Those familiar with the religious history of the Far East, notably China, will know the expression ‘the three religions’ or ‘the three teachings’. It refers to Buddhism, Taoism and the Way taught by Confucius. A scholar was expected to be learned in all three.
The three teachings were competitive, each vying for pre-eminence, but the rivalry was good-natured, not belligerent. The Taoists were satirised for their alleged interest in occult powers and longevity, the Confucians for their focus on externals, while Buddhism, unless inspired by illumined masters, was at risk of degenerating into worldliness and superstition. But none of these frictions inflamed the emotions or led to ‘wars of religion’. On the contrary, each of the three ways was steeped in wisdom, and discerning minds knew how to savour the riches of each tradition.
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