Student: After taking faith in Taoism, could I join Buddhism? What are the differences between the two?
Master Hsin Tao: Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism play an important role in our traditional culture. Taoism and Buddhism are still very different. The highest personified god is Taishang Laojun. Some Taoists believe in the Jade Emperor. Yet, Buddhism teaches impermanence and the law of cause and effect. The reason that God could be in that position is the result of many virtuous deeds. When one engages in virtues, they could easily take rebirth in the human realm, the deva realm, even to be the ruler of heaven. However, by the karmic law, God would also experience birth, aging, illness, and death. The only exceptional feature of gods is the extended period of time. Although God could grant us a certain degree of support, he is not everlasting. This is the principle of impermanence. The Buddha doesn't stress the reliance on external sources. Instead, the Buddha explains the way to be free from suffering for the ultimate happiness and enlightenment. The realization is none other than uncovering our innate qualities.
Student：Speaking of “realization”, what are you realizing?
Master Hsin Tao: There are two types of realization. One is understanding that “conditions” arise from the mind. As soon as we open our eyes, we see all sorts of phenomena or conditions. However, we don't understand how these phenomena come about. Mountains, rivers, earth, flowers, plants, sea animals, clouds, ocean… how were they form?
Another type of realization is to recognize our own Buddha nature. We’re never certain as of when our body will pass away. What is there after death? Nothing? Or another reincarnation? Hence, we must come to the realization that this body is merely a compounded phenomenon that is unreal. Our nature, however, is the truth that is formless and notionless.
Realize that phenomena arise from causes and conditions to know emptiness. In other words, be clear and insightful of what we perceive right in front of us. What did the Buddha teach about emptiness? Is there any untruthfulness? Contemplate upon these. Next, examine “self”. Is it everlasting? Or it arises in the beginning and ceases at the end? Until we've come to the realize that our nature never "dies" – this is the perfect enlightenment.