The Buddha was born a prince. His mother died soon after giving birth to him. So there is no claim of divinity of any kind. He was an ordinary man with ordinary problems just like you and me. And therefore he is not a god. Nor should he be worshipped as such.
Buddhist iconography was something which arose after his death. And temples are not places of worship. Both of these are created to help us understand his teaching, the dharma, which is we alone can liberate ourselves from unhappiness through attention to the nature of one’s body and mind.
This then means that Buddhism is not about faith but practice. The practice espoused was to look after the mind as much as we look after our body. This Buddhists do through meditation. Meditation does not have any special powers as such but only allows one to focus the mind to see clearly what the mind and body are. Some kind of basic understanding is necessary of course, but essentially it is that everything is impermanent, without self and suffering. Nothing including Buddhism lasts forever. That includes the self which many people cling on to. The self is an illusion. And that is perhaps the greatest of all roots of our suffering. Understand that this is what existence is then we can proceed to find the happiness which does not diminish.
To be honest I haven’t been meditating much if at all lately. And many of you (Buddhists and non-Buddhists) may ask what is so important about meditation. So here is my personal answer:
We train and get our bodies into shape, improve our senses through honing skills but rarely do think of the mind as something which needs exercise, training and perfecting.
Top athletes probably can tell you that mental training is necessary but rarely do they talk about it outside of the sport. Their mental training is on the court or field but beyond the boundaries.
Buddhism on the other hand says there is no separation between practice on the cushion and practice off it. There is nothing special about meditation expect it is a delibrate act to train the mind, to get it as fit and ready as possible for the coming enlightenment.
I do not know if this makes sense but that is what I have come to understand after long years as a Buddhist.
But just remember, I didn’t say I was a good Buddhist.
I used to meditate at night because it was the only time I could do it … or at least that was the excuse I gave myself. Actually while I was at Bukkokuji Temple in Obama, Fukui the routine was to meditate once in the morning (twice during winter) and three times at night. So my belief for a long time was that night meditation is the best.
But this is simply not true.
For lay people a morning session is usually the best because it is the time when we have least to do, less rushed by life. It is also quiet as everyone is still asleep and therefore one can concentrate better. One is also fresh from rest.
At the Temple as monks one can concentrate because that is the life monks have chosen, to devote their lives to save all others. Lay people do not have this “luxury”.