I've encountered many ideas about the identity of God, ranging from the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent as in Judeo-Christian cultures, to that of one who has reached enlightenment. Is it suggested that Buddha is God or that Buddha is one who has attained enlightenment, leaving breadcrumbs behind for others to follow and that another being is God. Or does Buddhism reject God? Or something else that I'm missing?
For Buddhism, If you define God as someone who created the world, God does not exist.
But if you define the God as someone who is superior to other beings, then god exist.
However, such a god exists only for a period of time, then one day the god will go down to another level (I mean rebirth) as an angel or human.
The Lord Buddha is not a God.
In Tripitaka, there is a lesson about how the world is created and how god came to exists.
In Theravada, the gods are less important, and if they exist, are subject to all the same problems we are, being mortal, petty, flawed, etc.
In Mayahayana, the Buddhas have a lot of the qualities you mentioned. But a Christian might also object to the Mayahana goal which is to become a god (if a god is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent). This is a huge difference with say Christianity, where people in heaven don't get their own pure land or become a god themselves.
In Vajrayana, many Hindu deities were imported (many were imported into Theravada and Mahayana) but were give larger roles (and a Buddhist twist).
What you don't find in Buddhism in general, except for maybe Shin Buddhism and some of the other Pure Land Buddhisms, is an all powerful, intercessionary God, that mostly is an object of devotion.
There is a sowewhat long article in Wikipedia on this regard.
But Buddhists don't see Buddha as God. Buddha is more like a saint, as there are may Buddhas. They attained enlightenment in a specific way, so they are considered as so. Monks attain enlightenment but they aren't Buddhas, besides they say everyone has the nature of Buddha in ourselves.
Now God is something that is not very thought/talked/taught about in Buddhism. God isn't accepted or denied, but we rather don't conjecture about supernatural things or beings. We don't identify God as we can't perceive him or it, as we can perceive other people.
But there are the deities is Buddhism as seen on the Six Domains of Samsara. They aren't supernatural begins, but a fleeting state of the life. For example, when people win the lottery, initially they are very happy and taking advantage of all the money they won. But this mental state doesn't last long, it goes away in one or two years, they cycle to other domains. Another example is when we buy some new smartphone or car, we are very happy and proud and full of energy (we feel as gods) in the first days or weeks, but all this excitation disappears (we migrate to other realms or domains). So being a god is feeling like one, but feelings change sooner or later.
There is no “God” in Buddhism. The idea of (capital G) “God” — one single being who created the universe — is from Abrahamic religion. There is not one of anything in Buddhism. There is not even just one Buddha. And the universe has no beginning and no end.
So Buddhism doesn’t describe “God” at all.
If the "God" you are referring to is "The almighty" in Christianity or something similar Lord Buddha dumped the belief that life itself was made by a single being in a form of a creation.
Lord Buddha clearly accepted his own form of evolution which start from basic life (Very similar to what you learn about evolution of early earth's basic life).Lord Buddha clearly said that universe is a creation of very natural events and it is not a creation of a being,Lord Buddha didn't stop there he went on to explain how he tried to learn about the beginning.It's what we call today the "coming to existence".Lord Buddha said that universe itself is immensely old and trying to find a beginning would be a fruitless effort.
Once some one asked the very question you are asking "Is lord Buddha a god?". Lord Buddha replied saying "Because of my understanding i am above everyone else and i am only equal to another Lord Buddha,No i am not a god i am above them"
The gods mentioned in Buddhism are not like gods in other religions.Here is a small list of details.
- Live extremely long (From 1/2 a million years to many millenniums)
- Can fast travel anywhere in the universe in few milliseconds
- Immensely powerful
- Do not get old (But even they have a life expectancy)
These advanced beings are not alien to earth,thousands reside in earth and in many other planets.They have two genders Male and Female.And anyone human can become one of them by gaining enough good karma.
Lord Buddha clearly said that there are no souls,these is no owner to life,there is no creator,there is no forgiving (Like they do in churches) and there is no one looking down on living beings to punish or reward them.
It is safe to say Lord Buddha slammed the theory of a "Almighty God".
The reason Lord Buddhas are born is to help others reach nirvana (it is not a place or an existence,but a level of understanding that unlocks everything about universe).
Buddhism completely reject the common concept of "God".
The Gods in Buddhism did not received the title "God" by lord Buddha.Later when people were translating Buddhism to English they used the word "God" because of the many similarities.They are originally called "Deva".And the heaven mentioned in Buddhism is originally called "Divya Realm", the hell heaven mentioned in Buddhism is originally called "Naraka / Apaya".
This might be a little hurtful but Lord Buddha had something to say about the people called "Sons / Daughters of gods","Prophets of gods".Lord Buddha said that there is a world in "Deva realm" or the so called "Heaven", in it is a dominating king who controls the universe's beings.He only like loyalty towards him and he destroy the ones who go against him.It is his and his army's duty to keep it all under his command until the successor to the throne arrives,When he comes he will do the same.This position is so powerful he even challenged lord Buddha,Lord Buddha accepted the challenge and won it.It was the moment of greatness,the moment lord Buddha became the enlightened.
Lord Buddha said if people come to the path mentioned in Buddhism this king will loose his influence over them so he do many things to stop it.One of which is selecting individuals in times with less understanding about things and teach them false beliefs and ask for their loyalty and expansion of these beliefs.
This king is called "Maara".And to learn more about "Deva realm /Heaven" click on this link
This is about how lord Buddha described himself and his understanding...
This is about the fate of the mankind.A very special teaching of lord Buddha.
If you have any questions regarding the answer or about the contents of the links please leave a comment below this answer.
May Triple Gems Bless You.
When if comes to the Buddhist concept of God (Deva) the main characteristics differentiating them from similar concepts in other religions is:
- They are not all mighty but subjected to the cosmic order just like every on else
- They are a finite life span as as per Theravada Buddhist cosmology. (Also see: Buddhist cosmology for more generic discussion)
- They do not exercise absolute control over others or any world system as every one is cosmic order and world systems are governed by the laws of cosmology
- There are many gods (devas) in each plane of existence
- There are many heavens (planes of existence)
Also see: God in Buddhism