The Connection between Confucianism and Taoism
Confucianism and Taoism are some of the major religions in China. They have greatly influenced the culture of the Chinese people as well as their world view. The connection between the two religions has influenced many people over time. It can also be said that when the principles of both philosophies are put together, the outcome is a well-rounded person. The following is a discussion of the principles and philosophies behind these two religions as well as how the two religions interact and connect to influence an individual.
Confucianism is a religion that bases its philosophy and principles on the teachings of Confucius, a Chinese philosopher who lived between 551 and 478 BC. The Philosophy behind Confucianism is humanism. Confucian adherents have a positive view of human beings and human nature. The world in the Confucian religion in seen through the ideal of humanism. This means that adherents of Confucianism hold it true that human beings are improvable, teachable and perfectible. Human beings can become perfect through individual and communal effort for example self creation and cultivation. The general philosophy of Confucianism emphasizes individual and governmental morality, rightness of social relationships, sincerity and justice of the whole community.
All adherents of Confucianism should practice ethics that are exemplified by the propagation of virtues or principles. There are many virtues that adherents of Confucianism should follow for instance loyalty, continence, piety, bravery, gentleness, among others. However, there are five fundamental principles in Confucianism that include humaneness (Ren), Righteousness (Yi), Knowledge (Zhi), Etiquette (Li) and Integrity (Xin).
Humaneness obliges people to show altruism to other people in a community. This means that one should be loyal to his true nature, should show reciprocity to good deeds, be kind and show piety. Humaneness dictates that people observe the Golden Rule, ‘Do not do to others what you do not want done to 0yourself’. Being righteous means being morally disposed to do good. Etiquette on the other hand is a system of propriety and norms that dictate what proper and improper behavior within a community is. Knowledge means to appreciate the true and deep significance of something. Integrity on the other hand means honesty and standing by ones words.
Taoism is a Chinese religious tradition that stresses the importance of living harmoniously with the essence and source of all that exists or the Tao. In Chinese, Tao means the path, way or principle but it can also mean nature or reality. In Taoism, the right path is working in harmony with nature or reality. Taoism ethics stress the three jewels of the Tao which include moderation, compassion and humility. The philosophy of Taoism centers on nature and how human beings should relate with the cosmos. Inner fulfillment can be achieved through contemplation of nature. Nature is like a stream of wisdom and by experiencing it through innocent eyes, we are able to internalize its pleasantness, its intrigue and its excitement and achieve serenity.
There are four fundamental principles in Taoism including Tao, De, Pu and Wu wei. Tao in Taoism is the natural, spontaneous, eternal and indescribable way everything began and took course. It is the force that is behind natural order, the natural flow of the universe or that which keeps the universe ordered and balanced. De on the other hand is the integrity, virtue and power that are an active expression of the way or Tao. It is the living out or cultivation of the way. Wu wei, the third principle in Taoism which literally means ‘without purposeful action’. It means effortless doing and the unseen power in all things. In practice, it means that people should not exert their will in the world as this will cause a disruption in the harmony that is within things. Human beings should put their will in harmony with that which is natural or the nature. This way, their objectives would be achieved without effort. Pu in Chinese is translated to mean simplicity. It is used to symbolize pure perception and potential without discrimination. Taoists believe that everything should be perceived as it really is without illusions. Pu is the true and pure nature of the mind, uncontaminated by experiences or knowledge. When someone is in Pu, there neither is beautiful nor ugly, right nor wrong, only pure awareness.
When the principles of both Confucianism and Taoism combine, they are able to make a well rounded and self actualized person. First off, both philosophers advocate for people to move from having an ‘individual’ attitude and adopt a more communal attitude. Selflessness is therefore advocated for. The greater whole is give precedence over the individual. This is probably the reason why the Chinese as a people are very communal. If people adopted this notion, then a lot of useless conflicts between people would be done away with. This is because according to these philosophies, left to his means, the individual would not only hold himself back but also fragment the society. When individuals come together, the society is made stronger because people do only that which is advantageous to society. If therefore people adopted this principle as taught in both Confucianism and Taoism, the world would be a peaceful place to live in and our political leaders would work for the electorate instead of protecting themselves and the haves.
Another way in which the combination of the two philosophies can help make a well rounded person is that they both advocate for virtues that would make an individual better. While Confucianism emphasizes on humaneness, Righteousness, Knowledge, Etiquette and Integrity, Taoism centers on nature and how it can bring harmony to the human being and society. If one combined the two, he would in essence be a person who does good, follows societal norms and also conserves the environment. This in essence would be a law abiding citizen who respects the role of nature in the world. The environment and nature which we salvage any how would be safe and global warming and the extinction of some species of animals would not be there. Crime would be a thing of the past. The society would be full of well rounded people.
Both philosophies encourage people to live well conducted lives, to fulfill all their obligations and duties and balance their lives. This means that people should respect their different roles in social relationships as mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, siblings, friends, relatives, ruler, subject etc. The two religions encourage that one should be able to balance all his roles and perform them to the fullest. This balance is also encouraged in other issues in life as such as there should be a balance between cowardice and courage. Striking a balance between things and observing moderation is makes a well conducted life which is encouraged in both religions. If people adopted the principles of Confucianism and Taoism, issues like violence, negligence, divorce, adultery, deceit would be unheard of as everyone would know their place and execute their roles efficiently.
If people adopted Confucian and Taoist principles, we would believe in the inherent potential in human beings to be changed and transformed to be good people. If one went wrong for example, they would really believe they could change and therefore they would work towards becoming better people because they truly believe in transformation. People would be aware of their inner self and cultivate it for the betterment of humanity. Our Judicial and justice systems would also be tailored with this notion in mind, with their primary role being to fully rehabilitate people.
If a person combined both Confucian and Taoist principles in their lives, they would learn to appreciate the little things that we take for granted like the sun, the rain, the air and even art among other. Such a person would appreciate uncontaminated beauty and thus give way for art to develop. Such people would use art to unify society. This is the reason why the Chinese appreciate art so much. In conclusion, Confucian and Taoist principles combined would make a person happy, contented, fulfilled and self actualized. It would make a person not to burden themselves with the insignificances of life but rather to live life to the fullest. The principles of both religions combined would ensure that individual, the society and indeed the world over is focused on what really matters. It would make an individual to be at peace with himself and the society.
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9e. Taoism and Confucianism — Ancient Philosophies
Although he is an animal with Very Little Brain, Winnie the Pooh understands better than most what it is to live effortlessly and happily, two characteristics of the Taoist way.
"Those who know do not say; those who say do not know." -Lao-tzu
"The superior men are sparing in their words and profuse in their deeds." -Confucius
The 6th century B.C.E. was an amazing time of philosophical growth for ancient China. It was during that time that the two most influential spiritual leaders native to China, Confucius and Lao-tzu, are thought to have lived and taught. The philosophies that they practiced, Taoism and Confucianism, existed simultaneously in dynastic China, attracting countless numbers of followers over the past 2,500 years. The fascination of both the Eastern and Western worlds with these two legendary figures and the philosophies that they created remains strong.
The Old Master
Lao-tzu, translated as either "Old Master" or "Old Boy," is believed to be the author of Taoism. Very little is known of his life; he may not even have existed. According to myth, at his birth around 604 B.C.E., Lao-tzu came from the womb as an old man, white-haired and full of wisdom. He eventually took a position as head librarian of the Imperial Archives. Saddened by society's lack of goodness, Lao-tzu decided to leave his home in Luoyang to live out the rest of his life in quiet and solitude somewhere beyond the Great Wall of China, possibly near Tibet. As he passed through the city gates for the final time, the gatekeeper asked Lao-tzu to write down his parting thoughts. The "Old Master" agreed, and three days later returned with a small book. Lao-tzu then left civilization, never to return. His writings were titled the Tao Te Ching, and became the most important text of Taoism.
Lao-tzu smiles while the Buddha and Confucius wince after they taste-test vinegar. The philosophies of ancient China are summarized in the faces of its three most colorful characters.
According to Taoism, the entire universe and everything in it flows with a mysterious, unknowable force called the Tao. Translated literally as "The Way," the Tao has many different meanings. It is the name that describes ultimate reality. The Tao also explains the powers that drive the universe and the wonder of human nature. Taoists believe that everything is one despite all appearances. Opinions of good and evil or true and false only happen when people forget that they are all one in the Tao. Therefore, it is the aim of Taoists not to forget, and if forgotten to remember that oneness. However, Lao-tzu reminds believers that the Tao is difficult to grasp: "the Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao."
Over time a Taoist religion evolved, becoming somewhat different from the philosophy of Taoism just described. While religious Taoism held some of the same beliefs, it also called for worship of many gods and ancestors, a practice that began during the Shang dynasty. Other religious practices included the cultivation of bodily energy called "chi," the creation of a system of morals, and use of alchemy in attempts to attain immortality. The folk religion of Taoism became popular after its adoption by China as the state religion in 440 C.E., and continues to be practiced even to the present-day.
Confucius and the Analects
The other driving philosophy of dynastic China was created by a politician, musician, and philosopher named Confucius. Born in 551 B.C.E., Confucius wandered throughout China, first as a government employee, and later as a political advisor to the rulers of the Chou dynasty. In later life, Confucius left politics to teach a small group of students. After his death in 479 B.C.E., the ethics and moral teachings of Confucius were written down by his students to become the Lun-yü, or Analects. Many of his clever sayings are still followed today. "It is as hard to be poor without complaining as to be rich without becoming arrogant."
Lao-tzu, known as the "Old Master," wrote his parting thoughts on the Tao or The Way before he left civilization. The Tao Te Ching, as this writing came to be known, has influenced millions during the last 2,500 years.
Learning to be human was the goal of Confucianism. According to Confucius, each person should act with virtue in all social matters; family, community, state, and kingdom, to ensure order and unity. Man's virtue in all its forms is called "jen." "Jen" is all encompassing and unable to be defined, in some respects similar to the Tao. Confucian ceremonies contained many rituals based in the Five Classics, especially the I Ching, or Book of Changes. Procedures for birth, marriage, and death were rigid and specific. For example, according to Confucian funeral tradition, a willow branch is always carried behind the body of the deceased symbolizing the soul of that person.
However, by far the most influential aspect of Confucianism remains the Analects: "Not to teach a man who can be taught, is to waste a man; to teach a man who cannot be taught, is a waste of words. The wise will lose neither men nor words." It was sayings such as this one that made Confucianism the social philosophy of China from the Han dynasty in 202 B.C.E. until the end of dynastic rule in 1911.
Taoism and Confucianism have lived together in China for well over 2,000 years. Confucianism deals with social matters, while Taoism concerns itself with the search for meaning. They share common beliefs about man, society, and the universe, although these notions were around long before either philosophy. Both began as philosophies, each later taking on religious overtones. Legend states that Confucius and Lao-tzu did in fact meet to discuss the Imperial Archives. Lao-tzu was unimpressed by the beautiful robes worn by Confucius, and did not agree with looking back on the past. "Put away your polite airs and your vain display of fine robes. The wise man does not display his treasures to those he does not know. And he cannot learn justice from the Ancients."
Regardless of the disagreements between Lao-tzu and Confucius, both Taoism and Confucianism have served as guides. They have led China through the peaks and valleys of its vast history, the longest continuing story on the planet.
For a taste of the complex philosophy of Confucius, pick a book at random from the table of contents of the Analects. You will see that each chapter makes some point about the way in which a person should live — practically, spiritually, or morally. Commentary will help you understand the context of his sayings.
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Very simply, filial piety means devoting your life to your parents until they die, doing exactly what they say, and bringing prestige to their name. Today that is not a popular idea, but in 14th century China, it was the most important duty of every child, no matter their age. Take a look at some famous stories of filial piety and be amazed at the devotion of Chinese sons and daughters.
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The Tao surrounds everyone and therefore everyone must listen to find enlightenment. This is probably the most well-organized webpage on Taoism to be found on the internet. Be sure to read through the "Taoist Beliefs and Practices" for key points explaining this often indefinable philosophy. Links at the bottom of the page will begin your journey through Taoism.
Organized in the same manner as the Taoist webpage, Religioustolerance.org provides an excellent chance to compare and contrast these two schools of Chinese thought.
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In traditional Chinese philosophy, all life is considered a duality made up of opposing parts such as light and dark, male and female, positive and negative. All the parts are placed into either one of two groups, yin or yang. The goal is to bring those opposing parts into harmony. "The Way" to do that is Taoism. Be sure to have a look at "Yin & Yang" and "5 Elements" for Taoist ideas about the physical world.
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Happiness in simplicity is what makes Winnie the Pooh an example of Taoism. Each of the characters in A.A. Milne's world have their own gifts and limitations, but no character accepts them with the grace and effortlessness of Pooh. Take a moment and read this short illumination into the Taoism at Pooh's Corner, for a glimpse into living the Way.
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