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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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“My time hasn’t come yet. Some people are born posthumously.”


“I could become the Buddha of Europe,” Nietzsche writes, “except that I would be the opposite of the Indian Buddha.”1 This is one of those fantastic sounding claims for which he is famous, or infamous. Do we have to take him seriously? Yes.

The first half of his proposition, that he “could become the Buddha of Europe,” is, to the likely surprise of many, substantially true. The second half is not true, because he is not at all the “opposite of the Indian Buddha,” as he thinks he is. He is, instead, far more in agreement with the Buddha than he and most of his readers realize. To look closely into these matters is this book’s objective.

The Buddha’s teachings are most commonly presented through what are known in English as the Four Noble Truths or insights and the Noble Eightfold Path of practices for living by those insights. He teaches these from the days of his enlightenment in his mid-thirties until his death forty-five years later, at age eighty.

This book reviews those four “truths” or insights and the eight practical teachings and compares them, one-by-one and side-by-side, with what←xi | xii→ there is in Nietzsche’s writings that is his equivalent to them. This shows that for seven out of the eight teachings from the Eightfold Path, including the Four Noble Truths, which together form...

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