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    Week Thirteen Essay (1880 words)

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    TaoismIt is always present in you. You can use it anyway you want. — Lao-tzuTaoism is one of the two great philosophical and religious traditionsthat originated in China. The other philosophy native to China isConfucianism. Both Taoism and Confucianism began at about the same time,around the sixth century B.

    C. China’s third great religion, Buddhism, cameto China from India around the second century of the common era. Together,these three faiths have shaped Chinese life and thought for nearly twenty-five hundred years. One dominate concept in Taoism and Buddhism is thebelief in some form of reincarnation. The idea that life does not endwhen one dies is an integral part of these religions and the culture ofthe Chinese people. Although not accepted by our beliefs, itsunderstanding helps build strength in our own religion.

    Reincarnation,life after death, beliefs are not standardized between the religions. Each religion has a different way of applying this concept to its beliefs. Ignorance of these beliefs is a sign of weakness in the mind. To trulyunderstand ones own religion, one must also understand those concepts ofthe other religions of the world. Hopefully this will be an enlightenmenton the reincarnation concepts as they apply to Taoism and Buddhism.

    The goal in Taoism is to achieve tao, to find the way. Tao is theultimate reality, a presence that existed before the universe was formedand which continues to guide the world and everything in it. Tao issometimes identified as the Mother, or the source of all things. Thatsource is not a god or a supreme being as with Christians, for Taoism isnot monotheistic. The focus is not to worship one god, but instead oncoming into harmony with tao. Tao is the essence of everything that isright, and complications exist only because people choose to complicatetheir own lives.

    Desire, ambition, fame, and selfishness are seen ashindrances to a harmonious life. It is only when one rids himself of alldesires can tao be achieved. By shunning every earthly distraction, theTaoist is able to concentrate on life itself. The longer the one’s life,the closer to tao one is presumed to have become. Eventually the hope isto become immortal, to achieve tao, to have reached the deeper life.

    Thisis the afterlife for a Taoist — to be in harmony with the universe. To understand the relationship between life and the Taoism concept oflife and death, the origin of the word tao must be understood. TheChinese character for tao is a combination of two characters thatrepresent the words head and foot. The character for foot represents aperson’s direction or path. The character for head represents a consciouschoice.

    The character for head also suggests a beginning, and foot, anending. Thus the character for tao also conveys the continuing course ofthe universe, the circle of heaven and earth. Finally, the characterfor tao represents the Taoist notion that the eternal Tao is both movingand unmoving. The head in the character means the beginning, the sourceof all things, or Tao itself, which never moves or changes; the foot isthe movement on the path. Taoism upholds the belief in the survival of the spirit after death. Tohave attained the human form must be always a source of joy for the Taoist.

    It is truly a reason to rejoice because despite whatever is lost, lifealways endures. Taoists believe birth is not a beginning and death is notan end. There is an existence without limit. There is continuity withouta starting point. Applying reincarnation theory to Taoism is the beliefthat the soul never dies, a person’s soul is eternal. It is possible tosee death in contrast to life; both are unreal and changing.

    One’s souldoes not leave the world into the unknown, for it can never go away. Therefore there is no fear to come with death. In the writings of The Tao Te Ching, tao is described as having existedbefore heaven and earth. Tao is formless; it stands alone without changeand reaches everywhere without harm. The Taoist is told to use the lightthat is inside to revert to the natural clearness of sight. By divestingoneself of all external distractions and desires, one can achieve tao.

    Inancient days, a Taoist that had transcended birth and death and achievedtao was said to have cut the Thread of Life. The soul, or spirit, isTaoism does not die at death. The soul is not reborn, it migrates toanother life. This process, the Taoist version of reincarnation, isrepeated until tao is achieved. The followers of the Buddha believe life goes on through a repitition ofreincarnations or rebirths.

    The eternal hope for all followers of Buddhais that through reincarnation one comes back into successively betterlives until one achieves the goal of being free from pain and sufferingand not having to come back again. This wheel of rebirth, known assamsara, goes on forever or until one achieves Nirvana. The Buddhistdefinition of Nirvana can be summerized as the highest state of spiritualbliss, absolute immortality through absorption of the soul into itself,while preserving individuality. Birth is not the beginning and death is not the end. This cycle of lifehas no beginning and can go on forever without an end.

    The ultimate goalfor every Buddhist, Nirvana, represents total enlightenment and liberation. Only through achieving this goal is one liberated from the never endingcycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Transmigration, the Buddhist cycle of birth, death, and rebirth,involves not the reincarnation of a spirit but the rebirth of aconsciousness containing the seeds of good and evil deeds. Buddhism’sworld of transmigration encompasses three stages.

    The first stage inconcerned with desire, which goes against the teachings of Buddha and isthe lowest form and involves a rebirth into any number of hells. Thesecond stage is one in which animals dominate. But after manyreincarnations in this stage the spirit becomes more and more human, untilone attains a deep spiritual understanding. At this point in the secondstage the Buddhist gradually begins to abandon materialism and seek acontemplative life.

    The Buddhist in the third stage is ultimately able toput his ego to the side and become a pure spirit, having no perception ofthe material world. This stage requires one to move from perception tonon-perception. And so, through many stages of spiritual evolution andnumerous reincarnations, the Buddhist reaches the state of Nirvana. The transition from one stage to another, or the progression within astage is based on the actions of the Buddhist.

    All actions are simply thedisplay of thought, the will of man. This will is caused by character,and character is manufactured from karma. Karma means action or doing. Any kind of intentional action whether mental, verbal or physical isregarded as karma. All good and bad actions constitute karma.

    As is thekarma, so is the will of the man. A person’s karma determines what hedeserves and what goals can be achieved. The Buddhists past life actionsdetermine present standing in life and current actions determine the nextlife — all is determined by the Buddhist’s karma. Buddha developed a doctrine known as the Four Noble Truths based on hisexperience and inspiration about the nature of life.

    These truths are thebasis for all schools of Buddhism. The fourth truth describes the way toovercome personal desire through the Eightfold Path. Buddha called thispath the Middle Way, because it lies between a life of luxury and a lifeof poverty. Not everyone can reach the goal of Nirvana, but everyBuddhist is at least on the path toward enlightenment.

    To achieve Nirvanathe Buddhist must follow the steps of the Noble Eightfold Path. The pathconsists of knowledge of the truth; the intention to resist evil; sayingnothing to hurt others; respecting life, morality, and property; holding ajob that does not injure others; striving to free ones mind of evil;controlling one’s feelings and thoughts; and practicing proper forms ofconcentration. Compliance to the path does not guarantee reaching Nirvana, but it isthe only path that leads to Nirvana. Only through following this pathestablished by Buddha does a Buddhist have a chance to reachenlightenment — to free oneself from the continuous rounds of birth,death and rebirth, to have reached the ultimate goal — to be absorbedinto a state of Nirvana. The goal in both Taoism and Buddhism is to reach the ultimate goal, totranscend life on earth as a physical being, to achieve harmony withnature and the universe.

    The ultimate goal for both religions is toachieve immortality. The Taoist called this ultimate goal Tao, while theBuddhist seek Nirvana. Whatever the name, the followers of thesereligions believe there is an existence beyond life which can be achievedprovided the right path or behavior is followed. The path to Tao and Nirvana are similar, yet different. Both believethere is an inner light which guides a person in the right direction tothe ultimate goal.

    Personal desires must be forsaken to enable the innerlight to guide a person to achieve eternal bliss. The teachings thatdiscuss the inner light of a person are as well renowned in the Taophilosophy as that of the Buddhist. The inner light that is sought issimilar, but the actual path is the primary difference between Taoism andBuddhism. The path toward enlightenment for the Buddhist was defined byBuddha in his Eightfold Path.

    Only through following this path does theBuddhist reach Nirvana. The path to Tao is individual, it comes fromwithin. No one can define a path for the Taoist, it must come from within. Tao means the way, but this way is never taught.

    Desire, ambition, fame,and selfishness are seen as complications to the end. That idea isconsistent with Buddhist teachings; it is the personal life of eachindividual that gives Taoism its special form. Taoism and Buddhism perceive life, death and rebirth as a continuouscycle. This cycle has no beginning and no end. The soul is eternal, yetthe soul is not the object of reincarnation.

    Taoist believe the soul isnot reborn. Instead it migrates to another life. Buddhist also believethe soul is not reborn, but instead consciousness is the object of rebirth. One major difference between Taoism and Buddhism is the concept of karmato the Buddhist. This idea that all actions are the display of thought,the will of man, is known as karma. Karma determines the Buddhist actionsand position in life.

    A person’s karma limits the goals which can beachieved. Karma determines where in the cycle of birth, death and rebirththe consciousness returns. This return can be in the form of an animal orhuman, and the Buddhist must progress through a hierarchy to achieveNirvana. The Taoist has no concept similar to karma, and no mention ofthe soul migrating to an animal form.

    The determining factor to one’slife is contained in the individual behavior for the Taoist. By forsakingpersonal desires in life, by concentrating of the self, a longer life isprolonged. Eventually, by following the inner light, immortality can beachieved. The similarities between Taoism and Buddhism in the belief of life afterdeath far outweigh the differences.

    Both religions believe the individualmust focus on the self to achieve the ultimate goal. To focus on oneself,all desires and personal ambitions must be forsaken. One must focus on theself and the proper way of life to reach immortality. The cycle of lifecontinues indefinitely until the Thread of Life is broken.

    Only throughproper living, by following the correct path guided by the inner light,can one achieve the ultimate goal of Tao or Nirvana.Word Count: 2015Words/ Pages : 1,979 / 24

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