Taoism is originated in China and many believe that it is started in the sixth century B.C. whereas Buddhism is said originated in the 500’s B.C. in India. Both Taoism and Buddhism are great philosophical traditions and religions that have long histories and had strongly influenced and shaped the Chinese culture and values. These two religions have some similarities, they even considered as one kind in Malaysia’s culture. Both Taoism and Buddhism belief in reincarnation which means the life after death and both have similar ultimate goals. However, they are very different in their beliefs, practices and perspectives about individual life, society, values, culture, the environment and even the universe. Taoism and Buddhism have different objective principles, different views and beliefs about the life after death which is widely known as reincarnation, different ways and solutions to cooperate and solve the problems in life, and different perspectives and practices about marriage.
The word Tao of Taoism in Chinese means the way or the path. In Taoism, its objective is to achieve Tao which means to attain the right path in life and by doing so; we will be able to become immortal. Besides that, Tao is sometimes also considered as the origin of everything which already existed and guiding the whole world and everything to work on their roles before the universe was being formed (Wow Essays, 2004). In Taoism, it is more focusing on personal or individual philosophy, because it is more focusing on how to achieve Tao, harmony and balancing of one-self and it do not motivate people to find ways and solutions to help and improve the community or society as in every individual should do it by herself or himself (EduBook, 2008). It is also said that everything in the world is simple, correct and good, life becomes complex is because human being choose to live a complex life (Wow Essays, 2004).
On the other hand, in Buddhism beliefs live is suffering which is different by comparing with Taoism that believes that life is all about goodness, Buddhist believes that having illness or suffering is the nature of life which we cannot escape from (Difference Between, 2010). Birth, get old, get sick or ill, and death are the nature cycle of life. According to Buddhism, the only way to put suffering in life to an end is to understand the four noble truths of life and practice the noble eightfold path which are the right knowledge or understanding, right intention, right speech, right behavior or action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration (Buddhist Temples). The first noble eightfold path is right knowledge that refers to the correct understanding of what is life about or the understanding about the four noble truths of life (Wow Essays, 2004). The second path is right intention means the right wills aspect which is to abstain from lusts, to gain immunity of negative emotions such as hate and anger, and to be innocuous which is not to be violent or aggressive (Knierim T., 2010). The third path is right speech which brings the meaning of not to talk bad or harmful words and to be aware of what we are saying by choosing the right words and right tone. The forth path is right behavior or right actions which is to act in a correct way and the reasons of action or behavior, and this consists of the five main rules of Buddhism which are not to kill, pilfer, consume alcoholic drinks, commit in sex crimes, and also to be honest (Wow Essays, 2004). The fifth path is right livelihood which is to gain or earn money and wealth in the legal and moral way (Knierim T., 2010). The sixth path is right effort involves practicing the right will and control self-serving devotion and thirst (Wow Essays, 2004). The seventh path is right mindfulness which is to be aware and have the ability of see things without affected by the other people or environment. The eighth path is right concentration refers to the mental force of focusing on the ultimate goal of Buddhism, and this involves practicing the meditation which is to clear your mind and develop the right concentration (Knierim T., 2010).
Both Taoism and Buddhism believe in the life after death which is known as reincarnation (Wow Essays, 2004). They believe that life cycle does not have a beginning or an ending which simply means that life, death and rebirth are perceived as a continuous cycle; they think that death is not the end of the life (Valea E., n.d.). But both of them have different explanations and perspectives on reincarnation. According to Taoism, soul or spirit never die, it will be shift to the other body which is to reborn to be another person and this will be repeated until it attain the Tao. It is said that everyone has a inner light of oneself which can guide us back to clean and clear mind and pull away from distractions and lusts, Tao can only be obtained by following this inner light of oneself (Wow Essays, 2004). Taoism also believes that soul has the ability to travel through space and time and becomes immortal when Tao is achieved (Difference Between, 2010).
Whereas in Buddhism beliefs, samsara, the wheel of rebirth and the sufferings of life will only come to an end when ones achieve Nirvana which is the highest or final state of the life cycle and become immortal (Religion Facts, 2010). The other belief of reincarnation in Buddhism that is different from the belief in Taoism is that Taoism believes that reborn is a transformation of soul from one human body to another, but according to the Buddhism belief, the cycle of birth, death and rebirth consist of good and evil behavior which divides the transmigration into three different stages and this lead to the transformation of souls into different forms respectively. The ones who act totally different way from the rules and practices of Buddhism will be send to the hell and this is the first stage of the transmigration. In the second stage, those who did something which is considered quite bad or evil will be transmigrating into animal forms, yet spirits will become more alike to human or rebirth as a human again after turns of transmigration. The following stage which is the third stage, involves the spirit becomes chaste by putting down self egos and lusts which is change from aesthesis to non-aesthesis, and it also consist of going through many phases of spiritual transformation and rebirth; finally reach the Nirvana which is the ultimate goal of Buddhism. The stages of reincarnation is determined by ones action, it is said that the past action decide the current life, and present action decides the future life, because Buddhist believes that one’s behavior is according to the mind and thoughts but not fate, therefore one shall deserve what it takes from the result of what he or she did (Wow Essays, 2004).
Besides than the perspectives and beliefs, the difference between Buddhism and Taoism is the ways of handling and solving the problems in life such as health problems. According to Taoism, everything in this world has its own natural order, and the way to handle problems first is to understand the nature; the Yin-yang concept is the core concept of this particular principle. Yin-yang concept state that reality are binary which consist of the combination of two opposite elements to form the entirety by balancing these two totally opposite elements. In addition, by conquering the defectiveness of soul by attaining the balance of oneself, then lead to conducting the mental or cosmic energy that is known as Chi in one self’s body is believed that can help to heal illness or sickness of body (EduBook, 2008). The creation of the Tai Chi exercise is based on the Yin-yang concept which can help to circulate and balance the Chi in the body and maintain body health because Taoist believe that illness are cause by the imbalance or jamming of Chi in the circulation of body (Robinson B.A., 2010) Meanwhile, in Buddhism’s beliefs, problems in life like illness and sickness are a part of life; hence they should be accepted as the nature of life. Buddhism requires the finding of problems source; meditation is the practice of Buddhist that guide people to find focus, peace and calm in one self, and the presence of focus, peace and calm will help to identify the origin of problems and guidance to take good actions to overcome the problems (Knierim T., 2010). At the same time, unlike Taoists healing illness by balancing the opposite elements and conducting the Chi, Buddhists seek for medications (EduBook, 2008). However, because Buddhists believe in the nature of life, so herbal medications which are extracted and purified from the plants is the only medication that is used by Buddhists.
Buddhism and Taoism are also different in how they look at relationships and marriage. According to Buddhism beliefs, marriage is not a necessary event one’s life, so there is no special type of ceremony or practices for getting married. Besides that, sexual activity is only accepted socially and ethically when it takes place in marriage, and it is not accepted when there is not within a marriage relationship. Buddhism beliefs that in a marriage, both husband and wife will need to possess four important qualities to become a well-matched and maintain a good marriage, the four qualities are faith, virtue, generosity and wisdom. Faith requires the understanding between the husband and wife, it is through understanding each another helps to build up trust, honor and faith, and faith is the main key which will lead to the development of virtue, generosity and wisdom. According to Buddhism beliefs, satisfactions of the five senses and reproduction are the two main purposes of marriage because it is said that not a single figure, sound, smell, savor and touch can attract a man more than a woman and this same goes to a woman. Besides that, reproduction is important to the society because of the obligations of the family which means children will be the one who are responsible to take care and support the parents and protect and continue the unique customs of the family (Gamage C., 1998).
On the other hand, Taoism believes that woman represents Yin and man represents Yang, and the Tao means the path to harmony will be achieved when a woman and a man get into a relationship and commit together as one, the Yin chi will be accepted by the man and Yang chi will be received by the woman, then both Yin and Yang will combined into one and balanced. Some people relate the word Tao with marriage by saying that marriage is the Tao to future means the way or path towards the future because the life after marriage is like a new life and through marriage babies are born: babies are the hope and creation for the future. At the same time, since Taoism emphasize on balancing and harmony of nature, it also laid stress on the harmony of the relationships between people especially for husband and wife. Thus, husband and wife should avoid confrontations and serious conflicts. Prevention of confrontations or even conflicts can be made by calm, love, caring, respect, acceptance, humility, communication, emotional control, self-awareness, self reflections, sacrifice, and support and understanding of each another.
On the whole, both Taoism and Buddhism are religions that guide people how to live a good life and teach the important values of life. These two religions have some similarities and sometimes these similarities may even cause people to mistaken that both of them are the same religion or some may mistaken the beliefs and practices of Buddhism and the beliefs and practices of Taoism. There are similar beliefs between these two religions such as both of them believe in the life after death and life cycle never end and also both have similar ultimate goal, but their objective principles, their understanding, beliefs and interpretation about the life after death, their perspectives and methods to deal with the problems especially health problems in life, and their point of view and practices in relationships and marriage are very different. Both have their unique and different way of thinking and interpretation of life.
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Gamage, C. (1998). Buddhism & Sensuality. Colombo: Karunaratne & Sons Ltd.
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Valea, E. (n.d.). Reincarnation. Its meaning and consequences. Retrieved on October 26, 2010 from http://www.comparativereligion.com/reincarnation.html
Wow Essays (2010). Buddhism and Taoism. Retrieved on October 27, 2010 from http://www.wowessays.com/dbase/af1/nyv94.shtml