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Nietzsche and the Buddha

Different Lives, Same Ideas (How Nietzsche May Yet Become the West’s Own Buddha)

Daniel Chapelle

This book examines Nietzsche’s claim that he could be the "Buddha of the West." A close reading of his texts shows substantial similarities with the Buddha’s teachings, suggesting a potential basis and a potentially promising future for a Western Buddhism that would be based on Nietzsche’s philosophy. The book first provides a brief comparative biography of Nietzsche and the Buddha and then a review of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path and of what there is in Nietzsche’s writings that is his equivalent to those teachings.

While the West often looks to neuroscience to validate the Buddhist teachings and practices, this book suggests it would be better to study Nietzsche’s thought to discover not only validation for Buddhist teachings but the very foundation of a "Buddhism" that is of the West, by the West, and for the West.

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Chapter 1. Buddha and Nietzsche in Their Own Time and World

Extract

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Buddha and Nietzsche in Their Own Time and World

“To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine.”

From Emerson’s History, quoted as epigraph to Nietzsche’s The Gay Science.

A bold claim for a start: To be “Europe’s Buddha”

One of the first things every Nietzsche reader quickly learns, not infrequently with a negative initial reaction, is that he almost seems to live for hyperbole, provocativeness, outrageousness, controversy, grandiosity, and anything else he can think of that may startle or offend. If one were able to remove all this from his writings one would lose much of the stuff of which Nietzsche is made.

He is fully aware of these things and he neither apologizes for them nor makes an effort to avoid them. Quite the opposite. He makes them into a deliberately cultivated habit and style. For his readers this sometimes becomes a question of whether one can acquire the tolerance and the taste for it—and for many it is a tolerance and a taste they never acquire. His readers often end up either loving him or hating him for it, sometimes with little gray area in between. And yet, his displays of perpetual bluster notwithstanding, in the←15 | 16→ final analysis he turns out to be one of Western history’s most deeply compassionate philosophers. But his compassion is not...

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