Buddhists Do Not Believe in God
by Men. S. Dhammika
No, we do not.
There are several reasons for this. The Buddha, like modern sociologists and psychologists, believed that religious ideas and especially the god idea have their origin in fear. The Buddha says:
“Gripped by fear men go to the sacred mountains,
sacred groves, sacred trees and shrines”.
Primitive man found himself in a dangerous and hostile world, the fear of wild animals, of not being able to find enough food, of injury or disease, and of natural phenomena like thunder, lightning and volcanoes was constantly with him. Finding no security, he created the idea of gods in order to give him comfort in good times, courage in times of danger and consolation when things went wrong. To this day, you will notice that people become more religious at times of crises, you will hear them say that the belief in a god or gods gives them the strength they need to deal with life. You will hear them explain that they believe in a particular god because they prayed in time of need and their prayer was answered. All this seems to support 1. the Buddha’s teaching that the god-idea is a response to fear and frustration. The Buddha taught us to try to understand our fears, to lessen our desires and to calmly and courageously accept the things we cannot change. He replaced fear, not with irrational belief but with rational understanding.
2. The second reason the Buddha did not believe in a god is because there does not seem to be any evidence to support this idea. There are numerous religions, all claiming that they alone have god’s words preserved in their holy book, that they alone understand god’s nature, that their god exists and that the gods of other religions do not. Some claim that god is masculine, some that she is feminine and others that it is neuter. They are all satisfied that there is ample evidence to prove the existence of their god but they laugh in disbelief at the evidence other religions use to prove the existence of another god. It is not surprising that with so many different religions spending so many centuries trying to prove the existence of their gods that still no real, concrete, substantial or irrefutable evidence has been found. Buddhists suspend judgement until such evidence is forthcoming.
3. The third reason the Buddha did not believe in a god is that the belief is not necessary. Some claim that the belief in a god is necessary in order to explain the origin on the universe. But this is not so. Science has very convincingly explained how the universe came into being without having to introduce the god-idea. Some claim that belief in god is necessary to have a happy, meaningful life. Again we can see that this is not so. There are millions of atheists and free-thinkers, not to mention many Buddhists, who live useful, happy and meaningful lives without belief in a god. Some claim that belief in god’s power is necessary because humans, being weak, do not have the strength to help themselves. Once again, the evidence indicates the opposite. One often hears of people who have overcome great disabilities and handicaps, enormous odds and difficulties, through their own inner resources, through their own efforts and without belief in a god. Some claim that god is necessary in order to give man salvation. But this argument only holds good if you accept the theological concept of salvation and Buddhists do not accept such a concept. Based on his own experience, the Buddha saw that each human being had the capacity to purify the mind, develop infinite love and compassion and perfect understanding. He shifted attention from the heavens to the heart and encouraged us to find solutions to our problems through self-understanding.
So Buddhism is just a philosophy?
The word philosophy comes from two words ‘philo’ which means ‘love’ and ‘sophia’ which means ‘wisdom’. So philosophy is the love of wisdom or love and wisdom, both meanings describe Buddhism perfectly. Buddhism teaches that we should try to develop our intellectual capacity to the fullest so that we can understand clearly. It also teaches us to develop love and kindness so that we can be like a true friend to all beings. So Buddhism is a philosophy but not just a philosophy. It is the supreme philosophy.
Was the Buddha a god?
No, he was not. He did not claim that he was a god, the child of a god or even the messenger from a god. He was a human being who perfected himself and taught that if we followed his example, we could perfect ourselves also.
If the Buddha is not a god, then why do people worship him?
There are different types of worship. When someone worships a god, they praise and honor him or her, make offerings and ask for favors, believing that the god will hear their praise, receive their offerings and answer their prayers. Buddhists do not indulge in this kind of worship.
The other kind of worship is when we show respect to someone or something we admire. When a teacher walks into the room we stand up, when we meet a dignitary we shake their hand, when the national anthem is played we salute. These are all gestures of respect and worship and indicate our admiration for certain persons or things. This is the type of worship Buddhists practice. A statue of the Buddha with its hands rested gently in its lap and its compassionate smile reminds us to strive to develop peace and love within ourselves. The perfume of incense reminds us of the pervading influence of virtue, the lamp reminds us of the light of knowledge and the flowers which soon fade and die, remind us of impermanence. When we bow, we express outwardly what we feel inwardly; our gratitude to the Buddha for what his teachings have given us. This is the nature of Buddhist worship.
Discussion of the Basic Buddhist Beliefs
In order to appreciate the differences of the Buddhist philosophies against other religious philosophies we have to acknowledge these basic Buddhist beliefs:
(1) “This world is not created and ruled by a God.“
“Buddhism does not believe in the existence of a God who created the universe.”
Hence, Buddhism does not recognise a god who created this world, and therefore Buddhism is an “atheist philosophy or ideology.” So by definition Buddhism is an philosophy and not a religion as no deities or gods are involved. The deities accepted by some Buddhist sects like Buddhism in China are therefore a corruption of the basic Buddhism.
(2) “Buddha is our only Master.“
In accepting Siddhartha Gautama as their “Master” Buddhists have in fact created an immortal (a Saint) of Siddhartha and have revered him as s god-like mortal. Other Buddhists have further introduced their own deities into Buddhism which is a corruption of the basic concept of Buddhism for there is no god in basic Buddhism. That is because other cultures have always worshipped gods and to have a religion without a god was not in keeping with their native cultures.
By denying the existence of god, or a god who created the Universe, and declaring that they only accept Buddha as their only Master, they are in fact declaring their “exclusivity” and their “superiority of Buddha as superior to all other religious icons. A concept not generally appreciated by most people.
(3) Buddhism, not a religion in the normal definition of a religion, but a philosophy with only 4 Noble Truths and Eight Noble Pathways to guide Buddhists to try to achieve Nirvana, there does not appear to be any real religious or philosophical doctrines to adhere to. Therefore, as each community of Buddhists begin to find their way to seek tranquillity, each group sets their own agenda and rituals that suits their community be it in India, or Ceylon, or Thailand or Vietnam of China, or Japan because there are no regulations to limit their modification (or corruption) of the original concept of Buddhism. Hence the development of the different schools of Buddhism and sects of Buddhism of which there are many with different schools of thought, rituals and different independent hierarchical orders. But all of these orders are united under the banner of the Buddha.
Origin of the universe
Buddhism has no creator god to explain the origin of the universe. Instead, it teaches that everything depends on everything else: present events are caused by past events and become the cause of future events.
Indian religions often see space and time as cyclical, such that world-systems come into being, survive for a time, are destroyed and then are remade. In Buddhism this happens naturally without the intervention of gods.
One tale told by the Buddha in the Aggan̄n̄a Sutta describes the process of recreation on this grand scale. An old world-system has just been destroyed, and its inhabitants are reborn in a new system. To begin with they are spirits, floating happily above the earth, luminescent and without form, name or sex.
The world in these early stages is without light or land, only water. Eventually earth appears and the spirits come to taste and enjoy it. Their greed causes their ethereal bodies to become solid and coarse and differentiate into male and female, good-looking and ugly. As they lose their luminescence the sun and moon come into being.
Gradually the beings fall into further wicked habits, causing themselves – and the earth itself – to become less pleasant.
In this way, the Buddha seems to be saying, desire, greed and attachment not only cause suffering for people but also cause the world to be as it is.
The physical world as we know it, with all its imperfections and suffering, is the product of what the Buddha called dependent origination.
In Buddhism, (535 million Buddhists in the world, i.e., about 10% of the population)
- The Universe was not created by god, it existed as nature and is cyclic in nature.
- God does not exist. (No one has ever proved the existence of God or Abraham, or Moses or Jesus.)
- God is not a necessity to create a religion.
- God is not necessary to have morality.
- There is no evidence of god, historically or archaeologically.
- God/god’s are based on mythology.
- Buddhism is a worship that does not rely on god, it’s an atheist worship.