Main facts about Taoism
Taoism originated in Zhou China almost at the same time as the teaching of Confucius (6-5 centuries BC) in the form of an independent philosophical doctrine. The founder of Taoism is Laozi. His biography is connected with a number of legends, stories and a general halo of mysticism because there is no reliable historical and biographical information about him. But still, he is considered as the creator of the book “Tao Te Ching” (“Book of the Way and its manifestations”), created in the V – IV centuries. BC. e. – the main work, which provides the basic postulates, concepts, observations, mixed with fabulous digressions.
A Taoism basic belief of the doctrine is the concept of “Tao,” a comprehensive law, the Absolute. Tao – continuous movement, space, being, unity. Tao regulates the struggle of 2 cosmic opposites – the forces of Yin and Yang. It is simultaneously in a state of motion and rest.
The concept of Taoism is the observance of several dogmas, one of which is Non-intervention (the Wu Wei principle). A true Taoist will not waste his/her time and energy on good deeds and meaningless attempts to change the world.
The ultimate goal is to know it, to merge into one, and then there will be happiness, which is identical to immortality. For this, it is necessary to observe a number of rules that relate to the nutrition of the body and the nutrition of the spirit, and also to observe the concept of non-action, in order to harmonize the work of the soul and the physical component of a person.
The work of the spirit is the feeding of higher forces, which lead to good and bad deeds. So, for example, if a person feeds demons, then he moves away from the Tao, and his soul weakens. And if he feeds the spirits with his good deeds, then his/ her soul becomes stronger, and he approaches the Absolute. Therefore, it is important to do only good deeds, be pure in thoughts, intentions.
The work of the body is the observance of a special diet, which consists of the almost total refusal of physical food. By constant physical training, a person must bring his body to full control of reason and learn to eat his/ her own saliva and dew herbs and flowers, breathing exercises, physical and internal practices.
It is believed that the teaching of the Tao helps to understand the followers of their purpose, teaches us to distinguish between good and bad, to understand the secrets of the world order, to live in harmony with our own microcosm and the macrocosm, the world inside and with nature.
A Brief Introduction to Buddhism
Buddhism is the earliest appearance of three “world” religions. Other common religions – Christianity and Islam – appeared later (5 and 12 centuries later).
The founder of the Buddhist teaching is a real person, named Siddhartha Gautama, known as a prince of the Shakyas, who became a path of trial, error, wandering, and, after all, meditation, the Buddha – the Awakened One. The central concept is “Dharma,” which embodies the Buddha’s teaching, the truth, the path that every Buddhist must pass.
One of the main goals of Buddhism is the path to nirvana. Nirvana is a state of awareness of one’s own soul, achieved through self-denial, a rejection of the comfortable conditions of the external environment. Buddha, having spent a long time in meditations and deep reflections, mastered the method of control over one’s own consciousness. In the process, he came to the conclusion that people are very attached to worldly goods, overly worried about the opinions of others. Because of this, the human soul not only does not develop but also degenerates. Having attained nirvana, you can lose this dependence.
Therefore, the main goal of the disciples is to attain the state of the Buddha, full awakening, enlightenment, which will allow them to leave the cycle of permanent rebirths, break the circle of samsara and thereby stop suffering. Many people are attracted to Buddhism by the fact that they do not require a radical change in their way of life and habits. Although it is impossible in Christianity or Islam.
According to the Buddha, a person must adhere to the “middle way,” that is, each person should find the “golden” middle between the well-off, luxurious, and ascetic, deprived of all the blessings of mankind, a way of life. And this way is built of a number of rules, laws that need to be followed: the eightfold path, the four noble truths, the laws of karma. Karma suggests that all actions committed in the past and present, whether they are good or bad, will have inevitable consequences in the future.
To earn good karma, one must do good deeds, have good thoughts. Therefore, Buddhists tend to purify the clouded states of the mind, which distort reality like anger, fear, ignorance, selfishness, laziness, jealousy, envy, greed, irritation and others. But in the end, Buddhists should get into a place free from everything: from karma, desires, thoughts – to nirvana.
However, it must be remembered that Buddhist thought has many schools, each of which, in turn, has even more branches.
Each current looks in its own way at the main concepts of the doctrine, at times having diametrically opposite points of view, for example, on the personality of Buddha Shakyamuni: somewhere he is considered an ordinary person who managed to go to nirvana and transfer his knowledge, but no more, and somewhere he is equated with God.
Taoism vs. Buddhism
Taoism for many centuries goes hand in hand with Buddhism, and both these religions play an important role among many peoples and countries. So what are the differences between Buddhism and Taoism?
- Buddhism originated in the 563-is B.C.E. in India. Taoism, as a religion, formed a little later than Chinese Buddhism appeared. That is, around 500 B.C.E. of China.
- In Buddhism, there is no conception of God the Creator; that means that this philosophy repels from the atheistic concept. Taoism also preserved the Chinese mythological paradigm of the Heavenly Overlord, where the Supreme Principle, which is in many respects similar to the Greek concept of the Logos, lies in the basis of everything, and in the Chinese translation of the Bible, the word “Word” is also translated as “Tao”: “In the beginning was Tao.”
- The purpose of Buddhists is to leave this world of suffering by entering nirvana. Supporters of the Tao, in turn, strive for the realization of the Higher Principle, for harmony with nature, with the inner world, with the Tao.
- Buddhism proclaims that the world is an accidental combination of elements, which means it has no “eternal” component – the Hindus call this philosophy “shunyavada,” the philosophy of emptiness, and in Taoism, the world has absolute reality, stemming from the Tao and being a manifestation of the Tao.
- In Buddhism, there is no idea of dualism, which is characteristic of Taoism. In Taoism, the basis of everything is the unity of two principles: Yin-Yang, male-female, and Tao itself is the harmony of Yin and Yang.
- Unlike Buddhists, the Taoists do not have many directions, strikingly different from each other
- As for the places of rituals, the Taoists have practically no temples, in comparison with the Buddhists, because their faith lies in inner contemplation, harmonization of relations with nature.
- Both religions accept life after death, but each of them has a different understanding of reincarnation. As such, the transmigration of souls does not recognize Buddhism. It only talks about the journey of various states of human consciousness through several worlds of samsara. And death in this sense is just a transition from one place to another, the outcome of which is influenced by deeds (karma). And according to Taoism, reincarnation is the path to perfection, a series of incarnations, the crown of which is the complete and final merger with the world order of Tao. According to this teaching, after the death of a person, the soul dissolves in the macrocosm until the next incarnation or until the final “forgiveness.” This, in turn, depends on how much in the previous life a person did not oppose the natural laws of the world order that is, followed by u-wei (“non-action”).
But, as we see, apart from the differences, between Buddhism and Taoism there are a large number of similarities that allow Chinese, Vietnamese, Laotians and many other peoples to profess both of these religions simultaneously.