Taoism And Confucianism Taoism It is always present in you. You can use it anyway you want. — Lao-tzu Taoism is one of the two great philosophical and religious traditions that originated in China. The other philosophy native to China is Confucianism. Both Taoism and Confucianism began at about the same time, around the sixth century B.C.
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. One dominant 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. Although not accepted by our beliefs, its understanding helps build strength in our own religion. Reincarnation, life after death, beliefs are not standardized between the religions.
Each religion has a different way of applying this concept to its beliefs. Ignorance of these beliefs is a sign of weakness in the mind. To truly understand ones own religion, one must also understand those concepts of the other religions of the world. Hopefully this will be enlightenment on the reincarnation concepts as they apply to Taoism and Buddhism. 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 with Christians, for Taoism is not monotheistic. The focus is not to worship one god, but instead on coming 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.
It is only when one 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 one’s life, the closer to Tao one is presumed to have become. Eventually the hope is to become immortal, to achieve Tao, to have reached the deeper life. This is the afterlife for a Taoist — to be in harmony with the universe. 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 a person’s direction or path. The character for head represents a 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 notion 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. To have attained the human form must be always a source of joy for the Taoist. It is truly a reason to rejoice because despite whatever is lost, life always endures. Taoists believe 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. It is possible to see death in contrast to life; both are unreal and changing. One’s soul does not leave the world into the unknown, for it can never go away. Therefore there is no fear to come with death. In the writings of The Tao Te 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, one can achieve Tao. In ancient days, a Taoist that had transcended birth and death and achieved Tao was said to have cut the Thread of Life. 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 followers of the Buddha believe life goes on through a repetition of 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 can be summarized as the highest state of spiritual bliss, absolute immortality through absorption of the soul into itself, while 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, represents total enlightenment and liberation. Only through achieving this goal is one liberated from the never-ending cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. 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 and is the lowest form and involves a rebirth into any number of hells. The secon …