Taoism

.. timately, even Mencius shi-fei (this-not this) are input to the xin. Our experience introduces them relative to our position and past assumptions. They are not objective or neutral judgments. XUNZI also concentrated on issues related to philosophy of mind though in the context of moral and linguistic issues.

He initiated some important and historically influential developments in the classical theory. His most famous (and textually suspect) doctrine is human nature is evil. While he clearly wanted to distance himself from Mencius, the slogan at best obscures the deep affinity between their respective views of human nature and mind. Xunzi seems to have drawn both from the tradition advocating cultivating heart-mind and from the focused theory of language. This produced a tense hybrid theory that filled out the original Confucian picture on how conventions and language program the heart-mind. Xunzi made the naturalism explicit.

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Human guiding discourse takes place in the context of a three-tier universetian (heaven-nature) di (earth-sustenance) and ren (the social realm). He gave humans a special place in the chain of nature,’ but not based on reason. Animals shared the capacity for zhi (knowledge). What distinguishes humans is their yi (morality) which is grounded on the ability to bian (distinguish). Presumably, the latter ability is unique among animals with knowledge because it is short-hand for the ability to construct and abide by conventionsconventional distinctions or language. One of Xunzis naturalistic justifications for Confucian conventional rituals is economic. Ritual distinctions guide peoples desires so that society can manage scarcity.

Only those with high status will learn to seek scarce goods. His departure from Mencius thus seems to lie in seeing human morality as more informed or filled-out by historical conventional distinctions. These are the products of reflection and artifice, not nature. However, in other ways Xunzi seems to edge closer to Mencius. He also presents ritual as part of the structure of the worldimplicit in the heaven-earth natural context. One natural line of explanation is this: while thought creates the correct conventions, nature sets the concrete conditions of scarcity and human traits that determine what conventions will be best for human flourishing.

Return to Outline Historical Developments: Han Cosmology The onset of the philosophical dark age, brought on by Qin Dynasty repression followed by Han dynasty policies resulted in a bureaucratic, obscurant Confucian orthodoxy. The Qin thus buried the technical ideas informing philosophy of mind along with the active thinkers who understood them. The ontology of the eclectic scholasticism that emerged was essentially religious and superstitious. It was, however, overtly materialist (assuming Qi (ether, matter) is material). So the implicit philosophy of mind of the few philosophically inclined thinkers during the period tended toward a vague materialism.

The Han further developed the five-element (five phases) version of materialism. They postulated a correlative pentalogy linking virtually every system of classification that occurred to them. The scheme included the organs of the body and the virtues. Interpretation and analysis of correlative reasoning is a controversial subject. From here, the mental correlations look more like a frequency selection from the psychological lexicon than a product of philosophical reflection, observation or causal theory. The Yin-yang analysis also had mental correlates. Following Xunzi, Orthodox Han Confucians tended to treat qing (reality:desires) as yin (typically negative). The yang (value positive) counterpart was xing (human moral nature).

The most important development of the period was the emergence a compromise Confucian view of minds role in morality. It eventually informed and dominated the scholastic Neo-Confucianism of the much later Sung to Qing dynasties. The small book known as the Doctrine of the Mean gave it an influential formulation. It presents the heart-mind as a homeostasis-preserving input output device. The heart-mind starts in a state of tranquillity.

The account leaves open whether this is a result of ideally structured moral input, resolution of inner conflicts, or the absence of (distorting) content. Xunzis view of the empty, unified and still mind seems the proximate ancestor of the latter aspect of the view. The vagueness, conveniently, makes Mencius doctrines fit it as well. The input is a perturbation from the outer world. The output, the heart-minds action-guiding response, restores harmony to the world and the inner state to tranquillity.

If the inner state prior to the input is not tranquil, the response will not restore harmony to the real situation. Han Confucianism filled out this cosmic view of this black-box interaction between heart-mind and world harmony using qi materialism. Qi is a rather more a blend of energy and matter than pure mattertranslations such as life-force bring out an essential connection with vitality. This makes it more appropriate for a cosmology that links the active heart-mind with the changing world. Qi was the single constituting element of spirits and ghosts as well. Wang Chungs skeptical, reductive application of qi theory focused on shen (spirit-energy).

He did not view its consequences for heart-mind as particularly iconoclastic. It still lacked a notion of consciousness independent of zhi (know). (Our zhi, he argued, stops when we are asleep and so almost certainly it does when we are dead.) His arguments that nature had no intentional purposes illustrated his reductive behaviorismif it has neither eyes nor ears, then it cannot have zhi (purposes or intentions). This argument would hardly make sense if he had the familiar Western concept of consciousness. Similarly, he argues that the five virtues are in the five organs so when the organs are dead and gone, the virtues disappear with them. Return to Outline Historical Developments: Buddhist Philosophy of Mind The next developments are related to the introduction of Buddhist mental concepts into China.

Most accounts credit a movement dubbed Neo-Taoism with paving the way for this radical change in philosophy of mind. Wangbis Neo-Taoist system was explicitly a cosmology more than a theory of mind, but interpretations tend to read it epistemically. Wangbi addressed the metaphysical puzzle of the relation of being and non-being. (See YOU-WU) He postulated non-being as the basic substance. Non-being produced being.

He dubbed this obscure relationship as substance and function. Interpretations almost inevitably explain this on the analogy to Kants Noumenon and Phenomenon. As noted, Wangbi had few epistemological interests, but the analysis did have implications for heart-mind theory. He applied the metaphysical scheme to his Confucian sloganSage within, king without. The mind was empty within while the behaviors were in perfect conformity with the Confucian ritual dao.

This tilts the Taoist tradition toward the emptiness reading of the black-box analysis of heart-mind. Wangbi also placed li (principle) in a more central explanatory position. This paved the way for its use in translating Buddhisms sentence or law-like dharma. It played roles in both Buddhist epistemology and theory of mind. In sparse pre-Han usage, li was objective tendencies in thing-kinds. (Intuitionists and naturalists took them to be the valid norm for that kindspecies relative bits of dao.) Wangbi gave it a more essentialist reading in the context of the Book of Changes. He postulated a li guiding the mixtures and transformations of yin and yang.

One should be able to bypass the complexity of the system by isolating and understanding its li. Buddhism introduced revolutionary changes into Chinese heart-mind conceptual scheme. The original Indo-European religion probably originated the familiar Western phenomenalism (consciousness, experience-based mentalism). Indian philosophy came complete with the familiar Western sentential analyses, mental content and cognitive emphasis (belief and knowing-that). It even mimicked the subject-predicate syllogism and the familiar epistemic and metaphysical subjective-objective dualism.

It introduced a semantic (eternal) truth predicate into Chinese thought along with a representational view of the function of both mind and language. Reason/intellect and emotion/desire formed a basic opposition in Buddhist psychological analysis. An inner idea-world parallels (or replaces) the ordinary world of objects. Soul and mind are roughly interchangeable and familiar arguments for immortality suggest both metaphysical dualism and mental transcendence or superiority over the physical. It conceptually links reality (knowledge, reason) to permanence and appearance (illusion, experience) to change.

A universal chain of causation was a central explanatory device and a mark of dependence and impermanence. Two caveats are in order, however. First, although Buddhism introduced a dualist conceptual scheme, many schools (arguably) denied the dualism so formulated and rejected any transcendent self. Second, it is unclear how well the philosophy of mind was generally understood and whether much of it actually took in China. One of the early and notoriously unsuccessful schools was the Consciousness only school (translated as Only Heart-mind) which translated the idealism of Yogacara Buddhism. The Yogacara analysis was Hume-like in denying that anything linked the infinitesimal moments of awareness into a real self.

Scholars tend to blame its demise, however, as much on its objectionable moral features (its alleged Hinayana or elitist failure to guarantee universal salvation) as on its conceptual innovations. The most successful schools were those that seemed to eschew theory of any kindlike Zen (Chan) or Pure Land Buddhismor those that opted for intuitive, mystical simplicity (Tian Tai and Hua Yen). The most important conceptual legacy of Buddhism, therefore, seems to be the changed role and importance of the character li (principle). In Buddhism it served a wide range of important sentential and mental functions. It facilitated the translation of law, truth, and reason.

Neo-Confucianism would take it over (with notoriously controversial implications) as key concept in its philosophy of mind. Return to Outline Historical Developments: Neo-Confucianism Neo-Confucianism is a Western name for a series of schools in which philosophy of mind played a central role. Scholars (somewhat controversially) present these schools as motivated by an anti-foreignism that sought to resurrect indigenous classical systems. These had lain dormant for six-hundred odd years when the freshness of Buddhism started to attract the attention of China’s intellectuals. Resurrecting Confucianism required providing it with an alternative to Buddhist metaphysics.

For this, they drew on ch’i metaphysics, the black-box homeostasis preserving analysis of heart-mind, Wang Pi’s and Buddhism’s li and Mencius’ classical theory of the inherent goodness of heart-mind. The intricacies of Neo-Confucian systems are too rich to analyze in detail here. The earliest versions focused on the notion of qi linkage between the heart-mind and the world influenced by our action. They characterized the tranquil state of the black-box as void. The school of li criticized that analysis as too Zen-like. (This was a typical and damning charge to participants in this movement, although a Zen period in ones development of thought was a common pattern among Neo-Confucians.) The li school insisted that any adequate account of heart-mind had to give it an original moral content.

It did this by postulating an interdependent and inseparable dualism of li and qi. The li permeates the heart and all of reality, which is composed of qi. The most tempting (and common) elaboration uses the Platonic distinction of form and content, but that analysis teeters on the edge of incoherence. The school fell back on dividing the human mind from some transcendental or metaphysical Tao-mind. This made it dubious as a theory of mind at allin the ordinary sense.

It essentially became a metaphysics in which heart-mind was a cosmic force. One way of understanding the motivation that drove the otherwise puzzling metaphysical gymnastics links philosophy of mind and ethics. Neo-Confucians were searching for the metaphysical system such that anyone so viewing the cosmos and one’s place in it would reliably do what was right. The goal was having the metaphysical outlook of the sage. The criterion of right and wrong was that the sage’s mind would so judge it. If we could replicate the outlook, we would be sage-like in our attitudesincluding both beliefs and motivations. The effect on motivation and behavior was more important than the theoretical coherence of the system.

The complexity of moral choice and human motivation required so many perturbations into their account of the proposed system that it became an almost infinitely flexible rationalization for intuitionism. Mencian optimism about innate heart-mind dispositions proved an uncomfortable legacy. If human nature and the heart-mind are innately and spontaneously moral, it was unclear why we require such mental gymnastics to cultivate and condition the dispositions. They portrayed the li as inherently good in all things, but somehow humans, alone in all of nature, might fail to conform to its own natural norms. The attempt to explain this via the li qi dualism flounders on the metaphysical principle that the dualism pervades all things. Despite this well known (and intractable) Confucian problem of evil, the school again became the Medieval orthodoxy.

Office holding required being able to parrot the view in considerable detail to show their moral character. The school of Heart-mind was a rebellion against that orthodoxy. We best understand this rival as a species of normative, objective idealism. It saw the actual heart-mind as li and therefore inherently good. The xin projects that li onto the world in the act of categorizing and dividing it into types.

Thus our normative, (phenomenal) world is good but that good is a function of the mind. Moral categorization and action are a simultaneous and combined responses of the heart-mind to the perturbations or the disharmonies we encounter. The analysis of mind is functionalthere is no goodness of the mind separate from the goodness of its categorizing and acting. Knowing is acting. The school of heart-mind somewhat gingerly accepted the implication of their Mencian heritage. There is no evil. I say gingerly because whether one should formulate or teach this conclusion or not is itself a choice that the mind must assess for its contextual value. In itself, as it were, the heart-mind is beyond good and evil.

Others, hence, criticized school of heart-mind was for its own Zen-like implications. Any moderately clever student could figure out that whatever he chose to do was right (c.f., Zhuangzis initial criticism’s of Mencian idealism). They, in turn, criticized the Buddhist character of their rival’s assumptions that some kind of state of mind (enlightenment, realization) would magically result in sagehood. The moralistic name-calling of this inter-Confucian debate sapped further development of theory of mind. That coupled with its irrational optimism in the face of growing awareness of the vulnerability and weakness of China to resist Western and Japanese military and political power resulted first in mildly more materialistic and utilitarian systems. Eventually intellectuals developed a wholesale interest in the next Indo-European thought invasion, which took the form of Marxism. Maoist theory of mind was an unstable mixture of Marxist economic and materialist reductionism and traditional Chinese optimism.

The right political attitude (typically that of the part member) would give good communists spectacular moral power and infallible situational intuitions about how to solve social problems. Again, the obvious failure in the face of irrational theoretical optimism has produced a general antipathy to idealizations. One can guess that the next phase, like the Buddhist phase, will be one of borrowing and blending. However, the current skepticism about the general outlines of folk psychology in the West and its essentially alien character probably will keep Chinese theory of heart-mind distinctively Chinese. Return to Outline Bibliography Chan, Wing tsit. 1986 Neo-Confucian Terms Explained (New York: Columbia University Press) pp.

xi-277. Fingarette, Herbert. 1972 Confucius The Secular as Sacred . Graham, Angus. 1964 The Place of Reason in the Chinese Philosophical Tradition, in Raymond Dawson (ed.), The Legacy of China pp. 28-56. Graham, Angus.

1967 The Background of the Mencian Theory of Human Nature, Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies 6/1, 2 pp. 215-274. Graham, Angus. 1989 Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China (La Salle, IL: Open Court) . Hansen, Chad. 1991 Should the Ancient Masters Value Reason?, in Henry Rosemont (ed.), Chinese Texts and Philosophical Contexts: Essays Dedicated to A. C.

Graham (La Salle, IL: Open Court) pp. 179-209. Hansen, Chad. 1992 A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought (New York: Oxford University Press) pp. xv-448. Hansen, Chad.

1993 Term Belief in Action, in Lenk et al (ed.), Epistemological Issues in Chinese Philosophy (Buffalo: SUNY Series in Chinese Philosophy and Cu) pp. 45-68. Hansen, Chad. 12/30/95 Qing (Emotions) in Pre-Buddhist Chinese Thought, in Joel Marks and Roger T. Ames (ed.), Emotions in Asian Thought (State University of New York Press) pp.

181-211. Munro, Donald J. 1969 The Concept of Man in Early China (Stanford: Stanford University Press) . Munro, Donald J. 1977 The Concept of Man in Contemporary China (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press) pp. xii, 248. Munro, Donald J. 1985 in Donald J.

Munro (ed.), Individualism and Holism: Studies in Confucian and Taoist Values (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press) . Munro, Donald J. 1988 Images of Human Nature: a Sung Portrait (Princeton: Princeton University Press) pp. 322. Schwartz, Benjamin. 1985 The World of Thought in Ancient China (Cambridge: Harvard University Press) .

Taoism

Word Count: 2039 is one of the two great philosophical and religious
traditions that originated in China. The other religion native
to China is Confucianism. Both Taoism and Confucianism
began at about the same time, around the sixth century
B.C.E. China’s third great religion, Buddhism, came to
China from India around the second century of the
common era. Together, these three faiths have shaped
Chinese life and thought for nearly twenty-five hundred
years (Hartz 3). One dominate concept in Taoism and
Buddhism is the belief in some form of reincarnation. The
idea that life does not end when one dies is an integral part
of these religions and the culture of the Chinese people.

Reincarnation, life after death, beliefs are not standardized.

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Each religion has a different way of applying this concept to
its beliefs. This paper will describe the reincarnation
concepts as they apply to Taoism and Buddhism, and then
provide a comparison of the two. Taoism The goal in
Taoism is to achieve tao, to find the way. Tao is the
ultimate reality, a presence that existed before the universe
was formed and which continues to guide the world and
everything in it. Tao is sometimes identified as the Mother,
or the source of all things. That source is not a god or a
supreme being, as Taoism is not monotheistic. The focus is
not to worship one god, but instead on coming into
harmony with tao (Hartz, 8). Tao is the essence of
everything that is right, and complications exist only
because people choose to complicate their own lives.

Desire, ambition, fame, and selfishness are seen as 1
hindrances to a harmonious life. It is only when a person
rids himself of all desires can tao be achieved. By shunning
every earthly distraction, the Taoist is able to concentrate
on life itself. The longer the person’s life, the more saintly
the person is presumed to have become. Eventually the
hope is to become immortal, to achieve tao, to have
reached the deeper life. This is the after life for a Taoist, to
be in harmony with the universe, to have achieved tao
(Head1, 65). To understand the relationship between life,
and the Taoism concept of life and death, the origin of the
word tao must be understood. The Chinese character for
tao is a combination of two characters that represent the
words head and foot. The character for foot represents the
idea of a person’s direction or path. The character for head
represents the idea of conscious choice. The character for
head also suggests a beginning, and foot, an ending. Thus
the character for tao also conveys the continuing course of
the universe, the circle of heaven and earth. Finally, the
character for tao represents the Taoist idea that the eternal
Tao is both moving and unmoving. The head in the
character means the beginning, the source of all things, or
Tao itself, which never moves or changes; the foot is the
movement on the path (Harts 9). Taoism upholds the belief
in the survival of the spirit after death. “To have attained the
human form must be always a source of joy. And then to
undergo countless transitions, with only the infinite to look
forward to, what comparable bliss is that! Therefore it is
that the truly wise rejoice in, that which can never be lost,
but endures always” (Leek 190). Taoist believe birth is not
a beginning, death is not an end. There is an existence
without limit. There is 2 continuity without a starting point.

Applying reincarnation theory to Taoism is the belief that
the soul never dies, a person’s soul is eternal. “You see
death in contrast to life; and both are unreal – both are a
changing and seeming. Your soul does not glide out of a
familiar sea into an unfamiliar ocean. That which is real in
you, your soul, can never pass away, and this fear is no
part of her” (Head2 199). In the writings of The Tao Te
King, tao is described as having existed before heaven and
earth. Tao is formless, stands alone without change and
reaches everywhere without harm. The Taoist is told to use
the light that is inside to revert to the natural clearness of
sight. By divesting oneself of all external distractions and
desires, only then can one achieve tao. In ancient days a
Taoist that had transcended birth and death, achieved tao,
was said to have cut the Thread of Life (Kapleau 13). The
soul, or spirit, is Taoism does not die at death. The soul is
not reborn, it migrates to another life. This process, the
Taoist version of reincarnation, is repeated until tao is
achieved. The following translation from The Tao Te King
best summarizes the the theory behind tao and how a
Taoist can achieve Tao. The Great Way is very smooth,
but the people love the by-paths. . . The wearing of gay
embroidered robes, the carrying of sharp swords,
fastidiousness in food and drink, superabundance of
property and wealth: – this I call flaunting robbery; most
assuredly it is not Tao. . . He who acts in accordance with
Tao, becomes one with Tao. . . Being akin to Heaven, he
possesses Tao. Possessed of Tao, he endures forever. . .

Being great (Tao) passes on; passing on, it becomes
remote; having become remote, it returns (Head3 109). 3
Buddhism The followers of the Buddha believe life goes on
and on in many reincarnations or rebirths. The eternal hope
for all followers of Buddha is that through reincarnation one
comes back into successively better lives – until one
achieves the goal of being free from pain and suffering and
not having to come back again. This wheel of rebirth,
known as samsara, goes on forever or until one achieves
Nirvana. The Buddhist definition of Nirvana is “the highest
state of spiritual bliss, as absolute immortality through
absorption of the soul into itself, but preserving
individuality” (Head1 57). Birth is not the beginning and
death is not the end. This cycle of life has no beginning and
can go on forever without an end. The ultimate goal for
every Buddhist, Nirvana, represents total enlightenment and
liberation. Only through achieving this goal is one liberated
from the never ending round of birth, death, and rebirth
(Head3 73). Transmigration, the Buddhist cycle of birth,
death, and rebirth, involves not the reincarnation of a spirit
but the rebirth of a consciousness containing the seeds of
good and evil deeds. Buddhism’s world of transmigration
encompasses three stages. The first stage in concerned with
desire, which goes against the teachings of Buddha, is the
lowest form and involves a rebirth into any number of hells.

The second stage is one in which animals dominate. But
after many reincarnations in this stage the spirit becomes
more and more human, until one attains a deep spiritual
understanding. At this point in the second stage the
Buddhist gradually begins to 4 abandon materialism and
seek a contemplative life. The Buddhist in the third stage is
ultimately able to put his ego to the side and become pure
spirit, having no perception of the material world. This
stage requires one to move from perception to
non-perception. And so, through many stages of spiritual
evolution and numerous reincarnations, the Buddhist
reaches the state of Nirvana (Leek 171). The transition
from one stage to another, or the progression within a stage
is based on the actions of the Buddhist. All actions are
simply the display of thought, the will of man. This will is
caused by character, and character is manufactured from
karma. Karma means action or doing. Any kind of
intentional action whether mental, verbal or physical is
regarded as karma. All good and bad actions constitute
karma. As is the karma, so is the will of the man. A
person’s karma determines what he deserves and what
goals can be achieved. The Buddhists past life actions
determine present standing in life and current actions
determine the next life, all is determined by the Buddhist’s
karma (Kapleau 20). Buddha developed a doctrine known
as the Four Noble Truths based on his experience and
inspiration about the nature of life. These truths are the
basis for all schools of Buddhism. The fourth truth
describes the way to overcome personal desire through the
Eightfold Path. Buddha called his path the Middle Way,
because it lies between a life of luxury and a life of poverty.

Not everyone can reach the goal of Nirvana, but every
Buddhist is at least on the path toward enlightenment. To
achieve Nirvana the Buddhist must follow the steps of the
Eightfold Path. 5 1. Right Knowledge is knowledge of what
life is all about; knowledge of the Four Noble Truths is
basic to any further growth as a Buddhist. 2. Right
Aspiration means a clear devotion to being on the Path
toward Enlightenment. 3. Right Speech involves both clarity
of what is said and speaking kindly and without malice. 4.

Right Behavior involves reflecting on one’s behavior and the
reasons for it. It also involves five basic laws of behavior
for Buddhists: not to kill, steal, lie, drink intoxicants, or
commit sexual offenses. 5. Right Livelihood involves
choosing an occupation that keeps an individual on the
Path; that is, a path that promotes life and well-being,
rather than the accumulation of a lot of money. 6. Right
Effort means training the will and curbing selfish passions
and wants. It also means placing oneself along the Path
toward Enlightenment. 7. Right Mindfulness implies
continuing self-examination and awareness. 8. Right
Concentration is the final goal to be absorbed into a state
of Nirvana (Comptons). Compliance to the path does not
guarantee reaching Nirvana, but it is the only path that leads
to Nirvana. Only through following this path established by
Buddha does a Buddhist have a chance to reach
enlightenment, to free oneself from the continuous rounds of
birth, death and rebirth, to have reached the ultimate goal –
to be absorbed into a state of Nirvana. Comparison The
goal in both Taoism and Buddhism is to reach the ultimate
goal, to transcend life on earth as a physical being, to
achieve harmony with nature and the universe. The ultimate
goal for both religions is to achieve immortality. The Taoist
called this ultimate goal Tao, while the Buddhist seek
Nirvana. Whatever the name, the followers of these
religions believe there is an existence beyond life which can
be achieved provided the right path or behavior is
followed. The path to Tao and Nirvana are similar, yet
different. Both believe there is an inner light which guides a
person in the right direction to the ultimate goal. Personal
desires must be forsaken to enable the inner light to guide a
person to achieve eternal bliss. “The teaching 6 regarding
the inner light is just as prominent in the Taoist schools as it
is among the practices of Buddhism” (Politella 36). The
inner light concept is similar, but the actual path is the
difference between Taoism and Buddhism. The path
toward enlightenment for the Buddhist was defined by
Buddha in his Eightfold Path. Only through following this
path does the Buddhist reach Nirvana. The path to Tao is
individual, it comes from within. No one can define a path
for the Taoist, it must come from the inner light. “Tao
means way, but in the original and succeeding manuscripts
no direct path is explored or expounded. Desire, ambition,
fame, and selfishness are seen as complications. That idea
is consistent with Buddhist teachings; it is the personal life
of each individual that gives Taoism its special form” (Leek
188). Taoism and Buddhism perceive life, death and rebirth
as a continuous cycle. This cycle has no beginning and no
end. The soul is eternal, yet the soul is not the object of
reincarnation. Taoist believe the soul is not reborn, it
“migrates to another life” (Head3 109). Buddhist also
believe the soul is not reborn, but instead a “consciousness
containing the seeds of good and evil deeds” is the object
of rebirth (Leek 171). One major difference between
Taoism and Buddhism is the concept of karma to the
Buddhist. This idea that all actions are the display of
thought, the will of man, is known as karma. Karma
determines the Buddhist actions and position in life. A
person’s karma limits the goals which can be achieved.

Karma determines where in the cycle of birth, death and
rebirth the consciousness returns. This return can be in the
form of an animal or human, and the 7 Buddhist must
progress through a hierarchy to achieve Nirvana (Leek
171). The Taoist has no concept similar to karma, and no
mention of the soul migrating to an animal form. The
determining factor to one’s life is contained in the individual
behavior for the Taoist. By forsaking personal desires in
life, by concentrating of the self, a longer life is prolonged.

Eventually, by following the inner light, immortality can be
achieved. The similarities between Taoism and Buddhism in
the belief of life after death far outweigh the differences.

Both religions believe the individual must focus on the self
to achieve the ultimate goal. To focus on oneself, all desires
and personal ambitions must be forsaken. One must focus
on the self and the proper way of life to reach immortality.

The cycle of life continues indefinitely until the Thread of
Life is broken. Only through proper living, by following the
correct path guided by the inner light, can one achieve the
ultimate goal of Tao or Nirvana.

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