Buddhism and Taoism

Buddhism and Taoism: Almost all Chinese and Japanese Buddhism is *strongly* influenced by Taoism. When Buddhist first came to China, the monks of each religion recognized that, while there were variations, they were ultimately talking about much the same thing (“seeing the absolute, reality without distinctions, which reveals that ordinary thought is a deception.”) so there’s stories about how they would try and speak about that, which, as Alan Watts says, really cannot be spoken about, and they would sound like they were talking gibberish to everyone else. But to each other, they’d just smile in knowing recognition.

The roots of Buddhism are very formally philosophic, as you also say: “What is the nature of time?, What is the nature of the Self? What is the nature of consciousness?” Nagarjuna then eases off those speculations a bit (using philosophy to destroy philosophy), but even without speculation, Buddhism still had a serious and formal character. Taoism was always more worldly and optimistic from the beginning. I’ve read much in Chinese philosophy, and I just don’t think they ever saw the point of developing those long chains of speculation the way the Indians did: They’d much rather start with the world and just be pretty modest about their philosophizing (while still pointing forward to the same absolute as the Buddhists do). Also, though Buddhism was purged of much of its Indian roots in Chine, I think it never got rid of its serious and slightly world-denying character where everything in the world i s thought to be unsatisfactory to some degree. By comparison, the Taoists cultivate a satisfaction and more easily gives itself to a sense of appreciation, even in the seemingly “bad” (well you say the crooked tree is worse than the straight one, but when the lumberjack comes, he chops down the others, but let’s it live, so maybe the crooked tree is pretty cool after all, huh?”). 😀

If you know the vinegar Chinese tasters painting, it kind of gets at it as well: Buddha tastes the vinegar (life) and says it’s bitter. LaoTze tastes the same vinegar and says that appreciated appropriately, it can function as a condiment and therefore be “sweet.” =)