Buddhist beliefs regarding a god or gods vary between traditions of Buddhism, and even between individual practitioners. However, Buddha is not considered a god, and Buddhists do not worship any god in the traditional sense. Instead, the foundation of Buddhism is following the teachings of Buddha.
Basis of Buddhism
The basis of Buddhism is following the teachings of Buddha, a historical human who is believed to have reached enlightenment. The main practice of Buddhism is called taking refuge, which means depending on the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha for help. In this case, Buddha can refer to the person or to the innate Buddha-nature of all humans. Dharma means the teachings of the Buddha, which relate mostly to philosophy, meditation and appropriate behavior. Sangha means the community of Buddhist monks and nuns. So, none of these primary principles relate directly to gods or worship.
Although all Buddhists agree on the centrality of the Buddha and his teachings, there is some variation between groups in terms of their relationship to other gods. This is because Buddhist teachings have spread all over the world and often become incorporated with other traditional religions or philosophies. For example, Buddha himself began life as a Hindu, as did many other early Buddhists. Incorporating the practices of other religions does not necessarily conflict with Buddhism, as long as one focuses primarily on the Buddhist principles.
Tibetan Buddhism, in particular, is associated with many types of gods and demi-gods. However, these are not believed to be all-powerful beings like the monotheistic god. These gods may be included in Buddhist prayers and in shrines where offerings are made. However, they are not worshipped in the sense of adoration, since practitioners focus is still on the Buddha and his teachings on the method of achieving enlightenment. Modern practitioners especially may think of them more as reminders of positive qualities than as literal beings.
Zen Buddhism is the type of Buddhism best known in America. It is also generally the most secular and least theistic. Since it says little on the topic of god, individual practitioners may hold a variety of personal beliefs.
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