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Buddhism and Taoism - Similarities and Differences

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Buddhism and Taoism are two of the most influential beliefs in Asian history. Both originating 2500 years ago, they continue to carry strong influences in its origin and in Western culture. The practical teachings of Buddhism and Taoism present two spiritual pathways that leads to enlightenment; however it is how one forms their life in accordance to either the Buddhist or Taoist goal. Both strive to achieve the highest level of harmony and enlightenment through contemplation and meditation, and encourage a practical way of life and awareness of self and Nature. While Buddhism talks about the four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold path as a way of eliminating suffering and achieving Nirvana, Taoism concentrates on the process of continuity and harmony with the universe. While Buddhism comes from the Teachings of Buddha, the writings of Laotse outline the philosophy of Tao or the ‘way.’

The founders of Buddhism and Taoism had similar outlooks on respect for nature and the human life. Before Buddha, he was Siddhartha Gautama. Siddhartha was born a prince who lived a life full of pleasures (module). He found that his life was meaningless, therefore gave up all that he had to pursue a much simpler lifestyle. Even the simplest way of living was unsatisfying for Siddhartha, and eventually reached Enlightenment. He began to teach his followers about the right path or the “middle path” to overcome suffering and pain.

There is little known on Laotse’s early beginnings. Laotse was the first philosopher of Taoism whose teachings and literature outlined a more passive way of living. In other words, learning how to naturally follow with the Tao or ‘the way,’ and accepting things the way they are. Like Buddhism, the teachings are simple; although to live by the Taoist belief, understanding the true meaning of Tao can be difficult. To learn and talk about the theory of the Tao is moving away from its true meaning, as it is simply stated in this quote from the Book of Tao, Verse XXXV,

“But Tao is mild to the taste.

Looked at, it cannot be seen;

Listened to, it cannot be heard;

Applied, its supply never fails.”

The basic teachings of Buddha evolve around the Eight-Fold Path and the Four Noble Truths. Buddha offers his teachings as a way to point his followers in the direction of Enlightenment and to cease suffering. Taken from the Dhammapada, “to avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one’s mind – this is the teaching of the Buddhas,” (Chapter 14, Verse 183) encompasses the teachings of Buddha. It is not expected of followers to follow the Eight-Fold Path in a certain order, rather cultivate each Right with another Right to enhance their self-discipline of body, mind, and soul. The same goes for



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