Do Buddhists Believe In God?
Buddhism is a very unique religion. Originating in India 2,500 years ago around 563 BCE with Siddhartha Gautama, it spread rapidly across Asia and the rest of the world over the next millennia. Buddhists are of the opinion that human life is one of suffering and that a few things, like physical labor, meditation, and good behavior help to achieve enlightenment or nirvana. Even though Buddhists believe in a cycle of rebirths, they hold that with nirvana, moksha can be achieved as well, meaning one can escape this life cycle forever. As Buddha stories go, Siddhartha Gautama, also revered as the Buddha, was the first person to attain this level of enlightenment.
Buddhists do not believe in any kind of god or deity although they believe there are supernatural figures that help or hold back people from the path towards enlightenment. This is primarily because Buddha himself didn’t believe in a god but before we explore those reasons, let’s dive a little deeper into the history and teachings of Buddhism.
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Origin of Buddhism
Siddhartha Gautama was born a prince in the fifth century BCE. Upon seeing the plight of the poor and the aged, he concluded that human life meant suffering. He soon renounced his kingdom and wealth and decided to live life as a beggar. Despite traveling and meditating for years, he remained largely unsatisfied and finally settled on something we today call “the Middle Path”. This idea explained how neither extreme wealth nor extreme asceticism was the path to enlightenment but rather a life of moderation. Eventually, in a deep state of Buddhist meditation, he achieved nirvana underneath the Bodhi Tree, also known as the Tree of Awakening. The site of this event is situated in Bihar, where the Mahabodhi Temple has been turned into a major pilgrimage site for Buddhists.
Teachings of the Buddha
The Buddha is remembered for having taught his followers the Four Noble Truths. The first of these, dukkha, teaches that every person is suffering in some way or the other. The second, samudaya, states that all suffering stems from desire or tanha. The third, nirodha, teaches that it is possible to stop suffering by seeking enlightenment. The fourth, magga, talks about the Middle Path, which demonstrates the steps to achieving enlightenment.
As stated earlier, Buddhists believe in a cycle of rebirths, where souls are understood to be born again into different bodies depending on how they conducted themselves in their past lives. This is linked to the Hindu concept of karma that explains how a person’s bad or good actions in his previous life can impact future consequences.
Groups in Buddhism
Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism are two main groups of Buddhism. The former is common across Tibet, China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Mongolia while the latter is common across Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, and Laos. Mahayana Buddhism emphasizes the role model seen in Bodhisattvas, beings that have attained enlightenment but keep returning to earth to teach fellow humans. Theravada Buddhism, on the other hand, emphasizes Buddhist meditation and a monastic lifestyle as a way to enlightenment.
Why Buddhists don’t believe in god
Like modern psychologists and sociologists, the Buddha believed that religious ideas, especially god, stemmed from man’s innate fear of the unknown. Due to a lack of security, man created God in his own image, seeking comfort in good times, courage when in danger, and consolation when things went wrong. Buddha said the god-idea was a response to people’s fears and frustrations and encouraged his followers to replace irrational belief with a rational understanding of reality.
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