Many religions held the virtues of morality high and regarded. The schools advance adherence on morality on action, consequence, character, virtue and culture. Thus, good and bad is a reflection of each subscription. Hinduism, Buddhism Taoism and Confucianism as forms of religion and belief systems have foundations that also guide good and bad. Hence, the existence of morality in the various forms of religion and belief systems. Like schools of thought, religion has key aspects that should be adhered to for attainment of morality. The aspects include virtues, wrath of the Supreme Being and lifestyle philosophies. The paper discusses the similarities, differences and some unique key aspects in the three schools of morality.
Hinduism is a religion that holds and teaches high moral aspects in the society where they are highly revered by all members. Humans should be moral agents with imperative of applying their knowledge and the moral aspects in their daily lives. Hinduism believes in the supreme reality where the followers believe in Brahman who exists in all bodies of living things, even in people. There is basic call of understanding and realizing Brahman divine presence everywhere and, thus, the followers of the religion have an obligation to strictly obey the morals and be straight. The central principle in the Hindu morality is the dharma idea where every person is allocated their responsibilities and duties in life. There are different stages of morality, where a child’s moral values and community expectations are different from that of an adult. In fulfilling moral values, the Hindu religion tries to attain harmony in life and create peace in the society. The dharma encourages universal service to all with a personal duty and service to the Hindu deities. Hindu morality includes other actions like virtues, religious services, magnanimity and honesty. There are also other aspects of ethical practices that emphasize peaceful coexistence like nonviolence (ahimsa) as violence disrupts moral order. In addition, there are other activities that are not allowed to be practiced as they go against the morals like abortion and immorality (Stuart, 2014).
Taoism involves practices that encompass the exercise of emulating the nature and adopt natural behavior that is “genuinely virtuous” according to Hardy (2014). The standard behavior as expected by the society is that of having harmony and self-regulating the nature as the authors of the Taoism virtues, Taode Jing and Zhuangzi said, “drop humanity, abandon justice (leave)/ and the people will return to their natural affections.” There were advocacy for “secret value” by the early followers of the Taoism. Here, they advocated for good works that are done secretly and known only to gods. This is a way of encouraging morality in the society as people will do good things fearing and trying to please their gods in secret. As Taoism is connected to the Celestial Masters priests, there were rejections of the Confucian virtues but more so with regards to the emphasis on the outward sign of moral values. They believed the inner person is more important in observing the moral virtues than the outer person who may be influenced by the surrounding to change or conform to the environment whilst not observing the morals. The moral values of the followers included activities like confessing of their wrong doing, and asking for petition from the heavenly authorities for forgiveness. Taoism and Buddhism, to an extent, had 180 precepts that guided morality in the society. The 180 precepts were against activities like adultery, theft, intoxication, abortion, waste and all other kinds of crimes as viewed by the society. The Lingbao scriptures encouraged more developed moral concept with specific regulations on appropriate behavior in and outside the society. In many cases, the Lingbao scriptures merged with that of Buddhism and Taoism adopted 10 precepts that guided the society. In the Buddhism and Taoism practices, all followers were ordained and allowed to observe these precepts that proscribed activities like stealing, lying, intoxication, abortion and killing. There is a provision that guides the followers to abstain from immoral deeds and thoughts. The other precepts were made to ensure harmony and morality in the society like having harmony in the family, society and the dead. The support of good acts is encouraged with helping the unfortunate and avoiding the thoughts of revenge.
Confucianism religion as advocated for by Confucius (Kongzi) who existed between 551-479BC believes in self morality that starts with the inner person. He quoted saying that the person who controls his state of morals would be supported by the people the way the Polar star is encircled by many other stars. His focus was more on leadership, governance and morality. Kongzi advocated for some specific moral principles like obeying elders, superiors, rulers, parents and others who are superior to the person. He demanded a society with respect to the morals and the rulers. Rituals have to be respected; wisdom cultivated as well as trustworthy and a commitment to do the right thing in all situations. The principle of “self-reflection and other-regard” was emphasized by the early followers and it became a teaching through the religion. Confucianism emphasizes on good relationship with those above and below in social classes and governance. Co-humanity is regarded as important in treating fellow human beings and observing divinity to its highest standard.
Kongzi observed that Confucianism does not have tensions between the impulses of the body (physical self) and the outside experiences with the spiritual or mental self as witnessed in the western culture. Thus, according to Kongzi, no dichotomy does exists between outer and inner as well as between self and whole, as it emphasizes on the collective effect on the principle of self-cultivation, a principle observed not just by one person but by all the people in the society including cosmic. The religion encourages morality where one is subjected to think of others and put themselves in their shoes, thus encouraging piety, humanity and collective social goodness. The religion encourages the practices that seeks to identify one’s good desires and true feelings to aid in making good decision about one-self (Richey, n.d.). The religion envisions a society where all people live in harmony with contentment in their lives and respect to the rule of authority. His example of Polar star and the many stars encircling it implicates that a good ruler who is morally right will make the followers to be morally good as well. Rituals are highly valued according to Confucius religion as it makes all the members equal and encourages cohesion in the society.
Some Central Beliefs among the Three Eastern Religions (Similarities)
The three religions have some central beliefs in focusing on the morality of the people. Despite Hinduism having a supreme being and the other two being centered on teachings of philosophers, they encourage people to stay well with the society, embracing each other and living in harmony. They also encourage good morals, respect for others and the universe as well as charity for the unprivileged. Hinduism followers believe in the Supreme Being, who creates, preserves and protects. Thus, in His recognition, the society members hold peace with each other, respect and avoid negative aspects like coveting others, this aspects ensure people live morally well with respect to property and space of the others. The Hindu teaching encourages having good life, showing kindness to others and giving charity to attain the ultimate award. These teachings encourage social order as well as high social morality among the followers of the religion. Equally, the universal dharma encourages the service to personal deities and observance of virtues like honesty, respect and magnanimity. These values had a goal of making the society peaceful and encourage co-existence (Richey, 2014).
Buddhism focuses on aspects that make it more of a philosophy than a religion but with some basic principles that cut across the three eastern religions. A similar principle to that of Hinduism encourages the self-interest and the self-respect as advocated by the scholars in this school. Buddhist Taoism encourages respect for the other members of the society. For instance, Hardy (2014) quotes that the guiding principles, Taode jing, were written by and for men to control the then high perpetual conflict where disagreements were the order of the day. The teachings, therefore, encourage non-aggressiveness and non-violence attitude where all people were told to have feminine attitude. In several chapters of the Taode jing, emphasis is put on “playing feminine part” where society members are encouraged not to argue or involve themselves in non-violence as “being feminine conquers the masculine through quietness” (Mifflin, 2014). This encourages the spirit of lowering oneself to either the superior or inferior and through that, it is possible to win them over. The spirit of peaceful coexistence is, therefore, encouraged with the adoption of the 10 precepts of harmony and morality among the others.
Confucianism observed respect for each other, both seniors and juniors with high degree of self-respect. It believes that good morals from a leader will guide the others to also have good morals. This encouraged good relations within the society and social balance. Kongzi envisioned a society harmonized through rituals and everyday interactions that included greetings and farewells, thanks and requests, among others to bring people to harmony and live together. All the three religions have aspects of peace, respect and harmony in them.
Differences between the Three Religions
There are some differences in the three eastern religions like Hinduism believes that good morals are needed to exist well in the next life. This is due to the belief in reincarnation where members want to achieve universal goal of becoming good living things in the next life. There is fear of punishment in the next life and this controls the people. These beliefs are not associated with the Buddhists and the Confucianism religions. There Buddhists have the belief that suffering is caused by doing bad to others and that for people to stop suffering, they have to stop doing evil. The Taoism has its focus on freeing oneself from desires and working towards equality as this will lead a peaceful and happier life. Therefore, the differences in the three religions are the reasons behind the good deeds and morals the followers are demanded of in this world.
Morality in Hinduism holds that the good must practiced and it cannot be acquired. Whereas there are many gods, they represent the many faces of the Supreme Being. The way to the Supreme Being is through consistency in good actions. Wrong deeds on the other hand attract negative punishment. The actions that can be good or bad are rewarded accordingly in the afterlife. However, lifestyles have standards based on the caste system. Buddhism on the other hand, holds on various philosophies of life and has no supreme being. The focus is in internal peace and the main foundations are morality where one mediates before acting and makes judges on the consequences. The philosophy notes that everybody suffers because they are responsible for it; thus, such actions should be avoided through a bright way (Kokemuller, 2014).
All the religions have a common call towards humanity, morality and peace. Despite the consequences directed to the specific followers, there is common good that the followers have to achieve. The reward of good deed is meeting the Supreme Being while bad is punishment. Therefore, morality is practiced in anticipation. Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism balance the responsibility of morality of the person in relation to the inner self, other people and nature. Buddhism and Confucianism directly dictate good and bad and followers have an idea of what is expected. Buddhism places a lot emphasis on the self while Buddhism reflects other people in its teachings. Taoism has no practice of good or evil; however, aspects of respect, peace, humility and simplicity are widely promoted. Thus, all the three religions are aimed at ensuring order in the society while promoting the highest level of morality.