XIV. Diversity among Religions: Buddhism

Buddhism stands out as a major example of a religion which challenges the tacit assumption that a religion is necessarily monotheistic. Buddhism is not a system of monotheistic belief, and even in those branches of Buddhism in which there is an emphatic commitment to the idea of the Buddha himself as a saviour, for example in the Jodoshu and Jodoshinshu Pure Land sects in Japan, this conception falls short of regarding the Buddha as a creator-god. Buddhism in general does not deny the existence and activity of a variety of gods, and whilst they may in some Buddhist sects be the object of veneration and propitiation, they are accorded no essential role in the scheme of things as set forth in Buddhist teachings, and are indeed, like humans, regarded as being subject to the laws of karma and reincarnation. To illustrate the character of Buddhism, a brief outline of the teachings of Theravada Buddhism, the Buddhism of Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia, which is generally regarded by western scholars as the oldest tradition, now follows.

XV. Theravada Buddhism