Is Buddhism a Monotheistic or Polytheistic Religion? 5 Interesting Facts

Is Buddhism a Monotheistic or Polytheistic Religion? 5 Interesting Facts

When you think of monotheism, what springs to mind? Most people think of the major religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. 

So, where does Buddhism fit in — is it monotheistic or polytheistic? It turns out that Buddhism isn’t that predictable.

To avoid any misconceptions, here’s what you need to know to answer this fundamental question about this profound philosophical tradition:

Also known as Buddha Dharma, Buddhism is more than the teachings of the Buddha. It’s also the practice of the teachings and the attainment of enlightenment.

What Is Monotheism?

“Mono” means one and “theism” is defined as the belief in the existence of a supreme being or beings. So monotheism is the belief in the existence of one god. 

A monotheistic religion believes that a single omniscient god created the world and has the power to intervene, if necessary. Christianity, for example, is a monotheistic religion.

A polytheistic religion (“poly” means many), on the other hand, is a religion that believes in the existence of many gods or deities. One of the most well-known and widespread polytheistic religions is Hinduism.

monk walking on the beach

Is Buddhism Polytheistic Or Monotheistic?

Buddhism is neither polytheistic nor monotheistic. It’s a non-theistic religion, meaning that it has no official God or deity. 

Buddha was and is an important figure in Buddhism, but he was not a god or deity. (In fact, he was a man named Siddhārtha Gautama.) The Buddha is a state of highest consciousness that anyone can reach, according to some branches of Buddhism. You, too, can awaken to the nature of reality and liberate yourself from suffering.

These details are important if you’re exploring how to practice Buddhism

Who was Buddha?

Siddhārtha Gautama was a man born in Lumbini, Nepal between 563 – 480 BCE. He studied under many sages of the age, learning meditation, yoga, and how to harness the power of his mind. He attained enlightenment at the age of 35 after meditating for 49 days beneath a Bodhi tree.

After becoming enlightened, he traveled and taught all those he could. He died at the age of 80, leaving many great teachings behind, such as Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold Path.   

What gods do Buddhists believe In?

As a matter of fact, there are no gods or deities in the Buddhist religion. If you wonder who monks pray to and what statues and figures in Buddhist temples represent, they are holy figures called “bodhisattvas.” Like the Buddha, these figures are not divine, but holy. 

Bodhisattvas were beings so wise that they were able to access nirvana, the state beyond all suffering. But out of compassion, they delayed their attainment of nirvana to stay on Earth and teach others how to become enlightened. 

Green Tara, White Tara, Kuan Yin, Manjushri, and Avalokitesvara are one of the most popular bodhisattvas seen in Buddhist temples.

monk praying

Do Buddhists Pray?

Buddhists do not worship a god. Instead of praying, they practice chants, mantras, and meditations. It’s called a devotional practice.

Some Buddhist practices do involve a prayer as a form of self-exploration or an effort to spread loving kindness, what Buddhists call Metta.

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Call it enlightenment, self-actualization, or self-transcendence, the path toward liberation can’t be defined by only five major religions. It’s your unique journey of awakening your divine essence — your inner greatness that you can embody as a human being.

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Written by
Irina Yugay