Sinhalese Buddhists state that their religion was founded by the Buddha, who was a human being and is now dead. Cognitively this position is held by every Buddhist from the most learned monk to the most ignorant layman. Yet they usually behave as if the Buddha appears to them as a powerful and omnibenevolent god, a supreme being who is still in some way present and aware. (Perhaps we might say that cognitively the Buddha is dead, but affectively he is alive.) For instance, if assailed by dangerous demons a pious Buddhist will recite the qualities of the Buddha and thus keep any malevolent forces at bay. If asked to explain the apparent inconsistency, Buddhists say that the gods and demons are restrained by respect for the Buddha—but it is respect for his memory or for his doctrine, not for his active power. Moreover, Buddhists have dealings with the Buddha in which they behave as if he were at least numinously present; in particular, offerings are made before statues of the Buddha.

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