What is the difference, if any, between Buddhist dharma practice and Taoism?

I’ve been using the noble eightfold path of Buddhism as a tool for personal development, but for me Taoism seems to provide a more holistic explanation of existence and a better perspective than Buddhist metaphysics (karma, nirvana, reincarnation, etc.). When stripped of all mysticism, are the path and the Way, in essence, pointing to the same thing (cessation of suffering)? Or are they completely different views and I’m just missing something?

1 thought on “What is the difference, if any, between Buddhist dharma practice and Taoism?

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

    Many Buddhists, particularly those in the Mahayana tradition, also practice some form of Taoist energy work – certain breathing or energy exercises.

    In Buddhism, especially in Mahayana Buddhism, we practice in order to attain enlightenment and help all beings become free from suffering.

    While Taoism is a more amorphous tradition than Buddhism, the general aim of Taoist practice is more self-centered, with focuses on longevity, health, personal harmony with circumstances, and simplicity.

    This is an important distinction between the two: Taoism contains no concept of the Great Bodhisattva Way – practicing to help all suffering beings. From a Buddhist perspective, this is fundamental.


    Although Taoism and Buddhism are distinct spiritual traditions, they meet at one point: Zen Buddhism (Ch’an).

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

    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.

    Probably the two most important Taoist concepts to influence the development of Zen Buddhism are:

    – “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.”


    There are 5 types of mind training used in Zen meditation. This link gives you a description of each type of training: http://kwanumzen.org/practice/sitting.html#techniques

    There are many types of mind and body training used in Taoist meditation, including both sitting and movement meditations.

    Taoist sitting meditation often includes a combination of special breathing techniques and visualizations that produce certain energetic results.

    Taoist moving meditation includes tai chi and qi gong practices to heal the bodies energy pathways and cultivate certain healthful energy states.

    This link describes many of the types of meditation techniques used in Taoist practice: http://taoism.about.com/od/meditation/Meditation.htm


    I know this is a long answer, but since you have asked a sincere question, perhaps it will benefit you. Best wishes on your path!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *