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A Resemblance between the Philosophy of Nietzsche and Zen Buddhism-A Study on the Problem of ‘the Body’ and ‘the Self’ -

  • Journal of Humanities
  • 2018, (68), pp.95-118
  • DOI : 10.31310/HUM.068.04
  • Publisher : Institute for Humanities
  • Research Area : Humanities > Other Humanities
  • Received : December 16, 2017
  • Accepted : February 8, 2018
  • Published : February 28, 2018

Kwang-Yul Seo 1

1경희대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article argues that Nietzsche’s thought and Zen Buddhism have significant similarities in terms of understanding ‘the self’ and ‘the body.’ There are temporal and cultural differences between the two, though. As is well known, Nietzsche was a German philosopher who was born and lived in the nineteenth century, and Zen Buddhism arose in Tang Dynasty in old China (A.D.618∼907)and was introduced to Japan through Korea. When Nietzsche was actively engaged in his own academic activities, some of the early Buddhist scriptures were translated into German. However, he did not have a chance to get to know exactly about Mahayana Buddhism or Zen Buddhism. Nonetheless, Nietzsche’s thought is much more similar to Zen Buddhism than to the early Buddhism. In particular, Japanese Zen master Dogen has many affinities with Nietzsche in that he emphasizes the priority of ‘the body’ rather than ‘the soul’. The two believed that they could find the authentic and sole ‘self’ in ‘the body’. According to them, ‘the body’ is not a simple component of the dichotomous branching of the mind and the (physical) body, but rather the larger ‘self’ that breaks down the dichotomy itself. In Buddhism, the idea of abandoning the obsession for this dual distinction dates back to Nāgārjuna who claimed to abandon logical dualism. Nietzsche also saw ‘becoming’ as a characteristic of ‘the self’ and rejected the opposition between ‘being’ and ‘nothingness’ that had been dominant in Western thought. He insisted that the notion of an unchanging ‘I’ was also a fictional attachment. This fiction arises because people do not pay attention to the larger ego, namely ‘the self’. Therefore, an escape from these attachment and misunderstanding is a very important starting point for discovering the genuine ‘self’. In order to understand this true ‘self’, intuition and symbols are more useful methods than conceptual thinking. This characteristic appeared in the style of both Zen Buddhism and Nietzsche. The Koan in Zen Buddhism and Nietzsche’s aphorism showed their anti-rational and anti-systematic characteristics. Most of them are aimed at stimulating our thought rather than presenting a correct answer. The Zen master and Nietzsche’s Zarathustra commonly ask a riddle. Beside putting a riddle, they also took practical actions as a way of gaining enlightenment. Dogen developed a ‘Zazen’, and Nietzsche emphasized a ‘dancing’. ‘The body’ is a very important place in that our will arises and manifests itself. The discovery of the genuine ‘self’ through practice lies at the heart of their religious and philosophical enlightenment.

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