Eastern society is an enigma to many Westerners. Its cultural and technical traditions vary so greatly from those of western thought. What influences shaped China, the largest eastern civilization? It is said that the basis of western thought stems from the ideas and principles set out by Socrates and Plato and their contemporaries. In a similar vein it can be said that Confucian and Taoist principles are the basis of eastern thinking. Blending with Buddhism these doctrines shaped Chinese culture and traditions along Chinese social and political life. It may not be so evident today, as technology shrinks our world, and western thought, carried on the back of commerce, invades the east, but Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism are the principle philosophies and belief systems that shaped ancient and dynastic China, both culturally and politically.
The original believers, most of whom where Chinese believed that there are three basic dimensions related to the living of life:
-The search for spirituality in the inner self and its relation to the world that is the province of Buddhism.
-The right relations with one's neighbor which is the province of Confucianism.
-The right relations with the cosmos which is the province of the Taoism.
These three belief systems are not mutually exclusive so that Taoism deals with one's relations with one's neighbor, and Buddhism deals with one relations with the world, but the approaches are different.
Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism became known as the Three Doctrines, or the "Three Teachings". In T'ang times, a man might honor his ancestors by following the rigid rules of social behavior as dictated by Confucianism, attend a Buddhist pageant, and practice Taoist breathing exercises, all in the same day. These three doctrines were an important part of daily life.
Among these doctrines we should say that Taoism is not a religion. Taoism is a philosophy, a way of looking at life and a way of thinking about things. In order to reach happiness, Taoists believe you should look at life and think about things in the right way. Taoists believe it's very important to understand The Way Things Are. This does not mean that there are not things we need to change about ourselves, but it's important to recognize and trust our own Inner Nature, and discover who we are.
Being great (Tao) passes on; passing on, it becomes remote; having become remote, it returns The followers of the Buddha believe life goes on and on in many 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 is "the highest state of spiritual bliss, as absolute immortality through absorption of the soul into itself, but preserving individuality" 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...