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4. Compare and contrast Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. How are they similar? How are they different?

5. Describe the Chinese tradition of ancestor worship.

-Question 4.


Has over 300 million members, and was founded around 2, 500 years ago in India. The founder is Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha, or referred to as the “Enlightened One.”

Their major scripture are The Triptaka, Anguttara-Nikaya, Dhammapada, Sutta-Nipata, Samyutta-Nikaya and many others. Buddhism today is divided into three main sects: Theravada, or Hinayana (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia), Mahayana (China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea), and Vajrayana (Tibet, Mongolia and Japan).

Their Life goal is Nirvana (A place of great condition, or complete Bliss). Toward that end, Buddha’s teachings are capsulized in the Four Noble Truths:

The truth of suffering: Suffering, duhkha, is the central fact of life. Being born is pain, growing old is pain, sickness is pain, death is pain. Union with what we dislike is pain, separation from what we like is pain, not obtaining what we desire is pain.

The truth of the origin (samudaya) of suffering: The cause of suffering is the desire (iccha), craving (tanha) or thirst (tishna) for sensual pleasures, for existence and experience, for worldly possessions and power. This craving binds one to the wheel of rebirth, samsara.

The truth of cessation (nirodha) of suffering: Suffering can be brought to an end only by the complete cessation of desires-the forsaking, relinquishing and detaching of oneself from desire and craving.

The truth of the path (marga) to ending suffering: The means to the end of suffering is the Nobel Eightfold Path (arya ashtanga marga), right belief, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right meditation.


Adherents, Estimated at 350 million, mostly in China, Japan, Burma and Thailand. Understand his relationship to the heavens and earth. Beginning as early as the prehistoric age, it is evident from cave paintings that religious rites may have been used to ensure the success of hunting, fertility, and harvests.

Confucianism began about 2,500 years ago in China. The founder Supreme Sage K’ung-fu-tsu (Confucius) and Secong Sage Meng-tzu (Mencius).

Its, Doctrine of the Mean, Great Learning and Mencius.

Confucianism has been for over 25 centuries, the dominant philosophical system in China and the guiding light in almost every aspect of Chinese life. Confucius and his followers traveled throughout the many feudal states of the Chinese empire, persuading rulers to adopt his social reforms. They did not offer a point-by-point program, but stressed instead the “Way,” or “One Thread,” Jen, which is (translated as “humanity or love”) that runs through all Confucius’ teachings. They urged individuals to strive for perfect virtue, righteousness (called Yi) and improvement of character. They taught the importance of harmony in the family, order in the state and peace in the empire, which they saw as inherently interdependent. Teachings emphasize a code of conduct, self-cultivation and propriety – and thus the attainment of social and national order. Stress is more on human duty and the ideal of the “superior man” than on a divine or supramundane Reality. Still, Confucius fasted, worshiped the ancestors, attended sacrifices and sought to live in harmony with Heaven. Confucianism is now enjoying a renaissance in China.

TAOISM (pronounced “Dow-ism”)

Taoism is China’s oldest indigenous religion. Dating from the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.E. — 220 A.D.), Its 81 chapters have been translated into English more times than any other Chinese document. It was founded and began 2, 500 years ago in China. The founder is Lao-tzu whom Confucius described as a dragon riding the wind and clouds. Their major scriptures are The Tao-te-Ching, or “Book of Reasons and Virtue,” is among the shortest of all scriptures, containing only 5,000 words. Also central are the sacred writings of Chuang-tsu. It is estimated that there are 50 million adherents, mostly in China and other parts of Asia. Taoism is a potently mystical tradition, so interpretations have been diverse and its sects are many.

Taoism teaches that everyone should try to achieve two goals, happiness and immortality. The religion has many practices and ceremonies, intended to help people. They include prayer, magic, special diets, breath-control, meditation, and recitation of scriptures. Taoists also believe in astrology, fortune telling, witchcraft and communication with the spirits of the dead. Taoists worship more deities than do the followers of almost any other religion. Some deities are ancestors and others are the spirits of famous people.

Taoism borrowed heavily from Buddhism. Many Taoist deities, temples and ceremonies show the influence of Buddhism. By A.D.1000, Taoism had divided into many sects. Some of the sects withdrew from daily routine to meditate and study in Monasteries. Other sects were based in temples. The temple priests passed on their position to their children. They gained a reputation as highly skilled magicians, who could predict the future, protect believers from illness, accidents and other misfortunes.

Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism have been the major religions in China. But Confucianism had the greatest impact on the Chinese society. It was the State religion of China from 100 B.C. to 1,900 A.D. Confucius’s scriptures called “The Five Classics and Four Books” served as a foundation of the Chinese education system for centuries.

Buddha taught that people should devote themselves to finding release from the suffering life. Through this release, people will gain Nirvana – “a state of perfect peace and happiness”. To acheive this Nirvana people have to free themselves from wordly things. Buddha taught that Nirvana could be gained by following the middlepath between the extremes of severe self-denial and uncontrolled passion. As Buddha preached number of his followers increased.

Question 5.

Ancestor Worship

A central feature of Chinese funerals and post-burial mortuary practices has been the transfer of food, money and goods to the deceased. In return the living expected to receive certain material benefits, including luck, wealth, and progeny. The living had the responsibility of sustaining the spirits of the ancestors and protecting their graves. As long as this reciprocal relationship was maintained both the living and dead benefited. However, should the descendants neglect the spirit of ancestor by failing to make regular offerings at his grave, the ancestor would be cut adrift in the other-world and seek nourishment and attention elsewhere. Ancestors abandoned in this way became “hungry ghosts,” a general term for spirits of dead people who did not have any reciprocal relationships with the living. It was not uncommon for an ancestor to make the transition from a benevolent, cooperative spirit into a vengeful, dangerous ghost. Specialist had to be employed to make sure that the feng-shui (wind and water) influence was not negative. If the remains of the deceased were not placed and arranged in the right way things could turn out bad. Because of the influence the dead was believed to have on everyday life, a proper funeral was very important and poor families often spent beyond their means. Furthermore, funerals provided an arena for status competition and wealthier families used their resources to demonstrate their superiority (and perhaps persuade their poorer neighbors about the continuing prosperity of their descendants).










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