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Published:October 14th, 2009 22:10 EST
Nietzsche's Problem with Buddhism

Nietzsche's Problem with Buddhism

By Sean Beelzebul

Nietzsche`s Problem with Buddhism

                In the majority of Nietzsche`s work, Buddhism is praised as a more worthwhile religion system than others. In La Gaya Scienza Nietzsche uses Buddhism to explain his philosophy of Gods and men: After the Buddha died his shadow was still visible in a cave for hundreds of years "an enormous gruesome shadow. God is dead; "(La Gaya Scienza p. 463) In the Will to Power, Nietzsche`s unpublished notebooks, Buddhism is compared to Christianity, and considered colder and more realistic ". Yet, Buddhism is also classified as a passive nihilism. Unfortunately this passive nihilism charge is not fleshed out. The Will to Power was an unfinished work, and this concept went to the presses unfinished as well. Through my research in Buddhism and Asian Religions, I have found a possible reason for this charge. It is the Neo-Confucian criticism of Buddhism. This short article will logically explain how the Neo-Confucian critique of Buddhism, describes what Nietzsche possibly meant by passive nihilism ".

                The Neo-Confucians had many criticisms of Buddhism, but the main charge against Buddhism was that it did not follow the five relationships of responsibility to society. In Confucianism, every individual was expected to comport to societal and filial responsibility. Buddhism, shirked society`s responsibilities, and advocated abandoning the home in favor of the monastery. To the neo-Confucians this was selfish and destructive to society. Although meditation techniques and mystical practice were adopted by the neo-Confucians from Buddhism and Taoism, they felt that governing statecraft was still the utmost responsibility. Thus, the Neo-Confucians struggled to oust Buddhism from harming the wavering balance on the State and its rectification.

                Could Nietzsche`s charge of passive nihilism " refer to this Buddhist tendency of shirking societal duties? I think so. I believe that the definition of passive nihilism refers to an individual`s internally destructive tendencies, such as selfish withdrawal. An active nihilism would refer to an actively destructive being, fighting wars for religion for example. Buddhism to Nietzsche was a hundred times more peaceful, and a hundred times for contemplative. Yet, something was missing from this compassionate world view. The nihilism of Abrahamic religions, like Christianity and Judaism seems to entwine itself with statecraft, but leads to its misuse. Buddhism to Nietzsche must have been lacking the authoritative stance of proactive engagement with government. Thus, this lack of world-turning statecraft power in historical forms of Buddhism (those that Nietzsche studied) is probably what led him to conclude that it was still a form of nihilism.