Taoism And Buddism Taoism and Buddhism are the two great philosophical and religious traditions that originated in China. Taoism began the sixth century BCE. And Buddhism came to China from India around the second century of the Common Era. These two religions have shaped Chinese life and thought for nearly twenty-five hundred years. One dominant concept in Taoism and Buddhism is the belief in some form of reincarnation.
The idea that life does not end when one die is an integral part of these religions and the culture of the Chinese people. Reincarnations, life after death, and beliefs are not standardized. Each religion has a different way of applying this concept to its beliefs. This paper will discuss the reincarnation concepts as they apply to Taoism and Buddhism, and then provide a comparison of both. Taoism The goal in Taoism is to achieve Tao, to find the Way.
Tao is the ultimate reality, a presence that existed before the universe was formed and which continues to guide the world and everything in it. Tao is sometimes identified as the Mother, or the source of all things. That source is not a god or a Supreme Being, as Taoism is not monotheistic. The focus is not to worship one god, but instead to come into harmony with Tao. Tao is the essence of everything that is right, and complications exist only because people choose to complicate their own lives.
Desire, ambition, fame, and selfishness are seen as hindrances to a harmonious life. One can only achieve Tao if he rids himself of all desires. By shunning every earthly distraction, the Taoist is able to concentrate on the self. The longer the person’s life, the more saintly the person is presumed to become. Eventually the hope is to become immortal, to achieve Tao, to reach the deeper life.
This is the after life for a Taoist, to be in harmony with the universe, and to have achieved Tao. The origin of the word Tao can explain the relationship between life, and the Taoism concept of life and death. The Chinese character for Tao is a combination of two characters that represent the words as head and foot. The character for foot represents the idea of a person’s direction or path. The character for head represents the idea of conscious choice.
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The character for head also suggests a beginning, and foot, an ending. Thus the character for Tao also conveys the continuing course of the universe, the circle of heaven and earth. Finally, the character for Tao represents the Taoist idea that the eternal Tao is both moving and unmoving. The head in the character means the beginning, the source of all things, or Tao itself, which never moves or changes; the foot is the movement on the path. Taoism upholds the belief in the survival of the spirit after death. Taoist believes birth is not a beginning, and death is not an end.
There is an existence without limit. There is continuity without a starting point. Applying reincarnation theory to Taoism is the belief that the soul never dies, a person’s soul is eternal. In the writings of the Lao-Tzu Te-Tao Ching, Tao is described as having existed before heaven and earth. Tao is formless, it stands alone without change and reaches everywhere without harm.
The Taoist is told to use the light that is inside to revert to the natural clearness of sight. By divesting oneself of all external distractions and desires, only then can one achieve Tao. In ancient days a Taoist that had transcended birth and death, achieved Tao, was said to have cut the Thread of Life. In Taoism, the soul or spirit does not die at death. The soul is not reborn, it simply migrates to another life.
This process, the Taoist version of reincarnation, is repeated until Tao is achieved. The following translation from the Lao-Tzu Te-Tao Ching summarizes the theory behind Tao and how a Taoist can achieve Tao. The Great Tao flows everywhere. It may go left or right. All things depend on it for life, and it does not turn away from them.
It accomplishes its task, but dies not claim credit for it. It clothes and feeds all things but does not claim to be master over them. Always without desires, it may be called the Small. All things come to it and it does not master them; it may be called the Great. Therefore (the sage) never strives himself for the great, and thereby the great is achieved. –(Te-Tao Ching, Chapter 34) Buddhism The followers of the Buddha believe that life goes on and on in many reincarnations or rebirths.
The eternal hope for all followers of Buddha is that through reincarnation one comes back into successively better lives – until one achieves the goal of being free from pain and suffering and not having to come back again. This wheel of rebirth, known as Samsara, goes on forever until one achieves Nirvana. The Buddhist definition of Nirvana is the highest state of spiritual bliss, as absolute immortality through absorption of the soul into itself, but preserving individuality. Birth is not the beginning and death is not the end. This cycle of life has no beginning and can go on forever without an end.
The ultimate goal for every Buddhist, Nirvana, is to accomplish total enlightenment and liberation. By achieving this goal, one can be liberated from the never ending round of birth, death, and rebirth. Transmigration, the Buddhist cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, does not involve the reincarnation of a spirit, but only the rebirth of a consciousness containing the seeds of good and evil deeds. Buddhism’s world of transmigration encompasses three stages. The first stage concerns with desire, which goes against the teachings of Buddha. It is the lowest form and involves a rebirth into hell.
The second stage is one in which animals dominate. But after many reincarnations in this stage the spirit becomes more and more human, until one attains a deeper spiritual understanding. At this point the Buddhist gradually begins to abandon materialism and seek a contemplative life. In the third stage, the Buddhist is able to put his ego to the side and become pure spirit, having no perception of the material world. This stage requires one to move from perception to non-perception.
And so, through many stages of spiritual evolution and numerous reincarnations, the Buddhist reaches the state of Nirvana. The transition from one stage to another, or the progression within a stage is based on the actions of the Buddhist. All actions are simply the display of thought, the will of man. This is caused by the persons character, and character is manufactured from karma. Karma means action or doing.
Any kind of intentional action, such as mental, verbal or physical action, is regarded as karma. All good and bad actions constitute karma. A person’s karma determines what he deserves and what goals can be achieved. What the Buddhist does in his past life determines his present standing in life and that determines his next life. Buddha developed a doctrine known as the Four Noble Truths based on his ex …