Buddhism And Confucianism

.. emphasizing the “greater good” of the state and community. Another difference between Buddhism, Islam, and Confucianism, is the ultimate objective(or “salvation” as some may have it) of each philosophy. In Buddhism, the ultimate goal is to defeat the painful cycle of life and attain enlightenment(Bodhi). On attaining bodhi, the individual can reach the final reunion with the Great World Soul(Nirvana).

This is not like a heavenly salvation, nor an eternal paradise. Nirvana is “likened to a dreamless sleep or to a ‘blowing out'(as of a candle).”8 Islam, on the otherhand, does not emphasize a heavenly salvation, nor an eternal sleep nor a Great World Soul. Islam does, however, offer the hope of attaining a place in an eternal paradise of sensual delights, through devotion and worship of Allah. The sensual delights probably consisted of pleasures not found in the geograhical region of the Arabian desert. Thus, Confucianism is totally different from both Buddhism and Islam. Confucianism does not offer a reunion with the Great World Soul, nor does it offer an eternal paradise of sensual delights: It does offer to the individual, if one lives according to his Dao, the hope to have the affairs of society(state, community, and individual) to be in order and prosperous. In all, each philosophy does emphasize an objective ,or form of “salvation”, though each one differs dramatically : Buddhism, with its abstract Nirvana; Islam, with an eternal paradise; and Confucianism, with the secular prosperity of the state, community, and individual.

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Another similar aspect which Buddhism, Islam, and Confucianism share is the vulgarization ,or sectionalism, each experienced later in the centuries. Each underwent a transformation, years after the founding individual had died. For Buddhism, it was the division into the two sects, Mahayana and Theravada(Hinayana). Later the Mahayana sect became further transformed into four other sects. Like Buddhism, Islam also underwent a transformation into two factions, the Shi’ites and the Sunnites.

Confucianism, like Buddhism and Islam, underwent a form of modification into Neo-Confucianism. With Neo-Confucianism, two new schools appeared. The School of Reason and School of Mind. Their transformation, though, affected each one differently. For Buddhism, Islam, and Confucianism, their shared aspect of modification is also the differences between them, as to how it affected each one individually.

For Buddhism, the modification of the belief became a complete vulgarization of Buddha’s original belief. Buddhism went from an ethical philosophy to a Salvationist religion. Buddhism split into two sects Mahayana and Therevada(Hinayana), with Therevada maintaing the traditional beliefs and Mahayana becoming the Salvationist religion of Buddhism. It emphasized the worship and devotion to Buddha as a God, Nirvana as a heavenly salvation, and the worship of bodhisattvas(those who achieved bodhi) as saints. Mahayana was furthered divided into four sects which further degenerated Buddha’s original message: Chan-emphasized meditation could bring enlightenment instantly; Pureland-emphasized Nirvana as a form of heavenly salvation; Tantrism-emphasized the use of special gestures and symbols to call upon mystical powers; and White Lotus-emphasized the second coming of the Buddha and and to rebel against existing regimes.9 These beliefs along with the Mahayana completely altered Buddha’s original message. For Islam, it did not undergo such a dramatic change as Buddhism.

For Islam, the religion divide into two sects: The Sunnites and the Shi’ites. The two factions retained the original teachings of Mohammed, but struggled over who should lead the Islamic nation, after the death of Mohammed. Like Buddhism and Islam, Confucianism also underwent a change and appeared as Neo-Confucianism. With Neo-Confucianism, the nature of thinking and learning changed. The School of Reason and the School of Mind were the two current sects of “New” Confucian thinking.

The School of Mind emphasized instrospection and self-learning ,while the School of reason emphasized education for all and investigation into all matters, but both were abstract and enjoyed a fleeting popularity. Thus the changes to Buddhism, Islam, and Confucianism were very different in the effects each had on the ideology. Another shared principle between Buddhism, Islam, and Confucianism, is the endorsement of the inequality of the sexes. Specifically, the low social status that the women procured in each society. In Buddhism, though women could join the monasteries, there was a secondary(if not menial) status of women. As Buddha had written to one of his followers, Ananda: Women are soon angered, Ananda; women are full of passion, Ananda; women are envious, Ananda; women are stupid, Ananda.

That is the reason, Ananda, that the cause, why women have no place in public assemblies, do not carry on a business, and do not earn their living by any profession.10 In Islamic society, women were no better off than their earlier Buddhist counterparts. Islamic culture encouraged the cloistering of women at home and prohibiting the social contacts with males outside the family. Also, the women were often required to dress in a custom, which would cover their entire body. This is probably due more to custom than religion, because in the Koran men were admonished to treat women with respect and women were allowed to own property. They were, however, better off than their Buddhist and Confucian counterparts. Confucianism also did little to encourage the equality of men and women. Confucius did not belittle or denigrate the importance of the woman’s role as a mother and a homemaker, but it is evident that in his hierarchal Five Relationships, that he acknowledged that women took a secondary status in society.

His Five Relationships are: 1.Emperor to subjects 2.Father to son 3.Husband to wife 4.Elder Brother to younger brother 5.Elder Friend to younger friend.11 From Confucius’ Five Relationships, it is obvious that women had a role of little importance in the daily rituals of society. For Buddhism, Islam, and Confucianism, the shared ideology of the lowly stature of women is common to all three, though custom more than religious ideology affected the status of women in society. Buddhism, Islam, and Confucianism are legacies left by three very great and very different individuals. Each philosophy, though different, shared certain aspects between each other: Simplicity in beliefs and adherence as an ethical philosophy, the emphasis of the low status of women in each society, and the fact that each became modified ,or vulgarized, to suit the needs of its followers. But their shared aspects are also what contrasts each of them, in that each emphasized the different needs of man and his society.