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Fundamental Difference between Taoism and Buddhism

wanhong's picture

I want to emphasize a very important difference between Taoism and Buddhism, the two very big philosophical system in Eastern world, as in a previous reading both are used as examples of advocating the idea of being nice to nature.

Both Taoism and Buddhism have the idea of "following the rhythm of nature", but their goal are completely different.

In taoism, people follow the rhythm of the nature, be peaceful in mind, make "magical medical spherical pills" to prolong life--in other words, to try one's best avoid death, but in Buddhism, death is actually the start of a new, wiser life, and should be accepted peacefully. So, although both system tells one to be nice to nature and peace in mind, Buddhism provided a more altruistic idea while Taoism care relatively more about one's own well being. Taoism has borrowed many ideas from Buddhism but for a different goal.



Truth Seeker's picture

Life Prolonging

Is there anything in the Daodejing that talks about prolonging life or being immortal? I doubt it

Steve's picture


I would say that one of the principal differences between the two is that Buddhists see the world of sensual pleasure as something to be avoided, as dukkah, while the Taoist seeks to be in harmony with nature, including sensual pleasure. As a practical matter though in the East one could be comfortable saying that they are Taoist, Buddhist and Confucianist all at the same time.
Even in the Zen tradition there is seen this rejection of the body, as in the story of Bodhidharma where his first follower waits for years to be taught by him and is standing out in the snow and in exasperation demands to know when he can expect to be his student. He is told " when the snow is red" and with that he cuts off his arm and waves it around making the snow red.
It is hard to say which is more altruistic. It is kind of like bragging about how much humility your faith has. It can't be done.

Viv's picture

To understand

these subjects adequately, we first put them into practice. All the books we read about philosophy only make us arrogant parrots when we do not practice what we preach. Until we are naturally kind, loving, and caring, we are not qualified to speak about such things.

You can be cool or not. That's all you need to know. Keep it simple. All the "ye thos" and "for he whos" type of talk was normal in their time. We are in OUR TIME. Let's live right. If we do that honestly, we'll be as great as ANYONE ever has been. Call it whatever you want to. Just make sure you do it. Otherwise, you're just another fraud. Be blessed my friends! Be cool! Goodbye.

sifu paul turner 's picture

it is for ever possible to

it is for ever possible to harbour buddhist belief's yet taoist feelings is it not take for instance great master bruce lee born and raised buddhist yet towards the end of his life he claimed to be taoist this was do to his in depth philosocal studies which lead him to a better under standing of the self so in turn he leaned towards the philosopy that mirrored closest to his new found insights and self actualizations he realised his natural character was better suited for taoism as opposed to buddhism osu!!! please in future lets discuss the chinese version of chi as opposed to the japanese concept of zen osu!!!

Barbara's picture

I think there are different

Yin YangI think there are different understanding beliefs within both Taoism and Buddhism, especially in the circumstance that they have been developed so much branches over thousands of years around the Eastern world. According to what I know, the classic of Taoism "Tao Te Ching", for example, as so much interpretation mainly because punctuations has not been not used yet when the original work was written and the language was quite inexplicit. Just wanted to say that we can hardly know the original ideology of these two philosophical systems. But Wanhong and Sarah saw a pattern in two types of ideology, which is really nice! I wanted to post these two symbols of these two philosophical systems (Buddhism - above). I saw "all to be embraced" in the yin-yang. Both of the symbols are quite balance. Maybe you will be interested in them!

wanhong's picture

Rotational Symmetry?

Thank you for the pictures! The symbols do show different patterns, but both of them are rotational symmetric! The Tai Chi pattern of Taoism especially emphasizes on the balance between two aspects, Yin and Yang.

Sarah Cunningham's picture

taoism as I know it

Maybe there are different forms or different beliefs within Taoism-- but I have understood the Tao to include the flow and balance of life and death, light and dark, good and bad, as all parts of the river of life. All to be embraced. Whereas Buddhism seeks more to escape from that wheel of up and down. So kind of the opposite of Wanhong's understanding! Interesting.

wanhong's picture

Different but no conflicts :)

You're right, Sarah, Taoism does care very much about balance, but one of the most important aims of it was to prolong people's lives by the "balance" that you have mentioned. Buddhism, on the other hand, was not pursuing a longer life--Buddhism tells people that death is not something to escape, but something that should be respected and objectively, peacefully faced--and that is the difference that I was focusing on.:)

Gerard's picture

T(D)aoism's main goal isn't

T(D)aoism's main goal isn't about prolonguing life but enriching the it with the use of Nature's resources (herbs, diet, energetic practices) in order to purify the mind/spirit, inevitably lifespan increases as a result of improved health. The main goal of high-order Taoist practice is entering the state of wuji (emptiness), crash it (transcend the state of duality/yin and yang) and from there return to the Tao, which equates to the state of nirvana/nibbana advocated in Buddhism. :)

Serendip Visitor's picture

Buddhism vs Taoism

Buddhist don't seek to escape life, only not to get so caught up as to fail to be realistic about the other half -death. As a matter of fact to understand that death is something that will happen to all of us -death becomes a guide in how to live life to the fullest, to live in a manner that leaves no room for regrets. I would say that Buddhism is all about accepting the Tao as it is - to accept life in its totality. To flow with the natural Tao is to not suffer over change. Also, it isn't that they ignore the body, they just know the mind is primary and the body secondary even though the are intertwined.

Serendip Visitor's picture

You do not respect life by

You do not respect life by wasting it and moving to the next. Buddhism not teach to preserve life the same as the Tao, but it also shalt not be wasted.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Your attitude toward and

Your attitude toward and understanding of Toaism is so misguided. It surprises me that someone who is so ignorant as you has the audacity to comment on this matter.

moon Visitor's picture

Taoist vs buddhist....

Hey, people, please remember that insulting another for their view or opinion is really low behavior that would prolly not be appreciated coming from either viewpoint, Buddhism ir Taoism. I feel that if you want to put another down or call names then that is surely not a practice of Budhism and I am not as clear on what Taoism stands for but if it stands for the ego mind putting others down with nasty labels then it is prolly not for me. Try letting your ego go and your judgement of others before you comment on this subject, ok? Just an idea....
Peace to all beings of the earth... Regardless of your system of belief. I hope it guides you to peace, inner and outer...

hamadi m's picture

i'm drawn to learn more about

i'm drawn to learn more about Daoism/Taoist practice. The comment you replied to shows glaring bias, i guess to encourage folks to walk the path the author has found, which has good at its root. can you (plural) suggest resources, insightful Tao Te Ching readers or whatever? peace