Essay, Research Paper
The Lives of Confucius and Guatama Siddhartha
World Civilization 121
September 19, 1996
Professor: Helju Bennett
Section Teacher: Sara Abosch
The Life Of Confucius
Throughout the time span that man has lived on earth, there have been
many religions in existence. Two very important and influencing religions that
have been around for over two thousand years are Confucianism and Buddhism. The
founders of these two religions, Confucius and Buddha, respectively, lived
different lives and had different thoughts. Although this made two totally
different religions, they both had one common goal. That common goal was to
assist the human population and improve their lifestyle.
Confucius was a sage in China and also it’s greatest philosopher. He
was one of the most prominent figures and is respected throughout all of China.
He was born at Tsou, in the state of Lu, known today as the Shandong province,
in the year 551 B.C. He was named Ch’iu, meaning ?hill’, because he had a very
large bump on his head. This name has rarely been used because of the Chinese
way of showing ?reverence by avoidance?. (Encyclopedia Americana, v. 7; 540)
K’ung Futzu was what was used. The name got Latinized and it became Confucius.
Ever since Confucius’ birth, he was a great student. All throughout his
childhood Confucius liked to play religious and cultural roles. By the age of
15, Confucius began to take his studies very seriously. He was a diligent and
studious learner and put forth his whole effort on his studies. Nothing is
known about his educators or his education.
Confucius started work at an early age, due to the fact that his father
died. By the age of seventeen, Confucius received a job in the public service.
Most likely this job was being a keeper of fields and cattle, a town governor,
or a court arbiter of ritual. Confucius, because he loved to learn and he loved
his studies so much, became a very educated man and in turn was highly respected.
In 529 B.C. Confucius’ mother died and observed the standard withdrawal
from life of three years. This included the withdrawal from his duties as a
public worker. After this long observance, Confucius returned home and opened
his house up to students and began teaching. This became his full time job and
he took it seriously. At one point, Confucius’ teachings were wanted by so many
that he had 3,000 students attending his school. 72 of them had mastered the
six arts-rituals, music, archery, charioteering, literature, and mathematics.
He was a great teacher, well known and respected. He was able to get his
disciples responsible positions in the Chinese government and also able to get
them jobs as teachers. He knew many and the favors that he asked for were
granted by others.
Confucius believed that ?knowledge meant wisdom?, (Encyclopedia
Americana, v. 7; 540). He thought that this in turn would help him become more
educated and not only to help himself but to also help the country. He was a
reformer and preached for good government. He believed in such idea like ?
avoidance of needless wars, decrease in taxes, and mitigation of severe
punishment?. (Encyclopedia Americana, v. 7; 540) He finally received that
opportunity in the state of Lu. The state of Lu, where Confucius was born, was
in turmoil. There were three major families fighting. Each one fighting
against each other just to see who could become more powerful. One of these
families, the emperor of Mang He, allowed Confucius to come to his capital.
Mang He wanted Confucius to teach his son the teachings and allow him to become
This enabled Confucius to learn a great deal about past empires and past
emperors. He was able to obtain resources that only officials had access to.
It also allowed him to collect materials and information for works that he would
produce later on in his life.
Confucius soon returned back to Lu to find more disorganization and more
fighting. The ruler, Duke Chao, fleed for refuge and Confucius followed. Here
Confucius thought that he could become ruler but there was great envy that
suppressed his advancement.
Soon after, Confucius was appointed governor of Chung Tu. Here is where
Confucius had success. In such a short time, he reformed this state. It became
a model for many other states to follow. After four years of government and a
disagreement with a Duke, Confucius went into wandering for 13 years.
Confucius traveled about trying to help reform different states. But no
one really needed his help so at the age of 67 Confucius returned back to his
home state of Lu. His wife, son, and two of his favorite disciples all died in a
short time span. He spent his last years editing the classical texts and
continuing teaching to his students. Confucius knew his life was not worth much
anymore and that it was coming to an end. In 479 B.C. Confucius died.
The Life Of Buddha
The Buddha, otherwise known as Guatama Siddhartha, had a very different
life than that of Confucius. The Buddha was born in 566 B.C. to Queen Maya and
King Suddhodana. He was given the name ?Siddhartha? which means which means ?
all wishes accomplished?. Seven day’s after the birth, his mother, Queen Maya
died. Queen Maya’s younger sister, Mahapajapati, took the responsibility of
raising Guatama and the King made her his second wife. Right from the birth of
this prince, his father, mother, second mother, and the whole kingdom knew that
he was bound to be an important figure in the Chinese society.
From a very young age Guatama Siddhartha was cared for extensively.
Starting at the age of seven, Prince Siddhartha began taking lessons on how to
read, write, and reckon. The prince also took astronomy and archery. He took
his courses seriously and also excelled in them. Anything and everything that
he wanted was gotten for him. Guatama Siddhartha never had to work. He had
slaves that would take care of everything for him. In addition, the slaves that
worked for him were fed rice and meat, while any other average slave-servent
working for an average man were fed broken rice and sour gruel. This is just how
well treated the prince and the princess’s servants were treated. The prince
always had women surrounding him, shelter over his head in any type of weather
and a different palace for different seasons. In short, the prince was spoiled.
Around the age of eighteen the prince got married and within the first
year a son was expected. Before the birth of the son, the prince asked his
father for permission to wander outside of the palace gates. The father agreed
but let everyone know beforehand that the prince was leaving the palace and that
nothing should be in his view that might disturb him.
The prince wandered outside the gates four different times. In these
trips he saw an old man, an ill man, a funeral procession and a reclusive man.
The first three incidents upset him greatly. The prince never thought that man
could become so horrifying. But the forth encounter intrigued him. Upon his
encounter with the recluse man he asked: ? ?What gain is there in the life of a
recluse?? the person answered and said: ?I depart from the impermanence of age,
illness, and death, and gain the freedom of deliverance. I forsake the illusive
love of life, walk the path of Right Dharma, and save living beings with
compassion.? The prince exclaimed: ?What could be more noble than the path of a
recluse.?? (Takakusu, 15)
Soon after this incident, his son was born. The palace celebrated and
so did the town. The kingdom had yet another son. The kingdom was proud, the
palace was proud, the King was proud but yet the prince was still troubled. Why
was he so troubled? What was the prince thinking so much about?
The prince, after seeing and knowing that he was no longer pleased with
his palace life, decided to leave the castle and flee into the country. Upon
his call, the charioteer Chanda arrived, and the prince told about his plan to
leave. The charioteer brought a horse. The prince, Chanda and the horse left.
The prince left everything behind him. His father, wife, son and riches were
now of the past.
Upon entering the countryside, Guatama Siddhartha began to take off his
clothes and talk to his charioteer. He talked how not to be sad, that he was
going to search for Enlightenment and to go tell the palace that he was not
coming back. With this, Chanda received the princes clothes and jewels, and
with sadness in his eyes rode away back to the palace knowing that he was the
messenger of bad news.
The prince, who for 19 years was looked after with great detail and who
could have anything he wanted, was now on his own. He wandered around the
Himalayas, down to the plains, followed the Gandaki river south, crossed the
Ganges, into Madadha. Everywhere that the lonely prince went, he was looking
for answers about life but nothing truly satisfied him. He kept on traveling
and eating just enough food to get by. Everyone he encountered was impressed
with the prince’s lonely and newly deprived life. Soon there was a following of
the prince and it grew daily. The prince, knowing this, still deprived himself
of meals: Going from just one a day to one a month to just eating a grain of
rice a day. ?He became hollow-eyed; he was barboned, and the belly and the back
touched. The pains physical and mental reached the last point? (Takakusu, 27).
Guatama Siddhartha realized that by practically killing himself he was not going
to receive enlightenment. ?He made up his mind that he must yet work out means
to attain the end? (Takakusu, 27).
The prince revived himself to the point where he was alive again and he
began wandering again. He ended up in Gaya where ?there was a great pipal tree,
and that the platform surrounded by the roots of the trees was fit as the seat
for attaining Enlightenment for the Buddha’s and the three times of the past
present and the future? (Takakusu, 30).
The prince now sat there and said to himself that he was not going to
move until he gained Enlightenment. With many distractions from others, the
prince sat there looking for Enlightenment. And then it happened. The prince
attained Enlightenment. The sun shined, flowers blossomed and music was played.
The prince was now ?The Buddha?–?one who is awake?.
He received ideas he had not received before, he opened his mind in ways
he had not done before, and he began preaching to anyone that would listen to
any of his ?great ideas?.
The Buddha taught years and years. He educated men on everything. From
eating to sleeping, to talking and writing the Buddha was a mentor. But he was
over eighty years of age now and growing weaker and weaker. He soon died and as
fast as the sun shined and flowers blossomed the sky went black and ?the world
again turned back to old darkness? (Takakusu, 53).
Similarities and Differences
There are many similarities between two of the greatest philosophers of
all time. One of the most common and basic similarity is that both religions
emerged around the same time period. Each religion in this world was brought up
in a time period. For example, Christianity emerged around 40 A.D., but
Confucianism and Buddhism both emerged in the 6th century B.C. This similarity
is basic but it is an important one only for the fact that since these two
religions emerged around the same time period they both have a lot of the same
views on life. One example of this is that in Buddhism there are eight basic
paths to follow. This is called the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold
Path included Right Views, Right Aspirations, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right
Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindedness, and Right Rapture. In Confucianism
there were similar beliefs that each person followed but these beliefs were not
given the names that Buddhism gave them. For example, Confucius believed that ?
if everyone knew his or her place and kept it, then, said Confucius, all would
be well? (McNEILL, 153). This part of Confucianism could be translated in
Buddhism to one of the Noble Eightfold Paths: Right Conduct.
Another similarity of the two religions was that both Confucius and
Buddha taught others about their views and the teachings that they had
established. After Confucius worked for the government he went into his ?
wandering? state. Here is where he came to many opinions and beliefs on life
that still hold true in the religion today. He had these basic rules and values
on life that he taught to anyone who would listen. He had students and
followers that would listen to his views and in turn practice them. As for
Buddha, once he achieved Enlightenment he went around teaching what he believed
was right for society. He taught everyone. From Kings of states in Asia to
just an ordinary person he was more than willing to try and install new beliefs
in them. Both of them used their power that they received to try and help other
One last similarity between Confucianism and Buddhism is that both have
a set of rules that are followed by the followers. In Confucianism, The
Deliberate Tradition is part of how one can receive advice on their life when
they need answers. There are five parts of The Deliberate Tradition: Jen
(relationship between two people), Chun tzu (ideal relations), Li (propriety),
Te (power), and Wen (arts of peace). All of these Deliberate Traditions helped
form a lot of how a person would act and how a person would live. The
Deliberate Tradition gives the basics of Confucianism. Similarly, Buddhism has
the Eightfold Path. This list is what a follower of the Buddihist religion
should abide by. This includes: Right Views, Right Aspirations, Right Speech,
Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Kindness, and lastly Right
Rapture. The Eightfold Path describes how a person should perform their
everyday tasks. Both Confucianism and Buddhism followers use these lists to
help them live from day to day. These list in each religion are respected and
followed by greatly.
There are also many differences between the two religions. One major
and noticeable difference is Confucius was brought up much differently than
Buddha. Guatama Siddhartha was brought up in a wealthy environment. He was
given more than enough and was not expected any less than the best. For example,
the prince had different houses for different seasons. There was always a cover
over his head to protect him and there was always servants waiting for him. As
for Confucius he had a much different lifestyle. He had to work at an early age
only for the fact that his father had died. He worked hard and brought his
standard up instead of staying at the same lower class that he was born into.
At times he would hardly have enough to eat. But he always worked hard and it
paid off for him. This is just one example of how two great philosophers that
were brought up so differently impacted society so great.
Another example of how different these two great philosophers were was
in how their views emerged and how they came up with answers to their questions.
Confucius always had answers to questions that were asked to him. He was well
educated and he was very logical. His answers to questions made sense to
everyone and soon everyone understood that what he was saying was correct. As
for Buddha he had to gain his education through his wanderings. He was very
wealthy and there was really no need for him to become educated. But soon
realizing that he was not happy as a rich man he left and went into his sojourns.
He thought that maybe if he starved himself then he would be able to receive
Enlightenment. But this did not work for him. Finally while underneath a pipal
tree Buddha attained Enlightenment. This is where he gained his knowledge to
help others and to set the standards of Buddhism. Therefore, the way in which
each philosophers views emerged were different each still came to conclusions on
life and how a human can become satisfied with ones life.
One last difference between Confucianism and Buddhism is that Buddhism
has a final goal, Nirvana. Nirvana is one reaches an ultimate state where
everything in ones life is perfect. On the contrary, Confucianism is a
philosophy that gives only rules and proverbs to follow. These rules do not
have a goal to strive for in the end. These proverbs just try and guide a
person through life and help that person achieve a satisfactory life for oneself.
In conclusion, Confucius and Buddha had totally different life’s. How
they were raised by family and how their life was overall in comparison to each
other was totally different. Guatama Siddhartha was born into a very wealthy
family while Confucius had to work hard for every thing he earned. In addition,
the way in which the conclusions that they came to about life were totally
different. Confucius was knowledgeable and was able to answers others questions
about life while Buddha had to attain Enlightenment. These two major
philosophers have/had a major impact on society. Even though these religions
are very different they are also very the same. They wanted to help society and
help the individuals in the society. They were two very smart individuals that
have affected the world when they were alive and will affect anyone who follows
their religions in the future.
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Encyclopedia Britanica; 1991; S.v. ?Confucianism?
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Legge, James, The Philosophy of Confucius, New York: The Peter Pauper Press,
McNeill, William H., A History Of The Human Community Volume I: Prehistory to
1500, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1992.
Nakamura, Hajime, Gotama Buddha, Los Angelos: Buddhist Books International, 1977.
Smith, Huston, The World’s Religions, New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.
Starr, Frederick, Confucianism, New York: Covici-Friede, 1930.
Takakusu, Junjiro, A Life of the Buddha, Japan: Mitsutoyo Mfg. Co., Ltd., 1964.
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