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Two Great Religions

… Essay, Research Paper Religions have always been one of mankind s strongest weapons. Millions of people trying to discover themselves, explain physical phenomena, understand the meaning of existence created them in order to have something to rely on, have an excuse for what s going on in their lives, always afraid to accept another point of view.

… Essay, Research Paper

Religions have always been one of mankind s strongest weapons. Millions of people trying to discover themselves, explain physical phenomena, understand the meaning of existence created them in order to have something to rely on, have an excuse for what s going on in their lives, always afraid to accept another point of view. In this project I am going to talk about Taoism and Buddhism. Two religions not so known for people who don t practice them.

Buddhism started with the Buddha.

The word ‘Buddha’ is a title and not a name. It means ‘one who is awake’ in the sense of having ‘woken up to reality’. It was first given to a man who was born as Siddhartha Gautama in Nepal 2,500 years ago. Scholars now place the date of his birth around 480BCE (BC). He did not claim to be a God and he has never been regarded as such by Buddhists. He was a human being who became Enlightened, understanding life in the deepest way possible. Buddhists believe he attained a state of being that goes beyond anything else in the world.

Buddhism is a path of practice and spiritual development leading to Insight into the true nature of life. During the remaining 45 years of his life he travelled through much of northern India, spreading his teaching of the way to Enlightenment. The teaching is known in the East as the Buddha-dharma – ‘the teaching of the Enlightened One’.

Buddhist practices such as meditation are means of changing oneself in order to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness, and wisdom. The experience developed within the Buddhist tradition over thousands of years has created an incomparable resource for all those who wish to follow a path – a path which ultimately culminates in Enlightenment or Buddhahood.

Because Buddhism does not include the idea of worshipping a creator God, some people do not see it as a religion in the normal, Western sense. The basic tenets of Buddhist teaching are straightforward and practical: nothing is fixed or permanent; actions have consequences; change is possible. That is why Buddhism addresses itself to all people irrespective of race, nationality, or gender. It teaches practical methods (such as meditation) which enable people to realize and utilize its teachings in order to transform their experience, to be fully responsible for their lives and to develop the qualities of Wisdom and Compassion.

There are around 350 million Buddhists and a growing number of them are Westerners. They follow many different forms of Buddhism, but all traditions are characterized by non-violence, lack of dogma, tolerance of differences, and, usually, by the practice of meditation.

The founder of Taoism was Lao-Tse (604-531 BCE), a contemporary of Confucius. He was searching for a way that would avoid the constant feudal warfare and other conflicts that disrupted life during his lifetime. The result was his book: Tao-te-Ching

Taoism started as a combination of psychology and philosophy but evolved into a religion in 440 CE when it was adopted as a state religion. At that time Lao-Tse became popularly venerated as a deity. Taoism, along with Buddhism and Confucianism, became the three great religions of China. With the end of the Ch’ing Dynasty in 1911, state support for Taoism ended. Much of the Taoist heritage was destroyed during the next period of warlordism. After the Communist victory in 1949, religious freedom was severely restricted. “The new government put monks to manual labor, confiscated temples, and plundered treasured. Several million monks were reduced to fewer than 50,000″ by 1960. During the cultural revolution in China from 1966 to 1976, much of the remaining Taoist heritage was destroyed. Some religious tolerance has been restored under Deng Xiao-ping from 1982 to the present time. Among the important features of Taoist religion were the belief in physical immortality, alchemy, breath control and hygiene (internal alchemy). It supported a pantheon of deities, including Lao Tzu as one of the three ‘Supreme Ones’. The Taoist liturgy and theology was much influenced by Buddhism. Its scriptures, the Tao-tsang, consist of over 1,400 separate works totaling more than 5,000 chapters. There is considerable evidence that this religious Taoism came to take on many ‘Tantric’ elements, in which the worship of yin-yang takes on a distinctly sexual and erotic form. The interplay of yin and yang elements is represented, and celebrated, as a sexual union. There are some scholars who, in fact, believe that the Tantric schools, which later were absorbed into Buddhism, evolved first as Taoist ones. Particularly important to the development of Taoism in China was the rein of the Emperor Li Lung-chi (a.k.a. Hsuan Tsung) who ruled for 44 years and was a fervent adherent of Taoism. Deeply absorbed in its study he tried to create a Taoist state in which capital punishment would be abolished and animals would be treated humanely. He established hospitals for the sick and poor and was an accomplished musician, equestrian, calligrapher and astronomer.

A true mystic Li Lung-chi once had a vision of Lao Tsu who told him where to find a true likeness of him. The image was, in fact, discovered and replicas of it were made and installed in temples across the realm. He also told his ministers that once while burning incense in a shrine he had been wafted up to Heaven.

Taoism currently has about 20 million followers, and is primarily centered in Taiwan. About 30,000 Taoists live in North America, 1,720 in Canada (1991 census). Taoism has had a significant impact on North American culture in areas of “acupuncture, herbalism, holistic medicine, meditation and martial arts…”

Two wonderful and intriguing religions, fascinating and interesting all at the same time. Two ways of life. Buddhism, a big ancient religion that has influenced almost every other existing one. Taoism on the other hand has less followers but is equally important. Involving with the relationship between itself and physics and natural phenomena. Both of them are another way of thinking, understanding, and judging the importance of the soul and mind.

Bibliography

Capra, Fritjof (1986) Tao and Physics (To Tao kai h Fysiki) 2nd ed. Athena Orora Publications.

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