nabherjaataa urukramaha darsayana varma dheeraanaam sarvaasrama namaskritam- "— in the womb of Merudevi, wife of Nabhi Rishabha had his Eighth Avataara. He showed himself in a form that is to be worshipped by those in any stage of life. There are also other references to him in Bhagavata Puraana and Padma Puraana.
King Rishabha after fulfilling his duties as a king became a recluse (sanyaasi) and retired into the wilderness to lead a life of austerity. Sitting on Mount Kailaasa, Rishabha announced to the world the Jain Philosophy, one of the oldest doctrines of liberation that enables man to break the
Bondage of Karma and transcend Samsaara. Rishabha created a bridge out of the wheel of existence and became a Teerthankara, the Ford-founder (wader through the troubled waters of Samsaara). A Teertha is a ford or crossing place or a sacred place, person or path which enables believers to cross over into liberation from endless round of rebirths. Teerthankaras are the builders of the Ford. Thus Rishbha, the Jina or Conqueror of Passions who built a bridge out of wheel of existence is described as an incarnation of Vishnu in Bhaagavata, but this is not accepted by followers of the Jain faith. Earlier a Jain version of Ramayana as hard copy was made available to Vedanta Class in which references to Adinatha was cited.
You might all be wondering what significance has this birthday to Hindus as well as our present discourse. As you are perhaps aware some Hindu Temples in USA have installed the idol of Mahavira Vardhamana in their complexes and also conduct worship based on Aagama Sastras or as per Hindu religious practices. One such temple is Albany Hindu Temple in New York State. I was also associated with its development and inauguration. They have also included Swaminarayana idol and Nageswara (for serpants) idols. Usually serpent idols are kept outside the sanctum under a tree. Here again there was a benevolent donor. There are also temples which have Saibababa's idol within the complex along with other deities. They have all been installed with customary Kumbhabhishekam. There are no problems if they are individual temples. Problems arise when they are within the same complex of Hindu Temple and individual sanctums are desired. Of course we can always apply the universal maxim, "Eko viprah bahudaa vadanti", The ONE the wise call by many. In India there is a temple for Bharatmata too in Haridwar, an Avataar created by Bankim Chatterjee in his famous song Vande Maataram. Bankim Chatarjee should have been motivated by the mantras in Upanishads which glorify Earth by chanting which they wear the soil on the head in reverence! Bharat is identified with that Goddess earth or may be considered as an avataar of Goddess Earth!
Hindu Population in Albany area, were able to convince rich and affluent Jain community to finance the Hindu Temple project. This made them morally bound to install the idol Mahavira in the complex along with the customary idols. Probably Adinatha would have been a better compromise! Migrant Jains of Indian origin were happy to join the Hindu crowd and were happy they had a place of their own for worship. Probably they did not have enough strength to have a Jain temple there? Priests could find a way out to continue with their traditional worship as per Aagama Saastras, considering him a sub-avatar of Rishabha, even though they would not do it for Mariamman (a village deity) even in India. Usually Mariamman temples have Non-Brahmin priests who are not trained in Aaagama saastras.
A big trouble arose in Albany when one of the founder-members happened to be a Neo-Buddhist. He insisted on a sanctum for the Historic Lord Buddha too. Priests and some orthodox Hindus would not oblige even though Jayadeva has glorified the ninth incarnation as Historic Buddha. Jayadeva's Geeta Govinda, which popularized Vaishnavism in Bengal and also in East India, includes Buddha as the ninth incarnation. His Dasaavataara list includes Balarama as the eighth Avataar but excludes Lord Krishna. In his concept all Avataaras emanated from the full avataar of Krishna alone as he is Jagannatha, Lord of the Universe coming from his Oriyan background and thinking. Also some religious composers and writers in their Dasaavataara stories and Stotras have sung or written in praise of Historic Buddha. Orthodox writers have included Balarama (Vedanta Desika) or Mohini in place of Historic Buddha. "In Bhagavata (1, 3), this Buddha was born in the Keekata country, as the son of Anjana, and that the purpose of his appearance was to delude and confound the enemies of gods (Sammoehaaya sura-dvishaam); he is said to have been born at the commencement of the Kali Yuga (kalau sampravritte). Later texts have shown him as nude (digambara) and in an obscene posture (for he is said to have taught the philosophy of lust and satisfaction to lure the Raakshas into self-destruction). Hayaseersha Samhita has done a better justice as an incarnation of Vishnu, seated in Padmaasana (Lotus Posture) with closed eyes in a meditative mood "--[Vide Vishhnu-Kosha, Kalpataru Research Academy of Sri Sringeri Sharada Peetham]. Nobody dare dispute Mohini Avatara.
I have also earlier talked to you on these Avataaras of Historic and Orthodox Buddhas. As far as Lord Jina is concerned, there are no such contradictions. The parenthood of Rishabha as well as his being the father of famous Bharata described in Bhagavata, historic views as well as Jain beliefs, are all identical. However the religious and historic dates vary and this is a common problem. I here recall your attention to my detailed write-up on the subject of "Problems of Historic and Orthodox dates in Indian History". After long arguments and discussions with religious authorities it was agreed to install the idol of Buddha at Albany Temple without the usual Kumbabhishekam but the aagama priest also decided not to do puja himself but devotees could come and self-worship just like what they generally do in Lingabhishekam individually as per the practices even in holy places like Varaanasi without the help of a religious priest. Probably the Soonyavaada of Buddha and his silence over Brahman could not convince the priest and others. In my opinion, Jina is more convincing and acceptable than Historic Buddha with his great philosophy identical with Hindu Religion also because of Jains' absolute addiction to vegetarianism than followers of Historic Buddha outside India.
Buddha never claimed to be God. He said that he was a teacher in search of the truth. Mahaayaana Buddhism made icons of Buddhas for worship and there are 54 to 100 later Buddhas. In the wake of Vajrayaana, Buddhist pantheon became larger and spectacular, though failed to match Hinduism in its number of deities. Growing popularity of Buddha all over the world worried Vedic scholars very early. According to some, Hindus needed an Avataar from a higher caste after Krishna. Buddha of Kshatriaya caste suited them. So too was Rishabha more famous as a king with his son Bharata, who succeeded him. According to these critics, the purpose of Buddha's incarnation was to mislead men of low birth and genius who had become too proficient in the sacred lore (like Azhwars and Naayanmars as well as saints in the later medieval period) and were a thought threat to the supremacy of Gods. Early Vedic scripture proclaim Devas were only Brahmins while humans were not. But staunch Vaishnavites like Vedanta Desika came with strong support for Balarama as the eighth incarnation, who was a Yadava, and an avataar of Adisesha like the founder of Srivaishnava Sampradaaya, Ramanuja. They all worshipped low caste Azhwars whose idols are installed in Vishnu and Siva temples. So the above theory of few skeptical did not hold grounds.
The earlier and more traditional list of incarnations included Historic Buddha as the ninth unlike the later thought that included Balarama or Mohini instead of Buddha. However it is obvious that Hindus sealed the fate of the Buddhism in the Country by absorbing Historic Buddha into the pantheon of the Dasaavataras, outweighing other considerations. Jainism was not that wide spread nor was a threat to Hinduism. Somehow it failed to meet the standard for Dasaavataara. Many feel that Sankara came with his Advaita theory strongly to kill the popularity of Buddhism which was leaning more towards atheism and a threat to sacrificial form of Hindu worship. In later years Sankara promoted strongly Bhaktimaarga and composed many hymns on all major Hindu deities, and even confessed before Lord Viswanatha that he is making a grave mistake by attributing many names to the One Supreme within him, as well as what he was visualizing standing before him is committing another mistake for Lord Viswanatha before him is not different from the Self in him.
Neo-Buddhists and Tibetans from India are not keen to join the East Asiatic Heenayaana or Mahaayaana crowd in migrant countries probably because of their cultural and food differences. Buddhists in East Asiatic Countries are either beef eaters or pork eaters. They would, therefore much rather compromise on Historic Buddha who has been accepted amongst Hindu pantheon of gods by majority. However, Historic Buddha has not yet entered the Hindu Temple Complexes in the sanctums, though he is generally accepted as ninth Avataara in India which obligates Buddha's worship according to aagama saastras. There are several individual and famous ancient and modern temples for both Buddha and Jina in India where there is no bar for Hindus to participate in Buddhist or Jain worship and activities. However Buddha is freely displayed in all wall panels and pillars in Hindu temples but not in sanctums. He is also popularized by South Indians in Navaraatri Kolu displays as well as souvenirs amidst Dasaavataara sets of figures. Buddha Jayanti, Birthday of Buddha is a National Holiday in India, but not a religious holiday though Buddha is considered to be an avataar of Vishnu by many.
Hinduism however has an open–mind and constantly undergoing changes in its form and mode of worship as long as it does not negate the moral and ethical values promoted by Vedas. Migrant Arya Samajists are comfortable with homa and yajna conducted in Hindu Temples though not comfortable with Hindu idols; they enjoy participating in all Havan ceremonies in Hindu Temples which is their mode of worship, an ancient Vedic ritual. Migrant Hindus have preference to Jina than Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu and are happy to welcome Jain Community to their fold because they love their puritan way of Ahimsa practice in true spirit. Jains are also happy to join Hindus on important days like Diwaali where Lakshmi is worshipped. Being rich and prosperous they enjoy the worship of Goddess Lakshmi and share their wealth too for charitable purposes along with Hindus. India is well known for many charitable and endowment Jain Trusts.
I often wonder why Hanuman is not considered amongst Dasavataraas. He is non–controversial and most popularly worshipped deity like Ganesha in all Vishnu Temples. He is seen being worshiped in sanctums with no controversy. He is the product of the same pudding that was carried by Agni to Dasaratha's wives with additional help from Vayudeva. He is probably the next Brahma when the term of present Brahma ends. Of course we are still in the 51st year of Brahma all according to Puraanas. Another forgotten deity is Lakshamana who has been more co-operative with Rama than Balarama with Krishna. He is also an incarnation of Adisesha and is always present with Rama in the sanctum. Maybe he was too mild and modest unlike Balarama who was assertive as big brother. But how Balarama and Lakshmana can also be incarnations of Vishnu being incarnations of Adisesha is not understandable! But Bhaagavata Purana says Balarama is an avatar of Vishnu.
I often wonder why the later religious thinkers did not replace Parasurama Avataara with that of Jina in Dasavataara to complete the list instead Orthodox Buddha. Parasurama Avtaara is the most controversial known for its horrifying mass murders of Kshatriya race which is indicative of class hatred. He also beheaded his mother Renuka at the command of his father, but later restored her back to life. There are very few temples for him, confined probably to West Coast, being the son of the soil. Probably we are not clear about his mission as an Avataar as there is no Puraana in the name of Parasurma.
We have Puranas for all other deities—Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Vamana, Rama, Krishna and Buddha. I do not know whether Narasimha has one. But there is an Upanishad exclusively devoted to Narasimha called Narasimha Tapaneeya Upanishad. There are also many slokas in his glory including one by Sankaracharya, Lakshmi-Nrisimha Karaavalamba Stotram. He is celebrated in Prhlaada Puraana. Also there are many temples for him in the South. Narasimha idols are installed even in Siva temples of Orissa. There is one in Puri Temple also. In temple rituals in Puri which follows Tantric form of worship, Lord Narasimha and Soorya are invariably invoked. It is believed during British period Bhairava, the fearful form of Siva who was on the Ratnavedi was removed due to strong Vaishnava domination. Narasimha is the fearful form of Vishnu Avataars and therefore he was found a ready substitute for fierce Bhairava in Orissa Temples. There is a strange grouping of Krishna and Narasimha avataara in temple worship. In Chennai Lord Krishna as Parthasarathy and Lord Narasimha have separate sanctums in the same complex as in Puri. Sthala Purana says Narasimha accommodated Lord Krishna returning from war tired. I have come across one lone stotra on Parasurama and usually one or two stanzas in Dasaavataara Stotras glorifying him. Probably Kerala has more. Naaraayaneeyam of Bhattadri from Kerala has glorified him. But for these, he seems to be least celebrated. He is the patron saint for Namboodri families in Kerala. He is also believed to have recovered the land of Kerala from sea.
There seems to be a strong basis why Narasimha is equated with Siva in the form of Rudra or Bhairava. Maha Narayana Upanishad includes five Mantras called by the name Panchabrahma, related to the supreme Brahman. In Narasimha Tapaneeya Upanishad Lord Narasimha is praised as "Easaanah sarvavidyaanam" meaning the lord of all branches of knowledge. This description is found in one of these mantras referring to Supreme Brahman. There is another term "Sadyojata" found in these Mantras meaning 'born at the moment of His will' which is more appropriate to Lord Narasimha.
But the mantra starting with Sadyojaata is interpreted as related to God Rudra, the Vedic God whom Saivites have adopted for Siva. So also Mantras of Sri Rudram. Rudra means 'one who dispels miseries' and refers to Brahman in these five mantras. Rudra is a Sanskrit word derived from two words rudraat
traayate meaning one who saves from cries. Saivites glorify Siva as 'Panchaanana' or 'five faced'--Sadyojaata, Vaamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha and Sadasiva.
traayate meaning one who saves from cries. Saivites glorify Siva as 'Panchaanana' or 'five faced'--Sadyojaata, Vaamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha and Sadasiva.
These names are equally appropriate to describe both Siva and Lord Narasimha as described in the discourse on "Selected Mantras from Maha Narayana Upanishad". Lord Siva was born as Lingodbhava Moorti as a terrific column of fire in his Avataara and Lord Vishnu was born out of a pillar in a terrible form of Man-Lion in Narasimha Avataara. Both were born at the very moment of their will (sadyojaata). Bhairava is also the terrific form of Lord Siva. Sarabha is another avatar of Siva which is like lion, which is a mythical fierce animal. This animal is seen as mount for Lord Vishnu during Brahmotsavas in all Vishnu temples. Narasimha's face also resembles Sarabha.
The earliest Matsyaavataara is also not worshipped in Vishnu temples. But there is a Matsya Jayanti day earmarked in Hindu Panchangas. Bengalis may not like the idea of worshipping fish, as an avataar! Fish is offered as a sacrifice at the altar in Puri Temple near the Lion during Durga Puja days. Anatomical clues recently indicate human evolution from fish. It may seem strange that humans have evolved from fish, but the evidence can be found not just in fossils but also with our own bodies (BBC recent broadcast by Dr. Michael Mosley). This theory has not found favor with orthodox Hindus as explained earlier.
Jayadeva excluded Krishna from the list, elevating him to Vishnu like Balaaji of Tirupati, replaced Orthodox Buddha with Historic Buddha and added Balarama, but did not replace Parasurama probably because he was a Vaishnava Brahmin whom he was afraid to touch. You all know South Indians do not consider Venkateswara as an Avatar, but worship him as Vishnu himself with different names! Baalaaji signifies Vatapatrasaayee. Jayadeva was too keen to add Haldhar as he was quite used to the idea of joint worship of Jagannatha, Subhadra and Balarbhadra being from Indradyumna's city of Puri. He did not make a bold attempt to include Subhadra as there is no female deity in the Dasaavataaras. Even earlier Mohini was not included in the famous Dasaavataaras list as this was a female Avataar though mentioned as Vishnu Avataar in Bhagavata. This would have also necessarily brought in Siva and that would not have pleased Vaishnavites. Jayadeva was a staunch promoter of Vaishnavism in Bengal and eastern parts of India. Further Aiyappan might have stolen the show being the accredited natural son of Siva and Mohini pushing away Parvati from lime-light. Ganesha and Murugan (Subhramanya) would have gone to the background being not womb-born and mental creations! Balarama of Vaishnava cult with his plough was readily accepted as he represents Agriculture, the bread and butter for all early Hindus as a profession. Only Bhaagavata Purana says he is an incarnation of Vishnu though he is celebrated as an incarnation of Adisesha by all others.
Parasurama's mission was to clear the Earth off the Kshatriyas or Warrior Caste as every Avataar has a purpose, which is felt as a threat on earth. This is rather a very weak reason to disguise plain and simple prejudice that Kartiveerya Arjuna murdered his father Jamadagni, a Brahmin. He went up-to 21 generations to wipe out the powerful Kshatriya race without examining whether they were good or how seriously bad. Probably this might be the cause of degeneration in body and spirit of Kshatriyas or fighting race much later that could not protect Bharatavarsha from the onslaught of Islamic invaders and later European Conquerors (Mlecchas) who established their rule. Frist center in Nashville displayed him as "Parasurama, the vengeful Brahmin who fights the members of the warrior caste" in its Exposition of Vishnu, Hinduism's Blue-Skinned Savior.
When I visited Vishnu Exposition at Frist Center in Nashville recently, I had no difficulty in explaining to the crowd who sought my help to know the reason for the Blue Skin of Savior Vishnu and for the horrific descriptions of some of the Avataars of him, except Parasurama Avataar. Here too I got away explaining the Darwin's Theory of Evolution (for it is not yet given up by science thinkers) that man was a savage before like Parasurama in Stone Age and later got refined and cultured like Rama. I knew in my heart that Vamana avataara preceded Parasurama who was a mild but tough bargaining Brahmin without any weapon, but luckily nobody questioned me on that! He was also too small to be noticed. I however explained to them at length that blue skin of Vishnu is not due to predominance of bad blood but only symbolic as Vishnu means Omnipresent like the blue sky above the clouds and that clouds symbolize the shackles of Samsaara (worldly troubles) which we have to overcome to enjoy blue sky. As you all know there was an eye-catching large exhibition of Vishnu, the Savior at the Frist Center in Nashville, opened to public in April this year, which no Hindu would have missed! Here Buddha is displayed as "founder of Buddhist Religion". The caption also includes that "in the Vaishnava tradition he is celebrated as false prophet" thereby implying Orthodox Buddha mentioned in Bhagavatam also besides the Historic Buddha.
Hindus insist Sanatana Dharma is wrongly called Hinduism. "Hinduism is a more recent nomenclature given to conglomeration of heterogeneous traditions and plurality of beliefs and worship with a long history of development from the Vedic sacrificial religion through the worship of Epic and Puranic heroes and personal deities, cults and sects, as well as philosophical systems rather than a monolithic tradition or a structure based on a simple system of beliefs and worship or a single text as scripture" according to Champaka Lakshmi, author of Hindu Temples. Viewed with this perspective it may not be a surprise that Hindus, Jains as well as Buddhists migrating from India may join together in the future to have a common place of worship as is seen by the trend to-day, bound by the Indian culture, traditions and religious faiths and beliefs in migrant countries. They are still not ready for spiritual Brahman approach but enjoy conventional religious worship with all its fanfare and side attractions. Only problem is Jains and Buddhists do not believe in Brahman to find a solution under "Eko viprah bahuda vadanti". But we can find a common ground in our philosophies. We may concentrate on the idol as Brahman! Though a Vaishnavite, I follow faithfully the religious worship of Ganesha in Hindu Temple as in my thoughts he appears as Brahman to me. They may concentrate on Jina or Buddha in the same way! We need some symbolic idol to concentrate on the Supreme as it is often explained to me. For Hindus it is no problem because even atheists are acceptable as long as they respect Vedic philosophy. Charwaka philosophy prevailed during Puraanic period. Jaabaali who advocated the theory of Naastikas (non-believers) was respected by Rama though he argued against his advises. EVR, founder of Dravida Kazhagam got away saying "He is a fool who believes in God" but still got support of majority who believed in God and got firmly established in Tamil Nadu. Who knows, broad hearted ever accommodating Hinduism may one day replace Dasaavataara with Dwadasaavataara (12), or even Shoedasaavataara (16) to accommodate all the above, based on the verdict of New Puranas or Saints! They may even accommodate Swami Naraayan and Saibaba idols in all traditional Aagama worshiped Hindu temples!
Yet some other things bother me. Puranas say that Dharma progressively declines from Krita Yuga to Kali Yuga. If so, Krita Yuga needed minimum number of Avataars from the Dasaavataaras than other Yugas. If you look at the official Dasaavataara list five of its early Avataaras took place in Krita Yuga, two in Treta Yuga (Rama and Parasurama), one in Dwapara Yuga, (Krishna) and one in Kali Yuga (Historic Buddha). How can we believe Krita Yuga was loaded with Adharma? Krishna said in Bhagavad Geeta he will be born again and again as Dharma declines? "Yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanir bhavati Bhaarata | abhyuttaanam-adharmasya tad-aatmaanam Srijamyaham". He was silent on all previous avataars in Bhagavadgeeta and so did not explain why five avataraas were needed in Krita Yuga. Arjuna belonged to the clan of Dushyanta's son of Puru clan and so was addressed as Bhaarata in the sloka.
In Ramaayana Ayodhyaa Kaanda Rama says: "Buddhyaana-yaivam-vidhayaa charantam sunaastikam dharmapataadapetam | yathaa hi Choerah sa tathaa hi buddhastathaagatam naastikamatra viddhi | tasmaaddhi yah sakyatamah prajaanaam sa naastike naabhimukhoe budhah syaat ||" (Canto CIX—slokas 33-34)--It is a well-known fact that a follower of Buddha (condemning Vedas) deserves to be punished in the same way as a thief (inasmuch as a heretic robs people of their faith); and know an unbeliever (a follower of the Chaarvaaka or materialistic school of philosophy) to be on a par with Bauddha. Therefore (among such unbelievers) he who is most tamable should undoubtedly be so punished in the interest of the people; in no other case should a wise man (even) stand face to face with an unbeliever (but should shun him)."
Now my question is who is this Nastik Bauddha (Atheist Buddha) in Tretaayuga? How can he then rise to the status of Dasaavataara? Was Jayadeva wiser then in including Historic Buddha instead of Nastik Bauddha? Then who is that Bauddha of Kaliyuga in Bhagavata? Would it not be safer then to avoid Buddha altogether and include Jina? We can follow Vedanta Desika's recommendation without Buddha instead of Jayadeva's recommendations Then how can we justify two Avataaras at the same time? Is it not the reason Jayadeva made Krishna Jagannatha and removed him from the list? Logics call for inclusion of Jina instead of Buddha and not Balarama. We can continue also with the same justification for Jina's Avataara like that of Buddha. But orthodox view will stick to "tasmaat Saastram pramaanam te" as Lord Krishna said in Bhagavadgeeta, "When in doubt follow Sastras". In their opinion Bhaagavata Purana is a saastra and that has mentioned Bauddha in Dasaavatara. Here we can have support from Vedanta Desika who defined his list of Dasaavatara. Logical grouping would be Balarama, Rishabha and Krishna removing Buddha and Parasurama in the Dasaavataara list. Parasurama and Rama were together in Tretayuga; So Krishna and Balarama could be together in Dwaaparayuga. In Vishnu Sahasranama Halayuda is one of the names of Mahavishnu (Sloka 60; Vanamaalee Halaayudhah). Even today in India the farmers repeat Balarama's name while ploughing for a successful cultivation and profitable harvest. Jayadeva called his eighth avataara as Balabhadra.
Halaayudha means one who has the plough as his weapon. But some saint like Vedanta Desika should do this regrouping as they are all avataaras of Vishnu from Bhaagavata Purana. I can't do it by my logistics and writings.
Pondering over these thoughts I thought for the present I should go in line with the current thoughts of Hinduism and stick to my ideas on Divine Incarnations as narrated in my earlier discourse. I also thought it is best to concentrate on that ONE supreme Spirit mentioned in the early periods of Rigveda as mentioned in Naasadeeya Sookta whenever I attend any temple or pray to any deity and wait for the dawn of the great saint who would unfold the mythological mysteries about the Dasaavataara's Composition as well as the number of Avataaras that took place whenever Dharma declined to the lowest level. I can then without getting into the controversy decide whom I should include in my prayers in Dasaavataara Stotra and whom not. Recently His Holiness Chandrasekhara Bharati said: "All religious conflicts and quarrels arise because a devotee is unable to disassociate his conception of God from a particular name and form". Why then to worry on Puraanic Avataara controversies to find the names and forms of God in Dasaavataaras of Vishnu?
Considerable help has been taken from the following publications in preparing this discourse as supplement to my earlier lecture on Divine Incarnations:
- Ramachandra Rao, Vishnu-Kosha and Gita Kosha, Sharada Peetham, Sringeri, Bangalore, India.
- Swami Harshanda, Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India
- Devdutt Pattanik, Vishnu, Vakil, Feffer and Simons Ltd., Mumbai, India.
- Champaka Lakshmi, The Hindu Temple, Roli Books, New Delhi, India
- Chandrsekharaanada Saraswathi, Dharma, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India.
- Vishnu, Hinduism's Blue–Skinned Savior Exposition, Frist Center, Nashville, TN., April-May 2011
- N. R. Srinivasan, Discourse on Selected Vedic Manras from Mahanarayana Upanishad, Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville, TN, USA.
HR FORUM E-MAILS ON HINDU-JAIN INTERFAITH TO PARTICIPANTS
HISTORICALLY JAINISM AND HINDUISM CONFLATE ARISING OUT OF SANATANA DHARMA
It all started with four Manasa putras in Purans which was subsequently raised to seven Rishis. You see similar pattern in Buddhism and Jainism. Number of Buddhas started with four and increased to seven and ended with 50 or 51 like 51 Sakti peethas in Hinduism. Jainism also started with 4 Tirthankaras, raised to seven and ultimately raised 24 to coincide with 24 names of Vishnu we use in Sandhyavandana or 24 Gayatri Syllables of Vedic period, in the early centuries around second century AD. Nirgranthas were an old sect at the time of Buddha and Naataputta only reformer of the Jain monastery could have been founded earlier by Parsvanatha.
According to Jain tradition Rishabha who belonged to Ikshvaku family of Ayodhya was the founder of Jainism. In fact at that time the word religion was not known to anybody and everything was Dhrama and later the followers of his teachings named the religion after him as Jainism derived from his title Jina the conqueror of samsara. His parents were Nabhiraja and Marudevi. Their son was Bharata after whom India was called Bharatavarsha. Rishbha was the first Jina when people were primitive, illiterate and did not know any art or craft. It was during his period the institution of marriage, cremation, building symmetries festivals (like sakshaya Triteeya) in honor of Indra and Nagas came up. Thus he was the pioneer in the Human progress.
Vedic Guru paid reverence to Rishabha and regarded him as Chakravarthy or Saarvabhauma and regarded him as Lord of Lords. Taittareeya Aranyaka mentions of Vaatarasanas who have been named as Sramanas by Jains. Vaatarasans have been glorified and have been honored with the title Kesi. (Krishna is addressed as Kesava). This Kesi alludes to Rishabha in Jain literature, Kesi who is seen with locks of hair. In Rigveda Kesi has been mentioned along with Rishabha. There is also, may be metaphorically, reference to Rishabha (meaning the bull as Arjuna was often addressed as Bharatarshabha) in Vraatyakhanda of Atharva Veda. It is therefore presumed Rishabha belongs to pre-Vedic period or early Vedic period and was the fountain head of Sramana culture. It is from this contest of Rigveda that Lord Rishabha has been portrayed as one who sponsored Vaatarasana Sramanas in the Bhagavata Purana. There is however no mention anywhere that Rishabha was the founder of Jain religion. Like Manu he has been named as the first runner and founder of the new social order of Dharma.
Arishtanemi is mentioned in Kalpasutra as 22nd Tirrthankara, son of Samudravijaya of Sauripura on the banks of the river Yamuna. He was named Neminatha because his mother had seen in the dream a Nemi, outer rim of a wheel (may be Dharma chakra) which consisted of rishta stones flying up to sky connecting heaven and earth symbolically. It is believed that Neminatha had is Nirvana in Girinaar.
Unfortunately the wording Jainism was not in existence till Sri Mahaveera became the 24th t Thirthankara. Before him there were 23 Thirthankaras. The present teachings of Mahveera is actually more structured. The previous Thirthankaras has in common practicing and preaching the same principle with a different way.
According to Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a professor of comparative religions and philosophy at Oxford who later became the second President of India, there is evidence to show that Ṛishabhadeva, the first Tīrthaṅkara, was being worshiped by the first century BC. The Yajurveda mentions the name of three Tīrthaṅkaras – Ṛishabha, Ajitanatha and Arishtanemi, states Radhakrishnan, and "the Bhāgavata Purāṇa endorses the view that Ṛishbha as the founder of Jainism". The name Arishtanemi appears in the Shantimantra of Mundakopanishad which Hindu scholars translate as one who dispels untoward things happening to us, meaning Supreme Being.
Chhandogya Upanishad mentions Krishna as son of Devaki as a disciple of Ghora Angirasa who instructed Lord Krishna a on Tapas (austerity), Dana (Charity), Arjavam (simplicity), Ahimsa( (Non-violence) and Sartyavachana (Truthfulness). Jainism mentions Krishna as a contemporary of Arishtanemi Tirthankara who is the fore-runner of Parsvanatha. Some identify Ghora Angirasa with Neminatha. Neminatha is also known to have instructed Sri Krishna but his identity with Ghora Angirasa seems to be not right since Jainism does not identify Ghora Angirasa with Neminatha. However this has helped in boosting up the image of Jainism and making it popular. Whether Krishna and Neminatha are historical or not is anybody’s guess!
The word Sramana can be found in Upanishads. Mundaka Upanishad mentions about shaven head Sanyasis. In Rigveda Arhama has been traced to Sramana leader—“Oh Arhama, you fed compassion to this useless world”
According to Jain beliefs, Neminatha is the cousin of Lord Krishna and his iconography includes the same conch as found with Vishnu. Vaishnavites believe in Pada-puja (Charanam Pavitram) like Jains. He was born at Sauripura (Dwaraka) in the Yadu lineage, like Krishna. His birth date is the 5th day of Shravana Shukla (July 28 Garuda Panchami day in 2017) in the Hindu calendar. He herded cattle and became fond of animals. According to Jain mythology, on his wedding day Neminatha heard the cries of animals being killed for the marriage feast, and moved by the sorrow he renounced the world – a scene found in many Jain artwork. He attained moksha on Girnar Hills near Junagadh, a pilgrimage center for Jains. According to Long, the Jain legends state that Neminatha taught Krishna the knowledge that he shared with Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, a historic reason that has led Jains to accept, read and cite the Bhagavad Gita as a spiritually important text, celebrate Krishna related festivals and intermingle with Hindus as spiritual cousins. For Hindu Americans like me this is no problem. Many Jains silently visit Hindu American Temples in the absence of Jain temples and enjoy all worships without any reservation like Sikhs. Buddhist Indians insist on Buddha sanctum unlike broad-minded Jains. They will not feel guilty if they accept Venkateshawara or Jaganntha as Jain Tirthankara!
On being taunted by Satyabhama, the wife of Krishna, Neminatha blew Panchajanya, the mighty conch of Krishna. According to Jain texts, no one could lift Vishnu's conch except Krishna, let alone blow it. After this event, Jain Puranas state that Krishna decided to test Neminatha's strength and challenged him for a friendly duel. Neminatha, being a Tirthankara, defeated Krishna without any effort. In the war between Krishna and Jarasandha, Neminatha participated alongside Krishna. Neminatha's marriage was arranged with Rajulakumari or Rajimati, the daughter of King Ugrasena of Dwaraka. According to Jain legends, Neminatha heard the animal cries as they were beings slaughtered for the marriage feast. He was taken by sorrow that his marriage is the cause of so much pain, gave up the idea of getting married, became monk and went to Mount Girnar to lead a mendicant's life. Sometimes, as with Vishnu's iconography, a chakra is also shown near him, as in the 6th-century sculpture found at the archeological site near Padhavali (Madhya Pradesh). There is the largest statue of Neminath with a height of 16 meters at Tirumalai built in 12th century.
I do not find anywhere Neminatha being mentioned as Sanat Kumara. But I believe I may not be too wrong if I conclude Neminatha as Sanat Kumara as Skanda. Esoteric tradition says Sanat Kumara was born as Pradyumna to Rukmini. Pancharatra Vyuha concept considers Krishna as Paravasudeva, Sankarshana or Balarama as Brahma the creator , Aniruddha as Vishnu, the sustainer and Pradyumna as Siva the destroyer. Jayadeva also excludes Krishna as an avatar and says he is Jagannatha. Coming out of Siva’s potency Sanat Kumara is only emanation of Siva or volute of Parabrahman. I am therefore not surprised that Neminatha, Skanda and Venkaateshwara are all the same hailed as Holy Son in Christianity that is Sanat Kumara Eternal Youth son of Brahma, Vishnu as well as Siva at different times. In worshiping Venkateshwara as Universal Lord we have the Unity and wisdom of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”
Venkataadri samam sthaanam brahmaande naasti kanchana | Venkatesa sama devo na bhooto na bhavishyati || There is no place equal to Venkataadri in the whole Universe! A God equal to Venkatesa has never been born nor will be! GOD equal to Venkatesha has never been in the past, nor is at present, and neither will be in the future”.
Dr. David Frawley states: I urge the young people and the scholars of India to take up this cause (of Universal Oneness). Do not try to define India in the context of civilization as defined by the West. Instead look to the great traditions of India that have their own deeper roots and use it to critique Western civilization and discover its limitations. Rather than seeking to define and control India according to Western perspectives, the West should look to India for guidance on the deeper issues of culture and spirituality. Indians, in turn, should assert their own greater traditions and not simply imitate the West or seek to justify Indian civilization from a Western perspective. True scholars of the Indic tradition need not go to Harvard or Oxford to seek credibility, rather these institutions should come to them. What is the Indic school of thought, one might ask? It is not at all something new or unknown. It is the great spiritual, philosophical, scientific, artistic and cultural traditions of the subcontinent that are among the largest and oldest in the world. It is the emphasis on dharma, on karma, on pluralism and synthesis, on yoga sadhana and moksha. It is not only the tradition of ancient sages from the Vedas and Upanishads to Buddhist (Jains are even older) and Yoga traditions but also modern teachers like Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda. It is not only the vast literature of Sanskrit but also that of the regional languages and dialects of the subcontinent, most of which have older literary traditions than the languages of Europe such as English.
Thank you very much for your excellent article on Jainism which will dispel some of the misconceptions about Jainism of many of your readers. Hopefully this makes aware of every one to be more open minded to the faith of every religion.
-- Dr Brahm Parsh, Nashville, TN
--July 12, 2017
NEMINATHA IS VEM-KAT-ESWARA, UNIVERSAL LORD WHO REDEEMS US FROM SINS
According to Jain beliefs, Neminatha is the cousin of Lord Krishna and his iconography includes the same conch as found with Vishnu. Vaishnavites believe in Pada-puja (Charanam Pavitram) like Jains. He was born at Sauripura (Dwaraka) in the Yadu lineage, like Krishna. His birth date is the 5th day of Shravana Shukla (July 28 Garuda Panchmi day in 2017) in the Hindu calendar. He herded cattle and became fond of animals. According to Jain mythology, on his wedding day Neminatha heard the cries of animals being killed for the marriage feast, and moved by the sorrow he renounced the world – a scene found in many Jain artwork. He attained moksha on Girnar Hills near Junagadh, a pilgrimage center for Jains which I visited. According to Long, the Jain legends state that Neminatha taught Krishna the knowledge that he shared with Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, a historic reason that has led Jains to accept, read and cite the Bhagavad Gita as a spiritually important text, celebrate Krishna related festivals and intermingle with Hindus as spiritual cousins. For Hindu Americans like me this is no problem. Many Jains silently visit Hindu American Temples in the absence of Jain temples and enjoy all worships without any reservation like Sikhs. Buddhist Indians insist on Buddha sanctum unlike broad-minded Jains. They will not feel guilty if they accept Venkateshawara or Jaganntha as Jain Tirthankara!
On being taunted by Satyabhama, the wife of Krishna, Neminatha blew Panchajanya, the mighty conch of Krishna. According to Jain texts, no one could lift Vishnu's conch except Krishna, let alone blow it. After this event, Jain Puranas state that Krishna decided to test Neminatha's strength and challenged him for a friendly duel. Neminatha, being a Tirthankara, defeated Krishna without any effort. In the war between Krishna and Jarasandha, Neminatha participated alongside Krishna. Neminatha's marriage was arranged with Rajulakumari or Rajimati, the daughter of King Ugrasena of Dwaraka. According to Jain legends, Neminatha heard the animal cries as they were beings slaughtered for the marriage feast. He was taken by sorrow that his marriage is the cause of so much pain, gave up the idea of getting married, became monk and went to Mount Girnar to lead a mendicant's life. Sometimes, as with Vishnu's iconography, a chakra is also shown near him, as in the 6th-century sculpture found at the archeological site near Padhavali (Madhya Pradesh) There is the largest statue of Neminath with height of 16 meters at Tirumalai built in 12th century.
In the light of the above I am bound to believe Lord Venkateshwara, about whom many mysteries surround, should have also been worshiped as Neminatha though orthodox Hindus particularly Vaishnavites may vehemently protest with all sorts of counter arguments. I have also brought to your attention Jain Ramayana. I am therefore not surprised Hindu Temples in America often include Vardhamana in a separate sanctum of Multi –Traditional Hindu complex. I also find in Hindu temples American Jains joining the worship with no mental reservation. I also strongly believe Jainism is closer to Hinduism than Buddhism. It is a pity that Buddha is considered as an Avatar of Vishnu but not Adinatha. I am also surprised why American Hindu temples have not considered to install non-controversial icon of either Adinatha or Neminatha based on history instead of the 24th Tirthankara Mahavir Vardhamana. I was also surprised that Esoteric Sanat Kumara Tradition does not talk much about Jainism. I believe Hindus were more afraid of Buddhism than peaceful Jainism and hence made him an avatar. American Hindus being more focused on Spirituality and Universal One-ness can bring back Jainism to Hindu Dharma fold if not Hindu Religion in their ambition to bring Universal Oneness about which Vivekananda dreamed and promote spirituality the country needs today. American Hindus should be more inclined to Hindu Dharma than sectarian Hindu Religion. It will be equally important and logical for Jains to openly and freely participate in Hindu worship accepting both Jagannatha and Venkateshwara as their Tirthankara based on the past history. I have already made a reference to this in my discourse on Jagannatha. I felt reluctant to include any reference to Jainism in my discourse on Venkateshwara previously. I am planning to add the following paragraph to my discourse.Hindus often decided religious disputes in courts and agreements, Fighting factions of Srivaishnavas went to Privy Council in UK to decide which Namam Kanchipuram should have during British days!
“There is an original agreement between Jains and Vaishnavas in 14th century stating that Jains have to leave Thirumala Neminath temple to Vaishnavas and Vaishnavas will not destroy Shravanabelagola Bahubali statue as a good gesture. Otherwise the agreement says King Bukkaraya (one of the founder of Vijayanagar Empire?) will punish all Jains in his kingdom. (Source: An old inscription named Bukkaraya Sandhi is available with archeological department of Karnataka now preserved in the Central Library of Bengaluru.—Wikipedia). Since Sanat Kumara is so much glorified in Buddhism it is reasonable to believe he was also popular with Jainism and that the statue of Venkateswara was once believed to be that of Neminatha and also worshipped by Jains. Knowing the history of Puri Jagannth under the rule of Jain Kings I am inclined to believe in the story. Many Jains embraced Vaishanvism during Ramnuja’s time.”
Any suggestion with proper reference is welcome. You may be interested to know Parthasarathy in Chennai is also worshiped as Venkata Krishnan who as Krishna is acceptable to Jains as well as Hindus like Sanat Kumara for all traditions, religions and philosophies. Venkateswara is also addressed as Krishna by some.
Recently a group of American Jains migrated from India rushed to White House to establish their existence as a minority Religion. It will be mutually beneficial if they join together with American Hindus to spread Hindu Dharma or Sanatana Dharma from which Jains parted in the past and celebrate Diwali together in White House which is common to both. There are no conflicts between Hindu Dharma and Jain Dharma. Hindus should also outreach Jains by installing Neminatha in Hindu Temples and worshiping Him or promote the concept of Venkateswara as Neminatha. It is a two-way approach which is already in Vogue in Hindu American Temples today.
--July 11, 2017
Thank you for your beautiful explanation of how Jainism and Hinduism are interrelated and have many things in common because of their common believes in many aspect.
However there are some misconception about some aspects of Jainism. Only in the last half a century, because of some of extreme archeological work up many archeologist including famous
Foreign archeologist, lot of new information about the origin and historical aspect of Jainism has been updated and is accepted by the so called historians and philosophers including our demised ex president of India Dr. Radha Krishnan. Even in Vedas also has clearly mentioned about Jainism. Unfortunately the wording Jainism was not in existence till Sri Mahaveera became the 24 th Thirthankara. Before him there were 23 Thirthankaras. The present teachings of Mahveera is actually more structured. The previous Thirthankaras has in common practicing and preaching the same principle with a different way. It is very difficult for me to explain and discuss all this in few lines. Hope fully one of these days when I get chance to meet you in person, would like share with you more about Jainism.
Thank you for your interest in Jainism which is actually a way of life.
--Dr. Brahm Parsh