What many of us will know is that Taoism and Jainism are two religious bases that are present today amongst so many other religions in the world at the moment. They are not the same and have many differences. Some people consider them religions whereas there are those who consider that one of these or both of these is just a combination of religious ideas with influences from other religions as well. Not only this, both of these are also associated with the beliefs of the people living in a particular area.
To begin with, Jainism is a very ancient ‘dharmic’ religion that originated in India. It prescribes a non-violent path for all living creatures of the world. Like other religions, it calls for effort in order to improve and progress one’s soul so as to get to divine consciousness via a spiritual ladder. A soul that has overpowered its evil aspect with the righteous one is referred to as jina (the conqueror). Taoism, on the other hand, incorporates a large variety of religious and philosophical traditions. It is more or less spread in East Asia for about two millennia and has even spread to the western world in the 19th century. Tao means path and the Taoist ethics and propriety emphasize on the three Jewels of Tao: humility, compassion and moderation. The Taoist thought focuses more on health, longevity, nature and action through inaction that produces harmony.
An approximation of the number of the followers of the two religious bases shows that there are almost twice as many followers of Jainism, 4.3 million, compared to Taoists, who number 2.7 million. In terms of the geographical regions where these religions are practiced, Taoism is based in China and the Chinese diaspora whereas Taoism is based in India and parts of East Africa.
Furthermore, the two religions also vary in terms of cultural tradition. Whereas Taoism is influenced by the Chinese culture, Indian culture influences Jainism. Next, we talk about the historical founder who found the religion. Taoism was found by Laozi and Jainism by Rushabha who was the first of 24 Tirthankara. The 24 Tirthankaras are considered the most prominent figures in Jainism.
The two religions have a lot of differences when it comes to their beliefs and ideas. Both believe in a deity but the theism in Taoism is actually polytheism, that is, they believe in various Gods or deities. In contrast, Jainism is monotheistic, that is, believe in just one God. The philosophy regarding the problem of the human race is also quite different. Jainism states that humans usually settle problems or conflicts violently which is not acceptable. Taoism is a bit conservative in this regard and states that the universe works and will continue to work in a very harmonious manner according to its own, defined way. The Holy sites of Taoism include Heng Shan Bei, Tai Shen and Heng Shan Nansong Shen. In Jainism, the Holy and religious places include the Ranakpur Temples, Dilwara Temples, Shikharji, Palitana Baa etc.
The holidays observed in the two religions are somewhat influenced by the culture of the place specially China and India for Taoism and Jainism respectively. The Chinese New Year, Tomb sweeping day, Dragon boat festival, Double Ninth Day, Lantern Festival are some of those holidays that Taoism observes. In Jainism, holidays are on Shrutha Panchami, Paryushan, Kshamavaani, Mahavir Jayanti etc.
Summary of differences expressed in points
1. Jainism-a very ancient ‘dharmic’ religion that originated in India; Taoism-incorporates a large variety of religious and philosophical traditions, present in East Asia for about two millennia
2. Jainism- calls for effort in order to improve and progress one’s soul so as to get to divine consciousness via a spiritual ladder; Tao means path; Taoist ethics and propriety emphasize on three Jewels of Tao: humility, compassion and moderation, Taoist thought focuses on health, longevity, nature and action through inaction that produces harmony etc.
3. Followers; Taoism- 2.7 million, Jainism- 4.3 million
4. Present in: Taoism-China and Chinese diaspora; Jainism- India, east Africa
5. Founder; Taoism- Laozi; Jainism- Rushabha, first of 24 Tirthankara
6. Holy sites; Taoism-Heng Shan Bei, Tai Shen and Heng Shan Nansong Shen; Jainism-Ranakpur Temples, Dilwara Temples, Shikharji, Palitana Baa etc.
7. Theism- polytheism in Taoism, monotheism in Jainism
8. Holidays: Taoism- the Chinese New Year, the Tomb sweeping day, the Dragon boat festival, the Double Ninth Day, Lantern Festival; Jainism- Shrutha Panchami, Paryushan, Kshamavaani, Mahavir Jayanti etc.