Hinduism is, some would say, the world’s most ancient and sprawling religion. Its scriptures and teachings are voluminous and wide-ranging, addressing everything from science and history to philosophy, art and, of course, spirituality. Comparatively speaking, the Hindu teachings are uniquely inclusive rather than exclusive. One of its early Vedas openly recognizes the universality of the spiritual path: “Truth is one; sages call it by different names.” As in Buddhism, Hinduism stresses the necessity of letting go our compulsive attachment to, and fascination with, the ego or the self, so that we can realize The Self, or selflessness. The differences in supreme beings between Hinduism and Buddhism show two extremes of the same idea. Hinduism believes in one Supreme Being, but separates its characteristics into many different Gods. Everything is a part of the Supreme Being. Buddhism sees the individual’s thought and nature as supreme, and therefore does not have a single God, and so turns inward instead of outward. Similarities between views of man and nature greatly show the progression from Hinduism to Buddhism as the same ideas of everything being one and the same are expressed in different contexts.
Both religions are also similarly based on attaining certain knowledge in order to reach salvation or Nirvana. Taoism and Confucianism have to be seen side-by-side as two distinct responses to the social, political and philosophical conditions of life two and a half millennia ago in China. Whereas Confucianism is greatly concerned with social relations, conduct and human society, Lao Tzu emphasized the need to look beyond the promises and treaties of human beings for a source of peace and contentment; and he urged to return to nature’s way, that is, a simple and harmonious life. Chuang Tzu developed Taoism emphasizing on the natural way as opposed to the artificial and contrived way of persons. The Tao is similar to the Christian God in that is omnipresent and all powerful. It is also an impersonal, impartial force, however, much like “the force” of George Lucas’ Star Wars. Tao means, more or less, “the way of things,” both material and immaterial, not dissimilar to the Buddhist term dharma.
Taoism centers upon the absolute necessity, uniqueness, pervasiveness and indefinable elusiveness of this peculiar “way.” The following passage from the Tao Te Ching is a typical description of the Tao. “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.” Confucius thought that the problems of his time originated from sovereign power used without moral principle. To cure this problem, he urged that the government should be administered for the benefit of all the people; and this is possible if the government officials were of the highest personal integrity and cared about the people as much as they did about themselves. (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you).
3. Perfection can be realized by following the inner Way (Tao) of nature. Tao is manifested in the workings of nature, for what individual things possess of Tao is the te, or function, of Tao. Tao, as a source, provides for the very existence of beings, but the function of Tao provides for their distinctness. Nonaction (wu-wei) is what things inherit from Tao as their function. “Tao invariably takes no action, and yet there is nothing left undone.” Non (artificial) action is letting things be accomplished in a natural and spontaneous way. The word “jen” means ‘virtue,’ ‘benevolence,’ ‘true humanhood,’ ‘moral character,’ ‘love,’ ‘human goodness,’ and ‘human-heartedness’. What makes us human is a matter of feeling as well as thinking; Chinese emphasize on the heart, rather than the reason, as the central feature of human nature. To realize jen, guides to action in everyday life are needed. Confucius found these guides in the rules of li (propriety).
Li governs customs, ceremonies, and relationships established by human practice over the ages; and jen is realized through li. Jen is the ground of li; what makes li a standard of conduct is the fact that it is in accord with jen. Customs and regulations not in accord with jen are not really li. By li, we tame our unruly impulses and transform them into civilized expressions of human nature: that is, li is the means by which our humanity (jen) can be evoked and developed. “… Li is the principle by which the ancient kings embodied the laws of heaven…” The word “li” means propriety in everything: moral discipline in personal conduct, the general principle of the social order, ritual and ceremony, a system of social relationships with definite attitudes toward one another, love in the parents, filial piety in the children, respect in the younger brothers, friendliness in the elder brothers, loyalty among friends, respect for authority among subjects, and benevolence in rulers.