In the beginning of the semester, I wrote on the Discussion Board that even though I am from Asia and people may think that I am familiar with religions of Asia, I did not have much understanding of various religious faiths in Asia. Because I have never believed or practiced any religion in my whole life, I did not have much interest about religions of Asia or elsewhere.
However, since I first saw the video about the Ramayana, I started to gain some interest in religion. I thought that religion might be amiable and interesting given that some people can make an interesting video about the Ramayana. Also, by reading the book, Rama the Steadfast, I learned not only Hinduism (Valmiki. 2006), but also started to develop curiosity about other religions. Religion and faith began to have a relationship with me and affect my thinking. Eventually, I found myself in the bright side of religion.
First, I realized that a religious tradition is deeply ingrained in me. Four major religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism had their origins in India. These religions have been propagated eastward through China, Korea, and Japan (Noss, 2011). Because of this, I realized that Hinduism, which born in India or South Asia, has some traditions that are similar to the religious traditions of far East religions. For example, people are highly respectful of the elderly and perform certain rituals for their ancestors and Gods.
When I read the book, Rama the Steadfast, I revered Rama and Ramayana because the author described Rama as a god-like man. Furthermore, every character in the book including Rama respected parents, elders, sages and even other characters. Rama’s respect for this father is indescribable. Characters in the story had courtesy all the time toward the King, sages, and others. Also, when Rama was sent into exile and arrives at his new house in the forest, he performs a ritual for the forest God so that he can live safely (Valmiki, 2006).
I learned that I always had respect for elders and it is one of my main virtues since I was young. My respect for elders is very much like that depicted in Ramayana. Furthermore, in my home country, people visit and clean a family member's grave and also perform ancestral rites in their home annually. However, because the popular religion in my home country South Korea is Buddhism, some religious traditions in the book are contrastingly different. For example, Rama sacrificed a dead animal when he had a ritual for his new house, but people in South Korea do not sacrifice and offer raw food. Even though not all religions have exactly same religious traditions, I believe that the concepts of different religions are the same, which are respecting others and ancestors. From these aspects, I started to gain an interest in comparing and contrasting religions that I am learning in the class with my home country’s religious traditions.
As I started to gain some interest in religions, Daoism and Confucianism struck me much more than the others. Daoism, or Taoism, is both a religion and a philosophy, indigenous to the Chinese, which urges people to live in harmony with nature. It is an attitude towards life that is carefree, accepting and joyful. This religion has shaped Chinese culture for so long that it has also found its way into other Asian cultures. Daoism has a core of self-reflection and devotes energy to introspection. Taoists are prominent critics of Confucian activism. Confucianism is an ethical, philosophical system as well as a religion that developed from the teachings of Confucius. It is built on the core of morality, ethics, and activism. There are five basic Confucian concepts, which are the five relationships, Xiao, Ren, Li, and Superior Man, and these encourage people to live in social harmony and mutual respect for each other. Confucius believed that better human relations would find political order (Noss, 2011 & Class notes).
I felt that both Daoism and Confucianism have many similar concepts because both religions are ways of living as well as ways of thinking of people that focus on a personal improvement and individual behavior. Also, they were founded at the same time, though by different people: at approximately 550 B.C.E. in China. However, they have striking differences in their ethics, view of divinity, worship practices, and festivals.
These two religions have striking differences. Confucianism aims at having a structured society; it is all about the humanity. We can find these ideas by looking at five basic Confucian concepts. Daoism`s main goal is to become one with nature, and it is believed that life is god. The most popular theory of Daoism is the Yin-Yang Theory. It divides natures, seasons, and genders up into yin and yang and shows that people should be harmonious with a thing that has an opposite characteristic. For instance, the status of women in Daoism is that they are generally equal to men, while women are social to men in Confucianism context. Confucianists believe in only one God though ancestors are also worshiped, while most Taoists believe in many gods. Taoists believe that the soul survives and lives on. This is contrary to the belief depicted in Confucianism that one becomes an ancestor and is worshiped by his descendants and their families. The religion of Confucianism is based on the virtue respect while that of Daoism is based on contemplation.
Festivals and other worship practices in the two religions also differ. Daoism has various Holy days such as the Chinese New year, Three Day Festival and Lantern Festival. Of these, Chinese New Year is common to Confucianism, which also has Teacher Day and Ancestors Day. Also, Confucianists have temples as their places of worship while Daoists have temples as well as shrines to worship in. Confucianism has many scriptures such as, The Five Classics, The Analects, and I Ching, while Daoism has just one scripture, which is Tao Te Ching I Ching (Noss, 2011 & Class notes).
The reason why I chose Daoism and Confucianism is because they help me to organize my thoughts. That means a lot to me. As I wrote on the Discussion board, I had basic concepts of Daoism and Confucianism before taking the class, but I did not know these were religious concepts. I also think, maybe because both are religions, they took deep roots in my home country. For instance, one thing that surprised me the most when I learned about Daoism is the theory of yin and yang. In my home country, people said females have “the energy of yin” and males have “the energy of yang” so when man and woman get married, they will live harmoniously. From this aspect, I knew that yin and yang have to be harmonious, but I did not know it is a Daoism concept. I never tried to ask why yin and yang have to be harmonious, or where those ideas came from.
Noss, D. S. (2011). A History of the World’s Religions. 13th Edition. New Jersey: Pearson.
Valmiki. (2006). Rama the Steadfast. (J. Brockington & M. Brockington, Trans.). New York: Penguin Classics.