In an English concept of second nature performance of an action, no thought only the action is performed. The similar concept of Wu in Daoism, which is being or the ultimate understanding of what being is, is also represented in Buddhism by Atman, the inner or greater self.
Taoist thought in China had been exercised for a long time over the relation of non-being to being, (chen-ju) non-activity to activity. Buddhists also had been concerned with similar problems: the relation of the Absolute being (chen-ju) to the temporal of nirvana to Samsara. The exponents of Madhyamika believed that it was impossible to describe the nature of ultimate reality. Seek to define the infinite and it no longer remains infinite. Seng-chao (384-414), who was closely associated with Kumarajiva, was the first great teacher of San Lun, combining the Madhyamika philosophy with neo-Taoist thought. (Smith 127-128)
During the latter period of the T'ang dynasty, the rigid Confucian regulations became quite burdensome to the common people who had begun to loose respect for their leaders. While still intertwined in government life, Confucianism lost its hold over the people as their solution of the problems of life. Daoism had also become a philosophy for old men and seemed meaningless and nothing but a bunch of superstitious rites which were in place merely to support a bunch of lazy, ignorant, selfish priests. "The high religious ideals of the earlier Taoist mystics were abandoned for a search after the elixir of life during fruitless journeys to the isles of the Immortals which were supposed to be in the Eastern Sea." (Hodous 5)
There was a cult called the Purist that arose form this malaise of mysticism. The purist advocated a return to the ideal of Daoism and a break from any of the Confucian rituals. They yearend for the simple life of the earlier Daoist mystics. When the Purist thinkers met up with the philosophy of Buddhism, they were captured completely by it an absorbed the teaching and translated the sutras into Chinese. "They devoted their literary ability and religious fervor to the spreading of the new religion and its success was in no small measure due to their efforts." (Hodus 6)
Buddhism first arrived in China from India in the first century a.D. And flourished to become one of the world's greatest religions and philosophies. However, After the Communists seized power in China 1949, they began to discourage all religions, and Buddhism seemed to come under their greatest persecution. But Buddhism has never entirely disappeared from China. Even though temples have been destroyed and the Dalai Lama ousted from Tibet:
Still some believers continued quietly to practice at altars set up in their homes. And not long after China embraced market forces in the late 1970s and '80s, the faith reemerged in the countryside, with peasants visiting refurbished temples, where they burned incense and prayed. (Roberts 50)
However, the Buddhism was occasionally confronted with difficult times as it spread through China. It certainly clashed with the secular and pragmatic doctrines of Confucianism when it was in power. Confucius thought could hardly see any relevance in the Buddhist pursuit of other worldly accomplishments such as enlightenment and Nirvana. They would have seen these concepts as very alien and perhaps even threatening, especially since their appeal was strong in the people. An especially hostile stance was the Buddhist belief that their lives were truly independent of any government, certainly was anathema to them. (Swearer)
But as Confucian thought waned and the Daoist school eagerly adapted to this new strain of thought, Buddhism took a strong foothold in China for centuries. Eventually the religion / philosophy spread to Japan and it is certainly present in many other cultures around the world, including the United States where the Dalai Lama has achieved what one might call celebrity status. Buddhism's ability to adapt is perhaps a unique feature of this religion. it's missionaries instead of trying to convert, tried to understand and become one with the exiting culture and its belief systems.
Aubin, Francoise. "China: A down-to-earth hereafter." UNESCO Courier, 51.3 1998: 10
Hodous, Lewis. Buddhism and Buddhists in China. New York: Macmillan, 1924.
Ikeda, Daisaku. The Flower of Chinese Buddhism. Trans. Burton Watson. New York: Weatherhill, 1986.
Kohn, Livia, and Michael Lafargue, eds. Lao-Tzu and the Tao-Te-Ching. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1998.
Roberts, Dexter. "China's Spiritual Awakening." Business Week, 4067 1/21/2008, 50-51
Smith, D Howard. Chinese Religions. New York: Holt Reinhart and Winston 1968