10 Buddhist Gods. Know their sacred stories and myths

Let’s meet today the 10 most influential Buddhist Gods in this culture. All of them hide amazing stories and mysticism.

Buddha statue
Buddha Statue

Buddhist Gods

Most Buddhist gods, according to mythology can be found in almost all Buddhist monasteries and temples. Some play a more important role in a specific school of Tibetan Buddhism, while others share a similar importance in all schools. However, they all have in common that they are relatively easy to identify.

The Buddhist gods in the Buddhist pantheon have different meanings, forms and origins. These Buddhist gods exist as deities throughout the 6 realms of existence and thousands of world cycles. However, Buddhas and Buddhist gods should be considered mutually exclusive.

Generally speaking, there are several types of divinities that inhabit the spheres above and below the human realm. The most powerful are the Buddhist gods (devas and brahmas). In addition, there are other lower level divinities that can be found in the human realm such as nagas, kinnaras and garudas. Finally, the Dharmapala can dwell in the higher realms but also in hell.


1.- Shakyamuni Buddha

Buddha Shakyamuni Buddha is the historical Buddha, who lived around 600 BC and is considered the founder of the Buddhist religion. Depictions of Shakyamuni Buddha are usually sparsely decorated and show him scantily clad.

The hair is typically blue and the head is surrounded by an aura of enlightenment. He is depicted in a meditation posture (Dhyanasana) and with a begging bowl in his left hand.

Shakyamuni Buddha
Shakyamuni Buddha

The right hand touches the ground (a mudra called Bhumisparsa or “calling the earth to witness” = Buddha has called the earth as a witness to his inexorable path to enlightenment). His two favorite students flank him on his right and left side.

2.- Maitreya Buddha

He is the Buddha of the future. In Buddhism there are 5 “earthly” Buddhas, each associated with one of the 5 ages (Kala) of the world. Shakyamuni Buddha is the earthly Buddha of the fourth and present age. Maitreya Buddha is the last earthly Buddha, who is expected to appear during the 5th Kala. In his role as the great teacher of humanity, he will supposedly lead humanity back to Buddhism.

Maitreya is easily recognizable by his posture from – he sits in “European posture“, with both feet on the ground. From this position one can stand up and rise quickly – a symbol of what is to come.

maitreya buda statue
Maitreya Statue

On some occasions he is also depicted standing, biding his time. In addition, he usually wears a crown and is entwined with flowers. The associated mudra (hand gesture) is the Dharmacakra – the gesture representing the turning of the wheel of knowledge (in Buddhism, the wheel is also a symbol for teaching).

3.- Avalokiteshvara

Avalokiteshavara (Tibetan: Chenrezig) is the Buddhist of Compassion and patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who out of compassion do not go to Nirvana, but stay behind and help others to find salvation. The Dalai Lama is considered a manifestation of Avalokithesvara.


There are 108 (this is a sacred number in Tibetan Buddhism) different manifestations of Avalokiteshvara. However, the most common mode of representation is the one shown above, with 11 heads and 1000 arms. In the palms of each of the 1000 hands can be seen the eye of compassion.

Its main distinctive feature is Amitabha Buddha, represented on its crown or as the last face on top of the highest of its 11 heads.

4.- Manjushri

Manjushri is the Buddha of wisdom and literature. As expected, he has great significance for scholars and students, who call upon him and pray to him for gifts of knowledge and memory.


He is very easy to recognize thanks to his sword. The sword is a symbol of wisdom: with it the bonds of ignorance are cut. Another important symbol is the book at his side, resting on a lotus flower.

5.- Mahakala

Mahakala is among the “Defenders of the doctrine”. They are actually ghosts, demons and deities belonging to the ancient Tibetan tradition that have been converted or adapted from Padmasambhava (see below) to Buddhism. You can recognize them by their wrathful representations. Mahakala is equivalent to the Hindu deity Shiva.


Recognizing him is not always easy, as there are 75 different manifestations of Mahakala. However, he is usually standing. In the front left hand he holds a skull cup and in the right hand the Vajra blade, with which he cuts away all negative and materialistic attitudes.

In the two back hands he carries a tricorn and a toad. He wears a tiger skin and a belt made of heads, and stands on two smaller versions of himself. Mahakala has three eyes and wears a crown of five skulls representing the transformation of the mental poisons of hatred, greed, pride, envy and ignorance. These frightening attributes symbolize his tireless determination to redeem himself.

6.- Tara

Tara (Tibetan: Dolma) is a female Buddha. There are five variations of her: green, white, blue, red and yellow. She is considered a great protector who protects people against the eight greatest dangers in life: pride, delirium, anger, jealousy, wrong opinions, greed, desire and doubt.

Tara - Buddhist Gods

The Taras differ mainly by their different placement of the feet. For example, while the white Tara sits in meditation posture, the right foot of the green Tara rests on a small lotus flower. Also, in the white Tara, we can see the open eye of compassion on her forehead, palms and soles.

Other symbols we can find are the full-fledged white lotus (representing the day) or the closed blue lotus (representing the night). The hands, both palms outward, point in opposite directions: the right hand downward (a gesture of giving, granting), and the left hand upward (a gesture that gives protection).

7.- Padamsambhava

Padmasambhava (the lotus-born), also called Guru Rinpoche, is the historically tangible founder of Tibetan Buddhism. He is considered the founder of the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism, the Nyingma school, but is also of great importance to all other schools.

Padamsambhava - Buddhist Gods

There are eight different forms, the most common of which is quite easy to recognize: he is depicted seated with a special hat with upturned earflaps and a spring on top. Like almost no one else in Tibetan iconography.

Guru Rinpoche is portrayed with a beard. In his left hand he holds a skull full of blood and in his right hand the Vajra (Sanskrit: thunderbolt and/or diamond). With his left elbow he holds a magic wand, whose tip is usually a flaming trident.

8.- Palden Lhamo

Palden Lhamo is an ancient Tibetan guardian deity. She is the only female deity of the 8 Dharmapalas. She is venerated in particular by the yellow-hatted monks of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, and is considered the patron saint of Lhasa and the Dalai Lama. Also she is the wrathful manifestation of Tara.

This godness is depicted riding a mule through a sea of blood. She is black and blue, with sagging breasts, flaming eyebrows and mustache (J not very feminine). In her hand she carries a cup made from the skull of her son, who was the product of an incestuous act. She is also surrounded by the loops of a rope made from 15 severed heads. In her navel we can see a shining solar disk.

9.- Tsongkhapa

Tsongkhapa is also a documented historical figure. He is the founder of the last of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism: Gelug.

Tsongkhapa - Buddhist Gods

He is very easy to recognize – he wears the yellow hat reserved for the Gelugpa, his hands make the Dharmacakra-Mudra gesture (The Spinning Wheel of Doctrine), and on his right and left sides we can find, respectively, the sword (a symbol of wisdom) and the book, supported by two lotus flowers.

10.- Vajrapani

Vajrapani is the Bodhisattva of power, one of the three main protective deities surrounding the Buddha, and is often represented together with the other two: Avalokiteshvara (compassion) and Manjushri (wisdom).

Vajrapani - Buddhist Gods

He is usually depicted as a wrathful Dharmapala. He wears a crown and a tiger skin, and has a lasso in his left hand with which he captures and binds the opponents of Buddhism. In his right hand he carries the Vajra (Tibetan: Dorje). His figure is surrounded by flames.


Although quite powerful, one thing these various Buddhist gods have in common is that they have not attained the ultimate goal: Nirvana. As such, these Buddhist gods are higher life forms than ours in the human realm, but they are not Buddhas.

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