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Taoism Essay Research Paper It is always

Taoism Essay, Research Paper It is always present in you. You can use it anyway you want. — Lao-tzu Taoism is one of the two great philosophical and religious traditions

Taoism Essay, Research Paper

It is always present in you. You can use it anyway you want.

— Lao-tzu

Taoism is one of the two great philosophical and religious traditions

that originated in China. The other philosophy native to China is

Confucianism. Both Taoism and Confucianism began at about the same

time, around the sixth century B.C. China’s third great religion,

Buddhism, came to China from India around the second century of the

common era. Together, these three faiths have shaped Chinese life and

thought for nearly twenty-five hundred years. One dominate concept in

Taoism and Buddhism is the belief in some form of reincarnation. The

idea that life does not end when one dies is an integral part of these

religions and the culture of the Chinese people. Although not accepted

by our beliefs, its understanding helps build strength in our own

religion. Reincarnation, life after death, beliefs are not standardized

between the religions. Each religion has a different way of applying

this concept to its beliefs. Ignorance of these beliefs is a sign of

weakness in the mind. To truly understand ones own religion, one must

also understand those concepts of the other religions of the world.

Hopefully this will be an enlightenment on the reincarnation concepts as

they apply to Taoism and Buddhism.

The goal in Taoism is to achieve tao, to find the way. Tao is the

ultimate reality, a presence that existed before the universe was formed

and which continues to guide the world and everything in it. Tao is

sometimes identified as the Mother, or the source of all things. That

source is not a god or a supreme being as with Christians, for Taoism is

not monotheistic. The focus is not to worship one god, but instead on

coming into harmony with tao. Tao is the essence of everything that is

right, and complications exist only because people choose to complicate

their own lives. Desire, ambition, fame, and selfishness are seen as

hindrances to a harmonious life. It is only when one rids himself of

all desires can tao be achieved. By shunning every earthly distraction,

the Taoist is able to concentrate on life itself. The longer the one’s

life, the closer to tao one is presumed to have become. Eventually the

hope is to become immortal, to achieve tao, to have reached the deeper

life. This is the afterlife for a Taoist — to be in harmony with the

universe.

To understand the relationship between life and the Taoism concept

of life and death, the origin of the word tao must be understood. The

Chinese character for tao is a combination of two characters that

represent the words head and foot. The character for foot represents a

person’s direction or path. The character for head represents a

conscious choice. The character for head also suggests a beginning, and

foot, an ending. Thus the character for tao also conveys the continuing

course of the universe, the circle of heaven and earth. Finally, the

character for tao represents the Taoist notion that the eternal Tao is

both moving and unmoving. The head in the character means the

beginning, the source of all things, or Tao itself, which never moves or

changes; the foot is the movement on the path.

Taoism upholds the belief in the survival of the spirit after

death. To have attained the human form must be always a source of joy

for the Taoist. It is truly a reason to rejoice because despite

whatever is lost, life always endures. Taoists believe birth is not a

beginning and death is not an end. There is an existence without

limit. There is continuity without a starting point. Applying

reincarnation theory to Taoism is the belief that the soul never dies, a

person’s soul is eternal. It is possible to see death in contrast to

life; both are unreal and changing. One’s soul does not leave the world

into the unknown, for it can never go away. Therefore there is no fear

to come with death.

In the writings of The Tao Te Ching, tao is described as having

existed before heaven and earth. Tao is formless; it stands alone

without change and reaches everywhere without harm. The Taoist is told

to use the light that is inside to revert to the natural clearness of

sight. By divesting oneself of all external distractions and desires,

one can achieve tao. In ancient days, a Taoist that had transcended

birth and death and achieved tao was said to have cut the Thread of

Life. The soul, or spirit, is Taoism does not die at death. The soul

is not reborn, it migrates to another life. This process, the Taoist

version of reincarnation, is repeated until tao is achieved.

The followers of the Buddha believe life goes on through a

repitition of reincarnations or rebirths. The eternal hope for all

followers of Buddha is that through reincarnation one comes back into

successively better lives until one achieves the goal of being free from

pain and suffering and not having to come back again. This wheel of

rebirth, known as samsara, goes on forever or until one achieves

Nirvana. The Buddhist definition of Nirvana can be summerized as the

highest state of spiritual bliss, absolute immortality through

absorption of the soul into itself, while preserving individuality.

Birth is not the beginning and death is not the end. This cycle of

life has no beginning and can go on forever without an end. The

ultimate goal for every Buddhist, Nirvana, represents total

enlightenment and liberation. Only through achieving this goal is one

liberated from the never ending cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

Transmigration, the Buddhist cycle of birth, death, and rebirth,

involves not the reincarnation of a spirit but the rebirth of a

consciousness containing the seeds of good and evil deeds. Buddhism’s

world of transmigration encompasses three stages. The first stage in

concerned with desire, which goes against the teachings of Buddha and is

the lowest form and involves a rebirth into any number of hells. The

second stage is one in which animals dominate. But after many

reincarnations in this stage the spirit becomes more and more human,

until one attains a deep spiritual understanding. At this point in the

second stage the Buddhist gradually begins to abandon materialism and

seek a contemplative life. The Buddhist in the third stage is

ultimately able to put his ego to the side and become a pure spirit,

having no perception of the material world. This stage requires one to

move from perception to non-perception. And so, through many stages of

spiritual evolution and numerous reincarnations, the Buddhist reaches

the state of Nirvana.

The transition from one stage to another, or the progression within

a stage is based on the actions of the Buddhist. All actions are simply

the display of thought, the will of man. This will is caused by

character, and character is manufactured from karma. Karma means action

or doing. Any kind of intentional action whether mental, verbal or

physical is regarded as karma. All good and bad actions constitute

karma. As is the karma, so is the will of the man. A person’s karma

determines what he deserves and what goals can be achieved. The

Buddhists past life actions determine present standing in life and

current actions determine the next life — all is determined by the

Buddhist’s karma.

Buddha developed a doctrine known as the Four Noble Truths based on

his experience and inspiration about the nature of life. These truths

are the basis for all schools of Buddhism. The fourth truth describes

the way to overcome personal desire through the Eightfold Path. Buddha

called this path the Middle Way, because it lies between a life of

luxury and a life of poverty. Not everyone can reach the goal of

Nirvana, but every Buddhist is at least on the path toward

enlightenment. To achieve Nirvana the Buddhist must follow the steps of

the Noble Eightfold Path. The path consists of knowledge of the truth;

the intention to resist evil; saying nothing to hurt others; respecting

life, morality, and property; holding a job that does not injure others;

striving to free ones mind of evil; controlling one’s feelings and

thoughts; and practicing proper forms of concentration.

Compliance to the path does not guarantee reaching Nirvana, but it

is the only path that leads to Nirvana. Only through following this

path established by Buddha does a Buddhist have a chance to reach

enlightenment — to free oneself from the continuous rounds of birth,

death and rebirth, to have reached the ultimate goal — to be absorbed

into a state of Nirvana.

The goal in both Taoism and Buddhism is to reach the ultimate goal,

to transcend life on earth as a physical being, to achieve harmony with

nature and the universe. The ultimate goal for both religions is to

achieve immortality. The Taoist called this ultimate goal Tao, while

the Buddhist seek Nirvana. Whatever the name, the followers of these

religions believe there is an existence beyond life which can be

achieved provided the right path or behavior is followed.

The path to Tao and Nirvana are similar, yet different. Both

believe there is an inner light which guides a person in the right

direction to the ultimate goal. Personal desires must be forsaken to

enable the inner light to guide a person to achieve eternal bliss. The

teachings that discuss the inner light of a person are as well renowned

in the Tao philosophy as that of the Buddhist. The inner light that is

sought is similar, but the actual path is the primary difference between

Taoism and Buddhism. The path toward enlightenment for the Buddhist was

defined by Buddha in his Eightfold Path. Only through following this

path does the Buddhist reach Nirvana. The path to Tao is individual, it

comes from within. No one can define a path for the Taoist, it must

come from within. Tao means the way, but this way is never taught.

Desire, ambition, fame, and selfishness are seen as complications to the

end. That idea is consistent with Buddhist teachings; it is the

personal life of each individual that gives Taoism its special form.

Taoism and Buddhism perceive life, death and rebirth as a

continuous cycle. This cycle has no beginning and no end. The soul is

eternal, yet the soul is not the object of reincarnation. Taoist

believe the soul is not reborn. Instead it migrates to another life.

Buddhist also believe the soul is not reborn, but instead consciousness

is the object of rebirth.

One major difference between Taoism and Buddhism is the concept of

karma to the Buddhist. This idea that all actions are the display of

thought, the will of man, is known as karma. Karma determines the

Buddhist actions and position in life. A person’s karma limits the

goals which can be achieved. Karma determines where in the cycle of

birth, death and rebirth the consciousness returns. This return can be

in the form of an animal or human, and the Buddhist must progress

through a hierarchy to achieve Nirvana. The Taoist has no concept

similar to karma, and no mention of the soul migrating to an animal

form. The determining factor to one’s life is contained in the

individual behavior for the Taoist. By forsaking personal desires in

life, by concentrating of the self, a longer life is prolonged.

Eventually, by following the inner light, immortality can be achieved.

The similarities between Taoism and Buddhism in the belief of life

after death far outweigh the differences. Both religions believe the

individual must focus on the self to achieve the ultimate goal. To

focus on oneself, all desires and personal ambitions must be forsaken.

One must focus on the self and the proper way of life to reach

immortality. The cycle of life continues indefinitely until the Thread

of Life is broken. Only through proper living, by following the correct

path guided by the inner light, can one achieve the ultimate goal of Tao

or Nirvana.

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