Buddhism: gods/devas and devils/demons just no creator nor personal god?

Buddhist thought consistently rejects the notion of a creator deity. It teaches the concept of gods, heavens and rebirths in its Saṃsāra doctrine, but it considers none of these gods as a creator. Buddhism posits that mundane deities such as Mahabrahma are misconstrued to be a creator. Brahmā is a leading god (deva) and heavenly king in Buddhism. He was adopted from other Indian religions such as Hinduism that considered him a protector of teachings (dharmapala), and he is never depicted in early Buddhist texts as a creator god. In Buddhist tradition, it was the deity Brahma Sahampati who appeared before the Buddha and urged him to teach, once the Buddha attained enlightenment but was unsure if he should teach his insights to anyone. Brahma is a part of the Buddhist cosmology, and lords over the heavenly realm of rebirth called the Brahmaloka – the most sought after realm for afterlife and reincarnation in Buddhist traditions. Brahma is generally represented in Buddhist culture as a god with four faces and four arms, and variants of him are found in both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist cultures.

The origins of Brahma in Buddhism and other Indian religions are uncertain, in part because several related words such as one for metaphysical Ultimate Reality (Brahman), and priest (Brahmin) are found in the Vedic literature. According to KN Jayatilleke, the Rigveda expresses skepticism about major deities such as Indra whether he even exists,as well as whether the universe has any creator and can this ever be known, as evidenced in its eighth and tenth book, particularly in its Nasadiya Sukta. The late Vedic hymns had begun inquiring the nature of true and valid knowledge, empirical verification and absolute reality. The early Upanishads built upon this theme, while in parallel there emerged Buddhism, Jainism and other skeptical traditions. Buddhism used the term Brahma to deny a creator as well as to delegate him (and other deities such as Indra) as less important than the Buddha.

In Hindu literature, one of the earliest mention of deity Brahma with Vishnu and Shiva is in the fifth Prapathaka (lesson) of the Maitrayaniya Upanishad, probably composed in late 1st millennium BCE, after the rise of Buddhism. The spiritual concept of Brahman is far older, and some scholars suggest deity Brahma may have emerged as a personal conception and icon with attributes (saguna version) of the impersonal universal principle called Brahman. The Buddhists attacked the concept of Brahma, states Gananath Obeyesekere, and thereby polemically attacked the Vedic and Upanishadic concept of gender neutral, abstract metaphysical Brahman. This critique of Brahma in early Buddhist texts aim at ridiculing the Vedas, but the same texts simultaneously call metta (loving-kindness, compassion) as the state of union with Brahma. The early Buddhist approach to Brahma was to reject any creator aspect, while retaining the Brahmavihara aspects of Brahma, in the Buddhist value system. Deity Brahma is also found in the samsara doctrine and cosmology of early Buddhism. Brahma (梵天) is known as Phra Phrom in Thai, Pomch’on in Korean, Fantian in Chinese, Tshangs pa in Tibetan and Bonten in Japanese.

According to Buddhologist Richard Hayes, the early Buddhist Nikaya literature treats the question of the existence of a creator god “primarily from either an epistemological point of view or a moral point of view”. In these texts the Buddha is portrayed not as a creator-denying atheist who claims to be able to prove such a God’s nonexistence, but rather his focus is other teachers’ claims that their teachings lead to the highest good. Citing the Devadaha Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 101), Hayes states, “while the reader is left to conclude that it is attachment rather than God, actions in past lives, fate, type of birth or efforts in this life that is responsible for our experiences of sorrow, no systematic argument is given in an attempt to disprove the existence of God.” ref, ref

According to Peter Harvey, Buddhism assumes that the universe has no ultimate beginning to it, and thus sees no need for a creator God. In the early texts of Buddhism, the nearest term to this concept is “Great Brahma” (MahaBrahma) such as in Digha Nikaya 1.18. However “[w]hile being kind and compassionate, none of the brahmās are world-creators.” According to Harvey, “[a]fter a long period, the three lowest form heavens appear, and a Streaming Radiance god dies and is reborn there as a Great Brahmā.” Then “other Streaming Radiance gods die and happen to be reborn, due to their karma, as his ministers and retinue.” The retinue erroneously believes Mahabrahma created them. When one of these ministers “eventually dies and is reborn as a human, he develops the power to remember his previous life, and consequently teaches that Great Brahmā is the eternal creator of all beings.” The 5th-century Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu argued that a creator’s singular identity is incompatible with creating the world in his Abhidharmakosha. The Chinese monk Xuanzang (fl. c. 602–664) studied Buddhism in India during the seventh century, staying at Nalanda. There, he studied the Yogacara teachings passed down from Asanga and Vasubandhu and taught to him by the abbot Śīlabhadra. In his work Cheng Weishi Lun (Skt. Vijñāptimātratāsiddhi śāstra), Xuanzang refutes a “Great Lord” or Great Brahmā doctrine:

“According to one doctrine, there is a great, self-existent deity whose substance is real and who is all-pervading, eternal, and the producer of all phenomena. This doctrine is unreasonable. If something produces something, it is not eternal, the non-eternal is not all-pervading, and what is not all-pervading is not real. If the deity’s substance is all-pervading and eternal, it must contain all powers and be able to produce all dharmas everywhere, at all times, and simultaneously. If he produces dharma when a desire arises, or according to conditions, this contradicts the doctrine of a single cause. Or else, desires and conditions would arise spontaneously since the cause is eternal. Other doctrines claim that there is a great Brahma, a Time, a Space, a Starting Point, a Nature, an Ether, a Self, etc., that is eternal and really exists, is endowed with all powers, and is able to produce all dharmas. We refute all these in the same way we did the concept of the Great Lord.”[ref]

The 7th-century Buddhist scholar Dharmakīrti advances a number of arguments against the existence of a creator god in his Pramāṇavārtika, following in the footsteps of Vasubandhu. Later Mahayana scholars such as Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla continued this tradition. The 11th-century Buddhist philosopher Ratnakīrti at the then university at Vikramashila (now Bhagalpur, Bihar) criticized the arguments for the existence of God-like being called Isvara, that emerged in the Navya-Nyaya sub-school of Hinduism, in his “Refutation of Arguments Establishing Īśvara” (Īśvara-sādhana-dūṣaṇa). These arguments are similar to those used by other sub-schools of Hinduism and Jainism that questioned the Navya-Nyaya theory of dualistic creator. ref

A Basic Buddhism Guide: Buddhism and the God-idea – BuddhaNet


Buddhism is a religion with a philosophy.
So some take both some only the philosophy. I have two recorded videos with Asian ex-buddhists now atheists living in Buddhism majority Asian countries both clearly stating that all such Asian countries with Buddhism see it as a religion. They said that it’s westerners who say it is not a religion wishing only for the philosophy, and even then they cherry pick the philosophy too (a Buddhism grab bag). Here is one of those videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNFX1XhjPIU&t=3s
 
 
Unacknowledged Buddhism: Gods, Savior, Demons, Rebirth, Heavens, Hells, and Terrorism: http://damienmarieathope.com/2016/03/unacknowledged-buddhism-gods-savior-rebirth-demons-heavens-hells-and-terrorism/
 
If Buddhism is just a philosophy, why does it have a punishing Hell?: http://damienmarieathope.com/2017/04/buddhism-is-not-just-a-philosophy-why-does-it-have-a-punishing-hell/
 
If Buddhism is just a philosophy, why does it have gods like polytheistic deism; “without asserting any deities created the universe”: http://damienmarieathope.com/2017/04/buddhism-has-gods-like-polytheistic-deism-without-asserting-any-deities-created-the-universe/
 
If Buddhism is just a philosophy, why does Zen Buddhism seem to relate with some concept of god?
 
Zen master Sokei-an says:
[D]harmakaya [is] the equivalent of God … The Buddha also speaks of no time and no space, where if I make a sound there is in that single moment a million years. It is spaceless like radio waves, like electric space – intrinsic. The Buddha said that there is a mirror that reflects consciousness. In this electric space a million miles and a pinpoint – a million years and a moment – are exactly the same. It is pure essence … We call it ‘original consciousness’ – ‘original akasha – perhaps God in the Christian sense. I am afraid of speaking about anything that is not familiar to me. No one can know what IT is (Sokei-an 1993, pp. 142, 146).
The same Zen adept, Sokei-an, further comments:
The creative power of the universe is not a human being; it is Buddha. The one who sees, and the one who hears, is not this eye or ear, but the one who is this consciousness. This One is Buddha. This One appears in every mind. This One is common to all sentient beings, and is God (Sokei-an 1993, p. 41).
Sokei-an (1993). The Zen Eye: A Collection of Zen Talks by Sokei-an. Weatherhill. ISBN 978-0-8348-0272-8.

 
Buddhism is a religion with a philosophy.
So some take both some only the philosophy, but yes, Buddhism is a religion and it does have gods.