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  • Writer's pictureFrank T Bird

Why Are Buddhists Worshipping All These Gods?

Its a fair question and one that deserves a decent answer

Buddhism has always had a reputation for being the most non-religious of the religions.

And when someone first delves into Buddhism, they see the Buddha practising Vipassana, where he increases his concentration and then applies that concentration to the atoms of his body to gain insight into their basis. Since people see scientists doing the same using microscopes, they often make the connection between the two, saying things like,

Buddhism is a science of the mind.

And yeah, it’s true. Buddhism could be seen as a science of the mind since it seeks to establish the basis of reality using the mind rather than scientific equipment as a vehicle.

Those science-minded people are often thrilled sitting around looking into their ghostly body particles. But then they start to read more and find out that the practice of particle analysis is only one method of thousands used in Buddhism.

Suddenly they look around and see a whole army of Buddhists worshipping what appear to be gods with hippopotamus heads and three hundred arms, in sexual union with beautiful or horrific consorts, and they think,

Damn, what is this shit? Maybe Buddhism isn’t a science of the mind.

For a moment, they might even think it’s like Scientology, where they work hard to get you through the front door with all the logical scientific stuff before showing you behind the curtain.

You know, where they get you to do a quiz which reveals all your deepest secrets before introducing you to the reality of Plutonian level 325-Z, where you have to cut off your Johnson and offer it to the reptilian god Plumshfunk who looks precisely like a thin, wrinkly Al Bundy.

And if you try to escape, they can threaten to reveal that you have herpes (since you wrote it down on question 131c) to your current wife, who, for twelve years, hasn’t found out since you have just been making non-horny excuses during your outbreak periods.

But Buddhism isn’t like that at all. Vipassana is not an entry point. It’s not a scientific lolly pop to get you through the front door.

It’s just one method out of many.

The Existence of the Heart Sutra renders everything in Buddhism a Method

I’m not going to go into the Heart Sutra. There are plenty of qualified teachers who can speak to you about that. But essentially, it says the ultimate truth is empty of even a single characteristic.

The Heart Sutra does not say that ultimate truth is beyond everything except for these deities.

Sure, it’s easy for someone to begin the practice and think that the deity is an actual entity that we should worship and that the deity is looking back at us and thanking us gratefully for the orchids sitting on the shrine and the chopped-up bowl of Snickers bars since Snickers are the deity’s absolute favourite.

But again, it’s not like that.

The goal of Buddhism is to realise and sustain the recognition of ultimate truth.

And ultimate truth, according to the Heart Sutra, has no qualities whatsoever, so how are we supposed to realise it, never mind sustain that recognition?

One way is through the practice of deity yoga.

It is said that devotion is the swiftest method to understand the ultimate truth. But if you have never realised ultimate truth, how can you fall in love with and have devotion to it? Especially given that no one can explain what it is since it has no qualities whatsoever.

It would be like trying to fall in love with chocolate without having ever seen or tasted it, but only by having someone explain it to you.

“Well, it’s brown and smooth. Sometimes it has nuts in it — ”

Erm, no thanks.

Deity yoga is ultimate truth dressed up in a form we can relate to.

Yes, the deity could look horrific or peaceful. But it generally takes the form of a being with arms and eyes. It’s a form that allows us to relate to it, fall in love and worship it because it seems more like us. It seems relatable.

By falling in love and worshipping the deity, we can eventually realise ultimate truth. At that point, there is no longer any need for the deity since you can fall in love with truth itself.

But why are there so many different deities?

Because we are all so damn different, that’s why.

Each deity is specific to your personality. What inspires you? What do you enjoy? My lad is in his twenties now, and he’s still a crazy emo. Growing up, he loved satan and vampires and all of that stuff. It would never work if I put a peaceful deity before him to worship. But it might be possible if he met one of the wrathful wisdom deities with their fangs dripping with blood, surrounded by fire and wearing garlands of skulls and the rest.

So when you see religious people worshipping deities or gods, don’t be so quick to judge. Deity yoga is a powerful method that plays on our human capacity for devotion, and it’s perfectly alright to worship the deity in a normal way in the beginning. In fact, it’s the point.

In Tibetan, the deity is referred to as the Yidam. And the Yidam is the dharma which are the teachings that lead to an understanding of ultimate truth.

There are no truly existing gods, no deities, just actual methods that can lead you into experiencing reality itself and from which point, you can worship the ultimate deity instead, which is the essential nature of your mind.

From that perspective, Buddhism is truly a science of the mind.


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