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published: 1/5/05
updated: 7/5/13

Buddhist Deities





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Do Buddhists Believe in God?

The Buddha's teachings and Theravada Buddhism are essentially atheistic, although neither deny the existence of beings that might be called "gods." (See Is Buddhism Atheistic? for more information.)

In Mahayana Buddhism, however, the universe is populated with celestial buddhas and bodhisattvas who are worshipped as gods and goddesses. The historical Buddha is honored in this way, but most other Buddhist deities are adapted from the cultures Buddhism has encountered — from the pantheon of Hinduism to the indigenous religions of Tibet, China and Thailand.





Among the most popular Buddhist deities are Kuan Yin, the Medicine Buddha, the Laughing Buddha and the Green and White Taras. These and other fascinating figures are explored in this section. The list below links to articles that provide information on the history, meaning, significance and iconography of each deity.

Buddhas
Amida Buddha
Gautama Buddha (Shakyamuni)
Laughing Buddha/Future Buddha (Maitreya)
Medicine Buddha/Healing Buddha
Five Dhyani Buddhas

Bodhisattvas
Five Bodhisattvas of Compassion
Tara
Kuan Yin

Arhats
16 Sravakas (Tibetan)
18 Lohans (Chinese)

Tibetan Wrathful Deities
Yama
Mahakala
Yamantaka
Kubera
Hayagriva
Palden Lhamo
Tshangs pa
Begtse
Nagas
Lha-mo

Chinese Buddhist Deities
Kuan-Yin
Jade Maiden
Golden Youth
Kuan-Ti (Sangharama)
Wei-To (Skanda)
Four Guardian Kings (Si-Ta-Tien-Wang)

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