Buddhism, Taoism And Confucianism Essay, Research Paper
There are many similarities and differences between the three religions of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. While researching this paper, I came across this quote from an unknown source that stated, “No civilization is monochrome. In China the classical tones of Confucianism have been balanced not only by the spiritual shades of Buddhism, but also by the romantic hues of Taoism”. As each religion is surmised the similarities and differences between them will be revealed.
Buddhism is the religions of about 400 million people in the Orient. Buddhism accepts some Hindu ideas and rejects others. It retained the ideas of Karma and re-incarnation of souls. The Buddhist movement began during the sixth century B.C. with Siddhartha Gautama, as its founder. He is known as the Buddha. Buddhism has its emphasis on seeing Truth, on knowing it and on understanding it. The emphasis does not depend on blind faith. Buddhism allows each member to study and observe the Truth internally and it requires no blind faith before acceptance. Buddhism advocates no dogmas, no creeds, no rites, no ceremonies, no sacrifices, and no penances, all of which must usually be accepted on blind faith. Buddhism is not a system of faith and worship but it is a path to enlightenment.
The Buddha referred to his teaching as a raft leaving the shore of suffering and impermanence needed to get to the other shore of bliss and safety or Nirvana. The raft is no longer needed upon reaching the shore of Nirvana. The Buddha’s enlightenment concerned the causes and cessation of suffering. The Buddha referred to his teaching as the Middle Path, because it avoids the extremes of both self-indulgence and of self-mortification. The path he taught incorporates both intellectual and spiritual progress with the practice that reflects compassion, morality, wisdom and concentration while seeing and understanding the world of existence as it really is.
The aim of living this path is to reach Nirvana. Nirvana is the goal of walking down this path, as well as the end, it is permanent bliss. The Eightfold Noble Path of Buddhism is the means to achieving Nirvana. The Noble path consists of eight very specific courses of action activities that if followed simultaneously help to realize the goal of Nirvana. The first part of the path consists of the Four Noble Truths. These Noble Truths appear obvious and simple, however, some need much more emphasis than others. The four noble truths and the eight-fold path contain common insight to the problems of living and how to live in dealing with these problems. The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are listed below:
1. Dukkha – Life is suffering
III. Old age
IV. Fear of approaching death
V. Separation from what one loves
VI. Stuck with what one hates
2. Tanha – Suffering is caused by desire
3. Nirvana – The cure for suffering is the removal of desire
4. Magga – The Eightfold Path is the way to Nirvana
I. Right Knowledge
i. Understand the Four Noble Truths
II. Right Thinking
i. Decide to set a life on the correct path
III. Right Speech
i. Don’t lie
ii. Don’t criticize others unjustly
iii. Don’t use harsh language
iv. Don’t gossip
IV. Right Conduct
i. Follow the Five Precepts
1. Do not kill
2. Do not steel
3. Do not lie
4. Do not de unchaste
5. Do not take drugs or drink alcohol
V. Right Livelihood
i. Earn a living that does not harm living things
VI. Right Effort
i. Conquer all evil thoughts
ii. Strive to maintain good thoughts
VII. Right Mindfulness
i. Become intensely aware of all the states in body, feeling, and mind.
VIII. Right Concentration
i. Deep meditation to lead to a higher state of consciousness (enlightenment)
Buddhism sets forth a way of getting rid of the cycle of rebirth and reaching Nirvana. Buddhism therefore becomes a philosophy or religion of self-achievement.
Buddhism is divided into three major groups. These groups are called vehicles, The Lesser Vehicle or Hinayana school, The Great Vehicle or the Mahayana school and the Diamond Vehicle or Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism. The Hinayana school emphasizes personal rather than collective liberation. It is also called the Theravada school of thought. The Mahayanists strongly emphasize compassion as the ultimate form of practice. Zen Buddhism has become the most popular of form of Mahayana Buddhism. The third group, Tantric Buddhism is a scion of the Mahayana teaching and spread to Tibet. It involves esoteric visualizations, rituals and mantras.
Outside of Confucianism, Taoism is probably the most important and influential. School of thought native to China. In almost direct contract to the gravity and social responsibilities of Confucian ideals the Taoist prize contemplation of the natural world. Taoist often ignores worldly affairs and society in order to bring themselves into harmony with the flow of nature and embrace the Tao or “Way”.
Lao Tse, the old master or founder of Taoism was a contemporary of Confucius. Stories tell of a meeting between the two religious founders. Lao Tse was an archivist in the Imperial Library. It is unclear whether Lao Tse summoned Confucius or Confucius asked to meet with Lao Tse to ask questions about information contained in the archives. The accounts differ however, Mr. Leporati wrote “that at least one meeting between the two philosophical giants with Confucius coming away perplexed and somewhat in awe of his elder, comparing Lao Tse to a ‘Dragon who flies among the clouds’”. Mr. Leporati goes on to say that at the age of 160 Lao Tse “decided to resign his position as keeper of the archives for the court of Chou and retire to peace, solitude and contemplation. As he departed, a gatekeeper implored the sage to please compose a book coalescing his teachings so that they would not perish when Lao Tse withdrew from the world.”8 This is why Lao Tse wrote the Tao Te Chino or Book of the Way and its Virtue. It is comprised of only 5,000 characters and contains 81 short poems pertaining to the meaning and way of Tao.
The most common graphic representation of Taoist theology is the circular Yin Yang figure. It represents the balance of opposites in the universe. Taoists believe that when they are equally present it is calm. When one is out weighed by the other there is confusion and lack of harmony. The way of life that Taoist achieves after union with the Tao is often represent by a kind of passiveness with an absence of strife and coercion. Their manner of living appears to be completely effortless, fee of deceit and entirely spontaneous.
Confucianism dwells upon the orderly world of mundane human life and interaction. Confucianism, is often referred to as the Religion of Humanity, it is primarily concerned with achieving inner peace and a profound understanding through morality. Confucius had one overwhelming message: if we are to achieve a state of orderliness and peace, we need to return to traditional values of virtue.9 The values that Confucius taught about were based entirely upon “Jen”, being human. There are three universal virtues in Confucianism: wisdom, being human, and courage. These virtues govern behavior in all relationships. Confucius concluded that there were Five Universal Relationships and if they are lived according to the above virtues a harmonious society will result. The Five Relations are: ruler and minister, father and son, husband and wife, elder and younger brothers, and friend and friend. As Dr. Lin Osborne stated in The Vision of World Religions, Volume Two, about the three universal virtues is “they are practiced as one. Some are born with the knowledge of these virtues. Some learn it through study. Some learn it through hard work. But when the knowledge is acquired, it comes to the same thing.”
Both Taoism and Confucianism have had great influence on Chinese culture. The both seem to share the idea of the Tao or “way” with different approaches. Confucianism is much better in its approach to humanism. Taoism seems to lack reason of the Tao and why it should be followed. Confucianism deals with the harmony of society as a whole and Taoism deals with the harmonizing of the individual. The goal of the Taoist is to merge with the Tao and to become immortal. The goal of the Confucian is to become wise. These religions need the contribution of Buddhism to round them out. Confucianism leaves out the answers to the after life and the existence of God and in Taoism the Tao is not personal and its followers never worship the Tao. In Buddhism the cycle of existence shown by birth, suffering, old age, sickness and death ultimately leads to the liberation from suffering.