Student’s Question: What is the meaning of worship in Buddhism?

A Student asks about worship in Buddhism

A student asks: 

“I feel that in Tibetan Buddhism there is a worshipping of the Buddha and other deities – do you think that I have misunderstood things?

I thought that the Buddha emphasised that he didn’t want people to follow him, even less worship him. So why do we seem to follow that practice?”


The Buddha taught his followers for fifty years. He took great care of his followers. He said that those who see the Dharma see me, those who see me see the Dharma. Some Westerners like to say that he did not want to be worshiped like a god as if somehow this meant he was against worship as a spiritual practice.

What he meant was that gods are still subject to life and death, so don’t worship gods. Worship the truth that goes beyond life and death, and that truth is the truth that the Buddha realises. He discouraged his followers to pray to him for worldly success and asked them to focus instead on following the path to liberation.

So it’s important to always link that sense of opening one’s heart to the Buddha to the Heart Wish for Awakening. That is what worship means really – being very open and full of awe and inspiration, wanting to be like the Buddha.

Each week Lama Shenpen answers a student’s question. The students are studying her Living the Awakened Heart Training –  the distance study courses in Buddhist meditation, reflection and insight. Find out more about the training that helps us to uncover our ‘Buddha Within’ at: