Differences & Similarities Between Confucianism & Buddhism 儒佛异同

Differences [And] Similarities [Between] Confucianism [And] Buddhism


Of skills [in practising] Confucianism [and] Buddhism, shallowly then discussing them, [they are] also quite identical. Profoundly then discussing them, [they are] thus [like the] sky [and] ground, far apart.


Why [is] it with [this] said? Confucianism [is] with sincerity as fundamental, [and] Buddhism [is] with awakening as principle.


[With] sincerity then [with] bright virtues, due [to] sincerity giving rise [to] brightness, because [of] brightness leading [to] sincerity, thus [with] sincerity [and] brightness uniting [as] one, then showing clearly [one’s] bright virtues.

[Note 1: The opening line of the Great Learning《大学》, which is also a chapter in the Book Of Rites《礼记》says, ‘The path of great learning, is to show clearly bright virtues, to be close to people, and to rest upon utmost goodness.’ (大学之道,在明明德,在亲民,在止于至善。)]

[Note 2: Essentially, to ‘show clearly one’s bright virtues’ (明明德), in the utmost Confucian sense, can be seen to be the same as, ‘with a clear mind see one’s Buddha-nature’ (明心见性), in the Buddhist sense. Although the alignment of these concepts might not be originally intended fully by the founding Confucian teachers, they still happen to be aligned, at least in the approximate sense, if not exactly.]


Awakening has original awakening [and] actualised awakening, due [to] original awakening then giving rise [to] actualised awakening, due [to] actualised awakening, with [it] realising original awakening, [with the] actualised [and] original uniting [as] one, thus accomplishing Buddhahood.

[Note 3: Original awakening (本觉) refers to our innate Buddha-nature’s (佛性) latent awakening, as the potential to awaken ‘awaiting’ to be actualised. Actualised awakening (始觉) refers to the actual awakening realised when original awakening is aligned to through spiritual cultivation.]


[With] original awakening then [with] sincerity, [with] actualised awakening then [with] brightness, like this explaining away, Confucianism [and] Buddhism [are] completely without two [different] results…

[Note 4: Original awakening needs spiritual cultivation with sincerity to be actualised, to be attained as actualised awakening. The brightness of our original awakening (i.e. Buddha-nature) is essentially the same as our bright virtues (明德), with brightness both literal (physically) and figurative (in banishing the darkness of ignorance and defilements).]


As for bringing out their cultivation [and] realisation, [their] skills [being] shallow [and] profound, [with different] grades, thus originally although [the] same, then [of] that realised [and] that arrived [at, there] is much not [the] same too…

[Note 5: Generally, the Confucian teachings are understood and practised only for becoming virtuous in the worldly sense, for the good of humankind. However, the Buddhist teachings are more elaborate with teachings and practices for becoming not just good, but pure, in the worldly and world-transcending sense.]


[The] world’s people, hearing [them being the] same, then say [the] Confucian teachings completely gather [the] Buddha’s teachings. Hearing [them being] different, then say [the] Buddha’s teachings [are] completely not [like the] Confucian teachings. Not knowing they [are] same yet not [the] same, not [the] same yet same, their reasons why thus.

[Note 6: The Confucian teachings definitely do not completely gather the Buddha’s teachings. Thus, if Confucians also study and practise Buddhism, their usual goals can be surpassed in loftiness, for the greatest possible welfare of all sentient beings in all worlds; not just of some ‘people’ in this world, in this one life.]

故致纷纷诤论… 可不哀哉?

Thus leading [to] one after another arguing… How [is this] not pitiable?

Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
(Reply Letter [To] Layperson Tāng Chānghóng

Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an

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Transcending The Limits Of Worldly Philosophies

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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