Buddhism and Taoism Paper

This essay has a total of 2339 words and 10 pages.

Buddhism and Taoism

The belief in some higher presence, other than our own, has existed since man can
recollect. Religion was established from this belief, and it can survive and flourish
because of this belief. In Chinese history, Taoism and Buddhism are two great
phiosophical and religious traditions along with Confucianism.

Taoism, originated in China around the sixth century B.C.E. and Buddhism, came to China
from India around the second century of the common era, Together have shaped Chinese life
and thought for nearly twenty-five hundred years. One dominate concept in Taoism and
Buddhism is the belief in some form of reincarnation. The idea that life does not end
when one dies is an integral part of these religions and the culture of the Chinese
people. Reincarnation, life after death, beliefs are not standardized. Each religion has
a different way of applying this concept to its belief.

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 on coming into harmony with tao (Watts,

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. It is only when a person rids himself of all
desires can tao be achieved. By shunning every earthly distraction, the Taoist is able to
concentrate on life itself. The longer the person's life, the more saintly the person is
presumed to have become. Eventually the hope is to become immortal, to achieve tao, to
have reached the deeper life. This is the after life for a Taoist, to be in harmony with
the universe, to have achieved tao (Watts, 1957).

To understand the relationship between life, and the Taoism concept of life and death, the
origin of the word tao must be understood. The Chinese character for tao is a combination
of two characters that represent the words 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. 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, thecharacter 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 (Schipper, 1978).

Taoism upholds the belief in the survival of the spirit after death. "To have attained
the human form must be always a source of joy. And then to undergo countless transitions,
with only the infinite to look forward to, what comparable bliss is that! Therefore it is
that the truly wise rejoice in, that which can never be lost, but endures always" (Watts,
1957, p90). Taoist believe birth is not a beginning, 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. "You see death in contrast to life; and both are unreal - both are a changing
and seeming. Your soul does not glide out of a familiar sea into an unfamiliar ocean.
That which is real in you, your soul, can never pass away, and this fear is no part of
her" (Watts, 1957, p59).

In the writings of The Tao Te King, tao is described as having existed before heaven and
earth. Tao is formless, 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(Schipper, 1978).

The soul, or spirit, is Taoism does not die at death. The soul is not reborn, it migrates to
another life. This process, the Taoist version of reincarnation, is repeated until tao is achieved.
The following translation from The Tao Te King best summarizes the the theory behind tao and
how a Taoist can achieve Tao. The Great Way is very smooth, but the people love the
by-paths. . . The wearing of gay embroidered robes, the carrying of sharp swords,
fastidiousness in food and drink, superabundance of property and wealth: - this I call
flaunting robbery; most assuredly it is not Tao. . . He who acts in accordance with Tao,
becomes one with Tao. . . Being akin to

Heaven, he possesses Tao. Possessed of Tao, he endures forever. . . Being great (Tao)
passes on; passing on, it becomes remote; having become remote, it returns (Watts, 1957).

The followers of the Buddha believe 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
or 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" (Humphreys,1991, p15).
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,
represents total enlightenment and liberation. Only through achieving this goal is one
liberated from the never ending round of birth, death, and rebirth (David-Noel, 1971).
Transmigration, the Buddhist cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, involves not the
reincarnation of a spirit but the rebirth of a consciousness containing the seeds of good
and evil deeds. Buddhism's world of transmigration encompasses three stages. The first
stage in concerned with desire, which goes against the teachings of Buddha, is the lowest
form and involves a rebirth into any number of hells. 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 deep spiritual understanding. At this point in the second
stage the Buddhist gradually begins to abandon materialism and seek a contemplative life.
The Buddhist in the third stage is ultimately 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 will is caused by character, and character is manufactured from karma. Karma
means action or doing. Any kind of intentional action whether mental, verbal or physical
is regarded as karma. All good and bad actions constitute karma. As is the karma, so is
the will of the man. A person's karma determines what he deserves and what goals can be
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