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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 12. Right Mindfulness



Right Mindfulness

1. Buddha’s right mindfulness

Right mindfulness is the core of Buddhist practice. The Buddha says it is “the one-way path for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the passing away of pain and displeasure, for the achievement of the method, for the realization of Nibbana.”1 The true nature of lived reality, or as the Buddha puts it, reality “as it is,” is not remote, beyond reach, hidden, or inaccessible but in awareness itself. And it is not only knowable, it is as it were calling out to be approached and seen.2 Right mindfulness responds to that call.

Mind is always paying attention to something, but if left untrained it does not see the true nature of reality. It tends, like a hyperactive monkey, to jump from one thing to another, reaching for this and that. This is exacerbated by adding thoughts to the experience of the moment and by elaborating these thoughts into constructs and beliefs. Right mindfulness is attentive and witnessing presence for the sake of direct knowledge of reality.3 It is the practice of “bare attention” to the here and now.←225 | 226→

Doing mindfulness right by practicing “bare attention” requires attentive not-doing, not doing any of the things one habitually and compulsively does with everything that crosses one’s mind. It is simple but not easy. Nietzsche’s equivalent of right mindfulness is, as we will see, this: “Learning...

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