SCHOPENHAUER AND BUDDHISM
By Peter Abelson
Philosophy East and West
Volume 43, Numer 2
(C) by University of Hawaii Press
If I were to take the results of my philosophy as
the standard of truth, I would have to consider
Buddhism the finest of all religion.
When the tenets of Buddhism became known in
Europe during the third and fourth decade of the
nineteenth century, Arthur Schopenhauer was
delighted with the affinity they showed to his own
philosophy. Having completed his main work Die Welt
als Wille und Vorstellung as early as 1818, he
considered it an entirely new (and thus pure)
expression of the wisdom once taught by the
Buddha--at times he even called himself a
This conviction of being an original European
Buddhist kept Schopenhauer from making a detailed
philosophical comparison between his system and
those of the Buddhist schools he had read up on.(3)
to him, the connection was obvious. In reprints of
the main work and later writings, he did point out
certain similarities, making comments on Buddhism
that astonish the present-day reader with their
adequacy (considering the immaturity of Indology in
his time), but he never bothered to explain the
exact philosophical nature of the link he put
forward, causing it to remain a matter of atmosphere
rather than content.
As a matter of fact, it can be disputed if
Schopenhauer's philosophy and Buddhism do indeed
breathe the same atmosphere. Schopenhauer often put
emphasis on Buddhism's pessimistic outlook on
earthly existence,(4) but compared to his world
view, which is very severe, Buddhism seems almost
cheerful. The Sanskrit word du.hkha, by which
existence is typified in the first of the Buddha's
Four Noble Truths, is usually translated as
'suffering', but it also has the connotation of
'unrest'. In fact, the first Truth is about the
transitoriness of life, and how this deprives man of
inner peace. To be sure, this is not opposed to
anything Schopenhauer said, but it lacks the sheer
disgust of life that is characteristic of his
doctrine. Yet again. it may be unfair to compare the
mood of one man's philosophy with the blended mood
of Buddhist literature, with its countless authors.
There will undoubtedly be Buddhist texts in which
life is depicted in a Schopenhauerian or even more
horrifying way. Still, this all goes to show that
atmosphere, however crucial to any philosophy of
life, should not be too big a factor in comparing two
Both Schopenhauerian and Buddhist philosophy
express a certain Weltanschauung; therefore cerebral
analysis alone will not reveal the real meaning of
either--a fair amount of hermeneutical proficiency
is also required. But this does not alter the fact
that both lines of thought
should be compared as specifically as possible if
philosophical connections or differences are to be
For one thing, the comparativist should be
dealing with more than Buddhism as such,(5) since
there exists a variety of philosophical views within
this religion. It is not even enough when a
distinction is made between Hiinayaana and Mahaayaana
Buddhism, (6) because the history of the latter
contains such diverging schools of thought as the
Maadhyamika and the Yogaacaara, both of which had a
long and irregular development out of their common
root, Praj`naapaaramitaa literature. Any worthwhile
comparison must involve these four basic forms of
Buddhist philosophy in their own right.
At the same time, the comparativist should only
be concerned with the substantial features of these
philosophies (there is no point, for instance, in
mentioning details like the shared love of animals
in Buddhist and Schopenhauerian philosophy).(7)
All of this considered, I take as a set of
criteria for my own comparison the following account
of the essentials of Schopenhauer's philosophy.
1. It is based on a critique of the intellect,
from which it follows that time, space, and
causality (the tripartite framework of the world of
subjects and objects) are not real in an absolute
2. This leads to the assumption of a
transcendental reality (automatically making this a
religious world view but, because of the ultimate
unreality of any subject, and so, too, the unreality
of a divine subject, not a theistic one).
3. This ultimate reality is by its nature
incomprehensible to the intellect, yet is supposed
to be 'sensible' in our experience of life (in other
words: a reality transcending thought but immanent
in life itself).
4. This 'recognition' of ultimate reality is
related to the fact that life is inescapably ruled
by passion, need, pain, and fear, all being
promptings of the will, which therefore symbolizes
I will elaborate on these points as I use them
in the following paragraphs.
II. Schopenhauer and the Old Wisdom School
"Old Wisdom School" is a collective name for the
first group of sects to evolve out of early
Buddhism. The most prominent of these, the
Sarvaastivaada, fixed its philosophical attention on
the Buddha's teaching that the five skandhas, or
'transitory factors of worldly existence', namely,
material form (ruupa), feeling (vedanaa), perception
(saa.mj~naa), impulses (sa.mskaara), and awareness
(vij~naana) were not the self. Whereas the Buddha
left it undiscussed whether a self exists at all
(obviously regarding the question as pointless),(8)
the Sarvaastivaadins radicalized his teaching into a
doctrine that flatly denies all substance. All that
we experience in the
world and in our minds is restless change;
therefore, the idea that things have an imperishable
essence 'behind' their ever-changing qualities (like
the aatman of Hinduism) is untenable. But if there
is no lasting self, then every change must involve
total destruction. Everything comes into being as it
wholly is, to vanish completely after an
infinitesimally short moment. After this, something
comes about that may look the same but is entirely
In this doctrine, the skandhas are interpreted
as five groups of dharmas, discrete existence-points
constituting the internal and external world.
Material things, feelings, thoughts, apperceptions.
and impulses are nothing but swarms of dharmas,
which, because they arise each time in more or less
the same configuration, create the illusion of
things that last while they change--and of a
persistent 'I' beholding these changes and thus
being tormented by transitoriness.
Salvation comes when ascesis and meditation
bring about the egodissolving realization that
reality is but a turbulence of dharmas.
In arguing that Buddhism could not have been
influential on the writing of his main work,
Schopenhauer stressed that, if anything, only the
Burmese form was known at that time.(10) From this,
one gathers that he considered this form the least
Burmese Buddhism accords with the Old Wisdom
It is indeed hard to imagine that he could have
found anything in his line in the doctrine above.
Because of the rigorous empiricism that it basically
is, the reality of time and space, for the dharmas
to come about in, is a necessary presupposition.
This goes directly against criterion (1), referring
to the epistemological basis of Schopenhauer's
philosophy--which I will now summarize in my own
"Die Welt ist meine Vorstellung" read the
opening words of the main work. Something can only
be said to exist if it is in some way perceptible;
to exist is to be an object to a subject. And since
I am the only subject the existence of which I
cannot doubt, the world is my representation (in
using this term in stead of 'perception'
Schopenhauer wanted to stress the activeness of the
At the same time, however, there is no subject
without object. 'Subject' and 'object' are
correlative concepts, deriving their meaning from
each other; therefore, the one cannot be more real
than the other. If the not-I is a mere
representation, something to which no absolute
reality can be attributed, this also goes for the I.
Therefore, the world as representation embraces both
the things that I behold and myself as their
beholder. Or, in Schopenhauer's words: the
opposition of subject and object is the "first,
general and essential form" of the Vorstellung.(11)
Who or what, then, is the true representer of
this world in which I am an individual being? To
find an answer, we must take a closer look at how
the world is known.
Just how is the world in which I am an
individual subject of objects represented?--as a
spatiotemporal universe, ruled by the fourfold Law
of Sufficient Reason (Satz vom zureichenden Grunde).
Whatever I perceive is in space and time, and for
anything to exist or happen there must be either a
physical, logical, mathematical, or motivational
reason. My entire experience of the world, from
discursive ideas down to basic perceptions, is based
on these a priori conditions. Even the notion of
being a physicalentity is basically no more than the
immediate assumption that vision, sound, touch,
smell, and taste are the temporal effects that an
outside world has on 'my body'.
Thus, for anything to be empirically real, it
must be spatial, temporal, and causal. Yet space,
time, and causality cannot be proven to be
empirically real themselves! If space is thought of
as an empirical entity, the insoluble problem arises
whether it is finite or infinite. In the first case,
there would have to be something 'outside' space, a
metaspace, which is an absurd notion; but in the
second case it could never be differentiated of
anything and would therefore have no identity. If
time is finite, there would have to be something
'before' and 'after' it, which again is absurd; but
if it is infinite, it would take an eternity to
arrive at the present moment, which therefore could
never come about. Finite causality would enhance an
unimaginable 'first cause' of all events in the
universe, while infinite causality poses, mutatis
mutandis, the same problem as infinite time.
This antinomic character of time, space, and
causality shows them to be not 'things' but the very
cadres of our sensory and intellectual experience of
the world. They are not experienced themselves, but
the tripartite way in which we experience.
Schopenhauer adheres to Immanuel Kant's maxim:
empirical reality is transcendental ideality: as
long as we consider ourselves personal beings (and
we cannot do otherwise without going mad), we must
take the empirical world to be quite real. But
ultimately this causal universe in space and time
must be seen as ideal, of intellectual origin.
Ultimate reality, or the Ding an sich as
Schopenhauer calls it in tribute to Kant, must be
transcendent to space, time, and causality--a
transcendent One--having the world, including my
person, as its representation.
True, the epistemology above shows the 'I' to be
a mere representation, but it leads up to a monistic
conclusion with which the utter pluralaism of the
Old Wisdom School is totally incompatible.
III. Schopenhauer and the Praj~naapaaramitaa
The Mahaayaana (Great Vehicle) first started as
a countermovement to the Old Wisdom School, calling
it Hiinayaana (Small Vehicle) because of its elitist
character. Maintaining the doctrine of no-self only
as a theory of
empirical phenomena, the reformists produced a vast
body of suutras, the praj~naapaaramitaa ('Wisdom
Gone Beyond'), which were claimed to hold the true
exegesis of the Buddha's teachings.
Although most nineteenth-century Orientalists
shunned Praj~naapaaramitaa literature because of its
mysteriousness, Schopenhauer, a thinker of notorious
independence, equated it to the gist of his
Whatever remains after the Will(12) has vanished
must seem to those who are still filled by it
nothing. But to the man in whom the Will has
turned and negated itself, this world, so real
to us with all its suns and Milky Ways,
In the third edition, a footnote is added to these
concluding words of Die Welt als Wille und
This is precisely the "Pradschna-Paramita" of
the Buddhists, the "Beyond All Knowledge', i.e.,
the point where subject and object no longer
exist. (See I. J. Schmidt, Ueber das Mahayana und
The exact words of Isaak Jacob Schmidt(13) are
no longer ascertainable, but these suutras indeed
reflect the insight that the world of subject and
object is but a restless shadow play of true
reality. Still, this alone is no proof of a specific
relation (after all, the unreality of subject and
object has been held by others, such as Hegel; and
"Hegelei" was the very last thing Schopenhauer felt
I will now comment on some characteristic
excerpts of the Praj~naapaaramitaa, with regard to
the criteria mentioned in section I above.
(A) The Lord: One who perceives form [feeling,
perception, impulse. or consciousness], has
duality. One who perceives anything has duality.
As far as there is duality, there is existence.
Insofar as there is existence, there are the
karma-formations. And as far as there are
karma-formations, beings are not liberated from
birth, decay, sickness, death, from sorrow,
lamentation, pain, sadness and despair.(14)
This summary of the consequences of our 'skandha
fallacy' clearly shows the idea that earthly
existence is based on the mutuality (duality) of
subject and object.
Whereas Schopenhauer's world as Representation
is governed by the Satz vom Grunde,(15) the world
according to the Buddhists is also causal to the
core, insofar as it is karmic: no action or
occurrence is without cause, or without effect on
future actions and occurrences.
Schopenhauer made several remarks on the belief
in reincarnation, which is quintessential for the
karma doctrine. He assumed there had to be some
truth in a belief as widespread as this, but he
could not accept the idea of metempsychosis: the
transmigration of a soul with personal hallmarks. He
argued that one's personality, consisting mainly of
ions and memories, was basically intellectual and as
such tied to the Vorstellung that is human
existence. Thus it could never be carried over the
threshold of death. Reincarnation could only be true
in the sense of a palingenesis of the Ding an sich
into the individual beings of the world as
Representation.(16) He was convinced, however, that the
Buddhists used the concept of metempsychosis only as
a myth for the common herd and, like him, really
held the idea of palingenesis of the Absolute,
especially since he had read about an "esoteric
Buddhist doctrine"(17)--undoubtedly the doctrine of
the metaphysical aalaya consciousness of the
idealist Yogaacaara school (discussed at length in ˇ±
In fact, the matter is more complicated. Surely,
knowing that the skandhas are not the self, no
learned Buddhist could ever believe in the
transmigration of an unchanging core bearing the
imprint of his personality. In the narrow sense of
the word, metempsychosis was never seriously
considered in Buddhism. But it never completely
abandoned the idea of rebirth, either. Even in the
Milindapa~nha, a Hiinayaana text, the idea of
rebirth for those who do not achieve nirvaa.na is
somehow retained. The Yogaacaara sects, in their
turn, linked the skandha vij~naana to the idea of a
subtle nucleus at the center of unenlightened mental
activity, remaining within time and space after
death and engaging a new mother's womb at the moment
The Buddhist combination of the skandha critique
with the ancient idea of rebirth may seem something
of a tour de force, but within the context of the
Praj~naapaaramitaa, more so than in Hiinayaana
literature, it becomes clear that ideas like this
were not just maintained as moral incentives for the
common man. The philosophy of the Mahaayaana shows a
fundamental and well-considered ambivalence toward
the notion of sell--and the relation between
phenomenal and absolute reality.
(B) Form is like a mass of foam, it has no
solidity, it is full of cracks and holes, and it
has no substantial inner core. Feeling is like a
bubble, which swiftly rises and swiftly
disappears, and it has no durable subsistence.
Perception is like a mirage. As in a mirage pool
absolutely no water at all can be found [so
there is nothing substantial in that which is
perceived]. Impulses are like the trunk of a
plantain tree: when you strip off one
leaf-sheath after another nothing remains, and
you cannot lay hand on a core within.
Consciousness is like a mock show, as when
magically created soldiers, conjured up by a
magician, are seen marching through the
Again, an ambivalent attitude toward the notion of
self can be detected; This survey of the skandhas
shows the inner and extramental world to be wholly
ephemeral. But who is fooled by the "mirage"?
It would be wrong to consider these texts the
products of naive minds, trying to make a purely
nihilistic statement but, by putting the matter in
an overly poetic way, inadvertently leaving open the
of a 'dreamer' of the dream of life. It is not
without significance that no more is said than that
the constituents of the person are insubstantial.
`Someone' is still watching the bursting bubble that
once was feeling, grasping the foam which was
believed to be material form, and finding out that
the impulses of the will stem from nothing.
And who is putting on the "mock show"?
A similar kind of deliberate ambiguity is found
in the philosophy of Will and Representation.
Schopenhauer found it simply too unsatisfactory
to stop short (as Kant had done) at the
epistemological finding that the Ding an sich,
transcending the a priori forms of the intellect,
was unknowable.(19) He insisted that a clue to the
suprapersonal 'me', having the I-and-the-world as a
Vorstellung, was to be found in an examination of
the empirical 'me'.
So, to gain metaphysical insight, he resorted to
introspection!--the results of which I will now
Commonsensically, I think of myself as a body,
endowed with reason, within the world. But prior to
this objective self-image, preceding thought,
action, and even the notion of 'I', my
self-consciousness consists only of desires,
emotions, and physical promptings (lumped together
by Schopenhauer as manifestations of one thing:
Prereflectively, I am will.
As a mental phenomenon, the will has no extent
in space, but unlike anything else it also has no
cause! Whatever I desire may be explainable in some
way or other, but this must be distinguished from
the blunt fact that my will is continually active.
The intellect presents the will with motives in time
and space, but the will as such, this perpetual
stream that is in fact one's sheer will to live, is
as unexplainable as life itself.
At bottom, will and life are one.
Coming out of nowhere, the only a priori form in
which my will presents itself is that of time, since
it is known in the succesion of its impulses. This
makes it the most direct (that is, the least a
priori mediated) of all phenomena, and therefore the
preeminent phenomenon to serve as a symbol of the
Real--a symbol, not an identification. Or, in
Schopenhauer's own words:
We should realize that [with the word "Will"] we
are only using a denominatio a potiori [best
suitable designation], by which the original
meaning of 'will' is considerably enlarged.(20)
Here we touch on a vital clue for the correct
understanding of Schopenhauer: in our will, ultimate
reality glimmers through the Vorstellung--but this
is not quite the same as saying that the
psychological will is the only real thing in a world
of phantasms. The will to live is the most accurate
representation of true reality.
As Will my will is the Real.
But it is not just its lack of a cause that gives
the will its symbolic significance. Metaphysics can
only be meaningful if it reflects the world we know.
if the Real is to be discussed at all, this can only
be done in terms of its appearance; tearing the
former from the latter and dealing with it as an ens
extramundanum would be stooping to dogmatism.(21)
Hence criterion (3).
[My philosophy] does not draw conclusions about
what lies beyond experience, it only clarifies
the things given in outer and inner experience;
it thus restricts itself to understanding the
essence of the world from its [empirical]
connections. It is therefore immanent in the
Kantian sense of the word.(22)
The will is the first and the foremost. I may
sometimes be able to curb a certain desire through
the knowledge that its fulfillment will cause me
harm, but this only shows the subservience of my
intellect to the utmost (and most unreasoned) desire
of all: to live and be free of pain and need--of
which desire even suicide is an expression. I may
lose all intellectual ability, but as long as I live
I shall have psychological and physical needs.
Therefore my will must be the closest thing to the
Real. And if solipsism is to be avoided, I must
presume that everybody and everything else has the
same kernel of existence which in me appears as my
will. Human and animal drive and vigor, the
sprouting power of plants, and the sheer weight of
inanimate objects are, from a metaphysical point of
view, all the same thing: Will to Live.
This is why hunger, hatred, fear, and lust are
the rulers of life.
Schopenhauer's observation that the impulses of
the will come out of the blue is paralleled by the
analogy of the sa.mskaara with a coreless plaintain
tree. Yet neither fragment (A) nor fragment (B)
highlights the sa.mskaara against the other
skandhas. All five are mentioned in one breath, and
this seems to be in stark contrast to Schopenhauer's
assessment of the will.
It must be said that the early Buddhist text
Sa.myutta Nikaaya does depict the sa.mskaara as the
premier existence factor, the one skandha to make
the five of them together appear as a person's
self.(23) And this text has remained canonical
throughout the history of Buddhism, so perhaps the
authors of the Praj~naapaaramitaa would not have
disagreed entirely with Schopenhauer's assessment,
although not making it themselves. This assumption
might be enhanced by the resemblance between
Schopenhauer's suprapersonal Will and the Buddhist
idea of an all-pervading Craving (t.r.s.naa) ,
defined in the second Noble Truth as the principle
of sa.msaara, the sorroowful world of birth and
death. Some scholars indeed attach great
significance to this resemblance, (24) but the
present writer is having his doubts.
Whereas concepts like sa.mskaara and upaadaana
('grasping for existence')(25) are amply discussed
in Buddhist literature, remarkably little is
said about t,r,s.naa, which seems to be a mere
description of sa.msaaric existence rather than a
theoretical concept. In any case, t.r.s.naa was
never presented as a straight metaphysical
enlargement of the sa.mskaara as is the Will to Live
of the psychological will in Schopenhauer's
philosophy. All that seems safe to say about it is
this: whereas Peace is the mode of nirvaa.na,
Craving is the mode of sa.msaara; and as far as the
cycle of life and death is kept going by the
impulses of the mortal's will, sa.mskaara and
t.r.s.naa are in some way related. Taking this
rather loose connection as a parallel of
Schopenhauer's step from epistemology to metaphysics
would, in my view, involve so much 'hermeneutical
proficiency' as to render the comparison
On the other hand. it would be a waste of time
to look for distinctive, Western-style philosophical
arguments in the Praj~naapaaramitaa. These suutra's
were meant to be meditated upon in the pursuit of
enlightenment. In the context of this pursuit,
philosophical findings were made, but the student
was to be prevented from taking these as positive
truths. According to the Praj~naapaaramitaa,
ultimate truth transcends reason; therefore, all its
findings and concepts are tentative and must be
enfeebled and contradicted to allow students to rid
themselves of intellectual fixations.
This leads to a remarkable conclusion:
(C) A fully enlightened Buddha is like a magical
illusion, is like a dream.... Even Nirvana... is
like a magical illusion, is like a dream....
Even if perchance there could be anything more
distinguished, of that too I would say it is
like an illusion, like a dream. For illusion and
Nirvana are not two different things, nor are
dreams and Nirvana.(26)
The world, as we perceive it, consists of nothing
but ephemeral phenomena; it is devoid of substance,
empty. Yet this world is all we know--which is to
say that we are only fit to know what we perceive.
Thus the blessed state of liberation from
transitoriness transcends our mental ability; our
conceptions of it are also empty.
All we ever know and imagine is empty.
Therefore, nirvaa.na and sa.msaara are
This does not mean that true reality is a Void.
The concept of emptiness (`suunyataa) is not the
final answer to the question of existence, but a
guideline for meditation. In fact, one of the
eighteen kinds of emptiness distinguished in the
Praj~naapaaramitaa is the emptiness of
emptiness.(27) In the last stages of the meditation
on emptiness, wisdom becomes perfect windom by
surpassing both difference and identity of the world
and the Real in contemplating the Suchness
(tathataa) of emptiness.(28)
This concept of emptiness has led many to
believe that Buddhism is a nihilistic religion, but
Schopenhauer knew better:
If nirvana is defined as nothingness, this only
means there is no element of sa.msaara that
could be used to define or construct
It is easy to see why he felt close to such a view.
He had put forward himself that the final truth,
about the Ding an sich, could never be expressed in
intellectual terms, that is, terms derived from the
world as Representation.
It might look as if the sameness of nirvaa.na
and sa.msaara is inconsonant with the picture of a
Representation brought forth by a metaphysical Will,
since the latter seems indicative of a dualistic
view. But Schopenhauer was the strictest of monists,
rejecting all theories that separate reality into
different ontological regions. Any such theory, he
argued, presupposed the creation of this world by
either a divine person or an emanating world soul,
which amounted to letting the Satz vom Grunde exceed
the Representation, and involved the absurd notion
of an ultimate Subject of the subject-and-object
that is the world in space and time. He considered
the sheer idea of creationism silly, remarking: "Why
didn't Creation stay at home, where It was
comfortable and to which It must return anyway?"(30)
Like "sa.msaara" and "nirvaa.na," the concepts of
Representation and Will do not denote separate
ontological 'spheres' but two aspects of the one
reality there is. With those concepts Schopenhauer
did not mean to give an overview of reality; he did
not claim to have a transcendent vantage point from
which the world could be seen to come about. His
philosophy was the last of the great metaphysical
systems of the West, but at the same time it was the
first explanation of how we are always trapped
within our own view. He tried to make this human
view on reality as clear as possible by showing us
the world both epistemologically and
metaphysically--thus the dual perspective of
Representation and Will.
Still, it cannot be denied that Schopenhauer
often referred to the Will as if it was a
supernatural entity, an evil godhead deceiving and
tormenting its creatures. This is particularly the
case in the Parerga und Paralipomena, the series of
additional essays that first brought him fame and
has remained the most popular part of his oeuvre.
Despite the many explicit instructions on how to
interpret his philosophy, even in the Parerga,(31)
this manner of mythologizing the Will may easily
confuse the reader. It has indeed confused many
scholars.... But it a philosophy of life is to be
vital and penetrating, a literary manner of
expressing the respective thoughts and ideas is a
merit rather than a demerit. The ambiguities and
literary digressions in Schopenhauer's work are part
and parcel of his philosophical message--and I am
sure he meant them exactly that way. Although he
never wrote in so many words that his ambiguous
style was intentional, he emphatically praised poets
like Calderon de la Barca and such mystics as Jacob
Bohme and Meister Eckhart. As a young man, he wrote:
He who speaks adversely about the
paradoxicalness of a work, apparently thinks
there already is a lot of wisdom about, and that
all that is left to be done is to dot the i's
and cross the t's.(32)
All in all, in concluding this paragraph it must
be said that a definite equation cannot be
The main difficulty in relating Schopenhauer's
philosophy to the Praj~naapaaramitaa lies in the
fact that the latter lacks the straightforward
prevalence of the will, which prevalence is the
hallmark of the former. So criterion (4) poses a
problem. Exactly how big a problem is difficult to
say; the suutras of the Praj~naapaaramitaa may not be
as nonsensical as they were once thought to be, but
they do differ in style from the argumentative
philosophies of the West, of which Schopenhauer's
work, despite its literariness, is a true example.
But the history of Buddhism has produced a
thinker whose style is very argumentative indeed:
Naagaarjuna--to whom I will now turn.
IV. Schopenhauer and Naagaarjuna
For a tong time, Naagaarjuna's philosophy was
thought to be an elaboration of the
Praj~naapaaramitaa,(33) mainly because the school
which based itself on him, the Maadhyamika (They Who
Go the Middle Way) became a cornerstone of the
Mahaayaana. Modern Orientalists, however, stress the
fact that in Naagaarjuna's Muulamadhyamakakaarikaa
(Verses of the Middle Way) no reference is made to
the suutras of Perfect Wisdom. and this seems to
negate the old assumption.(34) Yet the Kaarikaa
never really contradicts the Praj~naapaaramitaa
Like all Buddhist thinkers, Naagaarjuna tied in
with the teaching that no self can be attributed to
anything we know, our own personality included. But,
unlike the Sarvaastivaadins, he kept close to the
original suutras, in which nothing more is said than
that the question of self is pointless. Not aiming
for an ontological conclusion, he merely criticized
our tendency to substantialize mental and worldly
phenomena, which critique can be summarized as
follows: whatever has substance (svabhaava) must
exist independently of other entities, and whatever
has independent existence must be uncreated and
indestructible. But nothing we experience fits this
description; nothing exists or happens on its own,
and even the relations between things are far from
clear-cut; all phenomena and ideas are thoroughly
interdependent; thus nothing has svabhaava.
Naagaarjuna based himself on a formula that was
first presented in the ancient Pali canon, to remain
a key formula in all Buddhism: the Twelvefold Chain
of Dependent Arising, or pratiityasamutpaada.
If the one exists, then the other exists; from
the origination of this that originates, namely
1. ignorance (avidyaa) as a condition
2. the dispositions (sa.mskaara) arise; from
these as conditions
3. perception (vij~naana) arises; from this
as a condition
4. name and form (naama-ruupa) arise; from
these as conditions
5. the six sense organs (.sadaayatana)
arise; from these as conditions
6. contact (spar`sa) arises; from this as a
7. feeling(vedanaa) arises; from this as a
8. thirst (t.r.s.naa) arises; from this as a
9. grasping (upaadaana) arises; from this as
10. existence (bhaava) arises; from this as
11. birth (jaati) arises; from this as a
12. old age and death (jaraa-mara.na) ,
distress, lamentation, suffering,
dejection and disturbance arise. Thus is
the origin of this whole mass of
The Old Wisdom School had seen this as the flowchart
of the dharmas. Naagaarjuna took it literally--the
phenomenal world (that is, reality as perceived in
our ignorance) is Dependent Arising; having no
substance, it is relative to the core, and therefore
The 'svabhaava tendency' is not just an error of
judgment but the very mode of life as we know it. In
discursive thought as well as basic sensation, we
automatically presume the substantiality of what we
perceive. Yet we only know things in their myriad
relations to other things. This breeds du.hkha:
because of our intellectual and instinctive urge to
fixate the world, its relativity appears as
transitoriness. Even the idea of being an individual
enhances the notion of plurality (prapa~nca), which
is a distortion of the fleeting whole.
Schopenhauer's philosophy can be reproduced in a
similar vein: because of the way we represent the
world (that is, as a spatiotemporal universe
governed by the law of sufficient ground), its
essence appears as a gruesome and everchanging Will.
He, too, acknowledged the basic restlessness of
Our existence has no ground or bottom other than
the ever-fleeting present. That is why life is
continual movement' without a chance of achieving
the tranquility we long for. It is like the
course of someone running down a mountainside,
who would fall if he tried to halt and can only
stay on his feet by running along.... So, unrest
is the type of all existence.(36)
Both Naagaarjuna and Schopenhauer saw man's
suffering not as some divine punishment but as
something bound up with our very experience of
An important point is that Naagaarjuna refrained
from speculating about the Absolute. The Kaarikaa
consist almost entirely of reductio ad absurdum
arguments against the svabhaava tendency. To
exemplify his way of reasoning, I will summarize
the argument on time in chapter 19.
Time is normally represented as a threesome of
past, present, and future, with the latter two
deriving their meaning from the first. Yet it would
be absurd to conclude from this that present and
future are 'enclosed' in the past. But if they would
exist independently of it, in relation to what,
then, were they present and future? Apparently,
present and future are neither dependent nor
independent of the past (nor both, nor
neither of both). In this manner each section of
time becomes a problem in its relation to the other
Modern interpreters claim, very plausibly, that
Naagaarjuna did not deny time as such, but was only
criticizing our conception of it, and this
proposition is often accompanied by the association
of Naagaarjuna's thought with the transcendental
idealism of Kant and Schopenhauer.(37) There is a
lot to be said for this, since transcendental
idealism is also a critique of reason rather than an
ontological theory. Yet the association also bears
the risk of turning the philosophies involved into
the purely analytical lines of thought they are not.
If a philosopher is averse to mysticism or dogmatic
metaphysics, this does not necessarily mean that his
work has no metaphysical purport at all. Kant's sole
objective was to prepare the way for a new kind of
metaphysics, of which Schopenhauer claimed to be the
establisher. And I am convinced that Naagaarjuna had
metaphysical inclinations as well.
True, Naagaarjuna countered the assumption that
stripping all things from their presumed substance
was the same as to propound the reality of
If there were to be something non-empty,
there would then be something called empty.
However, there is nothing that is non-empty.
How could there be something empty?(38)
Nothing exists absolutely, and this is why the
concept of nonexistence is also meaningless; hence
Naagaarjuna's reiteration of the Buddha's call to go
the Middle Path, to seek neither yes nor no (nor
both, nor neither of both). But, as we have seen,
the emptiness of (the idea of) emptiness is also
stressed in the Praj~naapaaramitaa, of which the
metaphysical or religious purport is questioned by
no one. It cannot be ruled out that Naagaarjuna,
like the Praj~naapaaramitaa, merely wanted to
abstain from attributing positive features to the
Unknowable. That the Kaarikaa carry no definite
statement whatsoever about the Real may be
indicative of antimysticality, but it may also
reflect the view that philosophy, although no
integral part of religious insight, could very well
be its preamble. This would make Naagaarjuna at
least an 'implicit mystic'.
This last thought is not as bizarre as it may
seem. If the critique or the svabhaava tendency is
taken seriously, and everything is seen in its
nonduality, then all limits and boundaries dissolve
and our experience of the world is drastically
altered. In a word, the difference between mysticism
and an "empiricist and pragmatic philosophy"(39)
could turn out to be not as big as had been
What has been discussed above seems to link
Naagaarjuna to Schopenhauer, whose work, in spite of
being peppered with metaphysical terms, breathes the
same ambiguity with respect to the relation of epis-
temology and metaphysics casu quo the concrete and
the transcendent, Yet an equation is not possible.
This also has to do with criterion (4) demanding
the psychological and metaphysical primacy of the
will. Naagaarjuna's position was, to say the least,
more subtle. Even though the terms of Dependent
Arising are related in a more dynamic way than as
simple causes and effects, it is quite clear that
avidyaa, lack of insight, is the ultimate reason for
the coming about of suffering.(14) Accordingly,
Naagaarjuna ascribes liberation from suffering to a
close ensemble of wisdom (j~naana) and the
nonarising of dispositions (sa.mskaara), with the
former being the most important:
When ignorance has ceased, there is no
occurrence of dispositions. However, the
cessation of that ignorance takes place as a
result of the practice of that [nonoccurrence of
dispositions] through wisdom.(42)
As regards the comparison to Schopenhauer, it seems
no oversimplification to say that Naagaarjuna
considered suffering as well as the liberation of
suffering rather a matter of (lack of) 'knowledge'
than a matter of sheer will. This is also reflected
in his view on the defilements (kle`sas)--a concept
already used by the Old Wisdom School, containing
avidyaa, t.r.s.naa, and upaadaana (1, 8, and 9 of
the Twelvefold Chain) and signifying the coherence
of ignorance, craving, and grasping as factors in
the arising of suffering. From chapters 18 and 23 of
the Kaarikaa, it follows that within this triad,
ignorance is the most important:
When views pertaining to 'mine' and 'I', whether
they are associated with the internal or the
external, have waned, then grasping comes to
cease. With the waning of that [grasping], there
is waning of birth.(43)
(Views have to wane in order for grasping to wane.)
On the waning of defilements of action, there is
release. Defilements of action belong to one who
discriminates, and these in turn result from
obsession. Obsession, in its turn, ceases within
the context of emptiness.(44)
(Discrimination has its origin in obsession, which
delusion is removed by the insight of its
Lust, hatred, and confusion are said to have
thought as their source. Perversions regarding
the pleasant and the unpleasant arise depending
(Thought is the ultimate source of perversions.)
Every time, the 'intellectual is deemed more
consequential than the 'passional'. And although
avidyaa is an elemental misconception, there could
be no ignorance if there was no possibility of
gnosis. Each of us has, by our ability to gain
insight, the potency to cast off ignorance and
How different Schopenhauer's view is! Every
entity and event is basically Will. The earth
circles around the sun because of the elementary
expression of the Will we know as gravity. The death
of an organism is either the claiming of its
physical material by nature or the result of another
organism's violent will. All love is basically
sexual and, as such, the Will of the species to
preserve itself. And to all of this, the event of
someone's salvation is no exception.
At first glance, Schopenhauer seems to have
based salvation upon an insight. As all malevolence
is grounded in the idea that one is absolutely
separated from other beings ('someone else's pain is
no matter of mine'), so gentleness is grounded in
the unconscious knowledge that there is no ultimate
reality in individuality; being kind to others is
knowing supraintellectually that individuality is a
distortion of true reality. As this silent awareness
grows, gentleness passes into altruism, the
subordination of one's own interests to those of all
other beings. Finally, some altruists come to
understand that even the will to advance the
interest of others is to no avail, since any kind of
will is basically a Will to Live: the metaphysical
ground of all suffering. At this, the principle of
individuality evaporates altogether and there is no
longer a personal will which could have
motives---this is the quietive of the Will itself.
The altruist becomes an ascetic and calmly awaits
death, the ending of the physical expression of the
Will to Live. Then salvation is definite (like the
Many scholars have called this a glaring
inconsistency; how could the almighty Will succumb
to an insight of the saint? (47) The fact is,
however, that Schopenhauer never asserted this.
Let us have a look at one of his more literary
Think of life as a racetrack which is run
continually, with most of it consisting of
glowing coals. He who is under the illusion [of
the Vorstellung] finds comfort in the few cool
places onto which he hops while running his
course. But he who knows the essence of things,
and in that the whole of reality, is not
amenable to this comfort anymore: he knows he
really is on all parts of the track at the same
time, and he steps out.(48)
'Getting to know the essence of things' here is not
the same as reaching the last link in a chain of
discursive judgments. It is a result of compassion,
thus an existential rather than an intellectual
realization (or else the mere reading of Die Welt
als Wille and so forth would lead to holines, which
is not what Schopenhauer, though not a very modest
man, expected). But that is not all. The passage
above is the literary depiction of an event, a
phenomenon, without any metaphysical explanation
Unfortunately, Schopenhauer failed to devote any
space in his work to such an explicit metaphysical
explanation of salvation, but anyone willing to look
can find numerous indications of what he really
meant to say. Let me offer a few examples.
Essentially nothing but a phenomenon of the
Will, [the ascetic] no longer wants
This could be read as: 'the ascetic escapes his
essence'. but it should be read as: 'although the
ascetic is no longer wanting, he it still a
phenomenon of the Will'. Or better still: 'the
will-lessness of the ascetic shows that the
Unknowable can also manifest itself as will No
More'. This interpretation seems corroborated by:
Sannyassins, martyrs, holy men of all creed and
name, have voluntarily endured calvary, because
in them the Will to Live had discontinued
Finally, this passage in the Parerga leaves little
room for doubt:
In answer to some foolish objections I would
like to state that the negation of the Will to
Live does not mean the destruction of a
substance, but simply the act of not-willing:
what up to now was willing is no longer willing.
Because we know this essence, [that we call] the
Will, the Thing in itself, only in and through
the act of willing, we are unable to pronounce
or grasp its being and doings after it has
surrendered this act: that is why this negation
to us, who are the phenomenon of the Will,
appears a transition into nothingness.(51)
So the timeless Ding an sich, in its bizarrerie,
turns out to have an aspect which is manifested
temporally as will to live shifting into
disengagement from the worldd: the sparse phenomenon
of holy enlightenment. Hence Schopenhauer's approval
of the Christian view of salvation as an act of
divine grace:(52) no achievement of the person in
question but something which befalls him. As the
utter mindlessness of the will to live can be seen
in the involuntary floundering of a drowning man, so
holiness, though seeming to spring from an insight,
is also something that simply happens--being an act
of the only free agent in the whole of reality: the
motiveless Real itself.(53)
All of this does not diminish the moral value of
Schopenhauer's philosophy; 'good' remains 'good' as
opposed to 'bad', and if thoughts like these were
nihilistic, then religions demanding complete
submission to God would also be nihilistic. Neither
is it an entirely cynical view, since it excludes no
one from salvation. But it does differ immensely
from Naagaarjuna's view of salvation.
Both Schopenhauer and Naagaarjuna created a
doctrine in which every man has a basic chance of
deliverance, but the former embedded this chance in
the capriciousness of the Will, while the latter
ascribed it to the fundamental possibility of
attaining insight. (Small wonder that Zen Buddhism,
lacking any devotionalism and relying solely on
'own-power' (jiriki in Japanese) names Naagaarjuna
as its first patriarch.)
This soteriological difference forbids an
V. Schopenhauer and the Yogaacaara
Whenever Schopenhauer is specifically compared
to Buddhism, the Yogaacaara (or Vij~naanavaada), is
invariably pointed out as the school with
which his philosophy has the most in common.(54) No
doubt, this connection is based on the resemblance
between Yogaacaara philosophy and nineteenth-century
German idealism. But if Schopenhauer belonged to
that tradition at all, he was at best a maverick
From the Praj~naapaaramitaa and Naagaarjuna's
Kaarikaa, the Maadhyamika derived the view that
ultimate reality could in no way be described. The
Yogaacaarins found this tantamount to nihilism;(55)
they argued that when the duality of subject and
object was proven unreal, there was still something
to be said about that 'wherein' this duality
occurred (avidyaa) and waned (praj~naa). Taking the
ancient La^nkaavataara-suutra with its motto of
citta-maatra (mind alone), as their basic text, they
developed a theory of the Real as a nondual Mind
(aalaya-vij~naana or `storehouse consciousness').
According to this theory, ignorance is the
distortion of aalaya into self-consciousness
(manas), causing the seeds of subject and object,
lying in store, to germinate and produce the
sa.msaaric world (vi.sayavij~napti). Salvation is
attained through an ample protocol of meditation and
yoga practices, cleansing the Mind back to its
AAlaya is not to be understood as an equivalent
of the logos, the ultimate Reason at the beginning
of this world according to the book of Genesis. It
has been called the "cosmic Unconscious,"(56) which
description parallels it with the psychoanalytical
concept to which Freud, in his turn, had been
inspired by Schopenhauer's Will to Live. Others have
described it in an even more Schopenhauerian manner
as ''creative act, Will."(57) Philosophical kinship
is further suggested by the three stages of aalaya.
manas, and vij~naapti seeming to be in sync with
Schopenhauer's threesome of Will, Platonic
Idea,'(58) and Representation.
Indeed, this is an almost systematic
resemblance. Good reason, I would say, to be extra
cautious in comparing the two.
Schopenhauer called himself a Kantian idealist,
but his epistemology was also much inspired by the
Farbenlehre of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe--from
which theory he derived the view that the a priori
forms of time, space, and causality, on the nature
of which Kant had not dared to speculate, were not
features of some Cartesian 'mind' but functions of
the brain!(59) It seems a huge antinomy: the brain,
an object in space and time, coming into existence
through its own functions--but this should be seen
in the context of the dual perspective of
metaphysics and epistemology that I have mentioned
already, in section III (C).
Metaphysically, only the Will is real, and
things like the brain are but phenomena shaped by
the ideal forms of space, time, and causality. But
this metaphysical perspective derives its meaning
entirely from the epistemology that shows the world
to be a Representation. So if the Will is to be
considered real, the Representation as such must
also be real--that is to say: empiricaly real. There
is nothing wrong, therefore. in admitting to the
empirical fact that the brain is the physical
of all knowledge and experience, and hence the
precondition of the Vorstellung.
In sum, we cannot evade empirical reality if we
are to attain metaphysical Insight.
This notion of two simultaneous perspectives on
reality brings to mind the Two Truths of Buddhism:
sa.mv.rti-satyam or 'superficial truth and
paramaartha-satyam or 'ultimate truth'. The Buddha
is said to have distinguished between the
conventional truth of the sa.msaaric world (the
adequacy of facts and ideas) and the
supraintellectual truth concering nirvaa.na. A minor
theme in the Old Wisdom School, this idea of Two
Truths became well developed in the
As.tasaahasrikaa-suutra of the Praj~naapaaramitaa,
wherein it is stressed that the Truths differ only
in quality. Sa.mv.rti applies to reality as
perceived by the mortal, while paramaartha applies
to reality as it truly is--thus both have the
selfsame object. Sa.mv.rti is empty because of the
emptiness of phenomena; paramaartha is empty because
it transcends thought--thus it is through emptiness
that both truths are connected.(60) Later,
Naagaarjuna put great emphasis on this last point,
arguing that paramaartha was discovered only in the
realization that all views, including those
concerning the Buddha and the Four Noble Truths,
were sa.mv.rti and thus empty; this would at once
reveal the liberating identity of sa.msaara and
Without relying upon convention, the ultimate
fruit is not taught.
Without the understanding of the ultimate fruit,
freedom is not attained.(61)
Not wanting to identify the respective concepts, I
do claim that Schopenhauer made essentially the same
thought-movement with his dual perspective of
epistemology and metaphysics: if empirical reality
is contemplated consequently on its own terms, it
will at some point bear witness to the unspeakable
truth 'behind' it. Or: the final truth is only
discovered through an analysis of the Vorstellung as
it presents itself. Hence the naturalistic streak in
his idealist philosophy.
This also accounts for his demand that
metaphysics be immanent. No metaphysics can be
convincing if it neglects empirical facts. And it is
an undeniable empirical fact that mental phenomena
always depend upon physical states. Indeed, the
distinction between the mental and the material is
very unclear (hence his subsumation of mental
desires and bodily longings like hunger under one
concept, the will to live).
Finally, his naturalism simply follows from his
epistemology! Being, in their correlation, the very
basis of the Representation, subject and object
cannot be subordinate to the universal Law of
Sufficient Ground. Therefore, the subject should not
be seen to spring from object (as in materialism)
nor can the object be held to come forth from the
subject (as in the idealism of the esse est percipi
Any philosophy proclaiming the world to be a
Representation is by definition idealist. But in the
Schopenhauerian view, matter and mind are equally
important aspects of this Representation; the
material is as much an expression of the Real as the
mental. This is to say: the Ding an sich is neither
material nor mental!
Like the Buddhist proponents of the Two Truths,
Schopenhauer considered ultimate reality, which he
symbolized by the term 'Will to Live', to be wholly
unknowable. The Yogaacaarins, however, held a third
Truth. According to them, salvation came with the
insight into the sole reality of
consciousness(63)--a consciousness knowing neither
itself nor any object, thus an unimaginable
consciousness, but nevertheless something to be
called 'Mind' as opposed to matter.
Salvation through an insight that concerns the
true nature of the Real: criteria (3) and (4) forbid
an equation of Schopenhauer and the Yogaacaara.
The comparison of any Western-style philosophy
to the four basics of Buddhist philosophy is bound
to be hindered by cultural and linguistic barriers
(something which Schopenhauer himself, being a child
of his time, sorely underestimated). Nevertheless,
the preceding paragraphs have shown at least one
parallel that surpasses mere atmosphere and must be
considered truly philosophical: Schopenhauer's
concepts of Will and Representation are related in
the same way as nirvaa.na and sa.msara (or
paramaartha and sa.mv.rti) are related in the
Praj~naapaaramitaa and Naagaarjuna's verses: namely,
as a dual perspective on reality, which in itself
But there is a clear difference, too---in the
respective philosophical assessments of the
will--and this is of profound soteriological
significance. In every form of Buddhism, suffering
is regarded primarily as a matter of ignorance;
correspondingly, salvation is always linked to
insight. Even Zen, with its proverbial disdain for
reason, pictures satori, although achieved through
discipline (thus willpower) , as an intuitional
insight into the Oneness of all things. Schopenhauer
also held that earthly existence was basically a
false perception, a mere Representation of true
reality, but this he embedded metaphysically in the
Will to Live. He did not base the world in a 'wrong
view' but in a transcendent Will, manifesting itself
in both the inner life and the material form of all
creatures. No insight could cure this; on the
contrary, the more of a philosophical understanding
of reality we gained, the more we would realize that
it was a case beyond human aid.... Like the
Mahaayaana, Schopenhauer claimed that everyone could
be liberated, but he categorically denied humanity's
own influence in this instance. Phenomenally,
salvation sprang from knowledge, but in reality it
was an act of the Ding an
sich. (In this respect, the only form of Buddhism
coming near him would be the devotional Amida cult,
although he would of course have called Amidism a
theistic outrage, had he known of it.)
So, does this prove that Schopenhauer's idea of
kinship cannot be maintained in the present day?
Well, it is hard to equate a view of the world
revolving around ignorance and insight with a view
of the will as the first and last in all
reality-even when both views do not pretend to lay
bare the true nature of the Real. However, this
difference should not be made absolute.
None of the Buddhist philosophies discussed
above regards salvation as the finding of an
articulate answer to the question of life, if only
because Buddhist philosophy never leaves its
meditative context. Nirvaa.na is not 'knowing
something', but knowledge in the form of stilled
passion. Thus the differences between intellect and
will become slighter as truth is approached.
In its 'moral outcome', at least, the same goes
for the philosophy of Schopenhauer. His theory of
salvation shows that he did not reject the
intellect. He considered the intellect to be of
limited soteriological value, but this did not keep
him from attaching the greatest value to the quest
for truth. Hence his continual endeavor to let his
work be immanent; hence the many adjustments and
elaborations in the Erganzungen and Parerga to bring
the ideas of the main work in line with scientific
progress and new personal experiences. As I hope to
have made clear in the preceding paragraphs, this
'immanency' was not just a matter of style; it
followed directly from the tenets of his philosophy.
And, in this sense, his idea of kinship may not be
untenable after all, despite the differences with
respect to content. Buddhism and Schopenhauerian
philosophy share, if anything, this very important
view: Reality may not be 'rational', but it would be
the worst thing if we reacted to this with
empty-headed religious dogmatism, philosopher's
jargon, or cynical acquiescence. Our capacity to
gain understanding is really all we have to our
advantage; so intellectual and moral truthfulness
remain the key virtues in life.
1 - Arthur Schopenhauer, Die Welt als Wille und
Vorstellung II, (Erganzungsband), Schopenhauer
Samtliche Werke (Munchen: Piper Verlag, 1911),
vol.2, p.186; my translation.
2 - Arthur Schopenhauer: Ein Lebensbild in Briefen,
ed. Angelika Hubscher (Frankfurt: Insel Verlag,
1987), p. 89.
3 - Schopenhauer listed his books on Buddhism in
Ueber de Willen in der Natur, Werke, vol. 3, p.
4 - See, for instance, Parerga und Paralipomena II,
par. 179, Werke, vol. 5, p. 411.
5 - Examples: Heinz Bechert, "Flucht in den Orient?"
in Schopenhauer Jahrbuch 1981 (Frankfurt a. M.:
Kramer Verlag, 1981), pp. 55-65; Freny Mistry,
"Der Buddhist liest Schopenhauer," Schopenhauer
Jahrbuch 1983, pp. 80-92; Wilhelm Halbfass,
"Schopenhauer im Gesprach mit der Indischen
Tradition, " in Schopenhauer im Denken der
Gegenwart (Munchen: Piper Verlag, 1987), pp.
6 - Examples: Heinrich von Glasenapp, the chapter on
Schopenhauer in Das Indienbild deutscher Denker
(Stuttgart: Kohler Verlag, 1960), pp. 68-101;
Arthur Hubscher, "Schopenhauer und die
Religionen Asiens," in Schopenhauer Jahrbuch
1979, pp. 1-15; Yasuo Kamata, "Schopenhauer und
der Buddhismus," in Schopenhauer Jahrbuch 1984,
7 - Dorothea Dauer, "Schopenhauer as Transmitter of
Buddhist Ideas," in European University Papers,
vol. 15 (Berne: Lang & Co., 1969), p. 28.
8 - See Sa.myutta Nikaaya XXXXIV.10 (in Erich
Frauwallner, Die Philosophie des Buddhismus
[Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1958], pp. 18-19).
9 - Extracted from Erich Frauwallner, Die
Philosophie des Buddhismus, pp. 64-104.
10 - Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung II, Werke,
vol 2, p. 186.
11 - Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, Werke, vol.
1, p. 30.
12 - The capital "W" is meant to distinguish
Schopenhauer's metaphysical concept from the
common psychological concept. In German such a
distinction is, of course, impossible.
13 - (1779-1847), Scholar of Tibetan and Mongolian
culture with the academy of St. Petersburg.
14 - From Pancavi.m`satisaahasrikaa 501 (in Edward
Conze, Selected Sayings from the Perfection of
Wisdom [Boulder: Prajna Press, 1978], p. 102).
15 - First formulated by the eighteenth-century
rationalist philosopher Christian Wolff.
16 - Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung II, Werke,
vol. 2, p. 574.
17 - Ibid.
18 - From Ash.taada`sasaahasrikaa LXXIV (Conze,
Selected Sayings, p. 96).
19 - Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, Werke, vol.
1, p. 5.
20- Ibid., p. 132.
21 - Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung II, Werke,
vol. 2, p. 203.
22 - Ibid., p. 733.
23 - Sa.myutta Nikaaya III.87 (in David Kalupahana,
The Principles of Buddhist Psychology [Albany:
State University of New York Press, 1987], pp.
24 - Dauer, "Schopenhauer as Transmitter of Buddhist
Ideas," p. 15.
25 - A term to which the skandhas are linked
directly in most versions of the first Noble
Truth. As a matter of fact, Schopenhauer
himself once wrote in a letter that he saw this
concept, on which he had read in one of his
books on Buddhism, as the direct equivalent of
his own concept of Will to Live (see Von
Glasenapp, Das Indienbild deutscher Denker, p.
92). Apart from the literal sameness, however,
both concepts have little in common, since
upaadaana has to do with a mental disposition
rather than a metaphysical entity.
26 - From Ash.taada`sasaahasrikaa II.38-40 (Conze,
Selected Sayings, p. 98).
27 - Conze, Selected Sayings, p. 21.
28 - Ibid., p. 23.
29 - Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung II, Werke,
vol. 2, p. 696.
30 - Schopenhauer Der Handschriftliche NachlaŁ]
(Munchen: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1985),
vol. 3, p. 467.
31- See, for instance, the introductory words of the
essay on the individual's fate in Parerga und
Paralipomena, Werke, vol. 4.
32 - Der Handschriftliche NachlaŁ] vol. 1, p. 323.
33 - For instance, Conze, Buddhism--Its Essence and
Development (New York: Harper, 1975), p. 124.
34 - Most notably David Kalupahana, Naagaarjuna: The
Philosophy of the Middle Way (Albany: State
University of New York Press, 1986).
35 - Originally in the Pali text Udaana I.1 (in
Tilmann Vetter, The Ideas and Meditative
Practices of Early Buddhism [Leiden: Brill,
1988], p. 46).
36 - Parerga und Paralipomena, bk. 2, p. 309.
37 - For instance, T.R.V. Murti, The Central
Philosophy of Buddhism (London: Unwin, 1955;
reprint, 1987), pp. 123 ff.
38 - Muulamadhyamakakaarikaa XIII.7 (in Kalupahana,
Naagaarjuna, p. 223).
39 - Kalupahana, Naagaarjuna, p. 8.
40 - Vetter ("Die Lehre Naagaarjunas," in Epiphanie
des Heils [Vienna: Oberhammer, 1982], pp. 96
ff) maintains that Naagaarjuna's arguments were
in fact part of a meditative practice.
41 - "Literally it states that our ignorance in this
life will predispose us for craving in the next
life" (Vetter, Ideas and Meditative Practices
of Early Buddhism, p. 47).
42 - Muulamadhyamakakaarikaa XXVI.11 (Kalupahana,
Naagaarjuna, p. 375).
43 - Muulamadhyamakakaarikaa XVIII.4 (Kalupahana,
Naagaarjuna, pp. 265-266).
44 - Muulamadhyamakakaarikaa XVIII.5 (Kalupahana,
45 - Muulamadhyamakakaarikaa XXIII.1 (Kalupahana,
46 - See Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung,
paragraphs 66 and 68.
47 - The point is made with delightful sarcasm in
the chapter on Schopenhauer in Bertrand Russell's
A History of Western Philosophy (London: Allen
& Unwin, 1946).
48 - Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, Werke, vol.
1, p. 448.
49 - Ibid., p. 449.
50 - Ibid., p. 384.
51 - Parerga und Paralipomena II, Werke, vol. 5, p.
52 - Die Welt als Wille und Vorsrellung, Werke, vol.
1, p. 479.
53 - I leave aside the momentary ceasing of the will
in aesthetic contemplation. Supporters of the
idea of kinship have presented this as the
equivalent of meditation (for instance, Dauer,
"Schopenhauer as Transmitter of Buddhist
Ideas, " p. 23) , but I find this rather
farfetched. In any case, Schopenhauer himself
shed no light on its relation to salvation.
54 - Von Glasenapp, Das lndienbild deutscher
Denker, p. 98; Yasuo Kamata, "Schopenhauer,
Hegel, Vasubhandu, " in Zeit der Ernte
(Stuttgart: Fromann, 1982), pp. 234ff.; Bryan
Magee, "A Note on Buddhism," in The Philosophy
of Schopenhauer (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1983), p. 319; Dauer, "Schopenhauer as
Transmitter," p. 23.
55 - Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, p.
56 - Daisetz Suzuki, "On Zen Buddhism," in Zen
Buddhism and Psycheanalysis (New York: Harper,
57 - Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, p.
58 - The sheer division of subject and object; an
intermediate phase in his system to account for
his theories on aesthetics and sexuality.
59 - See Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, bk. 2
60 - Extracted front Murti, The Central Philosophy
of Buddhism, pp. 243 ff.
61 - Muulamadhyamakakaarikaa XXIV.10 (Kalupahana,
Naagaarjuna, p. 333).
62 - See Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, ˇ±7.
63 - Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, p.
64 - In chap. 48 of Die Welt als Wille und
Vorstellung II (Werke, vol. 2, p. 696), the
respective terms are linked like this:
sa.msaara is (endorsement of) the Will to Live;
nirvaa.na is the negation of the Will to Live.