How closely aligned are Buddhist ethics and Nietzschean values? I know a little about both, and may even have read a comparative study (some time ago). Was hoping to harmonise them via 'karma': the agent experiences the result. But there seems no linguistic or rational reason which is strong enough to believe in rebirth, so it seems to me that Nietzsche's analysis (only the success of the superman matters) cannot be reconciled with Buddhism. If so, I'll probably side with Buddhist ethics (I think we need art, not individuals, and Buddhism doesn't make only for worthless aesthetics), but it's a blow, because in the process we may have to sacrifice what is - it is sometimes claimed - is the very highest type of well being possible.

This question is just from someone who has read a small bit of Nietzsche studies (I'm not philosopher), but I take claims about morality quite seriously, that's all.

5 Answers 5


They aren't aligned at all. Nietzsche's critique of Christianity could just as easily be levied against Buddhism. The only reason I think that he tepidly praised Buddhism is because he only understood it as a philosophy, not the soteriological religion that it undoubtably is.

For instance - "The Christian faith from the beginning, is sacrifice the sacrifice of all freedom, all pride, all self-confidence of spirit, it is at the same time subjection, self-derision, and self-mutilation."

Buddhism, at its core, is a religion of self sacrifice. The first paramita is dana. We give not just alms or service but make a wholehearted offering of our very being. In Zen, we celebrate dying on the cushion. In the tantras, you give over everything to your guru. In the Theravada, there is the model of leaving home and everything behind. All of these are examples of self subjugation. Nietzsche's philosophy, on the contrary, is ultimately self serving, even aggrandizing.

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    There is a big difference in dana paramitha and sacrifice. If you see Dhamma, understand it and as a result of that understanding, practice it, dana paramitha is not a sacrifice for such a practicing Buddhist. It may look like so, for the rest of the world, but it does not feel so, to the practicing Buddhist. For such practicing Buddhist, the dana paramitha is an effect of understanding, its not caused by any teaching. Same goes for leaving home and everything behind in Theravada Tradition. Its an effect of seeing beyond the material world which loses value in the search for truth.
    – Sampath
    Jan 7, 2022 at 3:33
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    I have to disagree with that. In order to practice, there are obstacles that we have to push through. Sitting is hard at first. We rather not do it. We sacrifice our comfort to do it. Practicing sila means we can't act like we have in the past. We have to consciously fight our karmic tendencies. It's easier to just go on as we always have. That too is sacrifice. Sacrifice is showing loving kindness to our enemies. We much rather give them the gift of our anger. It's a sacrifice to give them the gift of compassion. In Zen, we'd call this walking Kempo's One Road. Every sacrifice is a gate.
    – user22122
    Jan 7, 2022 at 13:24
  • The reason that paramitha does not become a sacrifice for a practicing Buddhist is because, when practicing Dhamma, you try to see the reality of the world you have built for yourself. When you see the truth, dana, siila, and meditation will become a natural part of life. Paramitha becomes an effect of your understanding. Practicing Paramitha with effort will definitely help but, practicing Dhamma is not practicing Paramitha with effort, to practice Dhamma is to see your wold through Dhamma,which will lead to Nibbana. Sacrifices will not lead you to Nibbana.
    – Sampath
    Jan 8, 2022 at 6:10
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    hey @Sampath both. good answer, but I think you're overplaying the attitude to self and underplaying 'morality' - which, for Nietzsche, is a trick: and a highly poisonous one
    – user23322
    Jan 11, 2022 at 0:56
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    @again_insane_buddhist: I'm sorry I know nothing about Nietzsche. My comment does not cover Nietzsche. It is simply comparing paramitha and sacrifice in the viewpoint of a Practicing Buddhist (how paramitha feels to a Practicing Buddhist). The term 'Practicing Buddhist' was used just to differentiate them from the different pursuers of Dhamma with different intentions or purposes in mind. I'm not talking about me either. Even though I had the good fortune of meeting a few such wonderful human beings.; I cannot be categorized as a Practicing Buddhist.
    – Sampath
    Jan 11, 2022 at 13:39

Nietsche does agree with the Buddha on some things. They both point out the problem of self:

Nietsche: One must not eye oneself while having an experience; else the eye becomes "an evil eye."
MN62:3.2: “Rāhula, you should truly see any kind of form at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: all form—with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’”

However, there is profound disagreement on immersion. Nietsche's "frenzy" corresponds to wrong immersion for Buddhists.

Nietsche: in this state one enriches everything out of one's own fullness: whatever one sees, whatever one wills, is seen swelled, taut, strong, overloaded with strength. A man in this state transforms things until they mirror his power--until they are reflections of his perfection. This having to transform into perfection is--art. Even everything that he is not yet, becomes for him an occasion of joy in himself; in art man enjoys himself as perfection.”

The Buddha declares right immersion as:

AN5.28:2.1: “And how do you develop noble right immersion with five factors?
AN5.28:2.2: Firstly, a mendicant, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption. It has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected.

I've tried both ways. The Buddha's way leads to less suffering. YMMV.


Not closely aligned at all. Nietzsche believes in "the will to power." The Buddha teaches the path to the relinquishment of "will" and "power," so that the endless march to attain these two things, "what one wants" (will) and "the pursued ability to get what one wants" (power) are utterly pacified. The Arhat is happy even in the nastiest of circumstances. He has no desire to change his material circumstances. Why? He has the secret happiness available to him that all Buddhas have, the ability to dwell in Nirvana, the "highest happiness."


Nietzsche's philosophy, on the contrary, is ultimately self serving, even aggrandizing

I tend to agree.

One thing I notice is that Buddhist licentiousness seems to breed a similar sort of arrogance (nb Buddhists accuse each other of this at times), the same sense that the suffering of others is their obligation to us. We are free to choose our values in both of these philosophies, just as some individuals are better set to do so (even authentic milk is different to authentic butter).

It may be that the Buddha meant that all ethical judgments are in error, and it may be that Nietzsche merely meant that all moral judgments are fictional. But, either way, you should surely take it on a case by case basis, either in the abstract (Nietzsche belittles Mitleid) or in the concrete (the Buddha suggested his followers completely abstain from intoxicants).

So, apples and oranges: at least they're not vegetables.

Most philosophies seek greatness in someone.


As much as Zen is related in aim and way: not at all, aside of a prove that defilement have endless arguments to hold on wrong at the base, good householder.

Yet even former wanderers under either Zen or Nietsche, hardly ever arrive at the Dhamma and will still relay on wrong view, making "I have a right" to their incapacity's. into a virtue... blessed who never nourished in this sink of dung, to be smelled from far by wise.

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