Buddhism & Existentialism // A Comparison

17 Jun

As I research different philosophies and read different literature, I am making mental note of where the commonalities are.  With Buddhism and Existentialism, here are my thoughts:

  1. The Lens of the Individual: Buddhism teaches people to experience truth for oneself & in existentialism, the central process is one of self-analysis:  Both focus on understanding life and life’s truths through the lens of the individual self.
  2. Removal of Illusions: Existentialism focuses on removing the self from the illusions of categories and ideologies.  While Buddhism does the same, it takes it further to include the removal of our illusion of an actual self (thus its teaching of the “no-self”).
  3. Suffering & Absurdism:  Both Buddhism and existentialism claim that a suffering are an unavoidable truth to the human experience.  In Buddhism, this is the first of its Four Noble Truths, and in existentialism, this is captured in its focus on life being meaningless and absurd.
  4. Concentration: Both Buddhism and existentialism call for deep concentration to reach and achieve states of truth, free from illusion.  In existentialism, it is a constant self-analysis and in Buddhism it is done through meditations.

Where they differ greatly is:

  1. Concrete Self vs No Self.  Existentialism’s aim is for each individual to understand what is core and “authentic’ in themselves.  Although it is one of the more difficult concepts to understand, the concept of “no-self” is core to Buddhism and ultimately means there is no unique soul or self at all; essentially, nothing is core.
  2. Philosophy vs Religion: Buddhism clearly has religious framework which includes daily practices, mantras, a path to end suffering, etc.  Existentialism, has no such parameters or pathways, and is merely a way to view the world.








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