Nietzsche’s Buddhist leidmotive : a comparative study of Nietzsche’s response to the problem of suffering

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I argue in this dissertation that Nietzsche’s struggle to free himself from Schopenhauer and Wagner’s influence interferes with his understanding of Buddhism, which he tends to tar with the same brush that he used on his mentors. I claim that Nietzsche has more in common with Mahayana Buddhism than he realizes, and suggest that he would have had more sympathy for Buddhist strategies for confronting suffering if his conception of such strategies had been more adequate. I offer a reading of the eternal recurrence according to which it promotes an existential reorientation towards the present moment that is very much in the spirit of Zen. I contend that the apparently irresoluble differences between the Nietzschean and Buddhist positions on questions relating to a karmic “moral world order” can be overcome on a careful interpretation, and that there are more than superficial parallels between the way that both Nietzsche and Zen thinkers ascribe spiritual significance to a certain kind of spontaneous action.