Buddhism and Taoism are two major religions in the orient, especially China. There are several similarities and differences between the two.
Buddhism finds its roots in Nepal at a time when religious and social turmoil was prevalent. A sect of people who shunned the traditions of the Brahminical religion followed the path led by Gautama Buddha. Indian Buddhism is categorized into five periods. Mauryan emperor Ashoka was a big supporter of this religion and put his efforts in spreading the Buddhist philosophies and ideologies. It spread to Central Asia and to Sri Lanka and eventually to China.
Some forms of Taoism find its roots in Chinese prehistoric folk religions. Laozi is regarded as the founder of this philosophy and Taoism gained official status in China. Many Chinese emperors have been instrumental in spreading and propagating the teachings of this religion.
edit Underlying Concept
Buddhism as a religion believes in Karma and has unique spiritual, physical and metaphysical beliefs which are well grounded in logic, belief and meditation.
Taoism is a philosophy of harmony with nature by way of use of principles like acceptance, simplicity, compassion, relying on experience, wu wei, living in the moment beside others.
edit Important Beliefs
The tradition and practice of Buddhism emphasizes the Three Jewels that include the Buddha, The Dharma and The Sangha. Buddhist ideologies vests on the Four Noble Truths (Life ultimately leads to suffering, suffering is caused by craving, suffering ends when craving ends and the liberated state can be reached by following the path etched by Buddha) and the Noble Eightfold path which when adhered to is believed to put an end to the suffering.
Ethics of Taoism lays stress on the Three Jewels of the Tao that include moderation, humility and compassion. Reverence for immortals and ancestor spirits is important in Taoism. Chinese alchemy, Feng shui, many Chinese martial arts, Zen Buddhism, Chinese traditional medicine and breath training find their roots in Taoism.
There are two major branches of Buddhism:
- Theravada is the School of the Elders
- Mahayana is the Great Vehicle.
The former is the oldest surviving branch and is widely popular in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. Mahayana is popular in East Asia. Vajrayana is a sub category of Mahayana which is also accepted as the third branch. Buddhism is recognized as the world’s fourth largest religion.
Livia Kohn categorized Taoism into three branches:
- Philosophical Taoism that is based on texts Zhuangzi and Dao De Jing
- Religious Taoism that originated from the Celestial Masters movement
- Folk Taoism that is the Chinese folk religion.
Buddhism defines ethics as Sila which is the overall principle of ethical behavior. There exist five precepts in this religion that are pre-determined training rules to lead a happy and better life. These precepts include:
- refraining from violence / adherence to non-violence or ahimsa
- refraining from taking what is not given to one (committing theft)
- refraining from sexual misconduct
- refraining from the act of lying
- refraining from intoxicants that makes one lose his mind.
The basic ethics or virtues of Taoism are the Three Jewels or the Three Treasures:
- Humility that can also be referred to as kindness, simplicity or modesty.
edit Texts or Scripture
Buddhist scriptures are written in Pali, Tibetan, Mongolian and Chinese languages. A few others include Sanskrit and Buddhist hybrid Sanskrit. There is no single central text that is referred to by all traditions.
Tao Te Ching or Daodejing is the most influential Taoist text. The other Taoist texts include Zhuangzi, Daozang and a few other significant texts.
edit Further Reading
For further reading, there are several books available on Amazon.com on Buddhism and Christianity: