Hinduism, Confucianism, and Daoism may seem similar at first. They do sound related, they all end in ism, and they all originated in countries that are close to each other; However, when one dives deep into these religions and learns about them, they find that they aren’t as identical as they were first thought to be. Hinduism, Confucianism, and Daoism are very different in their basic principles, beliefs, and origins.
The Hinduism belief system holds very little similarities to Confucianism or Daoism. The Aryans had spread the earliest part of Hinduism from northern Europe down to India. Hinduism’s earliest beliefs were brought to India by migrating Aryans in 1700 BC. The earliest beliefs of Hinduism are credited to the Vedas. The Vedas are the oldest Indian document to Hinduism. A collection of 1,028 hymns, prayers, and songs is known as the Rig-Veda. Later texts were written dating between 900 to 700 BC. These texts are the Brahmanas. These texts are focused on the rituals and myths of the religion. Hinduism gained two major epics between 300 BC and 300 AD. Known as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, they contained many stories about powerful Gods and Goddesses. Hindu literature gained many new texts, prayers, hymns and songs over the 2,000 years since the Aryans migrated to India. Hinduism contains many themes and principles which make it a unique religion. One core belief is the belief of reincarnation. Reincarnation means that after one dies they will come back to earth in another life. Reincarnation is believed to follow an endless cycle until one breaks free by achieving moksha. Moksha is the freedom and release from the cycle of reincarnation. In order to obtain moksha, one must do their dharma, or their job as a human. Hinduism is very spiritual in its core beliefs
“Just as the individual soul is continually reborn, the universe is continually created and destroyed. Time moves in cycles of millions of years, endlessly building up and tearing down with no beginning or end. All change and decay are part of a divinely directed cosmic dance that will eventually result in renewal” (walotw 6).
The core beliefs of Hinduism haven’t changed much over time, but have been shaped by the stories of the gods and goddesses. The Hindu mythology is filled with many gods, goddesses, demons, and demigods. The trimurti, or trinity, of Hindu mythology is composed of three gods. Brahma, the creator god, Shiva, the destroying god, and Vishnu, the protector of life. The Mahabharata holds many stories about the gods. One story that stands out is known as “Shiva and the Sacrifice.” It tells the story of ceremony of sacrifices for all the gods but Shiva. Shiva hears this and attacks the whole party. During this attack, a drop of sweat fell from Shiva and down to earth creating disease. Brahma then promised to include Shiva in all events if he destroyed the disease. Many stories have to do with The Avatars of Vishnu. The avatars are incarnations and then reincarnations of god on earth. The stories of gods and goddesses have been a large part in the shaping of the Hindu belief. The core of Hindu beliefs follow three basic concepts: brahman, samsara, and moksha. Brahman is seen as the spirit that connects humans to the gods. Samsara is the belief in the continuation of life. It is the belief that when a person dies they are reincarnated into the next life. “They also believe that this cycle is directly influenced by karma, or the law of cause and effect that determines whether an individual’s rebirth will be favorable. Based on the way a person conducts him- or herself in life, he or she accumulates either good or bad karma. (gsric 6).” The third concept of Hinduism is moksha. This is similar to Buddhists nirvana. It also refers to leaving the body, karma, anger, and death. Hinduism’s key concepts had major impacts on Indian society. Indian society was made up of the caste system. This meant when a child was born as a peasant, they were a peasant for life. The only way to move up in the caste system was to be reincarnated into a higher caste. This shows how all aspects of Hinduism are related to each other and has large impact on Indian society.
Confucianism customs and beliefs are very different from Hinduism and Daoism. Confucianism was brought about by a Chinese philosopher known as Confucius. Confucius was born in 551 BCE. Confucius wanted to be a scholar growing up. He focused his scholar studies on the Shang Dynasty. Confucius wanted to change the social disorder China was experiencing at the time. He later created principles that followed traditional Chinese culture. This meant one would depend on one’s family. He attempted to spread his new principles by creating a school for young men. Confucius taught the men how be honest leaders. Confucius died in 479 BCE with very little progress made spreading his principles. What followed the life of Confucius was the Warring States Period. This time period was filled with small states constantly battling with each other. The constant fighting lasted from 401 BCE to 256 BCE. Confucianism continued to spread, but very slowly. This was due to the beliefs of Confucianism. His principles were trying to be put in place while society was breaking them down. They were also slow to develop since the period following Confucius’ life contained lots of fighting and battles. However, Confucian schools still played large roles in the spread of Confucianism after the Warring States Period. The Han Dynasty began in 206 BCE. Confucianism was a large part of political life during the Han Dynasty.
“In 136 BCE Emperor Wu established what became the Imperial University, solely for the study of Confucian Classics, or the Five Classics. These are texts mostly from before the time of Confucius that were adapted to Confucianism in five different subject areas: metaphysical or spiritual, political, poetic, social, and historical. In less than seventy-five years enrollment at the university had grown to three thousand students” (wrrl 15).
By 58 BCE, it was obligatory to for schools to make sacrifices to Confucius. Over time, Confucianism went through many developments that branched away from the original set of principles. Some developments came from Dong Zhoushu. He added spiritual elements to the religion. He introduced that the actions people make have consequences in the spiritual world as well as the physical world. Zhu Xi later added spiritual practices and beliefs. The spiritual aspects combined with Confucius’ principles later became neo-confucianism. Confucianism has five major aspects to be followed. “The first and most important principle is ren. This the highest of virtues is similar to what the Western traditional calls empathy, or being able to feel what others feel. Ren involves being able to feel love for another and realizing the dignity of human life (wrrl 28).” The second major principle of Confucianism is junzi (also spelled chun-tze), which translates as the “son of a ruler.” This concept characterizes the superior man, or the perfect gentleman. Such a person displays generosity of spirit, confidence (without arrogance or pride), openness, and honesty. The third aspect is li. Li means that things should be done the correct way. The fourth aspect is de. De characterizes that a ruler or king should achieve power as a result of their own honorable actions. The fifth aspect of Confucianism is wen. This includes lots of respect for music, art, and poetry. These five principles were the central points of Confucius’ ideas. This shows how Confucianism differed to Hinduism in its principles, beliefs and origin. While Daoism also originated in China, its core beliefs and principles are much different than Confucianism or Hinduism. “The creation of Daoism is credited to two people. One of these is Laozi, whose name can be translated to “Old Master.” He is traditionally credited with both the founding of Daoism as well as the writing of one of its most important texts, the Dao De Ching. Laozi is often stated to have lived during the sixth century BCE, during the Zhou dynasty. (WHE 12).” Huangdi is also known as a creator of the religion. Huangdi lived about a millennium before Laozi’s birth. Towards the end of the second century CE, Daoism was a religious and philosophical tradition. Daoism would become recognized as an official Chinese religion during the Tang Dynasty. During the Song Dynasty, Daoism would reach its peak. Although Daoism was overpowered by Confucianism and Buddhism in ancient China, it still retained popularity in Chinese society. Daoism is made up of multiple basic concepts. The main concept of Daoism is called the Dao. The Dao means the way or the path. The goal of Daoism is to align oneself with the Dao. The central virtues of Daoism are called The Three Treasures, or Sanbao. The Dao De Ching (or, Tao Te Ching), one of the foundational Daoist texts, lists these virtues as ci (compassion), jian (moderation), and bugan wei tianxia xian (humility, roughly speaking)… (WHE 5).” Another major aspect and the most well-known is the yin and yang. It describes two opposing forces that work together. Each force has a little bit of the other in it. The forces are complementary of each other. The final large concept of Daoism is wu wei. It includes doing nothing or letting nature follow its path. This shows how Daoism had very different principles, beliefs, and origin than Hinduism and Confucianism.
To conclude, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Daoism are very different in their basic principles, beliefs, and origins. Hinduism came from migrating nomads. It contains many gods and one overall goal. Confucianism originated from a man who wanted to help his country’s social disorder. The concepts and beliefs were principles for people to live by. Daoism was about relaxation, peace, and harmony. These three major religions held almost no similarities whatsoever.