Beliefs and Ethical Comparison of Buddhism and Confucianism Sylvia Boorstein states this quote on Buddhism, “Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it (“Buddhist Quotes and Sayings”). ” This is a very thought provoking quote. It is saying that accepting a moment just the way it is without fully believing it or disagreeing with it. The moment cannot be altered to make it positive. It is fully accepting life the way it comes.
Buddhism is the teaching of a Buddha and the practice of reaching enlightenment. Once a Buddha has reached enlightenment, he begins to teach the Dharma. The Dharma is the teaching of a Buddha. Buddhists believe that the purpose of life is achieved through the study and practice of the Dharma. There are two sections of the Buddhist religion. “Mahayana emphasizes the attaining of Buddhahood and the helping of others to attain the same goal,” while Theravada is relatively conservative and is closer to the early Buddhist traditions (Charing, Cole, El-Droubie, Goonewardene, Pancholi, and Sambhi 104).
Mahayana and Theravada are the two major existing traditions today. Mahayana is the larger of the two traditions and refers to seeking complete enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. Compassion is the highest virtue within Mahayana Buddhism and they are politically liberal (Brown). Even though Theravada is less practiced than Mahayana, they still have over 150 million followers worldwide. The ultimate goal of the Theravada Buddhist is reaching Nirvana and they strive for wisdom over compassion (Brown).
Some say that Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion because at no time do they emphasize the existence or non-existence of a god at any point in time. Neither do they have doctrines unlike most religions. But different schools of Buddhism believe different teachings. Some schools have asked questions like: “Is there a god? ” and “Does the soul really exist? ” But theory holds no value in Buddhist culture, unless pursued in the obtaining of enlightenment. “The term Buddha is derived from ‘budh’, to understand or be awakened, and is the itle given to an Enlightened being. Theravada recognizes two kinds of Buddhas, Pacceka Buddhas who understand the truth but do not teach it and Samma Sambuddhas who understand the truth and go on to teach it. Theravada considers the Buddha to be an extraordinary human being with mental powers far beyond those of an ordinary human (Charing, Cole, El-Droubie, Goonewardene, Pancholi, and Sambhi 107). ” Buddhism helps people overcome unhappiness, and to understand and come to terms with life and death.
Buddhism has spread out of India and has been accepted by the peoples of other countries Buddhism spread north from its starting origin in northern India to Korea, Japan, Tibet, Nepal, and Mongolia. It also spread south to Sri Lanka, Burma, Indo-China, and Thailand. Modern Communism has wiped out Buddhism in China and Thailand. Where Buddhist worship was once prevalent, there is now resurgence in these countries. While in Sri Lanka, Burma, Japan, and Korea, Buddhism is thriving. Buddhism is also attracting much attention in the United States and Europe (Charing, Cole, El-Droubie, Goonewardene, Pancholi, and Sambhi 123-129).
Confucius himself says, “To be able under all circumstances to practice five things constitutes perfect virtue; these five things are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness and kindness (Moncur). ” Confucius made his living as a teacher and a scholar and was probably a member of the lower nobility or knightly class. He described himself as a conservator and transmitter of tradition. Good government for Confucius depended on the appointment to office of good men, who would server as examples for the multitude: “Just desire yourself and the common people will be good.
The virtue of gentlemen is like wind; the virtue of the small man is like grass. Let the wind blow over the grass and it is sure to bend (Craig, Graham, Kagan, Ozment, and Turner 36). ” Confucianism is distinguished from many other traditions by its commitment to the study of ancient classics. Confucius was a great editor and commentator of the classics. His reputation as a sage was based on the fact that he embodied ancient classics. Each generation of Confucian masters contributed to learning in some way.
The doctrines of Confucianism gradually increased with each generation’s writings, discussions, and treatises. “As the tradition of literati, Confucianism is steeped in the spirit of scholarship. Confucianism is thus known by the name re xue, meaning the learning of scholars, and the term is first used in the Records of History (Yao). ” Confucianism has been able to outlive persecution, suppression, and revolution because of its efforts to further learning. As long as learning is permitted Confucianism will be able to thrive. Confucianism is a socio-political program, an ethical system, and a religious tradition. It functions as an underlying ideology and a guiding principle permeating the way of life in China (Yao). ” Mostly a Chinese tradition, Confucianism reflects Chinese outlook towards life and the world, it has spread to many East Asian countries. Along time interpretations of Confucian principals have changed. “
Any adequate understanding of Confucianism, past or present, will depend upon a thorough examination of all its dimensions, phases, and forms as well as interplay between its and its social environment (Yao). “I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it (“Ethics Quotes”). ” This quote was said by Albert Einstein. He is addressing his belief on mortality or lack thereof. Confucianism has traditional practices that mortality includes. “Considering the central positions of morality in Confucianism and the significance of Confucian ethics of society, some Western scholars have concluded that the moral dimension is so essential for Confucianism that Confucianism itself can be defined as a form of ethics.
Confucianism morality revolves around family relationships, especially around the relationships between parents and children, between elder and younger brothers, husband and wife, ruler and subject (Yao). ” The important aspect is fulfilling responsibilities to one another. Social order is based on family virtues. The reason they believe this to work is that the family is the foundation of the human community and the well balanced relationships will lead to a peaceful state. Confucian ethics are mostly seen as to mean moral issues, but they are also about politics, religion, education, psychology and metaphysics.
To define Confucianism as a moral system would be deceptive because we also have to take into account that Confucian ethics covers a wider area than the West and Confucianism includes a special kind of morality (Yao). Confucian ethics have served as a basis for society in Eastern Asia for two decades (Oldstone-Moore 53). They are directed toward the creations of a peaceful society and a benevolent state. Confucianism demands that all people be treated with humanity. A central Confucian virtue is filial piety, which means behaving according to ones rank. A harmonious society is reliant on each person playing their part and with good intent.
To be an ethical person, one must be self-cultivated through the practice of appropriate behavior. Other forms of cultivation also contribute to ethical development (Oldstone-Moore 55). “Refinement in the arts, or wen, follows the example of the sages who created poetry, music, and ritual (Oldstone-Moore 55). ” In the realm of government Confucian ethics are quite important. “The ruler is to be like the wind; the people like the grass that bends in whatever direction the wind blows (Analects 12:19). ” “Show yourself when the Way prevails in the empire; when it does not, then hide (Analects 8:13). In contrast of Confucianism, Buddhist concepts, values, and principals develop their various responses to the crises and challenges of their particular situations. A natural law of the cosmos, the law of cause and effect; karma means action. “People who engage in negatively motivated acts, thoughts, or speech- that is, deeds motivated by greed, hatred, or delusion- reap negative results in this life or a future life; similarly, positively motivated acts, such as those motivated by generosity, loving-kindness, or moral self-discipline, bring positive results (King 13).
Part of the foundational Buddhist teaching of ethics is karma. Key efforts include thinking in terms of causality and karma, and the Four Noble Truths. The First Noble Truth is known as suffering; our inability to be satisfied with life, our constant craving for more and better. The Second Noble Truth states the cause of duhkha, also known as suffering. One needs to identify the source of the problem and act on the cause, if one wants to fully resolve the problem at hand. The Buddha named craving (always wanting something) and ignorance (specifically, our fundamental ignorance about who and what we are, our mistaken belief that the word ‘I’ refers to a real entity that constitutes our identity) as the root causes of duhkha (King14-16). ” The Third Noble Truth, stating goals in both positive and negative forms, is enlightenment. “With the Fourth Noble Truth, the path, Buddhist practically becomes concrete. If one wants to achieve the goal held out for us in the Third Noble Truth, then the Fourth Noble Truth offers a set of practices with which to do so.
The path, as taught by the Buddha, is the Noble Eightfold Path, the path to the eradication of duhkha (King 17). ” Compassion and wisdom are the two defining characteristics of a Buddha. “Compassion specifically means caring about the suffering or duhkha of others. Compassion and loving-kindness are closely related virtues, representing two facets of benevolence, or goodwill. Thus one can be the most selfish person in the world and still be constrained from harming others if one has sufficient wisdom to consider the consequences of one’s actions.
Such self-interested restraint is good, from a Buddhist perspective, both because in this way the harming of others is prevented and because such self-restraint will gradually become a habit, causing one to become less morally coarse, more naturally inclined to think of others (King 22). ” As one’s actions gradually take others more and more into account, one gradually becomes less and less self-centered and gradually loses the self-centered motivation. Engaged Buddhists directly work with groups in conflict situations. They frame their goals in terms of win-win outcomes or reconciliation rather than a victory for a particular side.
A reader can see that these two “religions” are very different from one another. One can argue that Buddhism and Confucianism are more like philosophies and a way of life than they are religions. Their origins come from very different countries. The beliefs and rules can be contrasted with great detail. However, both sides have very acceptable ways of life and codes to live by. Buddhism and Confucianism are both subject to thinking and bettering your personal life. Both traditions have remained through the test of time and have spread immensely. The entire world benefits from the teachings of Buddhism and Confucianism.