The Influences of Daoism and Buddhism

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Research Paper: The Influences between Daoism and Buddhism
Daoism and Buddhism are two religions which are linked through many similarities. For many years Daoism and Buddhism worked off of one another and absorbed some teachings and texts of the other’s religion. There was an exchanging of ideas between the two which helped shape the two religions. Despite these similarities, though, there was also a bitter rivalry between the two for several years. While the two religions have worked together to form some similar teachings, there are some major differences in beliefs which resulted in disagreements between them. The rivalry stemmed from both the desire to be the dominant religion in China as well as the differences in their beliefs.

The religion of Daoism is an organized religious tradition that developed in China and has continuously changed and reinvented itself based on a vast diversity of environmental and religious influences which it is surrounded by. It has now continued to transform itself throughout China, Korea, and Japan for over two thousand years. One of the prominent things about Daoism is that it is constantly developing itself rather than just following one line of thinking. This type of religious thought caused some problems between Daoism and Buddhism. There were several periods of time during the development of Daoism which reflected what religious influence was surrounding them at the time. Daoism was growing in China at the same time that Buddhism was developing in India, but then Buddhism began to work its way over to China as well. Buddhist missionaries and traders began the spread of Buddhism to China and Daoism began to feel the influence of the presence of Buddhism. Buddhism’s introduction into China was shown through the sharing and melding of ideas and practices with other religions. One of the prominent religions which Buddhism interacted with was Daoism. This interaction between the two religions was seen in changes which were made to both religious traditions. When Buddhism first arrived in China, the Buddhist scriptures were translated into Chinese using the Daoist vocabulary. There was one section of Buddhism which was influenced by Daoist beliefs and practices. Chan Buddhism shows that it was heavily influenced by the developments made in their religious tradition during this time. One can see the Daoist similarity in the paradox of desire. This was the idea of eliminating the desire for Nirvana by ignoring the separation and contradiction of Nirvana and Samsara. It was because of Daoism’s simplicity that helped motivate Chan’s abandonment of Buddhist theory. Daoist influence was also seen through the emphasis placed on total absorption in the practice of a highly cultivated skill. The idea of “sudden enlightenment” also shows signs of Daoism influence. Sudden enlightenment is the denial that any process leads someone closer to the Buddha-nature; which means that you are already there and cannot get any closer so one should be focused on where they are. This is similar to the Daoist idea of embracing the life you are living and being dedicated to religious practice. The Chan Buddhism went on to become the largest sect of Chinese Buddhism. This helps show that because of the similarities between Chan Buddhism and Daoism, it was easy for the Daoist thinkers to adopt this form of Buddhism since it was something familiar to their way of thinking. The exchanging of religious ideas and practices was not only from Daoism to Buddhism, but it was also from Buddhism to Daoism. Because Daoism is a religion based on the absorption and adaption of ideas, the religious practice of Daoism changed over time with the influence of Buddhism around. Daoism went through several stages of modifications in its religious history. While the division of Daoism’s history is not entirely clear, it can be seen through four different periods. These periods are: proto-Daoism, classical Daoism, modern Daoism,...
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