Difference Between Taoism and Buddhism
Taoism vs Buddhism
Two of the most influential beliefs that have shaped Asian history are Buddhism and Taoism. They have been around through thousands of years and have dominated majority of Asian regions, particularly China and India. While they differ in many things, they share the same fundamental confidence in reincarnation. However, each religion has a unique approach to such belief in the same way that each highlights a distinct way of life.
Taoism, also referred to as Daoism, first blossomed in China and has been in existence for more than 2000 years. It emphasizes on philosophical and religious traditions centered on themes such as naturalness, vitality, peace, spontaneity, receptiveness, emptiness, the relationship between humanity and the universe, and ‘wu wei’ or inaction- all of which believed to lead to harmony with the cosmos. The word Taoism is derived from the word ‘Tao’ that means ‘way’, the force that flows through all life in the universe. Thus, a Taoist’s purpose is to align himself harmoniously with the Tao. On the other hand, Buddhism was established a few centuries earlier than Taoism. It comes from the word ‘budhi’, meaning ‘to awaken’. Buddhism traces back more than 2,500 years ago in India with the influence of Siddharta Gautama, also known as the Buddha or the ‘enlightened one’. Since then, Buddhism has been embraced to be a philosophy and a religion at the same time. Its core values are encapsulated in three points: to be mindful of thoughts and actions, and to develop wisdom and understanding, and to lead a moral life. A Buddhist’s goal is to attain Nirvana, the enlightenment and the ultimate happiness. It can only be reached once all suffering has been surpassed.
In Taoism, it is maintained that the soul is eternal. Instead of dying, it shifts to another life and lives by until the Taoist goal is accomplished. Consequently, it realizes reincarnation. And through the continual existence of the soul, what else is there to look forward to but the infinite source, the first cause of the universe, the Tao. It can be achieved by dissociating oneself from earthly diversions and desires and aligning oneself to the natural flow of the universe. This concept is best embodied by its central concept, wu wei or ‘without action’. Action here pertains to advertent thoughts and exploits that are against the natural flow of things. Taoists deem that the universe works harmoniously according to its natural ways and one must always place his will in accordance to its flow.
Similarly, Buddhism believes in reincarnation, wherein life goes on and on in numerous rebirths. Through this, the goal of a Buddhist is to come back into sequentially improved lives until he reaches the eternal goal- a life entirely free of suffering and pain or simply, Nirvana- the absolute state of spiritual happiness. Only by Nirvana that one is liberated from the inexhaustible cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, also called ‘samsara’. The way to Nirvana entails stages that need to be gradually transcended from life to life. This is done by essentially eliminating material cravings that drive suffering.
Taoism and Buddhism are two influential philosophical and religious beliefs both originating in Asia- the former from China, the latter from India.
Taoism’s ultimate goal is Tao (the way), which is harmony with the infinite and first-cause of the universe. Buddhism’s absolute aim is Nirvana, the highest state of spiritual bliss, free from pain and suffering.
The Taoist way of life is focused on aligning oneself to the natural way of cosmos. While the Buddhist’s is on understanding and surpassing pain and suffering through leading a moral life.
Both Taoism and Buddhism employ the concept of reincarnation in their set of beliefs.
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