Wait, there are gods in Buddhism?
Absolutely. Many people misunderstand and even promote the wrong view that there are no gods in Buddhism. On the contrary, various gods are met and mentioned throughout all of the texts of all forms of Buddhism.
So, are gods in Buddhism the same as the Abrahamic god?
No. The Buddha understood some key facts about gods:
- Although gods can create things, they did not create the universe we are living in.
- While gods do have psychic powers that allow them to see and hear many things humans cannot, they are not all-seeing or all-knowing
- Gods are not responsible for our spiritual salvation. They can act as good spiritual friends, though, just as wise humans can.
- Gods are not eternal. They arise and pass away like any other conditioned being.
Are gods just symbols of wholesome states of mind?
No, of course not. When we read the suttas we see that they are living being just like any other. However, rebirth as certain kinds of gods can be the result of developing wholesome mental states. But you can see throughout the suttas gods interacting with each other as well as the Buddha and his disciples.
Did the Buddha worship gods?
No, the Buddha didn’t worship anyone. How could he? In fact, many, many gods would come regularly to worship the Buddha. He is, after all, teacher of gods and humans.
Are all gods Buddhist? Are all gods good?
No. However many gods became disciples of the Buddha, such as god Sakka. Some gods are wise and some gods are foolish. Some gods are consumed completely by indulging in sensual pleasures and some gods dedicate themselves to Dhamma practice.
Are their different kinds of gods?
We can see two main kinds of gods in the suttas. The lower type of gods are called devas. They exist in the sensual realms and enjoy sense pleasures in much the same way as humans. However the pleasures of heavens that the devas experience are far, far better than that of humans.
The other type of gods are brahmās, not to be confused with the caste of people known as brahmins. The brahmā gods live in very subtle, refined heavenly realms where they experience very subtle forms of happiness and pleasure.
But gods don’t live forever?
No. They pass away just like all conditioned things. However they have lifespans so long as to be almost incomprehensible to humans.
Where can I learn more about gods in the suttas?
Gods are seen throughout the suttas, but there are a few places where they are concentrated: