When we gave students the journal assignment to reflect on our class presentation of Easter we also asked them to write about similar Chinese festivals or traditions according to their understanding. Here are two journal entries that showed me other views of China.
My Understanding of Budihism
There is no legend of resurrection in Buddhism; however, the Buddhists believe that everyone has to go through Samsara. Samsara means that we have numberless lives; if one dies, he/she will be reincarnated. What will he/she reincarnated as? Well, here come another important notion in Buddhism - Karma. Karma is the sum total of what you have done during this life, and it determines what you will become in the next life.
For example, if you often present flowers in front of Buddha;s statue, you will be very beautiful in the next life. However, if you often insult your parents, you will become deaf and dumb. If you do something heinous like murdering, you may be reincarnated as a pig or dog to compensate for what you have done.
However, even if you are good-looking, very wealthy and intelligent, you still feel unhappy from time to time. There is only one way to achieve eternal happiness - escaping Samsara and becoming a Buddha yourself. In order to become a Buddha, you need to take three steps. First, you hove to practice self-denial and reduce your desire as much as possible. Second, you ought to a meditate a lot and think about the meaning of life. Finally, in one split second, you get a kind of sudden insight which helps you become Buddha, who is eternal and escapes the Samsara.
Some wester philosophers were very interested in these ideas. Schopenhauer, the most pessimist man ever seen on earth, accepted the idea that everyone suffers a lot in his/her daily life. He urged people to practice self-denial to get real happiness. He also believed that music is a perfect method to release human beings from mental agony.
Nietzsche pose the most dreadful notion in philosophy - the eternal Samara. He didn't think human beings have any method to escape Samara, and he didn't believe what we do in this life can have any influence on the next life. In other words, we according to Nietzsche's theory, we will live our life like this one again, again and again. No change at all! If this is true, then Mrs. Kuzmich has already taught us thousands of times! Just imagine! Long, long ago, there's another Mrs. Kuzmich reading Xu's journal which introduce to her the meaning of "eternal Samara." Isn't that amazing? Maybe that's why we are often puzzled by the sensation of deja vu. I hope Mrs. Kuzmich is not offended by these pagan ideas.
The Christian Easter Day is an excellent illustration of the fact that the view of death and what happens after death is an important part in all religions. In today's journal, I would like to note down my general ideas about CHinese religions in terms of the view of death.
Among Christianity, Islamism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism only the last two are native to China. Confucianism is quite a special thing, because it does not present typical features of a religion, such as the eagerness to promote itself and valid image of god for people to worship. Confucians generally do not talk about higher existences, out of their respect for them. This respect also goes for death, a case in point is the high standard of coffins set by Confucius himself. As a result, little mysterious things about death and the afterworld can be found in the "religion."
Taoism goes to another extreme since its notions of life and death are especially complex and different schools hold their own opinions, like how this polytheism views the relations between their gods. Its view of life and death resembles that of Christianity, but also presents an idea of reincarnation. I will try to present a simple illustrate this point:
At death everyone goes to hell. At such a point one goes either to a good hell of
common people with less sufferings and may choose to reincarnation into human life
again. Or one who lived a bad life may go to a bad hell of extreme sufferings and
reincarnation as animals like rabbits or dogs to be eaten. All dead souls need to be
gathered; and if they are not gathered they become wandering ghosts.
Nevertheless, the majority of CHinese do not adhere to a certain religion. They still believe in a sense of "karma." This interesting result may be the fruit of both Confucianism and Taoism.