Buddhist Gods & Deities


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?".)

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 Hindu pantheon in its home culture of India 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 Gautama Buddha (Shakyamuni) Laughing Buddha/Future Buddha (Maitreya) Medicine Buddha/Healing Buddha Five Dhyani Buddhas Dipamkara (Kasyapa) Buddha

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)



In Mahayana Buddhism, bodhisattvas are those who are on the path to Enlightenment, but have not yet attained it and become buddhas. Any living person who has embarked on the Bodhisattva path can thus be considered a bodhisattva...



In both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, buddhas are those who have attained full enlightenment. Siddharta Guatama became "the Buddha" after his Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree...

Amida Buddha

Buddha, Siddharta Guatama

Laughing Buddha

Medicine Buddha

Wrathful Deities

An enigmatic aspect of Tibetan Buddhism iconography is the presence of ferocious, terrifying forms known as the wrathful deities. Though these hideous, hair-raising images seem contradictory to Buddhist ideals, they are not personifications of evil or demonic forces...

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