Nietzsche and Buddhism: An Annotated Bibliography (forthcoming)

One of my last courses as an undergraduate was a survey-course on Nietzsche. For one of the core assignments, I ended up writing up a quick-and-dirty sort of bibliography on and a summary of his use of Buddhism. For this I found the most incredible text, Nietzsche-Wörterbuch or “Nietzsche Dictionary.” It’s published by de Gruyter, publishers of Freny Mistry’s original “Nietzsche and Buddhism: Prolegmenon to a Comparative Study.” The Nietzsche Dictionary is actually a work-in-progress, which de Gruyter explains so I don’t have to.

The Nietzsche Dictionary elucidates in detail some 300 terms from Nietzsche’s vocabulary. The first volume presents 67 of them. The account of each term includes the number of occurrences, main uses, synonyms, the various meanings, components of meanings and semantically relevant contexts (with examples), and the historical linguistic and philosophical localisation of Nietzsche’s use of the word, as well as a discussion of Nietzsche research and the reception of Nietzsche.

The complete dictionary will comprise 4 volumes. The project will be completed by 2010. An electronic version is planned upon completion of the printed edition.

Lucky for me, Buddhismus is early enough in the alphabet to be included in the first volume. Unlucky for me, the text is in German. It’s not so bad though, having taken a couple years of German. I can read through the citations (I count 66), and translate with little trouble the cited words.

What I have already done is format the 14-page section into a nifty reference to all the places Nietzsche uses the words that invoke the Buddha, Buddhists, Buddhism and/or Buddhistic (culture). I also made a small list of what Robert Morrison describes in his Nietzsche and Buddhism: A Study in Nihilism and Ironic Affinities as the only texts Nietzsche owned or probably read on Buddhism. Graham Parkes points out in a critical review of Morrison’s book that he over looked work done by Johann Figl into Nietzsche’s earliest encounters with Buddhism and Asian thought in general, which suggests Nietzsche encountered Buddhism even earlier than Morrison describes, in his days at the University of Bonn (just slightly earlier than his discovery of Schopenhauer). To be fair to Morrison, that is about the only substantial point Parkes makes. I encourage people to read Morrison’s response to Parkes, in which he addresses not just Parkes but the problems with Mistry’s book that he sought to remedy in his book while making his own original arguments. Lastly I am collecting a list of secondary sources on Nietzsche and Buddhism.

What I want to do is not only translate the Nietzsche Dictionary selection into English, but perhaps expand upon it with the secondary literature. Here is what I have so far.


The Birth of Tragedy: Buddhism (7); Buddhistic negation of the will (7); Buddhistic culture (18); Indian Buddhism (21).

Dawn: Buddha (96); Buddhist (469)

The Gay Science: Buddha (108, 147, 353); Buddhism (99, 347); buddhistisches (99);

Beyond Good and Evil: Buddha (56); Buddhism (61, 202)

Genealogy of Morals (Essays/Section): Buddhist/ism (1/6), (2/21), (3/17); Buddha (3/7, 27); European Buddhism (Preface 5).

The Case of Wagner: “Buddhistic” in letter to Peter Gast included in Kaufmann’s 1967 translation.

The Anti-Christ: Buddha (20); Buddhism (20,21,22,23,42); Buddhists (22)

Ecce Homo (Essays 1,2,3&4): Buddha (1-6); Buddhists (Zarathustra Section1).

Nachlass (Notebook/Section): Buddha (1/5), (5/71), (7/111), (14/91, 162), (24/1), (25/16); Buddhist (1/5), (10/157, 190), (11/244), (14/107, 162), (19/148); Buddhism (2/4, 127, 131), (4/15), (10/157), (11/240), (14/91, 195), (24/1), (25/97); Buddhistic (11/4); Buddhist Pessimism (2/186); European Buddhism (2/144), (4/2), (5/71), (35/9); Buddhist negation of reality (9/62); “buddhaische Traumphilosophie” (23/4, 12); Buddhism as Passive Nihilism (9/35); Buddhist-Christian belief (25/222).

Buddhist Scholarship That Nietzsche Read – from Morrison’s Nietzsche and Buddhism.

(1) Hermann Oldenberg’s (1882) Buddha 

(2) Max Müller’s (1881) Selected Essays On Language, Mythology and Religion (vol.ii) 

(3) Carl Köppen’s (1857) Die Religion des Buddha 

(4) Muthu’s Coomaraswamy’s (1874) Dialogues and Discourses of Gotama Buddha

Nietzsche-Buddhist Scholarship You Should Read

Mistry, Freny. Nietzsche and Buddhism: Prolegomenon to a Future Study. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1981.

Morrison, Robert G. Nietzsche and Buddhism: A Study in Nihilism and Ironic Affinities. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Parkes, Graham ed. Nietzsche and Asian Thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Stambaugh, Joan. The Other Nietzsche. Albany: SUNY Press, 1994.

Van Tangeren et. al. “Buddhismus.” Nietzsche-Wörterbuch. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2004. 419-433.


8 thoughts on “Nietzsche and Buddhism: An Annotated Bibliography (forthcoming)

  1. What would/could have Nietzsche possibly known of Buddhism?
    Did he ever sit at the feet of an accomplished Buddhist teacher and receive any instruction and/or the associated demands such instruction demand?

    Milarepa had to pass through an extraordinary ordeal before his Guru and Spiritual Master Marpa, considered him (Milarepa) fit and prepared enough to receive the Dharma with a capital D.

    Most Westerners including Nietzsche wouldnt have a clue as to what Buddhism is realy about.

    This reference provides a unique Understanding of Buddhism and its relation to Western thought and religion.


    Plus Ancient Reality Teachings


      • I’m with you akizur! I’ve sat at the feet of ‘accomplished’ Buddhist teachers in India, Thailand and Cambodia off and on for over 50 years and the main thing I learned from THEM was that they needed pedicures.

  2. “What would/could have Nietzsche possibly known of Buddhism?”

    Robert Morrison’s book, “Nietzsche and Buddhism: A Study in Nihilism and Ironic Affinities,” is an excellent resource for answering this question, particularly the first half of the book, which looks at “Nietzsche on Buddhism” and “How Nietzsche Came to his Understanding of Buddhism.”

  3. Hello Joe,
    Good work! I wrote the lemma on Buddhismus in the Nietzsche Dictionary, and published several articles on Nietzsche and Zen.
    Are you still doing work on Nietzsche and Buddhism these days?

    Andre van der Braak, Amsterdam

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