What's that Confucianism/Buddhism quote?
May 7, 2009 8:12 PM   Subscribe

Trying to remember a quote relating to Confucianism and Buddhism and comparing them to different types of stores.

I'm hazy on pretty much every detail. The quote might have also mentioned Taoism, but I'm not sure about that. I believe it was said by a scholar.
posted by Anoxs to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Forgot to mention: the quote was discussing Confucianism and Buddhism in Chinese culture.
posted by Anoxs at 8:14 PM on May 7, 2009

Probably not what you're thinking of, but depending upon exactly how hazy you are:

In the movie "Big Trouble in Little China", Egg Shen says something like the following (this is from memory, so probably inexact):

"Chinese religion is all mixed up. Look what we have to work with: Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese black magic... we take what we want and leave the rest. Just like your salad bar."
posted by Flunkie at 9:53 PM on May 7, 2009

This isn't it, but it's from The Love of God in China: "[For example] a Confucian scholar has said that Buddhism is like floating on the water, drifting wherever the current takes you, Confucianism is like having a rudder in the boat to guide it in a certain direction....Taoism may be best understood in this picture as using the force of the current to determine and get to the desired direction....It would be foolish to fight the current head-on. He should make the current work to his advantage; in this case, moving him toward his destiny."
posted by WCityMike at 9:54 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I know that there is a section in one of the first few chapters of The Tao of Pooh that describes the three religions of China using a parable of three old men tasting what's in a cooking pot, and that how the contents of the pot tasted to each man reflected how that religion viewed life in general. I don't have my copy of the book with me, otherwise I would quote it verbatum.
posted by Hanuman1960 at 6:10 AM on May 8, 2009

The Tao of Pooh quote is about "The Vinegar Tasters," a picture of three people tasting vinegar. To the Confucianist, it tastes sour, to the Buddhist, bitter, and to the Taoist, sweet.
posted by expialidocious at 9:04 AM on May 8, 2009

From The Tao of Pooh:
We see three men standing around a vat of vinegar. Each has dipped his finger into the vinegar and has tasted it. The expression on each man's face shows his reaction. Since the painting is allegorical, we are to understand that these are no ordinary vinegar tasters but are instead representatives of the "Three Teachings" of China, and that the vinegar they are sampling represents the Essence of Life. The three masters are K'ung Fu-tse (Confucius), Buddha, and Lao-tse, author of the oldest existing book on Taoism. The first has a sour look on his face, the second wears a bitter expression, but the third man is smiling.

To K'ung Fu-tse (kung FOOdsuh), life seemed rather sour. He believed that the present was out of step with the past, and that the government of man on earth was out of harmony with the Way of Heaven, the government of the universe. Therefore, he emphasized reverence for the Ancestors, as well as for the ancient rituals and ceremonies in which the emperor, as the Son of Heaven, acted as intermediary between limitless heaven and limited earth. Under Confucianism, the use of precisely measured court music, prescribed steps, actions, and phrases all added up to an extremely complex system of rituals, each used for a particular purpose at a particular time. A saying was recorded about Kung Fu-tse: "if the mat was not straight, the master would not sit." This ought to give an indication to the extent to which things were carried out under Confucianism.

To Buddha, the second figure in the painting, life on earth was bitter, filled with attachments and desires that led to suffering. The world was seen as a setter of traps, a generator of illusions, a revolving wheel of pain for all creatures. In order to find peace, the Buddha considered it necessary to transcend "the world of dust" and reach Nirvana, literally a state of "no wind." Although the essentially optimistic attitude of the Chinese altered Buddhism considerably after it was brought in from its native India, the devout Buddhist often saw the way to Nirvana interrupted all the same by the bitter wind of everyday existence.

To Lao-tse (LAOdsuh), the harmony that naturally existed between heaven and earth from the very beginning could be found by anyone at any time, but not by following the rules of the Confucianists. As he stated in his Tao Te Ching (DAO DEH JEENG), the "Tao Virtue Book," earth was in essence a reflection of heaven, run by the same laws-not by the laws of men. These laws affected not only the spinning of distant planets, but the activities of the birds in the forest and the fish in the sea. According to Lao-tse, the more man interfered with the natural balance produced and governed by the universal laws, the further away the harmony retreated into the distance. The more forcing, the more trouble. Whether heavy or light, wet or dry, fast or slow, everything had its own nature already within it, which could not be violated without causing difficulties. When abstract and arbitrary rules were imposed from the outside, struggle was inevitable. Only then did life become sour.

To Lao-tse, the world was not a setter of traps but a teacher of valuable lessons. Its lessons needed to be learned, just as its laws needed to be followed; then all would go well. Rather than turn away from "the world of dust," Lao-tse advised others to "join the dust of the world." What he saw operating behind everything in heaven and on earth he called Tao (DAO), "the Way." A basic principle of Lao-tse's teaching was that this Way of the Universe could not be adequately described in words, and that it would be insulting both to its unlimited power and to the intelligent human mind to attempt to do so. Still, its nature could be understood, and those who cared the most about it, and the life from which it was inseparable, understood it best.
All notes and emphases original.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:51 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

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