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What is the connection between Buddha and the Buddhist gods?

Traditional Buddhists worshipped a pantheon of gods. How do these connect with the figure of Buddha?
The westernised version I’m familiar with elimates the old pantheon of gods.
E.g. This month’s NG magazine includes a couple of 1500 year old paintings of Buddhist gods from Northern India.
I’ve heard of Buddhist gods and demons in ancient Tibetan shrines as well.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Buddha was an agnostic, but there are versions of Buddhism that ‘melded’ with local cultures. This is where the pantheon of Buddhist gods come from, from pre-buddhist eastern cultures. The ‘westernised’ version of Buddhism is correct about Buddha not believing in gods, but is wrong about other things. For example, Buddha advocates a strict life of self denial. Few western ‘buddhists’ take these instructions seriously because it goes so strongly against western culture.
    This phenomenon where a religion ‘melds’ with and incorporates foreign aspects of the culture is called syncretism. It happens with other religions too… consider the Christians who seem to think Jesus was a strict advocate of private gun ownership and lower taxes…. or on the other side of the political spectrum, consider those Christians who seem to think Jesus was an advocate of 21st century sexually liberal values. All four groups of people have ‘synchronized’ their religion with foreign aspects.

  2. As others have said, Buddhism is agnostic regarding gods and deities and a belief in gods or supernatural power is not part of Buddhism.
    Our Western eyes automatically see Buddhist bodhisattvas as deities. This is not surprising, since the conceptual structure of Western religion doesn’t easily accommodate the spiritual expressions of other cultures.
    The gods to which you refer are known in Buddhism as bodhisattvas. (“Bodhisattva” means ‘enlightened existence.’)
    There are many bodhisattvas and each represents a particular aspect of human energy — compassion, wisdom, action, etc. Most of us have experienced these these energy-states in daily life and we are familiar with the depth and reach of these energies.
    Buddhism gives names to these energy-states (Kwan Yin for compassion, Manjusri for wisdom, etc).
    Further, some Buddhist traditions represent bodhisattvas in paintings and sculpture as if they were miraculous beings. And these energies are indeed miraculous, when fully revealed through meditation practice.
    But when ordinary human beings, through sincere practice, experience these miraculous energies, they still remain human.

  3. This is quite easy because Buddha in Buddhism is the main god but there is also minor gods who serve under Buddha and can represent such as wealth,luck and love.
    But this also depends on which countries in Asia you mean.
    A good example could be the Shinto Buddhism on Japan where they combine their old belief whit spirits,gods for rivers, trees demons, and ancestors whit Buddha as the main god.

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