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Mike Jacobson

World Religions 2300

RELIGIONS OF THE EAST AND WEST


It is easy for humans to believe there is a major distinction between the many eastern

religions and the many western religions that occupy the world when they look at factors such as

polytheism and monotheism, the way animals and women are regarded, and even the birth of that

religion and its founders. The east and the west may be separated by vast lands and different

oceans but with all the factors that make them different set aside, there is not much else that

makes eastern and western religions much different from one another. If they were so different

then some of these religions would not be influenced by others like the way that parts of Taoism

are influenced by Buddhist practices. One factor that all religions have in common with another

is guidelines and laws that must be followed. Each religion that I have analyzed has its own set

of guidelines to reach whatever end goal there is that that specific religion preaches about. By

analyzing the guidelines and laws of four different religions, two from the east and two from the

west, readers of the Anthology of World Scriptures written by Robert E. Van Voorst and The

Worlds Religions written by Houston Smith will be able to grasp the slight similarity that these

four religions have in common with each other showing that eastern and western religions are

not worlds apart or opposites as many people see them to be.

Buddhism and Taoism

In the east among the many religions that are practiced on that side of the world, the two

that I enjoyed reading about the most are Buddhism and Taoism, even though Taoism was not a

main religion that we learned about in class, Ive always been fascinated by it. The birth of the

Buddhist religion was established by a sage who thought himself no more important than any

other man, women, or animal around him. What he discovered through enlightenment was a

beautiful way of life where suffering and tragedy could not hinder the life they lived if they

followed the guidelines that the Buddha taught in order to reach Nirvana as Nirvana is the

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ultimate goal in the Buddhist religion. In other religions like Buddhism, scripture is the number

one way that followers will get the guidelines or instructions needed to become whatever or

whoever that religion inspires you to be. In the case of Buddhism, the guidelines given for

followers to reach Nirvana is the Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold Path to obtain their

end goal and end the cycle of reincarnation and reoccurring suffering. The Noble Eightfold Path

is laid out in the Book on Turning Wheel of the Law which encompasses Buddhas teachings of

the path to enlightenment. Some of the rules for obtaining enlightenment to reach Nirvana is to

stay on the middle path known as the Noble Eightfold Path where one will learn Right views;

Right aspirations; right speech; right conduct; right livelihood; right effort; right mindfulness;

and right contemplation (Voorst 80). In learning the right conduct, Buddha offers five different

precepts for his followers to abide by like not lying or stealing. According to what Smith wrote

in The Worlds Religions, ignorance was a problem that the Buddha recognized and continuous

self-examination of our mindfulness and speech and effort kept ignorance at bay so it doesnt

keep anyone from enlightenment (Smith 145). The guidelines that are preached in The Eightfold

Path, according to Van Voorst offers practical guidelines to mental and moral development

with the goal of freeing individuals from attachments and delusions; it leads to understanding the

truth about all things (81). Buddhism is not the only religion that teaches on how to obtain and

understand truth as both western and eastern religions preach the same value. The most shared

guidelines taught in The Noble Eightfold Path consist of keeping greed out of ones life, another

is to refrain from lying, from divisive speech, and from abusive speech (Voorst 82). To abstain

from lying is most a common law that is outlines in most religious texts especially in religions in

the West.

Judaism

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In the Judaism faith, nothing outlines the laws of the religion more than the Ten

Commandments that each Jewish man, women, and child must abide by if he or she is expected

to fulfill their goal of forgiveness and be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven. Smith states

that the Ten Commandments are so important that by going against them and sinning it is like a

disconnectedness or estrangement from God and one of those commandments, like in

Buddhism, is the fault in lying. The ninth commandment in the bible reminds the Jewish people

not to lie because it is sinful and it imprisons us from the glory of God and the rightful path set

out for believers. Just like in Buddhism a Jewish sin such as lying can take someone off course

from what they want to achieve in their religion like Nirvana or Gods grace on earth and in

Heaven. There are many laws, guidelines, and rules in the Jewish faith but the most basic and

fundamental is that of the Ten Commandments. These commandments demand certain things of

Gods children like having no other God than him, no stealing from your neighbors, no killing

others, and no taking the Lords name in vain because if you do you may face the possibility of

going to hell if you are not saved from your sins and live a life dedicated to him. The possibility

of eternal damnation is a constant reminder for the Jewish people to live a life by the rules

provided by God. Hell, or a place like hell is not only taught in a western religion like Judaism,

Islam, or Christianity but the punishment of Hell has reached across the globe eastward as well.

Daoism

The eastern born religion of Daoism was established by a sage known by the name as Lao

Tzu who, according to his followers, taught how to find and live by The Dao (The Way) and

used the possibility of eternal damnation after death as a way to encourage China to live by the

guidelines implemented in the Daode Jing. According to Van Voorst it is common for many

religions to use the punishment of hell to ward off evil in their people but that is considered

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mild compared to the paintings on the terrors of hell in some Daoist temples (181). If they

revolt from the guidelines that have been provided to them in how to live a long and virtuous life

by The Dao and obtain cosmic life power they may face the consequences of what awaits them

when their current life is over. The way that Buddhism has its five precepts of the right conduct

in The Noble Eightfold Path and Judaism has its Ten Commandments, Taoism also contain its

own Ten Precepts in the Dunhuang Manuscript which share a lot of the same guidelines and

rules as both Buddhism and Judaism as these rules should not just apply to religious people but

to all people- the rules presented in each religion are morally ethical and all humans should

follow them. Of all Ten Precepts, some of the ones that I have seen in both western and eastern

religions are Do not kill but always be mindful [of the people around you], Do not steal or

receive unrighteous wealth, and another is When I see someone unfortunate, I will support

him (Waxman 2016). The eight precepts that talks about giving to the less fortunate is preached

throughout the world and I believe it is one of the most treasured lessons that people learn in any

faith and it is what brings people together- coming together for the common good. Followers of

the Dao are strong believers in a life where all people benefit no matter what social status or

gender they are.

Islam

The popular and dominating western faith of Islam has its own set of guidelines and rules

that mirrors the ones of Taoism, Buddhism, and Judaism. According to Smith, The Five Pillars

of Islam teaches Muslims to walk the straight path as The Five Pillars are basic acts that all

Muslims must do in their lives to keep the house of Islam erect (308). The 5 Pillars consist of

acts like daily prayer, pilgrimage to Mecca, and declaration towards the one true God, but the

one pillar that brought Taoism and Islam together was the pillar on giving. Islam is incredibly

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focused on giving to the less fortunate the way the Taoist have been taught to be under the Ten

Precepts. What this pillar teaches is that we must help lift the burden of those who are less

fortunate, because Muslims feel it is their religious duty not to neglect or turn away from those

that need help (Smith 306). In the scriptures of the Quran which talk in detail about giving, it

states that giving to the poor and the needy is an ordinance from God, and God is knowing and

wise (Voorst, 331). In the Quran scripture, the name for this type of giving is known as Alms

and Van Voorst explains that it is more of a tax than an offering, but believers are urged to give

fully and willingly (330). The Alms that Muslims give to the people of the Mosque and people

on the streets are often compared to the tithe that is required by the Jewish people in the Jewish

religion.

Conclusion

The faith of Buddhism, Judaism, Taoism, and Islam have nearly nothing in common

when looked at on the surface, but what few people have attempted to see is that these religions

teach nearly the same ethical practices. The rules and guidelines that are provided in scriptures

lay out the basic ethical practices that are encouraged all over the world. The Buddhists have The

Noble Eightfold Path that contain their own set of precepts that every aspiring Buddhist is set to

follow while the Taoist have their 10 Precepts, the Jewish have their God giving Ten

Commandments, and the Muslims have their Five Pillars. Despite their different names and the

God or lack of that these rules are set to, they are connected on a common idea of a righteous

path that will lead them into being the best person they can be in this life. What religion does do

for a society, regardless of east or western boundaries is it establishes a code of ethics. For

example, if a Muslim does not abide by the pillar to give to others he or she may be looked down

upon by society as well looked down upon by people of the same religion. The same can be said

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about lying and stealing in the Buddhism, Judaism, and Taoism faith, these sins and costly

actions are not only frowned upon by believers but non-believers as well. The rules that are

outlined in religious scriptures keep people disciplined, and discipline is a practice that can be

understood in every language and every region around the world which is why eastern and

western religions should not be seen as different or competing religions, but religions that

complement each other and inspire one another for a world that is peaceful and civilized for

people of all different faiths.

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Works Cited

Mary Pat Fisher Living Religions (9th Edition)

E., Van Voorst Robert. Anthology of World Scriptures. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth

Pub. 1994.

Smith, Huston. The World Religions. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Waxman, Robert. "Ethics of Taoism." RobertWaxman. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2016.