Philosophical Teachings of Confucianism and Buddhism

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Since the creation of mankind, people have searched for spiritual enlightenment and pathways to explain life, whether it is the desire to better one’s future, the idea that one must atone for the past or something in between, or the search to challenge a religion to determine if they are fit for them. There is a separation that comes between Religion and Philosophy. Religion deals with the afterlife and different Gods, while philosophy focuses more on what one should do during life.

An instance of philosophy could be Confucianism founded by Confucius, where an instance of religion can be Buddhism founded by Siddhartha Guatama. Confucianism and Buddhism are seen as the greatest pathways in China and India. However, even though both Buddhism and Confucianism can provide similar outcomes if either teaching are followed, does one’s teachings and beliefs pursue a greater journey along the way to greatness? Pojman states, “There must finally be a just recompense of happiness in accordance with virtue” (Pojman, P.240).

Both Confucianism and Buddhism pathways have an ethical system which is designed in hopes for its followers to achieve and maintain a greater life through knowledge and praise. Nonetheless, for one to understand the similarities and differences between Buddhism and Confucianism, they must first understand the basis of the pathways themselves. Both Buddhism and Confucianism can be broken down into three main parts in order to obtain knowledge about their ethics; their history, beliefs, and teachings. These three concepts allow followers to unlock knowledge about the pathways ethical past and present.

Background Information

Ethics, also referred to as moral philosophy, is a system of moral principles that affect how people make decisions and live their lives. It is concerned with the lifestyle of individuals and society. Ethics is used to refer to the whole domain of mortality and moral philosophy; since they have many features in common. They share values, virtues, principles, and practices, but each in their own way. Moral philosophy refers to the systematic endeavour to understand moral concepts and to justify moral principles and theories.

The moral code retrains the Rodgers of society from evil until unpredicted social conditions open up the gates of sorrow. Pojman states, “Virtue ethics empathizes individual flourishing in the virtuous character” (Pojman, P. 17). Certain pathways, such as Buddhism and Confucianism stress that, for one to become developed and aware of who they are, they must follow a certain path from which has been introduced and taught by someone superior, such as the Buddha or Confucius.

Ethics allow for the development of individuality within a person and/or a group. This leads someone to understand themselves more deeply as well as the people who surround them like family, friends and cultural groups. It allows us to keep our society from falling apart, to ameliorate human suffering, to promote human flourishing, and to resolve conflicts of interest in just ways. By examining the respective history of the two; ethics of many pathways, like Confucianism, can alter the way that its followers and disciples see the world however, but before it can begin to shape them, they must obtain knowledge of how these pathways developed into what they are today.

Confucianism History

Confucianism was the first philosophy known in china built on an ancient religion foundation to help establish the social values, institutions, and transcendent ideas of traditional Chinese society. Confucianism was found by Confucius, who was a well known philosopher of china. His teachings have influenced Eastern Asia for centuries. After traveling around China to advance his knowledge about past rulers to enhance his ideas, he then became ultimately occupied in teaching his disciples.

His philosophy highlighted personal and government mortality, the rights and wrongs of social relationships, justice, and sincerity. Bahr states, “The answer lay in addressing the unrest of the time directly by transforming the chaos to order”(Bahr, P.20). Confucianism has left an impact throughout generations assisting its followers and disciples by clearing up their busy, and crazy lives by presenting opportunities of peace through the teachings presented.

When a couple major Chinese schools thoughts came into existence, many different paths for human kind to follow, as well as different ways of looking at the earth were formulated. They were determined to engage the world and search for suggestions to bring about a state of peace and harmony. Although many people believed that Confucius had failed to guild state rulers on different policies for the state, his teaching were still spread and remained as one of the most significant elements of the Asian culture. However, another significant element of Asian culture was present at this time as well, this element being Buddhism.

Buddhism History

Buddhism is one of the oldest religions practiced today. It was raised from the teachings of Prince Siddhartha who became widely known as the Buddha and has continued to develop over centuries. Gard states, “Since the nineteenth century, Buddhist ideas have also been of interest to Western philosophy, literature, music-drama, and other cultural arts”(Gard, P.20).

Buddhism has derived from Hinduism. Siddhartha did not like the Hinduism beliefs, so instead he invested his time in finding a different pathway in order to reach enlightenment. Siddhartha was isolated for the majority of his life because his parents did not want him knowing that people aged, got sick or died. However, he continued to sneak out to witness the truths of the real world. The Buddha realized that there was much more to live than wealth after he had left the palace one day to come face to face with an old man, a sick man, and a corpse. He planned to reach enlightenment by clearing the mind of all thought through meditation and spent many years of meditating and not eating as he did not believe in immaterial objects.

However, he soon came to realize that these immaterial objects were created for a purpose and begin to eat again. Losing many of his disciples, due to this change, he continued to meditate and eventually achieved enlightenment. The teachings of the Buddha were inspirational too many and allowed Buddhism to become a very populated religion all around the world. Siddhartha’s methods and teachings have continued to develop over centuries spreading knowledge to all its followers. However, the history of Buddhism can also be coincided with the beliefs of Confucianism.

Beliefs of Confucianism

Confucius wanted to introduce his followers to the ideas and beliefs of philosophical teachings in order to live a pure life. Confucius’s main objective was the achievement of internal harmony with nature. The knowledge of Lao-tzu, founder of Taoism and viewed Confucius as a moral teacher as he stressed the importance of meditation and non-violence as a way of reaching a higher level of being. “Human responsibility lies with developing the inner moral nature with which each person is born”(Bahr, P.55). Confucius carries out the belief that people should do to others what they would hope they would do for themselves which advocates his followers to live life by giving kindness to others, and in return to themselves. Confucius believed that only if there is a social order in society can individuals be happy in a culture. Confucius was born at a time when the princes filled his kingdom with bureaucratic feuds. This was what inspired Confucius to conceive of a moral code capable of bringing people happiness if only they were to take responsibility for their own nature and actions. “Human responsibility lies with developing the inner moral nature with which each person is born” (Bahr, P.55). Confucianism beliefs lay down the importance on valuing others and treating each other with a mutual respect. Confucius’s beliefs have developed and effected Confucianism to become a very well-known philosophy, influencing other philosophers, such as Lao-tzu, and has helped to develop knowledge about Chinese culture amongst its followers. Buddhism beliefs can be very similar to those of Confucianism, but however is more particular in what they see as true.

Beliefs of Buddhism

Buddhist believe in the methods of the Buddha, Siddhartha. Siddhartha teaches his followers and disciples that in order to live a full, pure life, you must first reach enlightenment. They do not believe that any God or Gods will save them and solve the problems of the world, but must accept the view that things will only change if they do something about it themselves. Buddhist believe in the teachings of the Buddha and that in order to achieve enlightenment they must follow the foot-steps of the Buddha. Pojman states, “The good is what the creator-lord does and commands” (Pojman, P.236). Referring to the pathway of the Buddha, whatever he has completed and suggested for his followers is what will lead them to englitenment, such as his teachings of the four principles.

The four principles of Buddhism which are: Nature of Existence, Nature of Causation, Ultimate Freedom in Perfect Existence, and the EightFold Path. All Buddhist looked up to the Buddha who was seen as their superior, “During the sixth to first centuries B.C., the Buddha was regarded as a teacher and conceived as a Great Man and Universal Ruler”(Gard, P.21). The Buddha was presented as a supreme being as he had spread his love and knowledge to all his disciples and followers encouraging them along the path to enlightenment.

Furthermore, Buddhism has its own beliefs apart from any other religion. Buddhists do not believe in any Gods but prefer to follow the path of the Buddha and his teachings of the Dharma. These beliefs can even be reflected through the teaching of Confucius.

Teachings of Confucianism

Confucians follow the teachings of Confucius and his philosophical knowledge of social values, institutions, and transcendent ideas of traditional Chinese society. Confucius focused on “The ultimate goal of the moral cultivation of the individual” (Bahr, P.46) by developing pathways in helps of one finding themselves as a Confucian. He developed five very important pathways for his followers in order for the to live a successful life.

The first pathway being Humaneness, suggests the proper relation between two people respecting the moral integrity and their relationship with others. It plays an important role in developing the character of Confucian teaching. “It is characteristic of human beings, whose basic nature is goodness, not to be able to bear to see the suffering of another person”(Bahr, P.49). It suggests that human beings posses the ability to express goodness, which is the true state of human nature.

Righteousness teaches Confucians how to distinguish between right and wrong; It is almost as an inner judge within ones self. “To stick by a decision based on a moral determination, no matter what the consequences, is part of the nature of his teaching of ‘I’ (Bahr, P.51). From the Confucian perspective, moral rights were more important than even ones own life.

Rights or Propriety taught that not only the individual life of the sage ruler was dominated by structure and order, but society overall. Confucius used this pathway in order to demonstrate the moral structure of the world to which we live in. Confucius also used Human Nature and Learning in order to show his beliefs of which the teachings to how an individual can become moral can be presented through the sages of antiquity.

Confucius also developed the five relationships which included; Leader and subject, Father and son, husband and wife, older and younger brothers, and friends. He taught that creating strong bonds in these relationships helped in cultivating the virtues of thriftiness amongst the Chinese. “The lives of many confucians follow the model of engagement and community to improve the world” (Bahr, P.20).

Confucianism teaches us morals and values about our lives and the importance of building strong relationships with others in order to live a full life. Teachings of which can be related to the teachings of Buddhism.

Teachings of Buddhism

The Buddhist faith follows practical teaching referred to as the Dharma that is called Moral Precepts of Buddhism. The teachings of the Dharma are part of the Noble EightFold Path which outlines the pathway that Buddhists are to follow in order to live the most spiritual, ethical and moral life possible.

The Eightfold path is composed of eight primary teaching which the Buddha suggests to follow and use in everyday life. The eight elements of the EightFold path are: Right View/Right Understanding, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. Practice of the path refers to every aspect of life and every moment. You do not simply only work on it when you have time. It is also important to realize that these eight practise areas are not separate steps to learn one at a time.

Each part of the path’s practise supports the other sections. “Therefore the series represents an ever revolving wheel”(Gard, P.114). It is through meditation that they begin to understand the reasons why suffering arises, how todo something about it, and how to avoid doing things that can contribute to or cause the suffering. In order to understand the process and the teachings of the Buddha you must first achieve enlightenment. “One who has attained enlightenment; a man superior to all other beings, human and divine, by his knowledge of all truth, a Buddha” (Gard, P.60). The Buddha has expressed many teachings to his followers such as the Four Nobel Truths, and the EightFold Path in hopes to assist them in achieving enlightenment.


Overall, For someone to first understand the teachings of Buddhism and Confucianism, one must first understand the pathways they must follow to reach where they want to be. Both Buddhism and Confucianism share a variety of similarities and differences, however, if each path is followed peristyle, the outcome of the process is similar in hopes that the Buddha and Confucius have lead there followers to living a more fulfilling life.

Pojman states, “An amoeba or a permanently comatose patient has life but no intrinsic value” (Pojman, P.89). If one does not follow the teachings, their lives may become full of regrets and sorrow and they will value nothing nor themselves. The history, beliefs, and teachings of Buddhism and Confucianism are both different in their own way. Each focuses on its more individual teachings of its founder, The Buddha and Confucius leading into a variety of their own virtues and pathways.

Both of these paths of life are structured in order to teach its disciples and followers to live their best lives, to feel pure, and to achieve enlightenment. By following their teachings your life will be full of greatness without having any regrets.

Work Cited

  • Bahr, Ann Marie B. Confucianism. Rodney L. Taylor, 1944
  • Bakaeva, Elva P. “Research on the history of Buddhism in Kalmykia at the present stage”. Anthropology & Archeology of Eurasia, vol.53, no.4, spring 2015, pp.21-46. EBSCOhost, search. ebscohost.com/login.aspx? direct=true&db=khh&AN=110848432&site=ehost-live
  • “Confucianism”. Funk & Wagnals New World Encyclopedia, Jan.2018, p.1; EBSCOhost, search. ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=Funk&AN=c0197800&site=ehost-live.
  • Gard, Richard A. Buddhism. George Braziller, 1962
    Pojman, Louis P. Ethics: Discovering Right and Wrong. Wadsworth Inc, 1955

Cite this paper

Philosophical Teachings of Confucianism and Buddhism. (2020, Sep 16). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/philosophical-teachings-of-confucianism-and-buddhism/

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