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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 11. Right Effort



Right Effort

1. Buddha’s right effort

Right effort is the first of the last three elements of the Eightfold Path, which together form the practices of meditation. While right effort contributes to all seven of the other elements of the Eightfold Path, it plays an especially vital role in the seventh, right mindfulness, and above all in the eighth, right concentration.

Effort, in this context, means “energy” or viriya (Pali, Skt virya)—also rendered as “vigor,” “enthusiasm,” “diligence,” or “active engagement.” Right effort places one’s focus on the stream-like nature of awareness and the perpetually changing experiences arising in it. It involves the sustained determination to become a witness to this endless streaming and to do so free of tanha. Right effort does not mean developing mental muscle or will power. It is smart energy more than hard energy or mental brute force. It is not the equivalent of, “Go to it and stay at it.”1 It is, paradoxically, a matter of skillfully easing up—easing up and letting go of one’s usual mental activities, habits, thinking, and reactivity. It requires letting go of mundane effort. This sets the conditions for the revelatory view of reality that liberates one from dukkha, a view←215 | 216→ that cannot be seen from the vantage point of a personal self that is preoccupied with mundane concerns.

Walking the Eightfold Path is to be done not with extreme zeal but with ease,...

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