Each man's expression represents the predominant attitude of his philosophy: Confucianism saw life as sour, in need of rules to correct the degeneration of people; Buddhism saw life as bitter, dominated by pain and suffering; and Taoism saw life as fundamentally good in its natural state.
Another interpretation of the painting is that, since the three men are gathered around one vat of vinegar, the " three teachings " are one.
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Confucianism saw life as sour, in need of rules to correct the degeneration of people, and the present was out of step of the past and that the government had no understanding of the way of the universe—the right response was to worship the ancestors. Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama , who claimed to be enlightened when he was thirty-five years old. Siddhartha lived a very sheltered and extravagant life growing up.
As he neared his thirties it is said that he became aware of all the ugliness in the world, this prompted him to leave his home in search of enlightenment. At the start of his travels Siddhartha became a beggar and studied philosophy ; however, his studies did not lead him to the answers that he sought. He then tried asceticism alongside five monks for six years; this practice also failed to bring him enlightenment. After giving up asceticism, Siddhartha decided to meditate until he found the enlightenment that he was searching for. After much meditation, he became enlightened and was henceforth known as Buddha, which means 'awakened one'.
During his meditation he had a vision of humankind and the cycle that we are bound to. He concluded that we are bound to the cycles of life and death because of tanha desire , thirst, craving.
During Buddha's first sermon he preached, "neither the extreme of indulgence nor the extremes of asceticism was acceptable as a way of life and that one should avoid extremes and seek to live in the middle way". When tanha is extinguished, one is released from the cycle of life birth, suffering, death, and rebirth ",  only then will they achieve Nirvana. One interpretation is that Buddhism, being concerned with the self, viewed the vinegar as a polluter of the taster's body due to its extreme flavor.
Another interpretation for the image is that Buddhism reports the facts as they are, that vinegar is vinegar and isn't naturally sweet on the tongue. Trying to make it sweet is ignoring what it is, pretending it is sweet is denying what it is, while the equally harmful opposite is being disturbed by the sourness. From the Taoist point of view, sourness and bitterness come from the interfering and unappreciative mind.
Life itself, when understood and utilized for what it is, is sweet. That is the message of "The Vinegar Tasters". In the vinegar tasters picture, Laozi's Lao Tzu expression is sweet because of how the teachings of Taoism view the world. Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds. More Videos Coke unveils new Orange Vanilla flavor. Why Americans are ditching American beer. Can the new Impossible Burger lure meat lovers? Arby's 'Megetables' are literally vegetables made of meat.
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