To many Vaisnavs, the most recent Avatar of Vishnu was Buddha. And there are two main schools of thought as to his avatardom, at least amongst Vaisnavs:
1. Vishnu incarnated as Buddha to a “false religion” to separate his “true devotees” from those who “fell short”. All of these quote marks only serve to indicate that I am paraphrasing the basic story. I am not quoting any specific source.
2. Vishnu incarnated as Buddha to bring the message to devotees that it was no longer necessary to carry out or take part in elaborate ceremony and sacrifice, the meaning of which mostly only the Brahmins were privy to anyroad. He incarnated to show devotees that the most important aspect of any worthwhile spiritual life was the work on the Self.
The latter has always been the interpretation that I subscribed to.
The former always had a bit of an Abrahamic feel to it to me.
Not only that, but if option 1 above were true, then it was confusing to me to think that as a Vaisnav, I had to disagree with Vishnu (Buddha) in order to agree with Vishnu (Vishnu). To be fair, though I long found it difficult to believe that God would incarnate just to “fool” the masses who were not “ready” for Him, it is not all that implausible given that many of the Dashavataras incarnated for the sole purpose of ridding the world of one particular “demon.” So I am not dogmatic about it. It is possible. It’s just that I find option 2 above more plausible. As such, I often see Buddhism as a sect of Hinduism.
I’ve always seen Vishnu as a God of spiritual progressivism, i.e., evolution.
Jai Hari Aum.