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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 10. Right Livelihood



Right Livelihood

1. Buddha’s right livelihood

Right livelihood refers to occupational activities, but it applies to more than that. Positively stated right livelihood and the associated right lifestyle involve rightness regarding actions, regarding persons, and regarding objects.1 An acceptable job should be done to the best of one’s abilities; the people involved in it should be treated well; and the materials that are part of it should be of good quality and show good stewardship of the earth and its resources. Negatively stated right livelihood concerns the intention and practice of avoiding occupational activities that cause harm to humans or animals. They include dealing in weapons; dealing in living beings (animals for slaughter and humans for slave trade and prostitution); meat production and butchery; and dealing in poisons and intoxicants. Other forms of prohibited livelihood include gaining wealth through deceit, treachery, trickery, usury, and soothsaying.

Beyond the concern with social consequences there is the concern that engaging in prohibited occupational activities arises out of wrong view and wrong intention, and that it contributes to their perpetuation. Practicing right livelihood presents one with the opportunity to use one’s daily works with an←207 | 208→ eye toward putting usual activities in the service of liberation from samsaric striving. Right livelihood is the equivalent, off the meditation cushion, of turning every hour and every moment of one’s activities into a sustained and concrete form of practicing right view and right intention.


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