Taoism is another ancient religion practiced within Eastern Asia. It shares beliefs and practices with Confucianism and is mainly practiced in various parts of China. It is a polytheistic religion that has a wide variety of gods within its spiritual arsenal. Like Hinduism, Taoism is a name that covers a wide variety of smaller religious sects that can be found in various parts of China and its neighboring countries, although the basic principles are the same (Hansen 1). Also known as Daoism, it is derived from the phrase "the path," or "the way." Its philosophy depends on three major conceits, or the "Three Jewels of the Tao," which are practicing elements of compassion, moderation, and humility (Hansen 1). Part of the principle of compassion is the idea of non-violence within everyday life. This means following a peaceful existence no matter what life throws at you. Human behavior is then guided through practices of non-violence, which then shape the nature of the religion itself. The concept of non-violence in Taoism is referred to as Wu Wei (Hansen 1). The idea of the Tao has come to represent the path to enlightenment. It is the flow of the universe that leads individuals to spiritual heaven when they follow its principles. Those principles also include moderation and humility. By practicing living a life of moderation, one is straying away from the distraction of living a life of luxury with all of its indulgences. With moderation comes humility, which is line with the path of life, or the Tao.
Taoism proves similar to some core Christian beliefs in several of its essential elements. The religious practice depends on following a specific way of life, the path or the Tao in order to gain spiritual enlightenment. Although the Christian tradition does not have a truly specific name for its own path, it is clearly laid out by the teachings of Jesus (Glaser 121). It calls for a life of non-violence, which is a direct relation to the life of Jesus. When Jesus was accused and tried for his crimes against the Roman Empire, he did nothing to stop the enforcement of his punishment. Rather than fleeing or fighting his captors, he did nothing, which in turn had a greater impact on his followers and future believers than any other action he could have taken. This is similar to the essential concept in Taoism of non-violence. In Taoism, non-violence is seen as an essential practice for spiritual enlightenment as well as personal development.
Another major religion within the Chinese nation is that of Confucianism. This religious practice stems from the Chinese philosopher Confucius who lived around 500 B.C. (Religion Facts 1). Within his teachings, Confucius presented a series of moral, social, and philosophical elements that now make up the center of Confucianism beliefs. One of these teachings deals with the importance of rituals within daily lives. According to Confucius, rituals are the means of internalizing patterns of behavior that are in line with the spiritual elements of the religious practice. Rather than following laws, which are externally forced by some sort of authorities and their social influence, rituals allow the practitioner to maintain particular behaviors internally through their own will (Religion Facts 1). However, in Confucianism, ritual is not always the elaborate ceremony it is associated with in common thought. A ritual can also be a simple practice that one devoted oneself to and could be as simple as practicing politeness to ones neighbors. Another major element of Confucius' teachings was the idea that there should be no separation between economic classes. This meant that no one should be discriminated against or held out of certain duties or privileges based on economic status.
Many elements of Confucianism share pieces of core Christian beliefs as well. The idea that rituals represent one's internal struggle and maintenance of spirituality can be found in many Christian denominations as well. For instance, in the Catholic tradition, there are many rituals which are practiced by followers to keep them closer to Jesus and God. These include the repetition of certain prayers, the consummation of the ritualistic blood and flesh of Christ, as well as traditions followed by the nuns and priests which have devoted themselves to the religion. These are all forms of rituals which are meant to keep the strength of the Christian teachings internally, just as rituals are of importance in Confucianism.
Buddhism is one of the largest practiced religions in Eastern Asia. The religion is said to be founded by Siddhartha Gautama, who was a prince who left his homeland and native Hindu religion to find a more successful path to spiritual enlightenment (Dhammika 1). In his findings he founded a religion that has many essential elements of the nature of the world and the human mind. Like Hinduism, Buddhism follows the concept of Karma. This then shapes the lives of the individual followers, for they aim to have good come back to them rather than bad. Based on Karma, one's future life is determined, for Buddhists also follow belief in reincarnation. Where one ends up in the next life is strictly limited to the Karma one put out in the last life. Each life brings new spiritual teachings and eventually the soul reached nirvana, the Buddhist equivalent to the Christian heaven. The Buddhist religion rests of a realistic view of the world. It posits the idea that every individual will face suffering, and it is not that suffering which defines us but how we react and learn from it. In fact, the self is next to meaningless within the Buddhist tradition. The true spiritual being is one with the world, and let go of one's selfish connection to the dramas of the human world. This is what the Buddha had done and asked of his followers.
Several elements of Buddhism follow innate Christian principles. Like other ancient religions, Buddhism asks its followers to life a good life, just as Jesus had done. There are also strong ties to the idea of letting go of the self and all the material and selfish possessions one has in the world in order to become one with a higher power. All of these elements relate back to core Christian teachings as well as other world religions.
Sikhism is actually the fifth largest religion in the world. Its origins are out of the Punjab region of India and Pakistan far into the age after Christ. The practice believes in a universal god, in which all practitioners are followers and disciples, or "Sikhs" (Brar 1). The religion is unique because of its concept of a universal god. This god can be interpreted in a number of different ways, depending on the individual practitioner. This god can even be interpreted as the universe itself, rather than a human like being. One of its core principles is the belief that all humans should be treated equally, despite social or economic differences. This comes out of an area which is ruled by a strict class system. Another major concept is the limited nature of the knowledge of God. God in Sikhism is beyond the limitations of human understanding. Therefore, there is only a limited amount of knowledge that we can truly attain about that God.
Sikhism shares the idea of equality which is found in the core beliefs of Christianity. Jesus made clear that the notions of class and material wealth which differentiate humans in our material world do not apply within the spiritual world. This concept then allows people of all classes to follow the religion, and not to reserve it specifically for the elite.
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Brar, Sandeep Singh. "Sikh Religious Philosophy." The Sikhism Home Page. Retrieved 20 Oct 2009 at http://www.sikhs.org/philos.htm
Dahmmika, Ven S. "A Basic Buddhism Guide: 5-Minute Introduction." Buddha Net. Retrieved 20 Oct 2009 at http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/5minbud.htm
Glaser, Ida. The Bible and Other Truths. IVP Academic Press. 2006.
Hansen, Chad. "Taoism." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 21 Oct 2009 at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/taoism/
Fernando, Ajith. Sharing the Truth in Love. Discovery Publishers House. 2001.
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. "Hinduism: The World's Third Largest Religion." Religions of the World. Religious Tolerance. Retrieved 19 Oct 2009 at http://www.religioustolerance.org/hinduism.htm
Religion Facts. "Confucianism." Religions a to Z. Retrieved 20 Oct 2009 at http://www.religionfacts.com/a-z-religion-index/confucianism.htm