Buddhism And Confucianism Throughout history, great civilizations and people have risen and fallen, and during their fleeting existence, religious activities have assumed important functions in those societies. Confucianism, Buddhism, and Islam, are three legacies left by great men, which still have a profound affect on society. Like with all human inventions, though, these three philosophies are all relative to each other : They are comparable in their simplicity of beliefs, the emphasis they placed on the role of women within their society, and the transformation into different sects in later years; but differ from each other in their emphasis in each field respectively. The basic doctrines of these three philosophies can be readily compared with each other. They each carry their tenets in a basic, simple format which is easy to understand and follow.
Their beliefs also provide an ethical code encompassed within their beliefs, and each has an objective to attain through simple means. In Buddhism, the fundamental beliefs are to recognize life as cycle of birth and rebirth, and to overcome this cycle to attain Nirvana. The fundamental beliefs of Buddhism are contained in The Four Noble Truths, which are : 1. Life is suffering, 2. Suffering is caused by desire, 3. The way to end suffering is to end desire, 4.
The way to end desire is to avoid the extremes of a life vulgar materialism and of self-torture, and to follow the Middle Path(Eightfold Path).1 Following the Middle Path, to Buddha is the way to overcome the painful cycle of life, and are relatively simple practices. They are thus: 1.Right understanding, or views: recognizing that material security does not bring peace of mind and that rituals do not erase the effects of pass acts; 2.Right motives: the quality of the drive behind the thinking and being free from carnal thirst, malevolence, cruelty, etc..; 3.Right speech: not indulging in cruel and harsh talk, thereby being able to establish a link between ‘right motives’ and ‘right action’; 4.Right action: any actions that proceed from an unobstructed mind. This also includes abstaining from unwholesome actions and performing those which are beneficial; 5.Right means of livelihood: the idea of not harming living things through any means, and to abstain from indulging in anything which would cloud the mind; 6.Right effort: efforts taken to encourage the development of of the other paths and to discourage any hindrances; 7.Right mindfulness: to prevent the excessive development of of one path at the expense of another; 8.Right meditation: to quiet the mind and present true pictures to the mind of any hindrances to the Middle Path.2 The Middle Path, as seen above, is an ethical code for a relatively simple life of performing good deeds, not harming yourself and others, and maintaining ethical thoughts and frame of mind. By following the Middle Path, a person would eventually reach enlightenment and be able to achieve Nirvana. To the Buddha, Nirvana is the extinction of self hood and a final reunion with the Great World Soul3. Similar to Buddhism, Islam is also a simple faith with simple teachings, with an easily obtainable objective.
Islam’s beliefs though are held in a monotheistic framework ,and in what is known as the “Five Pillars of Islam.” The supreme deity of Islam is Allah and obeying the will of Allah is done by following the “Five Pillars of Islam.” They are thus: 1.Every Muslim must utter “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet”; 2.Every Muslim must pray five times a day and publicly on Friday at noon; 3.Every Muslim must give alms(charity) to the poor and unfortunate; 4.During the holy month of the Ramadan, every Muslim must fast from dawn to sunset; and 5.Every Muslim must make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.4 Along with the “Five Pillars”, Muslims(followers of the Islam faith) must also abstain from eating pork, gambling, drinking alcoholic beverages, and engaging in dishonest behavior. These “rules” are the basic laws a Muslim must obey, and they do not require too much effort from the individual or put a strain on the individual. By following them and by obeying the will of Allah, a Muslim is guaranteed a place in an eternal paradise filled with sensual delights. This eternal paradise is the objective of those who are faithful to Allah and Islam. Confucianism is also similar to the others, in its simplicity in teachings and adherence. First Confucianism deals with the rational cosmic order and the organization of worldly affairs.
Confucian belief is that all humans were endowed with their own Dao(Way), which was dependent on their role in life, and it was the individuals duty to live accordingly to their Dao, and not to ignore it. And by following their Dao accordingly, then their own affairs and those of the community would prosper. From this philosophy comes the concept of duty and humanity. In the concept of duty, the individual sacrifices his personal interests and desires for the “good” of the family, community, and state. With the concept of humanity, this consists of compassion and empathy for others.5 These are the central concepts of Confucianism, where the objective of its followers is for the affairs of the state, community, and individual to be prosperous and harmonious. Though Buddhism, Islam, and Confucianism share the common ground of simplicity in teachings and adherence, they differ from each other sharply.
First is the emphasis of each philosophy. Buddhism is sometimes called a reinterpretation of Hinduism, but is not a religion. Buddhism does not emphasize a god, nor the need to worship a god, but the adherence to an ethical lifestyle. On the otherhand, Islam is a religion(called a “Religion of The Book”) and emphasizes a supreme deity, Allah, and the need to obey his will. Whereas Confucianism as a philosophy, does not emphasize a higher metaphysical order(other than the Dao), nor does it emphasize the necessity to worship a deity. Confucianism is also not a reinterpretation of the some other religion or philosophy, either. Confucianism can be seen as a political philosophy, because Confucius’ philosophy took shape during China’s “Spring and Autumn Period”- a period of quarrelling and fighting among regional political leaders.6 Confucius looked to the Golden Age of Zhou, in lamentation and inspiration of his philosophy.
He is quoted to have said: The practice of the Great Way, the illustrious men of the Three Dynasties – these I shall never know in person. And yet they inspire my ambition….7 Thus each philosophy’s emphasis is the difference, in the similarities of each one. With Buddhism, its emphasis is on a mere ethical lifestyle. With Islam, it is obedience to and adhering to the will of a deity, Allah. And finally with Confucianism, …