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Do Buddhists Believe in God?

Abhijit Naik
With Buddhism becoming increasingly popular in the West, the one question that seems to be on everyone's mind is whether Buddhists believe in god? We shall reveal what this religion has to say about the concept of eternal omnipotent god.
Gripped by fear men go to the sacred mountains, sacred groves, sacred trees and shrines, but these are not a secure kind of refuge.
― The Buddha
They say that you should never take away someone's god―their source of hope―from them, for the chances are that it will prompt them to make you their god. The Buddha happens to be an apt example of this.
He was of the belief that the origin of god lied in our fear. Throughout his life, he spoke against the practice of idol worship, but as we see today, there is no dearth of his statues and idols the world over.
Now that's not to say that the Buddhists believe in god. Nor do we intend to say that they don't believe in religion. The fact is that, Buddhism is a non-theistic religion with no place for the concept of god.

Do Buddhists Believe in God or Goddesses?

Buddhism is largely based on the teachings of the Buddha, a monk who lived sometime between 563 and 483 BC. He was born as Siddhartha Gautama in a royal family in the Indian subcontinent.
So pain and suffering were unknown to him throughout his childhood. However, things changed, when in his youth, he started having visions of an aged man, a sick man, a corpse, and that of an ascetic monk. With the new-found way of looking at life, he decided to give up luxury and comfort, and become an ascetic.
Thus began the arduous process of meditation to attain nirvana (enlightenment), at the end of which he became the Buddha, meaning, the 'awakened one' or 'enlightened one'. Upon attaining enlightenment, he began to pass on the knowledge to his fellow monks and disciples through his teachings.
On the path to enlightenment, the Buddha discovered what came to be known as the Four Noble Truths:
(i) life brings suffering as all temporary things and states are unsatisfying,
(ii) we tend to crave and cling to these things and states,
(iii) it is possible to end this suffering, and
(iv) there is a path, the Noble Eightfold Path that can lead us to the end of suffering.
These truths formed the basis of Buddhism.
As you can see, Buddhism does share similarities with Hinduism; both believe in reincarnation, karma, and maya. However, Buddhism, in its true form, doesn't speak of any ultimate being or god, as one can put it.
While that makes classical Buddhism non-theistic, it's worth noting that it has branched into other forms, some of which are considered theistic, The Pure Land Buddhism being one of them.
Also worth noting is the fact that there are two systems in Buddhism: Mahayana Buddhism, which states that the goal of enlightenment is meant for everyone, and Theravada Buddhism, which suggests that this goal is only for monks. Nevertheless, Buddhist monks or followers do not believe in god. For them, the ultimate goal in life is to attain enlightenment.

Isn't the Buddha Considered a God?

The real followers of Buddhism don't consider the Buddha a god or supreme being in the manner that the other religions consider their deities. They respect him as a great teacher. In fact, the Buddha himself never said he was god.
This is in stark contrast of Christianity, wherein the Bible makes it clear that Jesus is the god. Buddhism does state that there is a path to enlightenment, but nowhere is it said that it's Buddha's worship. The Buddha himself said that it's only his duty to show the way, and even rejected the concept of creator deity.
The Buddha said fear was the reason behind people's belief in god. He pointed out the lack of evidence about the existence of an eternal omnipotent god, and added that belief in god was not necessary.
Like we said earlier, there does exist a section of Buddhists who have put the Buddha on the pedestal, but that's more like a case of 'you take away our god, we replace him with you.'
That there is no god in Buddhism makes many people believe that it is an atheistic religion, but that's not the case. One of the most striking differences between the two is that, atheists do not believe in reincarnation, which happens to be an important component of Buddhism.
Therefore, one should refrain from tagging Buddhists as atheists ... or communists, for that matter.