Book Report on Taoism

This essay has a total of 2278 words and 14 pages.

Taoism

Taoism is one of the two great philosophical and religious traditions that originated in China.

The other religion native to China is Confucianism. Both Taoism and Confucianism began at

about the same time, around the sixth century B.C.E. China's third great religion, Buddhism,

came to China from India around the second century of the common era. Together, these three

faiths have shaped Chinese life and thought for nearly twenty-five hundred years (Hartz 3).

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 beliefs. This paper will describe the

reincarnation concepts as they apply to Taoism and Buddhism, and then provide a comparison of

the two.

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 on coming into harmony with tao (Hartz, 8).

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

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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 (Head1, 65).

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, 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 (Harts 9).

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" (Leek 190). Taoist believe

birth is not a beginning, death is not an end. There is an existence without limit. There is

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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" (Head2 199).

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

(Kapleau 13).

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 (Head3 109).



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Buddhism

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" (Head1 57).

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 (Head3 73).

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
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