How connected is Tao with Buddhism and Confucianism?

iBrian

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Question is the title, really - I'm curious what the actual extent of influence Taoism has no Buddhism and Confucianism.

On the one hand, Taoism seems to be a fundamental way of looking at the world and reality.

Confucianism and Buddhism, however, instead often seem more like philosophies of behaviour.

So does Taoism have any real influence in the underlying precepts of the other two? Is Confucianism little more than an ethical code for the non-peasant? Does Buddhism actually lend itself deeply to any principles of Taoism?

Simply curious...
 

samabudhi

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I considered myself a Taoist until I became a Buddhist. I still have great faith in the teachings of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, but Buddhism offers more and is more correct in some areas.

The problem with Taoism is that it's too simple. It's too fundamental and the gap between understanding and implementing is never really made. The ancients never actually said how one was to accomplish this change in view of the world. They say that Tai Chi and Qi Gung are the methods of Taoism. I have not yet had the opportunity to visit these. But isn't this the ideal religion. One where practise, culture and way of thinking are all combined into one so much that you would have trouble rooting out what was Taoist and what was Chinese. In my opinion, Taoism is simply Chinese culture and conduct.

So without a large scripture, there is little need for study. The ideal of the Taoist is to be a hermit. Clearly the growth of such a religion, if at all, would be about as slow as waterfalls move backward.
When Confucianism met with Taoism, they both competed for social positions since they had taken on cultural significance. Taoism took on cultural significance, and so lost it's philosophical roots. The point of debate between Taoists and Confucians is mainly around ethics and etiquette.
Confucianism does not share the deep insight into the nature of things as Buddhism or Taoism does (which they incidently agree on). It is very flat. But Buddhism has not only metaphysical insight, but also very particular ethics which are indelibly linked to everything else in the religion. Despite it's flexibility, it clashes with Confucianism.

I am in Taiwan now, and Taoism and Buddhism are both very well represented here. They live side by side. But in the time when Buddhism met Taoism, the result was Chan(Zen) Buddhism. Buddhism, being the bigger of the two and very open to ideas, spread amoungst traditionally Taoist communities. So the people began to practise Buddhist meditation in a Taoist way. Very neat, very ordered, very simple.

In conclusion, I would say that Taoism in it's present form over Taiwan has nothing to do with Lao Tzu or what he said. It's about simple temples and is almost entirely a cultural phenomena rather than a religion. It has had as little effect on Buddhism as Paganism had on Christianity when it came bouncing though all of Europe. There are references to world trees and the Christmas tree has become quite popular, but the influence was mainly cultural.
 

Zazen

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"On the one hand, Taoism seems to be a fundamental way of looking at the world and reality."

whered you get this idea? understand the goal of a taoist is to merge with the cosmos, or unified cosmic energy, this is accomplished through sitting meditation and through the use of visualization. There are many misunderstood and debased forms of taoism that people get confused by, such as alchemical scriptues used to describe methods of unifying with the cosmos. Understand when taoists masters used alchemical scriptures to describe methods of cultivation they werent implying sexual practices, or golden elixirs or magic pills, infact the masters looked down on these methods.

as far as the 3 religions have influenced each other can be seen in their respective philosophys as they are often very similar, metaphysically they are describeing the same state of reality

as for theyre differences well, for one most taoists are traditionally hermits or reclusive, buddhists on the other hand embrace life, as do confucianists

taoists use methods such as sitting meditation, which is obviously found in buddhism aswell, but there method of meditation is usually through some form of visualization, coupled with some chi kung exercises

really though, the similaritys between buddhism and taoism(espcially chan, because of the influence of shaolin and wudang schools) are very very close, infact some people go as far as to say chan was an invention of taoism(which preceeded buddhism in china)

confucianisms effect on the previously mentioned religions comes in many forms, such as the commentary of confucius and his ten wings in the I-Ching, which obviously has had an effect on buddhism and taoism respectively. then there is the basic knowledge that is transmitted between the schools, the moral and ethical modes of conduct, and how they relate to society. i personally wouldnt go as far to say that confucianism influenced the latter to much, moreso they influenced confucianism, but its give an take in that they are all similar since they are all chinese

chan is chinese, taoism is chinese and confucianism is chinese, therefore, the similaritys are close, but the relationship of confucianism with buddhism and taoism isnt as strong as the relationship of chan and taoism

its noteworthy to mention also that we should be labeling "buddhism" with chan, since..buddhism as a whole hasnt been effected by taoism that much, really chan is more appropriate since even though taoists and such visited india and tibet etc, the effect isnt as large in sharing of ideas and philosophys as it is with the chan sect

amitabha
 

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Namaste all,

thank you for the topic, Brian.

interesting replies thus far...

i'd like to offer another perspective, if i may.

one of the strengths of the Buddhist tradition is it's ability to adapt to local cultures and customes and still retain the essential Buddhadharma as passed from lineage holder to lineage holder through mind to mind transmission.

there are plenty of examples of this... in Tibet where the local deities of the shamanistic religion called Bon were converted into Dharma Protectors by Padmasambhava when he brought Buddhism to Tibet. in China, Kwan Yin, a Chinese Goddess of Mercy has become the female Bodhisattva of Compassion otherwise known as Avelokiteshavara a male Bodhisattva in Tibet and India.

when Buddhism enters into other cultures, the masters, gurus, lamas, teachers.. whichever term you choose to you, employ the Buddhist teaching of "expiedent means" to explain the teachings. expiedent means, unfortunately, has a negative connotation in many places in the west... traditionally, this means that the lama has enough insight into the student that they are able to present the teachings in a way that the student can understand. this is, in our view, a good thing :)

one of the things that is very important to keep in mind is the time in which Lao tzu and Kung Fu tzu were alive. this was during a period of time in Chinas history called the Warring States period. what we know as China today was, during this time in history, divided into warring kingdoms each striving for hegemony.

if you read the works of these authors, leaving textual analysis aside, it is clear that the advice and wisdom that they author is directed to a wide range of subjects... from personal ethics and morality to the best ways to be a minister in a small kingdom.. to ways to tax the population and still remain popular. often, this is overlooked when modern readers read these works.. however, it is my feeling that a proper understanding of the cultural millieu in which these works were written is vital to a proper understanding of many of the teachings therein.

rather than treat such a deep, rich and complex subject in a trite and facile manner, i would direct the reader interested in Chinese philosophical history to this site:
http://uweb.superlink.net/~fsu/philo.html

a strong case can be made that there was a real tension between the Taoist and Confucian schools of philosophy.. this is quite apparant when one analyzes the textual material that was required of all civil servents to be versed in.

there are writings in Taoist literature that tell of a meeting between Lao Tzu and Confucious... and Lao tzu rebukes Confucious... drat.. i don't know if there's a link to it online... i'll look around some more... later...

for now... dinners being served.....ta!
 

samabudhi

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Zazen said:
"On the one hand, Taoism seems to be a fundamental way of looking at the world and reality."

whered you get this idea? understand the goal of a taoist is to merge with the cosmos, or unified cosmic energy, this is accomplished through sitting meditation and through the use of visualization. There are many misunderstood and debased forms of taoism that people get confused by, such as alchemical scriptues used to describe methods of unifying with the cosmos. Understand when taoists masters used alchemical scriptures to describe methods of cultivation they werent implying sexual practices, or golden elixirs or magic pills, infact the masters looked down on these methods.

I think Brian is talking about the original Taoist Philosophy of Lao Tzu. There is no meditation in this. It is about changing the way we look at things and respond to events. If we see everything as the interplay of Yin and Yang, we will not deviate from the non-differentiated state. Since this is the nature of the cosmos, we would be aligning ourselves with it. The ultimate message of the Lao Tzu is balance.
 

Zazen

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yes but there was no such thing as taoism before lao tzu, taoism as a spiritual path is infact not soley based on lao tzus teachings

also, lao tzu philosophy is not and cannot be called solely that, we dont know everything about him, there is much more to him that we know, i believe anyway

"can you keep the soul always concentrated from straying?
can you regulate the breath and become soft and pliant like an infant?
can you clear and get rid of the unforseen and be free from fault?
...can you become enlightened and penetrate everywhere without knowledge?"

this quote contains more then just the obvious, i believe lao tzu performed some manner of meditation, this doesnt neccesarily mean zazen but it imho definately hints to a mediative state of mind

also, it is obvious the effect of lao tzus teachings had on wudang martial arts, anyone whos serious about chinese martial arts knows what im talking about, when i relate this quote to that subject

amitabha
 

iBrian

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My understanding was that Taoism is effectively a form of animism practised by the Chinese peasant classes for millenia - and that the part that Lao Zi actually played in that was to bring together aspects of that belief into writing under his own direction, rather than actually invent the actual belief system itself.
 

samabudhi

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Zazen said:
yes but there was no such thing as taoism before lao tzu, taoism as a spiritual path is infact not soley based on lao tzus teachings

also, lao tzu philosophy is not and cannot be called solely that, we dont know everything about him, there is much more to him that we know, i believe anyway

"can you keep the soul always concentrated from straying?
can you regulate the breath and become soft and pliant like an infant?
can you clear and get rid of the unforseen and be free from fault?
...can you become enlightened and penetrate everywhere without knowledge?"

this quote contains more then just the obvious, i believe lao tzu performed some manner of meditation, this doesnt neccesarily mean zazen but it imho definately hints to a mediative state of mind

also, it is obvious the effect of lao tzus teachings had on wudang martial arts, anyone whos serious about chinese martial arts knows what im talking about, when i relate this quote to that subject

amitabha

One of the biggest problems with Tao scriptures is they were written in a language which is so old and misunderstood that we have had to guess at half of what is being said.
The translation I have of verse 10 goes like this:

Pacifying the agitated material soul and holding to oneness:
Are you able to avoid separation?
Focusing your energy on the release of tension:
Can you be like an infant?
In purifying your insight:
Can you un-obstruct it?
Loving the people and ruling the state:
Can you avoid over-manipulation?
In opening and closing the gate of Heaven:
Can you be the female?
In illuminating the whole universe:
Can you be free of rationality?

Give birth to it and nourish it.
Produce it but don't possess it.
Act without expectation.
Excel, but don't take charge.

This is called Mysterious Virtue.

Remember that when Buddhism arrived in China, all it's ideas proliferated into the minds of those who would continue the Tao teachings. It's no surprise that it contains terms like 'regulate the breath' and 'enlightenment' (which is clearly a Buddhist influence.)
The Greek philosophers had one approach. The Indian mystics another. I think Lao Tzu and the people who lived at that time had yet another.

This is what I think happened.
There was Shamanism. The use of herbs and 'alchemy' was a major part of that, much like the Shamanism which continues today in Mongolia and Buryat populations of Siberia. Then Lao Tzu came along and got everyone thinking all abstract like in modern China. The art of mind-altering entheogens was lost as emphasis was placed on abstract thinking and not experience.
Sure Lao Tzu's aim was experience. But when something gets put in writing, it loses a certain quality, it goes stale, and people think of it as just an idea.

The same thing happened in Greece with the Elysium rituals where they consumed a substance (probably some LSD type chemical which is found in ergot growing on barley.) This was the Shamanist or Pagan aspect which for whatever reason died out and was replaced by a bunch of old men going in circles about abstract ideas. The Greek Philosophers that is.

Also is India. It is pretty much accepted that what the Rig Veda refers to as Soma, was in fact the Amanita Muscaria mushroom which is still used today in Shaman cultures. But the hunter-gatherer was turning into the farmer and once again the tradition of taking entheogens was lost to, in this case, meditation.

So alchemy in Taoism wasn't a debased form, is was lost art.
Understand when taoists masters used alchemical scriptures to describe methods of cultivation they werent implying sexual practices, or golden elixirs or magic pills, infact the masters looked down on these methods.
Nothing's changed. Today we still look down on people who investigate Psychedelic substances, in my opinion, to our own detriment.
Return to the source. Return to nature and take what it provides.
 

Zazen

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the words arent hard to understand, they expound the same message, its all relative to me

i disagree strongly with the psychedelic substance and such aproach, because..well i know better, but those things and other debased acts like i mentioned above were more low level practices, not the true tao.

the alchemical texts describe in detail methods of spiritual cultivation, you just need to be able to understand ancient chinese way of speech..which is difficult if you dont study it actively

but thats what masters are for anyway..

amitabha
 

Vajradhara

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samabudhi said:
I think Brian is talking about the original Taoist Philosophy of Lao Tzu. There is no meditation in this. It is about changing the way we look at things and respond to events. If we see everything as the interplay of Yin and Yang, we will not deviate from the non-differentiated state. Since this is the nature of the cosmos, we would be aligning ourselves with it. The ultimate message of the Lao Tzu is balance.
Namaste Samabudhi,

thank you for the post.

well... the Tao Te Ching does include meditative practices as inherited from the Nei-yeh, which was written mid 4th century B.C.E and, along with the Yin Convergence Classic, is considered to be one of the primary sources of Classical Taoism.

most of the meditational techniques and so forth are found in the later T'ai-P'ing ching (Scripture of Grand Tranqulity).
 

samabudhi

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Meditation! In the Tao Te Ching? I'd like to see that if you have a copy, please.

The Yin Convergence Classic? Never heard of it. I really only know of the Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu.
My understanding was that Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu formed the core of the philosophy, and I have yet to see meditation mentioned obviously in either of them. Sitting meditation and visualisation were mentioned by Zazen. If this is the meditation you're refering to then I disagree. If you're talking about contemplation, well then what culture didn't have.

I can't speak for what happened after these philosophers, so I won't say meditation was not used in later Taoism, but there is no step by step instruction on how to meditate in any of the early philosophers writings. Not even a mention.
Remember that such instructions, if they did in fact exist, would most likely be guarded by the intellectual few (who could read) and not make their way to the peasant population. It's like thinking that everyone in India is as interested in the Upanishads as the scholars/practitioners who wrote them. Peasants in these days were really, very peasantish. They knew NOTHING.
The general level of religious insight in rural India is actually very low. They are superstitious. They place some flowers and goo on a linga, say a few chants and that's that. Gods appeased. The Brahmins are/were the learned ones.

One last thing.
the Tao Te Ching does include meditative practices as inherited from the Nei-yeh, which was written mid 4th century B.C.E
Lao Tzu lived in the sixth century, so it sounds like there's something scwoowy going on with your dates.
 

Vajradhara

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samabudhi said:
Lao Tzu lived in the sixth century, so it sounds like there's something scwoowy going on with your dates.
Namaste samabudhi,

this was in reference to the writing of the first text, Nei-yeh, not the Tao Te Ching.

hopefully... i'll be able to post something a bit more expansive regarding the rest of your post a bit later...
 

kkawohl

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samabudhi said:
Lao Tzu lived in the sixth century, so it sounds like there's something scwoowy going on with your dates.

Lao-Tzu was one of the great teachers of China who appeared and taught some little time before Confucius began his career. Tradition has it that there was a meeting between Confucius and Lao-Tzu, and that the former referred to the latter as a dragon, an ancient mode of referring to a master of wisdom or initiate. Although said to have written one thousand books & "his great work", however, the heart of his doctrine, the 'Tao-te-King,' or the sacred scriptures of the Taosse, has in it, as Stanislas Julien shows, only 'about 5,000 words,' hardly a dozen of pages, yet Professor Max Muller finds that 'the text is unintelligible without commentaries, so that Mr. Julien had to consult more than sixty commentators for the purpose of his translation,' the earliest going back as far as the year 163 BC.

During the four centuries and a half that preceded this Earliest of the commentators there was ample time to veil the true Lao-Tse doctrine from all but his initiated priests. . . . Tradition affirms that the commentaries to which our Western Sinologues have access are not the Real Occult records, but intentional veils, and that the true commentaries, as well as almost all the texts, have long since disappeared from the eyes of the "profane".
 

Pathless

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kkawohl said:
Tradition affirms that the commentaries to which our Western Sinologues have access are not the Real Occult records, but intentional veils, and that the true commentaries, as well as almost all the texts, have long since disappeared from the eyes of the "profane".
What tradition are you speaking of?

And why would Taoists want to hide anything from the eyes of the profane? Secreting texts away for "the initiated" seems somehow un-Taoist to me. Besides, as with any wisdom, there hardly seems any reason to intentionally "veil" the truth, since the "profane" are, by their very profane nature, unable to understand or, when we look more deeply, uninterested in understanding truth.

You make it sound as if the Tao Te Ching is full of dangerous occult secrets, which, in the wrong hands, could turn into nuclear bombs. I was under the impression that it was more of a philosophical text.
 

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Pathless,

The original canon printed by the Taoist emperors of the Sung dynasty 960-1279 A.D., comprised almost 5,000 volumes, but many of these were destroyed by imperial decree during the Mongol dynasty, yes, for supposedly containing dangerous occult secrets. To prevent further destruction of the remaining texts, Taoists hid them from the "eyes of the profane". (secular, not consecrated; agnostic, heretical; unholy, not sacred; those who would desecrate what is sacred)

Namaste,
Kurt
 

Vajradhara

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kkawohl said:
Pathless,

The original canon printed by the Taoist emperors of the Sung dynasty 960-1279 A.D., comprised almost 5,000 volumes, but many of these were destroyed by imperial decree during the Mongol dynasty, yes, for supposedly containing dangerous occult secrets. To prevent further destruction of the remaining texts, Taoists hid them from the "eyes of the profane". (secular, not consecrated; agnostic, heretical; unholy, not sacred; those who would desecrate what is sacred)

Namaste,
Kurt
Namaste Kurt,

thank you for the post.

you may find this link to be of some value:

http://www.uga.edu/religion/rk/basehtml/guides/TMGID.html
 

Vapour

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to go back to the original question. Among buddhist scholars of Chinese origin (i.e. China, Korean Japan), what you call, "creeping Taoism" is one way in which authenticity of Chinese translation of sanskrit sutras are discussed. To much of it and sutras could be declared "Apocryphal".
 

Vajradhara

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kkawohl said:
Pathless,

The original canon printed by the Taoist emperors of the Sung dynasty 960-1279 A.D., comprised almost 5,000 volumes, but many of these were destroyed by imperial decree during the Mongol dynasty, yes, for supposedly containing dangerous occult secrets. To prevent further destruction of the remaining texts, Taoists hid them from the "eyes of the profane". (secular, not consecrated; agnostic, heretical; unholy, not sacred; those who would desecrate what is sacred)

Namaste,
Kurt
futher,

the texts themselves are usually written with a deliberate symbolism that is not revealed except through oral instruction so that the teachings did not fall into the hands of the profane.

it's taken me a long time to get a handle on the very rudimentary elements of the symbology that is used as a great deal of it is couched in cultural idoms that, for a non-Chinese, are very difficult to grasp.
 

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I might restart a debate here. This is more about Buddhism than Taoism

One of a Japanese article I read is concerned with Tibetan buddhism in it's relation to Madhyamaka school of buddhism.

The main argument is that from Nikayana to Mahayana to Tantric is a process of hindunisation of buddhism. Now this argument would appear like a polemic against Mahayanan by Theravadan but please bear with me for a while.

And when this paper say hindunisation, this refer not only about a dozen of buddahs, score of boddhisatva and 100 of dieties which are *worshiped* in Mahayana or about belife in (magic) power of chanting of mantra which was supposed to be prohibited. The paper's main concer is the fundamental philosphical precept of Buddhism.

The argument of this paper is that Buddhism made clear break from Hinduism by rejecting the concept of atman. According to Hinduism, basically everyone is a God but most of us cannot realise this potential divinity because of "ignorance". Moreover when one free oneself from this ignorance, one could realise this universal soul/atman as the foundation of metaphysical reality.

Buddhism on the other hand assert that everything will rise and fall and hence nothing is eve permanent. Therefore, there is no such thing as soul or atman. From this view, to pursue bohddisatva's compassion and try to attain the trancendent "nature" of Buddah is to reversal of buddhist path back to hinduism. In fact I see lot of similarity of Mahayanan pureland practice with Hare Krishina, for example. And this Hinduisation of Buddhism will see it's ultimate expression in Tantric Buddhism.

Now, this paper see Nāgārjuna, the founder of Madhyamaka school as someone who attempted to bring back the buddhism to original foundation by development of the concept of emptiness/void. This school indeed become one of the major school of thought in Mahayanan tradition.

The author's article on the other hand, argue that when Nagarjuna's writing has been passed to China and founded three branch of Chinese Madhyamaka schools, they largely failed to grasp the essence of Madhyamaka school because 1) they were not aware of the context of Madhyamaka school, especially about the issue of Hinduism 2) they interpretated Madhyamaka school based on Taoism where blending of cosmo/Tao is considered as the ultimate state of affiar.

The author further argume that this was not the case in Tibet. In Tibet, this concept put forth by Nagarjuna was adopted and further developed by Je Tsongkhapa who set forth "Three Principal Aspects of the Path". In this aspect, to call Tibetan buddhism as Tantric Buddhism is to miss the philosophical development which tibetan buddhism went through after absorption of Tantaric Mahayanan tradition..

Oh, and you can talk about obvious connection of ultimate reality idea of Hinduism, Abrahamic religions and Taoism. Oh, And Madhyamaka school of thought is only one of major buddhist school of thought.
 

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I thinkTaoism is the essential "cosmic mystical experience" laid almost completely bare. Buddhism clothes that experience in some metaphor. Other traditions add a lot more metaphor - often with the metaphor transplanting the experience it points to until it is almost unrecognizable without knowing what one is looking for.

I find a shared description of human experience in Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity and other sources as well. The clarity of Taoism and the poetry of Christian mythology have made for a nice complement to one another for me.
 
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