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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 3. Second Noble Truth: The Origin and Nature of Unhappiness



Second Noble Truth: The Origin and Nature of Unhappiness

1. Buddha

The source of all unhappiness: Belief in a fixed personal self

The inevitable unhappiness that is part of the human condition, in the Buddha’s view, differs from what many religions suggest. It does not involve the notion of a disturbed connection or a conflict between worldly beings and otherworldly beings. Nor does it point to an original inadequacy inherent in earthly existence that can only be undone by otherworldly means. Unhappiness, so the Buddha teaches, is an earth-bound matter. The solution to it must be earth-bound as well. As Zarathustra says—and he could be speaking for the Buddha: We want the earth, and nothing but the earth.

Buddhism does not offer a savior or the promise of a savior to come. This does not mean that people are left on their own to struggle with the built-in unhappiness of the human condition.1 The whole of Buddhist psychology, philosophy, and practice amounts to offering a raft with which to cross over from a realm of imprisoning unhappiness to the freedom of profound cheerfulness. But one has to get on the raft and start paddling. The first thing to do is develop a clear view not only of the fact but also of the precise nature and origin of unhappiness. That is the subject matter of the Second Noble Truth.←95 | 96→

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