It'd seem that there are zen/buddhist practices and elements in Fight Club:

  • Narrator does bunches of haikus
  • Narrator's home intends to be zen-like looking
  • Penguin says slide
  • Car crash scene Tyler says Stop trying to control everything and just let go!
  • Detachment is a major theme since first conversation between Narrator-Tyler
  • Project Mayhem candidates are requested to have a minimal amount of possesions
  • Buddhist aspect of Project Mayhem? Searching for truth. 4th rule: No lies.
  • And Tyler even quotes a buddhist idea regarding the selection of candidates.

    Excerpt from Book, Chapter 17 (= the movie). This is how Buddhist temples have tested applicants going back for bahzillion years, Tyler says. You tell the applicant to go away, and if his resolve is so strong that he waits at the entrance without food or shelter or encouragement for three days, then and only then can he enter and begin the training.

  • 4
    I'm pretty sure murder, blackmail, and bombing buildings are not Buddhist values
    – cde
    Jun 22, 2016 at 19:23
  • 2
    passing on your own materialism, fine. Suggesting the same to others, sure. Forcing it on others through violence, or destruction or theft, most definitely not.
    – cde
    Jun 22, 2016 at 19:44
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    Ahimsa is a concept inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself. Ahimsa has also been related to the notion that any violence has karmic consequences. While ancient scholars of Hinduism pioneered and over time perfected the principles of Ahimsa, the concept reached an extraordinary status in the ethical philosophy of Jainism. Most popularly, Mahatma Gandhi strongly believed in the principle of ahimsa. Ahimsa's precept of 'cause no injury' includes one's deeds, words, and thoughts.
    – cde
    Jun 22, 2016 at 19:59
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    That's a philosophical debate. But no one would really argue that free yourself from your possessions in any way is self-destructive. Well, you could say that throwing out something someone else could use, is violence or injury. Lack of compassion. Buddha gave away his wealth. And wealth itself is not evil or wrong in buddhism, just greed or harmful methods of gaining wealth.
    – cde
    Jun 22, 2016 at 20:31
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    Ends justify the means. That doesn't seem very Buddhist.
    – cde
    Jun 22, 2016 at 23:08

1 Answer 1


IMHO, there's not a buddhist philosophy motivating Project Mayhem, or the main character/s.

  • Haikus are more likely a way of escaping reality, this is why Narrator needs Tyler.
  • A zen-liking home is mostly just simple consumerism.
  • Detachment is an awesome point, and one of the major plot-magnets (if I may). But not very buddhist when one destroys everything. That is, anarchism could be ok with burning buildings, and buddhism too. Also good point that no one gets harmed with explosions. However, in the process of getting people into Fight Club first, and later same for Project Mayhem, mayor harms are involved. Maybe this is ok for buddhism in some sense, but compassion, as far as I understand, should be above destruction. In this sense Fight Club, more than Project Mayhem, seems more compassionate under rule # 3: : If someone says "stop" or goes limp, taps out the fight is over.

Rules seem fascist in Project Mayhem (although pyschologically... faith?).

  • 1st rule: You don't ask questions about Project Mayhem.
  • 5th rule: You have to trust Tyler Durden.

The political implications of not being able to make questions seems has too harmful consequences.

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