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THE WAY TO IMMORTALITY
A Comparison Between Taoism and Christianity and
the Paths They Take to Reach Immortality
By: Emily Capaldi
The basic structure of both Taoism and Christianity
are parallel because they work to attain the same goal.
It is apparent in both religions that by following a
pure path, and devoiding ones self of earthly ambitions,
wealth, and desires, one may reach the ultimate goal of
immortality. But the way in which one reaches this goal
is very different. Both religions believe in an entity
that has existed before the universe, is the creator of
all things, and loves and provides for all of creation.
The Taoist believes in Tao, which remains a ?formless?,
spiritual stare of mind. It rejects names and is
therefore ?nameless? and unable to be spoken.
Christians, however, believe in God, which takes on an
active human form and is spoken as ?the word? of God.
However, it is the differences between Tao and God that
present the most evident factors that separate Taoism
from Christianity. Unlike the Tao, God rules as a
supreme being, while the Tao is at one with all, and
does not master over anything. It is obvious that
immortality is the goal in both religions, but the
Taoist concept of immortality, and the way in which they
become immortal differs from the of the Christians.
Immortality, to the Taoist, is to achieve Tao, becoming
at one with the universe. Christian immortality is to
reach heaven, and walk along side God. Also, the Taoist
must follow an individual path, that comes from within.
While a Christian may reach heaven only by acts of
his/her own goodness in accordance with their
relationship with God.
Creation, in both Taoism and Christianity, is
stemmed from a source that always was and always will
be. Taoists base their beliefs around the Tao, and the
Christians believe in God. However, the essence of
these two separate ideas differ dramatically in many
other aspects. Unlike Tao, which claims to be
?formless?, God takes on an actual form, the image of
man. The very first sentence of John?s Gospel states,
?In the beginning was the one who was called the
word…? This statement confirms the existence of a
single being. Later in the text it is said that ?the
word became flesh and dwelt among us?, thus becoming
like a human. In contrast, the great Tao is ?infinite?;
it flows everywhere and is always present, yet it cannot
be seen or touched. It is ?empty like a bowl? and
?bottomless? yet its capacity cannot be exhausted. The
Tao?s own intangibility demonstrates the notion that it
is frameless and therefore is not constructed into any
shape or form.
While speech and understanding remain the basis for
following Christianity, the Tao cannot be spoken, and
therefore can never be fully explained in words.
According to the Gospel of John, in the Christian Bible,
God sent John down to earth to speak ?the word? and lead
the people to have faith. In order for Christians to
acquire an understanding of their faith, they must
receive some form of teaching or instruction.
Christians go to church to hear ?the word? that is
verbally preached to them through the words of a priest,
who acts as a servant to God. With this being
understood it can be concluded that without language, as
the basis for understanding, Christianity could not
exist. Taoism, on the other hand, emphasizes the fact
that it is unspoken and therefore can never be verbally
told or explained. Tao is described as being
?nameless?. It is exceeds beyond verbal communication
and comprehension. ?Words can be used to speak of it,
but they cannot be used to contain it.?
Both Tao and God love and take care of all of
creation. Every living thing depends on them for life.
But the Tao is not a supreme being as God is to the
Christians because Taoism is not monotheistic. The main
focus in Taoism is not the worship of one god, but
instead coming into harmony with Tao. Tao ?clothes and
feeds all things but does not claim to be master over
them.? Thus he says, ?the universe and I exist together,
and all things and I are one.? God, on the other hand,
stands above the universe as a higher being. He rules
by power, setting certain standards which Christians are
to live by and obey in order to reach salvation. The Ten
Commandments, also known as ?the law of man?, are a set
of rules, developed by God, that people are to abide by
in order to avoid wrongdoing.
Another element that separates the Tao from God is
the way in which they guide the world. It is through
Gods own actions that Christians are guided, whereas Tao
rules by not acting. God rewards those who lead a
virtuous life and punishes those who have sinned in
order to teach them the right way to live. Tao does not
dominate the world with force, ?it invariably takes no
action, and yet nothing is left undone?.
Whether a person chooses the path of the Taoist or
of a Christian they are ultimately aiming towards the
same goal of immortality. Both religions believe that
there is an existence without end, that a persons soul
is eternal and therefore never dies. In fact the soul,
in both Taoism and Christianity, migrates to another
life where it lives in harmony and bliss for all
eternity. But the Taoist idea of immortality greatly
differs from that in Christian beliefs. A Taoist wishes
to achieve Tao, to find the way, reaching a deeper life
where a persons soul becomes at one with the universe.
Christians believe that their soul will live forever in
peace, once they reach heaven, a much different state of
immortality than the Tao. Unlike Tao, Heaven is a
physical relocation of a persons soul. When a soul
reaches heaven it walks along side God, still existing
as a single being. Someone who achieves Tao however,
becomes at one with nature itself, uniting with all of
existence. As stated in the text ?Being one with nature
is to be at one with Tao.? Reaching Tao is not about a
specific re-location of the soul as it is with Heaven in
Christianity. Instead Tao is about reaching a new level
of consciousness which arises when the mind and body are
joined together and transcend into a deeper wisdom.
Similarly, in both Taoism and Christianity, one
must agree to follow and un-corruptive lifestyle. If
one is to reach either Tao or Heaven, they must avoid
all earthly temptations and desires that may lead to the
pollution of a virtuous style of life. Desires such as
ambition, fame, and selfishness are seen as distractions
to a harmonious life. It is only when one rids
his/herself of such desires that immortality can be
achieved. Despite these similar criteria for eternal
life, the way in which they follow these paths are
contrasting. A Christian follows a very strict set of
doctrines developed by God, and enforced by the church.
It is God itself that guides Christians, and shows them
?the way? to accomplish this goal of eternal life.
Without God acting as a leader, Christians would have no
concept of right from wrong. In the absence of God?s
direction they would not be able to ever reach heaven.
In Taoism, the way to achieve Tao is individual, it
comes from inside the believer. The meaning of Tao is
translated as ?the way?, but this way can never be
taught. Unlike God, who shows you ?the way?, Tao does
not define a path for the Taoist, it must come from
within. Taoism ?seeks naturalness?, following natures
principles in order to attain an enlightened and
empowered entrance into reality. The pursuit of these
types of standards will ensure a life of happiness and
tranquility which far surpasses anything that all of
humankind?s cleverness can devise.
It is apparent in both Taoism and Christianity that
only through proper living, by following a pure path,
can one achieve the ultimate goal of immortality. In
both religions it is possible to maintain a pure
lifestyle only when all desires and personal ambitions
are forsaken along the course of one?s life. However,
it is clear that the differences between the two
religions far outweigh the similarities. Tao and God,
the two main entities from each religion, are the
leading factors that divide Taoism and Christianity into
two very isolated sets of beliefs. It can be concluded
that the Taoist concept of the immortal afterlife and
the method in which a person reaches eternal life,
greatly differs from that of the Christian.
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