Confucianism and Taoism are some of the major religions in China. They have greatly influenced the culture of the Chinese people as well as their world view. The connection between the two religions has influenced many people over time. It can also be said that when the principles of both philosophies are put together, the outcome is a well-rounded person. The following is a discussion of the principles and philosophies behind these two religions as well as how the two religions interact and connect to influence an individual.
Confucianism is a religion that bases its philosophy and principles on the teachings of Confucius, a Chinese philosopher who lived between 551 and 478 BC. The Philosophy behind Confucianism is humanism. Confucian adherents have a positive view of human beings and human nature. The world in the Confucian religion in seen through the ideal of humanism. This means that adherents of Confucianism hold it true that human beings are improvable, teachable and perfectible. Human beings can become perfect through individual and communal effort for example self creation and cultivation. The general philosophy of Confucianism emphasizes individual and governmental morality, rightness of social relationships, sincerity and justice of the whole community.
All adherents of Confucianism should practice ethics that are exemplified by the propagation of virtues or principles. There are many virtues that adherents of Confucianism should follow for instance loyalty, continence, piety, bravery, gentleness, among others. However, there are five fundamental principles in Confucianism that include humaneness (Ren), Righteousness (Yi), Knowledge (Zhi), Etiquette (Li) and Integrity (Xin).
Humaneness obliges people to show altruism to other people in a community. This means that one should be loyal to his true nature, should show reciprocity to good deeds, be kind and show piety. Humaneness dictates that people observe the Golden Rule, ‘Do not do to others what you do not want done to 0yourself’. Being righteous means being morally disposed to do good. Etiquette on the other hand is a system of propriety and norms that dictate what proper and improper behavior within a community is. Knowledge means to appreciate the true and deep significance of something. Integrity on the other hand means honesty and standing by ones words.
Taoism is a Chinese religious tradition that stresses the importance of living harmoniously with the essence and source of all that exists or the Tao. In Chinese, Tao means the path, way or principle but it can also mean nature or reality. In Taoism, the right path is working in harmony with nature or reality. Taoism ethics stress the three jewels of the Tao which include moderation, compassion and humility. The philosophy of Taoism centers on nature and how human beings should relate with the cosmos. Inner fulfillment can be achieved through contemplation of nature. Nature is like a stream of wisdom and by experiencing it through innocent eyes, we are able to internalize its pleasantness, its intrigue and its excitement and achieve serenity.
There are four fundamental principles in Taoism including Tao, De, Pu and Wu wei. Tao in Taoism is the natural, spontaneous, eternal and indescribable way everything began and took course. It is the force that is behind natural order, the natural flow of the universe or that which keeps the universe ordered and balanced. De on the other hand is the integrity, virtue and power that are an active expression of the way or Tao. It is the living out or cultivation of the way. Wu wei, the third principle in Taoism which literally means ‘without purposeful action’. It means effortless doing and the unseen power in all things. In practice, it means that people should not exert their will in the world as this will cause a disruption in the harmony that is within things. Human beings should put their will in harmony with that which is natural or the nature. This way, their objectives would be achieved without effort. Pu in Chinese is translated to mean simplicity. It is used to symbolize pure perception and potential without discrimination. Taoists believe that everything should be perceived as it really is without illusions. Pu is the true and pure nature of the mind, uncontaminated by experiences or knowledge. When someone is in Pu, there neither is beautiful nor ugly, right nor wrong, only pure awareness.
When the principles of both Confucianism and Taoism combine, they are able to make a well rounded and self actualized person. First off, both philosophers advocate for people to move from having an ‘individual’ attitude and adopt a more communal attitude. Selflessness is therefore advocated for. The greater whole is give precedence over the individual. This is probably the reason why the Chinese as a people are very communal. If people adopted this notion, then a lot of useless conflicts between people would be done away with. This is because according to these philosophies, left to his means, the individual would not only hold himself back but also fragment the society. When individuals come together, the society is made stronger because people do only that which is advantageous to society. If therefore people adopted this principle as taught in both Confucianism and Taoism, the world would be a peaceful place to live in and our political leaders would work for the electorate instead of protecting themselves and the haves.
Another way in which the combination of the two philosophies can help make a well rounded person is that they both advocate for virtues that would make an individual better. While Confucianism emphasizes on humaneness, Righteousness, Knowledge, Etiquette and Integrity, Taoism centers on nature and how it can bring harmony to the human being and society. If one combined the two, he would in essence be a person who does good, follows societal norms and also conserves the environment. This in essence would be a law abiding citizen who respects the role of nature in the world. The environment and nature which we salvage any how would be safe and global warming and the extinction of some species of animals would not be there. Crime would be a thing of the past. The society would be full of well rounded people.
Both philosophies encourage people to live well conducted lives, to fulfill all their obligations and duties and balance their lives. This means that people should respect their different roles in social relationships as mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, siblings, friends, relatives, ruler, subject etc. The two religions encourage that one should be able to balance all his roles and perform them to the fullest. This balance is also encouraged in other issues in life as such as there should be a balance between cowardice and courage. Striking a balance between things and observing moderation is makes a well conducted life which is encouraged in both religions. If people adopted the principles of Confucianism and Taoism, issues like violence, negligence, divorce, adultery, deceit would be unheard of as everyone would know their place and execute their roles efficiently.
If people adopted Confucian and Taoist principles, we would believe in the inherent potential in human beings to be changed and transformed to be good people. If one went wrong for example, they would really believe they could change and therefore they would work towards becoming better people because they truly believe in transformation. People would be aware of their inner self and cultivate it for the betterment of humanity. Our Judicial and justice systems would also be tailored with this notion in mind, with their primary role being to fully rehabilitate people.
If a person combined both Confucian and Taoist principles in their lives, they would learn to appreciate the little things that we take for granted like the sun, the rain, the air and even art among other. Such a person would appreciate uncontaminated beauty and thus give way for art to develop. Such people would use art to unify society. This is the reason why the Chinese appreciate art so much. In conclusion, Confucian and Taoist principles combined would make a person happy, contented, fulfilled and self actualized. It would make a person not to burden themselves with the insignificances of life but rather to live life to the fullest. The principles of both religions combined would ensure that individual, the society and indeed the world over is focused on what really matters. It would make an individual to be at peace with himself and the society.