Cultural review: the role and status of the deities in Tibetan Buddhist practice
Keywords:deities, enlightened beings, role, status, Tibetan Buddhism
In the Tibetan Buddhist context, a pantheon of deities is recognized to be a legitimate refuge. The question of why the status of the deities has become, over the long history of Buddhism in Tibet, equal to the Triratna is not easy to answer. This paper investigates the role and status of deities in Tibetan Buddhist practice. The finding suggests that the status and role of the Tibetan deities are connected to the Tulku tradition and the Trik?ya system. The deities exist in two classes: the class of enlightened beings and the class of non-enlightened beings. They constitute the Sambhogak?ya in the Trik?ya system. Externally, the deities of both classes are involved with their worshippers socially and spiritually as providers of wealth and security, as teachers, protectors, guardians, advisers and even as a kind of refuge. Internally, the status and roles of the deities are concerned with internal spiritual attainment.
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