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Vietnamese Culture Essay

2609 words - 11 pages

The mere mention of Vietnam immediately brings to mind its troubled past and a brutal war that was fought there for nearly three decades. But, in reality Vietnam is a beautiful country covered by tall mountains, open plains, deep valleys and cultivated green fields. The country is also home to dense jungles and rainforests filled with exotic plants and animals. It is also a place of unique customs, traditions and superstitions that are still practiced in the urban cities and simple villages. The lack of understanding of these customs and culture has occasionally cause friction between the Vietnamese and Americans. To understand the culture of Vietnam is to understand the Vietnamese people.
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Man must not become attached to anything and live a life full of virtue, according to the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path teaches that there are eight “right” ways to live a virtuous life. These “right” virtues are views, thoughts, conduct, speech, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and meditation. A man’s fate in this existence is determined by what he has done in his previous existence. This is the law of Karma, or cause and effect. Accordingly, a man’s soul does not perish at death, but reincarnates into another existence and this process goes on and on. The Buddhist’s goal is to be freed from the circle of reincarnation and reach Nirvana, which is a state of complete redemption and supreme happiness. Theoretically, any person may become a Buddha by suppressing his cravings and following the Eightfold Path. Those who actually attain the status of Buddha are rare.

Confucianism is more of a religious and social philosophy than a religion in the traditional meaning of the word. It has no church, no clergy, and no Bible. Confucianism advocates a code of social behavior that man should observe so that he may live in harmony with society and attain happiness in his individual life. There is little concern about death, the world beyond, and spiritual feelings in this religion. Confucianism was introduced into Vietnam as early as the first century, during the Chinese domination.

Confucius, the founder of this religion, stressed the goal of the individual was the improvement of the moral self. Confucius believed that in order to rule the world, one must rule one’s country; in order to rule the country, one must rule one’s family; and in order to rule the family, one must have control of oneself. The improvement of the moral self is the cornerstone of Confucianism. Confucius also believed that man is born with an essentially good nature, which becomes corrupted by his contact with society. In order to improve his moral self and regain that original good nature, with which he was born, man must practice the five cardinal virtues that are benevolence, propriety, loyalty, intellect, and trustworthiness.

Taoism also has had a deep imprint on the way of life for the Vietnamese people. Lao Tse (600-500 B.C.), was the founder of Taoism. He advocated a philosophy of harmony between man and man and also between man and nature. To achieve the desired state of harmony, all forms of confrontation should be avoided. The virtues of simplicity, patience, and self-contentment must be observed. By non-action and keeping away from human strife and cravings, man can reach harmony with himself, other people, and the universe. Lao Tse believed that man could only find the right path by probing the inner self and quiet meditation. Taoism was created as a religious philosophy, but the followers of Lao Tse transformed it into a religion with church and a clergy involved in communicating with deities, spirits, and the dead. Taoist clergymen also claimed they could...

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