Buddhist Deities

Do Buddhists Believe in God?

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The teachings of the Buddha as well as 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.


In both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, Buddhas are those who have attained full enlightenment.

Amida Buddha

Amida Buddha is one of the Five Wisdom Buddhas.

Gautama Buddha (Shakyamuni)

The details of the Buddha's life are not known for certain, but most scholars are in agreement that he was an actual historical figure who lived in northern India around the 5th century BC.

Laughing Buddha/Future Buddha (Maitreya)

The celestial Buddha named Hotei or Pu-Tai is best known as the jolly Laughing Buddha.

Medicine Buddha/Healing Buddha

Medicine Buddha is the common nickname of Bhaisajyaguru, also known as the Master of Healing or the Buddha of healing.

Five Dhyani Buddhas

The Five Dhyani Buddhas, or Great Buddhas of Wisdom, are a central feature of Tibetan Buddhist belief and art.


Five Bodhisattvas of Compassion

In Mahayana Buddhism, bodhisattvas are those who are on the path to Enlightenment, but have not yet attained it and become buddhas.


Tara (Sanskrit, "star") is a Buddhist savior-goddess especially popular in Tibet, Nepal and Mongolia.

Tibetan Wrathful Deities

An enigmatic aspect of Tibetan Buddhist iconography is the presence of ferocious, terrifying forms known as the wrathful deities.

Chinese Buddhist Deities


Kuan Yin (also spelled Guan Yin, Kwan Yin) is the bodhisattva of compassion venerated by East Asian Buddhists.

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