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Asia is one of the world’s continents known for diverse cultures and cultural differences. With its vast regions, it is a continent saturated with a population of very divergent practices with regards to religious beliefs. In this research I will be considering the differences and similarities of two particular religions in two distinct regions, that is Hinduism in India and Taoism in China.
In India, Hinduism has been upheld as a religion for more than two millenniums ago and goes on up to date. In their beliefs, there exist four social orders that are given the name Varna in Hindu. Varna is a religious name for these groups and every one of them is responsible for specific duties in the religious realm and in the society as well. These groupings were aligned in a hierarchy from the greatest to the least according to their responsibilities.
Members in a particular Varna were not allowed to curry out duties that were not assigned to them, while the less fortunate were seen as outcasts. The highest ranking Varna is of the Brahman whose members are mainly the most influential people in the society. These include the priests and mainly the very educated people in the Indian societies. After the Brahmans follows the Kshatria in the hierarchy order.
These is a made up of the rulers and nobles in the society, the wealthy and rich community. After these Varna then follows the Vaisia who are the investors in the society, landlords and business people. After the class again follows the Sudra are the peasants and the working class but working in decent jobs. Other than the Varna, there had another class of people who were seen as the untouchables and they were the lowly in the society.
These are people who did odd jobs like cleaning the bathrooms, attending the savagery and all other dirty jobs. They were the least in the society and were regarded as outcasts and less important. They were deprived of the privileges to enjoy social and economical rights that the rest of the Varna was enjoying. However, each setting was divided into smaller communities that were called Jati. With these sub communities, people were not allowed to intermarry hence one could only marry a partner from their own Jati.
This was the religious structure of the Hindu in ancient India and still remains to be even in present and modern days. In ancient china, Taoism, a Chinese religious belief, was founded by Laozi. Tao is translated by English researchers as ‘the way’ and is based on creative principles that have spread in recent years to many parts of the country. Taoism was incepted two thousand years ago and it extended swiftly to become customary in ancient china.
It was an administrative organization that followed Han dynasty legislative institute, with the identity of spiritual select few also derived from names of Han officials. The state was made up of twenty-four regions, with falling under one administrator hence there was twenty four officials in charge of countless spirits. This religious society opposed animal forfeit as a religious act and the practice was highly condemned by the Taoists.
They believed that the gods who were supreme do not eat or drink hence they justified their beliefs against animal sacrifices. It was believed that qi, a celestial breath that was the source of life, is what the gods consumed as opposed to food. It was also against the mainstream religious conviction to uphold magic and messiahs who were seen as people who simply took advantage of the rest to skirmish religious radicalism.
Any other religion was seen and described as a wrong path of spiritual endeavor. Taoist considers life and death as an inescapable reality of life and this is the basic principle of the toasts in fact Tao refers to this reality. Death in this belief is a transformative stage in life where one has to get in order to proceed to the next level or stage of life. This is referred to as the shift from yang to yin thus doing away with the fear for death.
Taoists believe that every happening has a positive and a negative contribution towards life. Hence, Taoism does not seem to oppose the duality of life thus it’s a religion that is full of mysteries unexplained. This is well seen in their belief and pursuit for immortality and supernatural ability. This involves maintaining a healthy eating habit, controlling the breath and sexuality among the followers of this region.
However, the two religions, these are Hinduism and Taoism, are very distinct in their nature and beliefs although they may seem so closely related. Like for example, Hinduism believed in a supreme being who needed to be appeased and this was done through offering animal sacrifices and going through extreme pain to experience the presence of these god. Believers would go to difficult painful lengths all in the name of worship and this was the tradition before the birth of Buddha who later changed this order of worship.
He did not advocate for people to go through pain in the guise of worship and saw no need for this to happen hence he rejected the system. He brought a new way of looking at life where one’s circumstances in life were as result of his or her actions in life. This however did not break the primary belief in a Supreme Being god who ruled over the universe. The notion of the karma, where one was considered poor because he or she deserved it was against the convictions of Buddha.
He, as opposed to the custom, wanted people to embrace what was seen as a middle path where no one was too rich and at the same time no one would be so poor. Coming from a rich family, he saw it to be unfair to have people with plenty while others lacked even the basics of life. Hindus carried out religious rituals and were very superstitious in their culture influenced by their religious beliefs advocating for a vegetarian diet.
Taoism on the other hand is a philosophy that concentrates on natural happenings and is based on human wisdom based on intelligent observation. Taoism is based on understanding unlike Hinduism which is based on supernatural influence (Flood). Followers are required to live in harmony with nature and have a sense of balance between human race and nature. Taoism is more focused with nature and relationship between nature and humanity.
Taoist believes that one can make his or her life better on earth according to how they deal with circumstances affecting them and the situation around them. On the centrally, Hinduism has it that life on earth is an experience of pain on where man has to be reborn to reach the desired level of contentment. The ultimate goal in Hinduism is to be freed from death circles hence man I responsible for his redemption from the fantasies of the world.
This is compared to a child’s mind that is uncorrupted with the earthly evils, a mind free from characters born out of worldly influence. On the other hand, Taoists believe the principles of actions are autonomous and specific laws of nature. Good virtues, kindness, knowledge are important components of life and humanity for a positive co-existence (Lush). In this religious belief, man is expected to exist in obedience to the laws of nature without interfering with the same.
The unending Law of nature is a permanent progression that works intrinsically within man. All creation is to leave in harmony with the rest and everything is classified either as yin or yang that means everything or situation is balanced with a positive side and a negative one as well. The more man obstructs the perfect balance in natural laws of the nature the more life turns complex and unbearable. Only when man gets in the way of the Tao, laws of kindness, justice, and societal systems must be written.
Surprisingly, the two religions share some degree of similarity. They both hold the shared opinion the basic principle of man is that he was meant to be good. Taoists trust that every man is intelligent in their own unique way as provide by the fate of their nature but individuals must go beyond their personality to expose their inner nature.
Similar to Taoism, Buddhism believes it is impossible to change the world but we can influence change within ourselves (Isabelle Robinet). The common belief is that suffering is a worldwide circumstance that is caused by desire. Desire is an intrinsic emotion in man but suffering caused by it can be avoided if discipline is upheld and self-control is practiced. “The Buddha's code of behavior is the Eightfold Path - rights doctrine, right purpose, right discourse, right behavior, right purity, right thought, right solitude, and right rapture” (Flood).
The primary idea of the two religions is the ultimate origin and fundamental principle of life. The Taoist and Buddhists viewpoint of human behavior hold opposing views in their interpretation of why thins happen as they do happen. With Taoism, all things that happen are influenced by natural and internal changes in human beings. Buddhists deem suffering on earth as a direct action of man and their desire for earthly riches. They also believe that there is nothing that man can do to change what happens on earth.
Considering the difference in the two religions, it is true to say that the region has been influenced by the spread of the two religions. Hinduism and Taoism though very distinct, their similarity confirm some ties between the two distinct religion and the region as a whole.