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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 8. Right Speech



Right Speech

1. Buddha’s right speech

Right speech is traditionally viewed (after right intention and thinking, the foundational and dispositional act that determines all others) as one of the three forms of action, along with right conduct and right livelihood.1 The three actions of speech, conduct, and livelihood together constitute the cluster of elements from the Eightfold Path that govern the development of moral discipline—sila (Pali, Skt). As the Dhammapada summarizes: “Doing no evil, engaging in what is skillful, and purifying one’s mind: that is the teaching of the buddhas.”2 While speech, conduct, and livelihood are forms of action, their ultimate concern is not action alone, or even action primarily, but mind-training in support of liberation from samsaric unhappiness. Sila or ethical conduct is therefore more than a matter of social interest, as it is ultimately for the sake of developing an awakening mind. We could add that sila is therefore more of evolutionary interest than of situational or even historical interest. Transposed into Nietzschean terms, sila is more for the sake of cultivating the Overhuman than for the benefit of historical men and women.←187 | 188→

If sila is often understood in negative terms as abstaining, letting go of, or not clinging to wrong speech, wrong conduct, and wrong livelihood this is not a moral judgmental statement dictating what not to do. It is aimed at renouncing or non-attachment for the sake of liberation from samsaric ways. Right...

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