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Similarities between Buddhism and the Tao Te Ching

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

I was just listening to an excellent audiobook of the Tao Te Ching on YouTube. It seems to be just one of these classic texts which everyone who goes into spirituality should read, and I thought I would catch up.

In any case, I came across some sections which seemed to contain almost Buddhist concepts, for example there was a part on impermanence which sounded very much like Buddhist teaching. Which kind of led me to do a little searching on the internet about how this is seen in general. I've gathered a few links for the interested reader...


Ultimately the goals do not seem that different - whether one chooses to try and attain Enlightenment through Virtue, Concentration and Wisdom as the Buddhists do, or to attain one-ness with the Tao through philosophical maturity, virtue and internal alchemy (sounds kind of tantric). You could say Enlightenment is one-ness with Nirvana, perhaps? I also saw a mention that according to the Platform Sutra, transcribed from the words of the great Zen Master Hui Neng in the 8th century, Taoists attended least one, and probably many other, of his lectures. Maybe an interesting starting point for discussion.

Here's the YouTube link to the audiobook, for those interested in taking in some additional spiritual nourishment...


  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited November 2016

    It probably depends on which Buddhist schools Taoism is being compared to. I've heard that Zen was heavily influenced by Taoism for example.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    Which I find intrigueing because from that it seems like there was considerable crosstalk between the religious streams. It's perhaps less important for Theravada where the Pali Cannon is of prime importance, but certainly for Mahayana which - as I understand it - was still being formed at the time of Buddhism becoming known in China, it might be very relevant.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    There are a lot of similarities with the Vedas from Hinduism as well. Quite a few people in my Sangha came to Buddhism from Tao or Vedic study and they talk often about similarities.

    But whether they directly influenced each other (or other religions) it's not surprising. It's not as if other humans wouldn't arrive at very similar answers given they took the time to truly delve into the questions that the various texts attempt to answer, or at least provide a method for coping.

  • As I read the ancient texts it becomes so clear that they are skews on the same teachings. Different threads and aspects.

    All is one. Even the ten thousand things;)

  • I think it wouldn't be inaccurate to view meditation as "internal alchemy". Taoism and Buddhism do have many similarities.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    An elder Zen master is sometimes given the title of Roshi which literally means Laozi or Lao Tzu.

  • Thanks @kerome <3

    I too consider the Tao Te Ching a continuing source of classic wisdom, inspiration and unfolding.

    Those of us inclined to rigid, polarised and dharma-fascism o:) can gain a lot from the fluidity of Taoism and an understanding of polarity moving to an extreme peak and changing to its opposite. This exemplified in the yin-yang symbology.

    In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang (also yin-yang or yin yang, 陰陽 yīnyáng "dark—bright") describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.

  • We also must be aware of the influence of Taoist silliness on us loopy Buddhists - don't try this self made candle technique at home or EVER:

    Chinese Buddhism adopted Daoist grain abstention as a preparation for self-immolation. For instance (Benn 2007:36-7), the monk Huiyi 慧益 (d. 463), who vowed to burn his body in sacrifice to the Buddha, began preparations by queli "abstaining from grains" (eating only sesame and wheat) for two years, then consumed only oil of thyme, and finally ate only pills made of incense. Although Emperor Xiaowu of Liu Song (r. 453–464) tried to dissuade Huiyi, he publicly immolated himself in a cauldron full of oil, wearing an oil-soaked cap to act as a wick, while chanting the Lotus Sutra.

    Ay carumba! I thought I was loopy. I don't know whether to laugh or ... yes I think laugh ... :dizzy:

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