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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 9. Right Conduct



Right Conduct

1. Buddha’s right conduct

Right conduct involves actions of the body that are wholesome because they promote the welfare of sentient beings. These are beings that have both life and consciousness: humans, animals, including insects, but not plants, which are thought to lack consciousness. Right conduct includes abstaining from its opposite, which includes three things: intentionally harming or taking the life of sentient beings for pleasure or because one does not like them; taking what is not given; and sexual misconduct. Right conduct matters not only for its own sake and its social significance but because it is a practical application of right view and right intention. It is “right” not because of a moral judgment or because it complies with socially accepted precepts but because it contributes to liberation from samsaric unhappiness and its causes.1

Harming or taking the life of sentient beings is prohibited on the grounds that all sentient beings love life, fear death, are averse to suffering, and seek happiness. The positive counterpart to the prohibition is the cultivation of respect, kindness, and compassion.←197 | 198→

The prohibition against taking what is not given includes not only stealing but every form of deceitfulness in obtaining what is not being voluntarily given. Taking something that has no owner, such as taking firewood from the forest, is not prohibited because it involves no thievish intent. The positive counterpart to taking what is not given is...

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