There is a tendency to lump Buddhism with Taoism. Yes, they have some similarities but for the most part, they are quite distinct.
The biggest difference comes when the subject of suffering enters the discussion. For those following Buddhism, suffering is considered a fact, an inescapable part of everyone’s life. It is as much a part of life as breathing and eating. Happiness and Joy have a shelf life. They simply cannot last. Aging and pain are inevitable. The goal for Buddhists is to transcend all of this suffering. To accept these “facts” and go beyond them, regardless of what is happening in the physical world.
For Taoists, we take a different view. We see life as a blank sheet of paper and we are the ones holding the brush. We are the artists of our own lives, along with the Tao (God, Universe, Great Spirit or any other synonym will work here). We who study the Tao see life as what we make of it. Yes, suffering, disappointment and sadness certainly exist but so do the chapters in the Book of Life which are entitled, “Abundance,” “Bliss” and “Happiness.”
I find I am at my very best when I am both writing in and reading from the book entitled, Tao of David; that is, when I am following my own trail, making footprints along my unique path.
No path is free from suffering but this is not always a bad thing. As a marathoner, suffering is part of the training and part of the marathon itself. As strange as it may sound (at least to non-marathoners), it is THAT suffering that makes this event worth while. Without the grind, pain and the challenge, it becomes something bland and unmemorable instead of the life-changing event that it is for me. It is because of the suffering that I feel the sensation of accomplishment and indescribable bursting of emotion when I cross the finish line.
So many try to avoid suffering. Others complain incessantly about it, while doing nothing to accept, nor change it. Still others suffer in silence, while at the same time making sure everyone knows about it. Then there are some who see the value in suffering, accept and learn from it and the painful edge goes away. Regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, suffering can be a potent teacher.
Next time you come face to face with Suffering, thank him for letting you know you are alive.