Three teachings

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Confucius handing over an infant Gautama Buddha to an elderly Laozi Confucius Laozi Buddha.jpg
Confucius handing over an infant Gautama Buddha to an elderly Laozi

In Chinese philosophy, the three teachings (Chinese : ; pinyin :sān jiào; Vietnamese : tam giáo) are Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, considered as a harmonious aggregate. [1] Literary references to the "three teachings" by prominent Chinese scholars date back to the 6th century. [1] The term may also refer to a non-religious philosophy built on that aggregation.

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Three teachings harmonious as one

The phrase also appears as the three teachings harmonious as one ( ; Sānjiào Héyī). In common understanding, three teachings harmonious as one simply reflects the long history, mutual influence, and (at times) complementary teachings of the three belief systems.

It can also refer to the "Sanyi teaching", a syncretic sect founded during the Ming dynasty by Lin Zhao'en, wherein Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist beliefs are combined according to their usefulness in self-cultivation. [2] However, the phrase is not necessarily a reference to this sect.

Confucianism

Confucianism is a complex school of thought, sometimes also referred to as a religion, revolving around the principles of the Chinese philosopher Confucius. It was developed in the Spring and Autumn Period during the Zhou Dynasty. The main concepts of this philosophy include ren (humaneness), yi (righteousness), li (propriety/etiquette), zhong (loyalty), and xiao (filial piety), along with strict adherence to social roles. This is illustrated through the five main relationships Confucius interpreted to be the core of society: ruler-subject, father-son, husband-wife, elder brother-younger brother, and friend-friend. In these bonds, the latter must pay respect to and serve the former, while the former is bound to care for the latter. [3] [4]

The following quotation is from the Analects , a compilation of Confucius' sayings and teachings, written after his death by his disciples.

"The superior man has a dignified ease without pride. The mean man has pride without a dignified ease."

Confucius, The Analects of Confucius [5]

This quotation exemplifies Confucius' idea of the junzi ( 君子 ) or gentleman. Originally this expression referred to "the son of a ruler", but Confucius redefined this concept to mean behaviour (in terms of ethics and values such as loyalty and righteousness) instead of mere social status. [3]

Daoism

Daoism (or Taoism) is a philosophy centered on living in harmony with the Dao (Tao) (Chinese : ; pinyin :Dào; lit. 'Way'), which is believed to be the source, pattern and substance of all matter. [6] Its origin can be traced back to the late 4th century B.C.E. and the main thinkers representative of this teaching are Laozi and Zhuang Zhou. [3] Key components of Daoism are Dao (the Way) and immortality, along with a stress on balance found throughout nature. There is less emphasis on extremes and instead focuses on the interdependence between things. For example, yin and yang (lit.'dark and bright') do not exemplify the opposition of good against evil, but instead represents the interpenetration of mutually-dependent opposites present in everything; "within the Yang there exists the Yin and vice versa". [6]

The basis of Daoist philosophy is the idea of "wu wei", often translated as "non-action". In practice, it refers to an in-between state of "being, but not acting". This concept also overlaps with an idea in Confucianism as Confucius similarly believed that a perfect sage could rule without taking action. Daoism assumes any extreme action can initiate a counter-action of equal extremity, and so excessive government can become tyrannical and unjust, even when initiated with good intentions. [6]

The following is a quote from the Daodejing, one of the main texts in Daoist teachings:

"The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth."

Laozi, Daodejing [7]

Buddhism

Buddhism is a religion that is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. The main principles of this belief system are karma, rebirth, and impermanence. Buddhists believe that life is full of suffering, but that suffering can be overcome by attaining enlightenment. Nirvana (a state of perfect happiness) can be obtained by breaking away from (material) attachments and purifying the mind. However, different doctrines vary on the practices and paths followed in order to do so. [3]

Meditation serves as a significant part of practicing Buddhism. This calming and working of the mind helps Buddhists strive to become more peaceful and positive while developing wisdom through solving everyday problems. The negative mental states that are sought to be overcome are called "delusions", while the positive mental states are called "virtuous minds". [8]

Another concept prominent in the Buddhist belief system is the Eight-Fold Path. The Noble Eightfold Path is the fourth of the Four Noble Truths, which is said to be the first of all Buddha's teachings. [9] It stresses areas in life that can be explored and practice, such as right speech and right intention. [10]

Controversy

Though the term "three teachings" is often focused on how well Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism have been able to coexist in harmony throughout Chinese history, evidence has shown that each practice has dominated, or risen to favour, during certain periods of time. [11] Emperors would choose to follow one specific system and the others were discriminated against, or tolerated at most. An example of this would be the Song Dynasty, in which both Buddhism and Taoism became less popular. Neo-Confucianism (which had re-emerged during the previous Tang Dynasty) was followed as the dominant philosophy. [12] A minority also claims that the phrase "three teachings" proposes that these mutually exclusive and fundamentally incomparable teachings are equal. This is a contested point of view as others stress that it is not so. Confucianism focuses on societal rules and moral values, whereas Taoism advocates simplicity and living happily while in tune with nature. On the other hand, Buddhism reiterates the ideas of suffering, impermanence of material items, and reincarnation while stressing the idea of reaching salvation beyond. [1]

See also

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Chinese philosophy Philosophy in the Chinese cultural sphere

Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period (春秋) and Warring States period (戰國時期), during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significant intellectual and cultural developments. Although much of Chinese philosophy begun in the Warring States period, elements of Chinese philosophy have existed for several thousand years. Some can be found in the I Ching, an ancient compendium of divination, which dates back to at least 672 BCE. It was during the Warring States era that what Sima Tan termed the major philosophical schools of China—Confucianism, Legalism, and Taoism—arose, along with philosophies that later fell into obscurity, like Agriculturalism, Mohism, Chinese Naturalism, and the Logicians. Even in modern society, Confucianism is still the creed of etiquette for Chinese society.

Confucius Chinese philosopher and politician (551–479 BCE)

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<i>Tao Te Ching</i> Chinese classic text

The Tao Te Ching is a Chinese classic text traditionally credited to the 6th-century BC sage Laozi. The text's authorship, date of composition and date of compilation are debated. The oldest excavated portion dates back to the late 4th century BC, but modern scholarship dates other parts of the text as having been written—or at least compiled—later than the earliest portions of the Zhuangzi.

Tao or Dao(Audio file "szh-dào.ogg" not found) is a Chinese word signifying the "way", "path", "route", "road" or sometimes more loosely "doctrine", "principle" or "holistic beliefs". In the context of East Asian philosophy and East Asian religions, Tao is the natural order of the universe whose character one's human intuition must discern in order to realize the potential for individual wisdom. This intuitive knowing of "life" cannot be grasped as a concept; it is known through actual living experience of one's everyday being.

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Neo-Confucianism Chinese philosophy

Neo-Confucianism is a moral, ethical, and metaphysical Chinese philosophy influenced by Confucianism, and originated with Han Yu and Li Ao (772–841) in the Tang Dynasty, and became prominent during the Song and Ming dynasties under the formulations of Zhu Xi.

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Buddhism and Eastern religions Overview of the relationship between Buddhism and Eastern religions

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East Asian religions Subset of the Eastern religions

In the study of comparative religion, the East Asian religions or Taoic religions, form a subset of the Eastern religions. This group includes Chinese religion overall, which further includes Ancestral Worship, Chinese folk religion, Confucianism, Taoism and so-called popular salvationist organisations, as well as elements drawn from Mahayana Buddhism that form the core of Chinese Buddhism and East Asian Buddhism at large. The group also includes Japanese Shintoism and Korean Muism both identifying the indigenous shamanic religion and ancestor worship of such peoples, which have received influences from Chinese religions throughout the centuries. Chinese salvationist religions have influenced the rise of Korean and Japanese new religions—for instance, respectively, Jeungsanism and Tenriism; these movements draw upon indigenous traditions but are heavily influenced by Chinese philosophy and theology.

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Xuanxue is a metaphysical post-classical Chinese philosophy from the Six Dynasties (222-589), bringing together Taoist and Confucian beliefs through revision and discussion. The movement found its scriptural support both in Taoist and drastically-reinterpreted Confucian sources. Xuanxue, or "Mystic Learning”, came to reign supreme in cultural circles, especially at Jiankang during the period of division. The concept represented the more abstract, unworldly, and idealistic tendency in early medieval Chinese thought. Xuanxue philosophers combined elements of Confucianism and Taoism to reinterpret the I Ching, Daodejing and Zhuangzi.

This is a list of articles in Eastern philosophy.

Edo neo-Confucianism Neo-Confucian philosophy that developed in Japan during the Edo period

Edo Neo-Confucianism, known in Japanese as Shushi-Gaku, refers to the schools of Neo-Confucian philosophy that developed in Japan during the Edo period. Neo-Confucianism reached Japan during the Kamakura period. The philosophy can be characterized as humanistic and rationalistic, with the belief that the universe could be understood through human reason, and that it was up to man to create a harmonious relationship between the universe and the individual. The 17th-century Tokugawa shogunate adopted Neo-Confucianism as the principle of controlling people and Confucian philosophy took hold. Neo-Confucians such as Hayashi Razan and Arai Hakuseki were instrumental in the formulation of Japan's dominant early modern political philosophy.

The Mouzi Lihoulun is a classic Chinese Buddhist text. It comprises a purportedly autobiographical preface by Master Mou, a late 2nd-century Confucian scholar-official who converted to Buddhism, and an imaginary dialogue of questions and answers about Buddhist practices.

Taoist philosophy

Taoist philosophy also known as Taology refers to the various philosophical currents of Taoism, a tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the Dào. The Dào is a mysterious and deep principle that is the source, pattern and substance of the entire universe.

Self-cultivation

Self-cultivation or personal cultivation is the development of one's mind or capacities through one's own efforts. Self-cultivation is the cultivation, integration and coordination of mind and body. Although self-cultivation may be practiced as a form of psychotherapy, it goes beyond healing and self-help to also encompass self-development and self-improvement. It is associated with attempts to go beyond normal states of being, and enhancing and endless polishing of a person's capacities and the development of innate human potential.

Religion in the Song dynasty

Religion in the Song dynasty (960–1279) was primarily composed of three institutional religions: Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, in addition to Chinese folk religion. The Song period saw the rise of Zhengyi Taoism as a state sponsored religion and a Confucian response to Taoism and Buddhism in the form of Neo-Confucianism. While Neo-Confucianism was initially treated as a heterodox teaching and proscribed, it later became the mainstream elite philosophy and the state orthodoxy in 1241.

References

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  8. "What is Buddhism?" . Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  9. Allan, John. "The Eight-Fold Path" . Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  10. Nourie, Dana. "What is the Eightfold Path?" . Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  11. "San Jiao / San Chiao / Three Teachings" . Retrieved 10 February 2015.
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