Mahayana Places of Worship

Followers of Mahayana see Shakyamuni Buddha, the Buddha of the scriptures and of our world system, as being available in a glorious heaven or in spiritual form, along with other Buddhas from different world systems and Bodhisattvas. This means that the Buddha(s) and Bodhisattvas are often petitioned through prayer and offerings. The temples and shrine rooms used for this are much the same as those of Theravadin Buddhists, but the philosophy behind Mahayana worship is slightly different.

The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is an often worshipped figure. He is a saviour figure, a being to imagine and related to, satisfying the emotions, he loves and protects and is loved, treated with devotion and worshiped. The Lotus Sutra states that calling upon him is worth thousands of prayers to any other Buddha or Bodhisattva. The mantra “om mani padme hum” is often used to pray to him.

In Pure Land Buddhism, the Buddha Amitabha (or Amida) is worshipped. Amitabha dwells in a paradisal, pure Buddhaland called Sukhavati. He used to be the bodhisattva Dharmakara, who out of compassion vowed he would create a pure land for all suffering beings. Adherents of Pure Land Buddhism believe that trusting devotion to Amitabha will mean he will take them to his pure land. Worship of Amitabha involves recitation of his name, often using beads to count, imagining his pure land and “singing his praises”.

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