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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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Conclusion: Western Buddhism After Nietzsche?



Western Buddhism After Nietzsche?

1. Philosophizing in public: The marketplace

If the previous chapters have been able to show fundamental and substantial parallels between the Buddha and Nietzsche there nonetheless remains one question: Can there be a practical Western Buddhism after Nietzsche—both “after the time of Nietzsche” and “after the manner of Nietzsche”?

A crucial difference between the Buddha and Nietzsche is that the latter has to make a grand tour of two thousand five hundred years of Western philosophizing in order to make his case. He primarily has to contend with the Platonism of the Greeks and the subsequent “Platonism of the people.” The Buddha does not have to do anything of the sort, as he lives in a time when faith in the efficacy of traditional religious rituals and beliefs has already been substantially weakened. This creates both the fertile soil and the room for his teachings to flourish. There is also an already well-established tradition of meditation on which the future Buddha can rely. Nietzsche, in the Europe in which he operates, has no such widespread tradition at his disposal. Solitary spiritual explorations do occur in the West, but they are generally not encouraged, because they might lead to the temptation of questioning the←257 | 258→ dogmatic style with which much of European and Christianized thinking is propagated and on which it depends. There is also no widespread social and cultural phenomenon that corresponds to the samanas...

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