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Posted on Thursday, August 17 - 2006

" (Source: The Wheel Publication No. 402/404, ISBN 955-24-0126-7, Buddhist Publication Society  P.O. Box 61, 54  Sangharaja Mawatha Kandy, Sri Lanka ) Copyright © 1995 A.G.S. Kariyawasam Deva Worship: Besides the ceremonies and rituals like pirit, sanghika-dana,kathina, etc..."

(Source: The Wheel Publication No. 402/404, ISBN 955-24-0126-7, Buddhist Publication Society  P.O. Box 61, 54  Sangharaja Mawatha Kandy, Sri Lanka ) Copyright © 1995 A.G.S. Kariyawasam

Deva Worship: Besides the ceremonies and rituals like pirit, sanghika-dana,kathina, etc., that can be traced in their origin to the time of the Buddha himself, there is another popular practice resorted to by the average Sri Lankan Buddhist which cannot be traced to early Buddhism so easily. This is deva-worship, the worship of deities, in what are popularly called devalayas or abodes dedicated to these deities. This practice cannot be described as totally un-Buddhistic, yet at the same time it does not fall into the category of folk religious practices like bali and tovil adopted by popular Buddhism.

The word deva, meaning "god" or "deity" in this context, signifies various classes of superhuman beings who in some respects are superior to ordinary human beings through their birth in a higher plane. As such, they are capable of helping human beings in times of difficulty. There is also another class of such superior beings who were originally extraordinary human beings. After their death, they have been raised to the level of gods and are worshipped and supplicated as capable of helping in times of need. These are the gods by convention (sammuti-deva) or glorified human heroes like the Minneriya Deviyo, who was glorified in this manner in recognition of his construction of the great Minneriya Tank at Polonnaruwa, or God Vibhishana, one of the four guardian deities of Sri Lanka. Both these categories of deities are, however, subject to the samsaric laws pertaining to birth and death. Thus it is seen that deva-worship is based on the theory that a superior being can help an inferior being when the latter needs such help. In addition to their role as helpers in need, an additional duty ascribed to the devas is the safeguarding of the Buddha-sasana, i.e., the Buddhist religion...

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