There are several similarities between the Chinese philosophy of Confucianism and the religion of Buddhism. However, there are some important differences as well. This chart compares the two belief systems and their practices.

Comparison chart

Buddhism versus Confucianism comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartBuddhismConfucianism
Place of origin Indian Subcontinent China
Place of worship Buddhist monasteries, temples, shrines. Temple.
Practices Practices of the Threefold Training: Virtue, Concentration, and Wisdom, a.k.a the Noble Eightfold Path. Visit to temples to pay homage to Ti'en(God or Heaven), Confucius, and ancestors; To practice ('Jing zuo, ') or 'Quiet Sitting
Life after death Rebirth is one of the central beliefs of Buddhism. We are in an endless cycle of birth, death and re-birth, which can only be broken by attaining nirvana. Attaining nirvana is the only way to escape suffering permanently. To be worshipped as ancestors.
Founder Gautama Buddha (born as Prince Siddhartha) Kong Qiu (Confucius)
Use of statues and pictures Common Permitted.
Goal of religion To attain enlightenment and be released from the cycle of rebirth and death, thus attaining Nirvana. To have a structured society.
Clergy The Buddhist Sangha, composed of bhikkhus (male monks) and bhikkhunis (female monks). The sangha is supported by lay Buddhists. Bureaucrats.
Scriptures Tripitaka - a vast canon composed of 3 sections: the Discourses, the Discipline and the Commentaries, and some early scriptures, such as the Gandhara texts. Analects of Confucius and Mencius; I Ching; Doctrine of Mean, etc.
Belief of God The idea of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent creator is rejected by Buddhists. The Buddha himself refuted the theistic argument that the universe was created by a self-conscious, personal God. One God. Ancestors also worshipped, though.
Principle This life is suffering, and the only way to escape from this suffering is to dispel one's cravings and ignorance by realizing the Four Noble Truths and practicing the Eightfold Path. Confucianism all about the brotherhood of humanity.
View of the Buddha The highest teacher and the founder of Buddhism, the all-transcending sage. Buddha is followed by many Confucians.
Literal Meaning Buddhists are those who follow the teachings of the Buddha in order to become like the Buddha. Disciple of Confucius.
Status of women No distinctions between men and women. Women are equal to men, and men are equal to women in the Sangha. Socially inferior to men.
Original Language(s) Magadhiprakrit Mandarin or Cantonese
Human Nature Ignorance, as all sentient beings. In the Buddhist texts, it is seen that when Gautama, after his awakening, was asked whether he was a normal human being, he replied, "No". Humans should respect those who are superior to them.
Goal of Philosophy To eliminate mental suffering. Social Harmony.
Time of origin 2,500 years ago, circa 563 B.C.E. (Before Common Era) Approx. 550 B.C.E.(Before Common Era)
Followers Buddhists Confucianists
Concept of Deity Gods are seen as higher life forms, still bound in samsara. Most believe in One God.
Holy days/Official Holidays Vesak day in which the birth, the awakening, and the parinirvana of the Buddha is celebrated. Chinese New Year, Teacher Day, Ancestor Day.
Can atheists partake in this religion's practices? Yes. Yes.
Geographical distribution and predominance Theradava Buddhist countries, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka are the places of predominance of Buddhism. The Noble Truths are presently best heard in Myanmar only. Asia.
View of other Dharmic religions Since the word Dharma means doctrine, law, way, teaching, or discipline, other Dharmas are rejected. Confucianists usually follow Buddhism, which is a Dharmic religion.
Views on Other Religions Being a practical philosophy, Buddhism is neutral against other religions. Confucianists see no contradiction in following more than one religion.


Further Reading

For further reading, there are several books available on on Buddhism and Confucianism.

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