What are the differences between Taoism and Buddhism?

I know they are at least indirectly influenced by one another, and that Taoism is more of a spiritual philosophy, but how are uniquely different from one another? In what ways are they similar?

4 thoughts on “What are the differences between Taoism and Buddhism?

  1. Different ways of interpreting things.

    Buddhism vs. Taoism: An Introduction
    Even though Buddhist beliefs are sometimes intertwined with Taoism, there are strict differences between the two religions.

    Dukkha and Tao
    One of the main concepts of Buddhism is “Dukkha,” or “suffering.” Metaphorically, Buddhists believe life itself is suffering. Taoists on the other hand, believe life is good.

    In order to overcome Dukkha, Buddhists strive to reach “Nirvana,” or Enlightenment. Enlightenment is obtained through non-selfish behavior, following the 8 fold noble paths of Buddha and stopping the process of rebirth. When one ceases to be reborn, they lose all form, self and conscience. They return to the nothingness out of which everything is made.

  2. One of the main concepts of Buddhism is “Dukkha,” or “suffering.” Metaphorically, Buddhists believe life itself is suffering. Taoists on the other hand, believe life is good.

    In order to overcome Dukkha, Buddhists strive to reach “Nirvana,” or Enlightenment. Enlightenment is obtained through non-selfish behavior, following the 8 fold noble paths of Buddha and stopping the process of rebirth. When one ceases to be reborn, they lose all form, self and conscience. They return to the nothingness out of which everything is made.

    Buddhist Enlightenment is equivalent to the Taoist concept of Ultimate Transformation. In Taoism however, Ultimate Transformation implies that the soul survives after death, and that it can travel throughout space and the world of the Immortals.

  3. Both Taoism and Buddhism share one important quality in common: Both are practice traditions, rather than faith tradition. Both emphasize *doing* rather than believing.

    When Buddhism was first introduced to China in the 1st century CE, the Chinese referred to it as “Indian Taoism” because of the apparent affinity between the two traditions.

    Specifically, Taoists took the Buddhist concept of *emptiness* to mean the same thing as the Taoist notion emptiness.

    This turned out to be an error, since the Taoist notion of emptiness refers to qualities such as restraint, patience, frugality, simplicity, and lack of worldly desire; in Buddhism, emptiness refers to the never ceasing flux of each thing in the universe.

    The interaction of Buddhism and Taoism produced what is known as Zen Buddhism. While distinctly Buddhist, Zen incorporates two important Taoist concepts:

    – “Wu wei,” or ‘not doing.’ In Taoism, this doesn’t literally mean passivity. It means acting in accord with a situation. Zen internalized this concept as “correct function” — perceiving how to function correctly, from moment to moment. However, in Zen correct function means acting for the benefit of all beings (bodhisattva action) — a concept that exists in Taoism but is not central.

    – “Pu,” or ‘natural state.’ Taoist training cultivated “pu,” a mental state not confused by thinking, ideas of right/wrong, good/bad, beautiful/or ugly — just pure awareness. This concept first appears in the Zen tradition through the writings of the 3rd Zen patriarch, Seng-Ts’an, who wrote, “The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions for or against anything.”

    The two traditions differ most noticeably in intent.

    The intent of Zen training is to put an end to self-centered thinking so that one can offer genuine benefit to others. Another name for this is “enlightenment.”

    The intent of Taoist meditations can vary, but generally they focus on personal qualities of longevity, harmony, health, or stillness.

    In general, Taoist teaching does not focus on the bodhisattva ideal of Buddhism – the commitment to ease the great suffering in the world.

    Buddhism doesn’t place much emphasis on cosmological or ontological explanation. Rather, it focuses on how the mind functions to create suffering and on how to transform the mind’s function so that suffering does not arise.

    Taoism, on the other hand, provides a fairly comprehensive view of the natural world and humanity’s place in that world. And Taoism has developed many techniques to bring a person into greater harmony with the world.

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