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Dalai Lama

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He's the Tibetian Spiritual Leader.

He is a Buddhist who has openly stated that there's no creator.

A contributor to the [message board] reports that the Dalai Lama said the following (Ed. When? Where?):

"Basically, religions may be divided into two groups. One group, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and some ancient Indian traditions, I call God religions. Their fundamental faith is in a Creator. The other group of religious tradition, including Jainism, Buddhism, I usually call godless religions. They do not believe in a Creator. But, of course, God is a sense of infinite love. The religions are not so different in this understanding. But God in the sense of Creator, something absolute, that is difficult to accept.

"According to some, godless religion is more effective; according to others, God religions are more effective. The position is individual; it is a matter of choice."

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Update (28-May-01): A reader writes in with some background describing how Buddhists (and presumably the Dalai Lama) think of gods:

"This is one of the fuzzy areas of Buddhism, and one that is hard to explain ... while there are 'gods' in most branches of Buddhism, they are not of the same stature as Yaweh, Allah, or even Zeus. They are not omnipotent, omniscient, nor worshipped in the Judeo-christian sense of the word. For most Buddhists, these have the same stature as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

"They are in some ways a role model or target behavior: Kwan Yin being a model for compassionate behavior in Chinese Buddhism, the various colors of Tara are models for healing, compassion or protective behavior in Tibetan. In this way, they are used during meditation as a focus point, almost a visual aid for guided visualization.

"They are also used as a symbolic way to talk about something by personifying it: Mara is the 'goddess' of evil and temptation but only for purposes of discussing evil as an abstraction or worldly force. Demons were used in old teaching tales to play the part of the undesireable behavior, and gods or minor dieties played the part of the good guys.

"Complicating things further, Buddhism usually grafted itself onto a healthy local culture with a strong shamanic tradition in the local religion. And because Buddhism has no 'one True God' requirement, the local religions and the gods of that culture usually persist in a slightly altered form. Among a local peasantry in most Buddhist areas you will find that they take the local gods and demons more seriously than urban Buddhists of the same area do. But because Buddhism emphasizes behaviors more than beliefs, if a Javanese village wants to have a ceremony to placate the Water Demon, they are not considered any less Buddhist for it."