The concept of organized religion began over three thousand years ago. Large religious groups broke down into many smaller sects, and then even smaller sects were established from those. Thus being the reason that we have thousands of religions throughout the world today. Some religions are closely related and similar to one another, others are completely different and opposing to each other's views. The Asian religions of Buddhism and Confucianism have some similar concepts, but are largely different in many ways. Both Buddhism and Confucianism have beliefs of what the ideal human should be like. Buddhists have different ideal figures depending on what path of Buddhism is being taken, whereas Confucians have only a single ideal human figure.
The true essence of any religion is more easily seen when the basic teachings are studied. In Buddhism, many of the basic concepts come in numbered groups as to make everything easier to memorize. The Buddhist religion relies on the Three Baskets, teachings from the Sutra, the rules from the Vinaya, and the thoughts about the teachings in the Abhidharma. They believe that reality has three "marks" which are called Anichcha, Anatta, and Dukkha. These Marks of Reality are defined as constant change, no permanent identity, and everything is always suffering. The suffering in life has a very significant meaning in Buddhism and is used in many of the teachings. For instance, the Four Noble Truths are said to be that life is suffering, suffering is caused by desire, in order to end suffering you must end desire, and the way to end desire is by following the Noble Eightfold Path. This path is a list of things that need to be done correctly, but they can be done in any order as long as they are right and, after all is learned, nirvana can finally be obtained.
The Buddhist religion has three parts. In all three parts, nirvana is the main goal in life, which is the idea of being set free from all conditions and desires. When nirvana is acquired, samsara is broken and the person will no longer continue to be born again. This main goal can be reached at any time during life by all people and can be a very sudden occurrence. Theravada is the Lesser Vehicle of Buddhism and is based on the old-age traditional Buddhist beliefs. This type of Buddhism is focused around a group of monks. The ideal human figure in Theravada is the arhat, who is someone that has obtained nirvana. In order to become an arhat, a Theravada Buddhist must acquire nirvana through in depth meditation. Another path of Buddhism is Vajrayana, the Diamond Vehicle. Vajrayana Buddhism is best known as Tibetan Buddhism and is defined as being esoteric, using many rituals and art forms. The head of Tibetan Buddhism is the Dalai Lama. All monks are referred to as lamas and the Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of previous Dalai Lamas. Every Dalai Lama in Vajrayana Buddhism is thought to come from the heavenly bodhisattva of compassion, who has already reached nirvana. The last path of Buddhism is Mahayana, the Greater Vehicle. This type of Buddhism is focused on reaching enlightenment and emphasizes that everyone is able to obtain nirvana, regardless of social status. The ideal human figure in Mahayana Buddhism is the bodhisattva, who has reached enlightenment but refuses to break samsara and go into nirvana in order to help everyone else reach enlightenment. Bodhisattvas are full of compassion, a very strong virtue of Mahayanists. This path is the only of the three that encourages being active in the world and is the most commonly followed path of Buddhists in the world today.
Confucianism has only one path with a single ideal human figure. Confucians believe in the Tao being the order of things as they should be. No human being, however, is automatically what he or she should be in the order of things. In turn to be fully manifested in the Tao, a person has to be trained in virtue or ren. A few of the most significant virtues are known as Shu, Wen, and Xiao. These are virtues of reciprocity, cultural refinement, and family devotion. The ideal human figure in Confucianism is the junzi. The junzi follows ren and li. Li is the rites that bring harmony to society, which Confucianism is based on. "â€¦ The junzi, does not need to be rich, but he or she must be a well-rounded lover of history, art, poetry, and music" (Molloy p. 244). Confucians believe that relationships are the main essences that make a person who they are and that everyone should be cared for and protected. Five Relationships make up the interwoven connections between everyone. These relationships are between father and son, ruler and subject, husband and wife, elder sibling and younger sibling, and friend and friend. Respect must be shown between all of these relationships accordingly. The goal of Confucianism is to bring about harmony. Everything fits together as it should be, like the concept of Yin and Yang. Yin symbolizes everything that is feminine and dark, whereas Yang symbolizes everything that is masculine and bright. These two symbols are not opposites; they are complimentary to each other and work together to make everything, as it should be in the way of the Tao.
The religions of Buddhism and Confucianism are strongly portrayed by their ideal human figures. Buddhism has three paths, each with slightly different ideals, which lead to the same goal of nirvana. Confucianism has only a single path with one ideal and leads to the ultimate goal of harmony and the cosmic order of the Tao. Both of these religions exist in mostly Asian countries and exist together in certain areas. Buddhism is mostly in China, India, Korea, Japan and Tibet whereas Confucianism is mainly in China, Korea, and Taiwan. Although both religions have struggled in the modern world, they are still surviving and will be here for many more centuries to come.