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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 7. Right Intention



Right Intention

1. Buddha’s right intention

Intention is the primary volitional act. It shapes all other acts—of thought, of speech, and of the body. Unlike Western psychology, which views unhappiness as being primarily the result of events and circumstances, Buddhism sees unhappiness as being primarily the result of intention.1 While not denying the role of events or circumstances, Buddhist psychology emphasizes that the way out of unhappiness is by re-visioning the intention underlying one’s reactivity patterns. This makes for an ethics that is really a cognitive-behavioral science of mind.2

The mind, in Buddhist psychology, has a causal or karmic efficacy of its own.3 The disturbed mind is less shaped by more or less fixed mental disorders, as Western psychology has it, than by moment-to-moment intentions. These may be cast in the form of chronic patterns of dukkha or unhelpful responsiveness, but the ultimately determining causal or karmic factor is the intention of the moment. Hence the emphasis on practicing mindfulness continuously, until it becomes automatic and effortless, in order to help monitor and guide the mind’s intention or karmic disposition. We find a comparable idea←177 | 178→ in Nietzsche, who writes that truly healthy persons spontaneously know and automatically do what strengthens them, virtually without having to think about it. Such persons directly know strength and health because they embody them. They know them because they are them.

Much of this shaping of the mind’s activity is determined...

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