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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 6. Right View

Extract

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Right View

1. Buddha’s right view

Right view is the first step of the Noble Eightfold Path for good reason. More than a step, even a first step, it is the essence of the Buddha’s teaching. It is the wisdom factor of the mind.1 There is, says the Buddha, not “a single thing” that promotes liberation from unhappiness “so much as right view.”2 The converse is equally true.

Right view involves developing a personal understanding of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths. This is not a question of, “You must believe this,” but of, “Come and see for yourself.”3 It involves becoming free from limitations in one’s present understanding of reality.4 Right view sets the direction for the rest of the path. Practicing right view means deepening one’s understanding of three primary concerns: the realization of the impermanence of all things and the emptiness of all phenomena; an understanding of the karmic impact of all volitional or intentional actions of thought, speech, and body; and an understanding of the samsaric or unhappy-making nature of unenlightened existence, which is shaped by over-identifying with mundane concerns. In its fullest unfolding right view includes insight into all that the Buddha teaches.←171 | 172→ It also includes a clear understanding that we alone have the power to break the spell of misguided beliefs; that we alone can overcome wrong views; and that we alone can set the conditions to transform samsaric unhappiness into satisfying...

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