Taoism Vs. Christianity THE WAY TO IMMORTALITY A Comparison Between Taoism and Christianity and the Paths They Take to Reach Immortality PH 200 The basic structure of both Taoism and Christianity are parallel because they work to attain the same goal. It is apparent in both religions that by following a pure path, and devoiding ones self of earthly ambitions, wealth, and desires, one may reach the ultimate goal of immortality. But the way in which one reaches this goal is very different. Both religions believe in an entity that has existed before the universe, is the creator of all things, and loves and provides for all of creation.
The Taoist believes in Tao, which remains a formless, spiritual stare of mind. It rejects names and is therefore nameless and unable to be spoken. Christians, however, believe in God, which takes on an active human form and is spoken as the word of God. However, it is the differences between Tao and God that present the most evident factors that separate Taoism from Christianity. Unlike the Tao, God rules as a supreme being, while the Tao is at one with all, and does not master over anything. It is obvious that immortality is the goal in both religions, but the Taoist concept of immortality, and the way in which they become immortal differs from the of the Christians.
Immortality, to the Taoist, is to achieve Tao, becoming at one with the universe. Christian immortality is to reach heaven, and walk along side God. Also, the Taoist must follow an individual path, that comes from within. While a Christian may reach heaven only by acts of his/her own goodness in accordance with their relationship with God. Creation, in both Taoism and Christianity, is stemmed from a source that always was and always will be. Taoists base their beliefs around the Tao, and the Christians believe in God. However, the essence of these two separate ideas differ dramatically in many other aspects.
Unlike Tao, which claims to be formless, God takes on an actual form, the image of man. The very first sentence of Johns Gospel states, In the beginning was the one who was called the word.. This statement confirms the existence of a single being. Later in the text it is said that the word became flesh and dwelt among us, thus becoming like a human. In contrast, the great Tao is infinite; it flows everywhere and is always present, yet it cannot be seen or touched.
It is empty like a bowl and bottomless yet its capacity cannot be exhausted. The Taos own intangibility demonstrates the notion that it is frameless and therefore is not constructed into any shape or form. While speech and understanding remain the basis for following Christianity, the Tao cannot be spoken, and therefore can never be fully explained in words. According to the Gospel of John, in the Christian Bible, God sent John down to earth to speak the word and lead the people to have faith. In order for Christians to acquire an understanding of their faith, they must receive some form of teaching or instruction.
Christians go to church to hear the word that is verbally preached to them through the words of a priest, who acts as a servant to God. With this being understood it can be concluded that without language, as the basis for understanding, Christianity could not exist. Taoism, on the other hand, emphasizes the fact that it is unspoken and therefore can never be verbally told or explained. Tao is described as being nameless. It is exceeds beyond verbal communication and comprehension. Words can be used to speak of it, but they cannot be used to contain it. Both Tao and God love and take care of all of creation.
Every living thing depends on them for life. But the Tao is not a supreme being as God is to the Christians because Taoism is not monotheistic. The main focus in Taoism is not the worship of one god, but instead coming into harmony with Tao. Tao clothes and feeds all things but does not claim to be master over them. Thus he says, the universe and I exist together, and all things and I are one.
God, on the other hand, stands above the universe as a higher being. He rules by power, setting certain standards which Christians are to live by and obey in order to reach salvation. The Ten Commandments, also known as the law of man, are a set of rules, developed by God, that people are to abide by in order to avoid wrongdoing. Another element that separates the Tao from God is the way in which they guide the world. It is through Gods own actions that Christians are guided, whereas Tao rules by not acting.
God rewards those who lead a virtuous life and punishes those who have sinned in order to teach them the right way to live. Tao does not dominate the world with force, it invariably takes no action, and yet nothing is left undone. Whether a person chooses the path of the Taoist or of a Christian they are ultimately aiming towards the same goal of immortality. Both religions believe that there is an existence without end, that a persons soul is eternal and therefore never dies. In fact the soul, in both Taoism and Christianity, migrates to another life where it lives in harmony and bliss for all eternity.
But the Taoist idea of immortality greatly differs from that in Christian beliefs. A Taoist wishes to achieve Tao, to find the way, reaching a deeper life where a persons soul becomes at one with the universe. Christians believe that their soul will live forever in peace, once they reach heaven, a much different state of immortality than the Tao. Unlike Tao, Heaven is a physical relocation of a persons soul. When a soul reaches heaven it walks along side God, still existing as a single being. Someone who achieves Tao however, becomes at one with nature itself, uniting with all of existence.
As stated in the text Being one with nature is to be at one with Tao. Reaching Tao is not about a specific re-location of the soul as it is with Heaven in Christianity. Instead Tao is about reaching a new level of consciousness which arises when the mind and body are joined together and transcend into a deeper wisdom. Similarly, in both Taoism and Christianity, one must agree to follow and un-corruptive lifestyle. If one is to reach either Tao or Heaven, they must avoid all earthly temptations and desires that may lead to the pollution of a virtuous style of life.
Desires such as ambition, fame, and selfishness are seen as distractions to a harmonious life. It is only when one rids his/herself of such desires that immortality can be achieved. Despite these similar criteria for eternal life, the way in which they follow these paths are contrasting. A Christian follows a very strict set of doctrines developed by God, and enforced by the church. It is God itself that guides Christians, and shows them the way to accomplish this goal of eternal life. Without God acting as a leader, Christians would have no concept of right from wrong.
In the absence of Gods direction they would not be able to ever reach heaven. In Taoism, the way to achieve Tao is individual, it comes from inside the believer. The meaning of Tao is translated as the way, but this way can never be taught. Unlike God, who shows you the way, Tao does not define a path for the Taoist, it must come from within. Taoism seeks naturalness, following natures principles in order to attain an enlightened and empowered entrance into reality. The pursuit of these types of standards will ensure a life of happiness and tranquility which far surpasses anything that all of humankinds cleverness can devise.
It is apparent in both Taoism and Christianity that only through proper living, by following a pure path, can one achieve the ultimate goal of immortality. In both religions it is possible to maintain a pure lifestyle only when all desires and personal ambitions are forsaken along the course of ones life. However, it is clear that the differences between the two religions far outweigh the similarities. Tao and God, the two main entities from each religion, are the leading factors that divide Taoism and Christianity into two very isolated sets of beliefs. It can be concluded that the Taoist concept of the immortal afterlife and the method in which a person reaches eternal life, greatly differs from that of the Christian.