And, yes, his public flip into "insanity" was occassioned when he ran up to a horse in a street and hugged it all the while wailing its fate. Several years later he is on record as announcing "I am the Buddha".
Many books have been written on the parallels between Nietzsche's thought and Buddhist thought. The greatest similarity, in my bipolar opinion, arrises because Nietzsche exploded the (largely Church inspired) myth of fixed, static, central Absolutes. He has thus been called the father of "Relativism", but in order to highlight the Buddhist similarities, I would rather call it "Interdependence" than Relativism. I.E. Nothing stands alone - all things are connected, defined by, and dependent on all other things. And this "interdependence" runs at the core of Buddhism too (which is why Compassion for all sentient beings is the overriding virtue). Nietzsche attacked the "cookie cutter" approach to reality, where the analytical human mind tends to cut the "Big Picture" of life/reality into all of these seperate little entities, labelling them, categorising them and severing all their ties with the rest of the interwoven web of reality.
The title of Nietzsche's book I quoted from yesterday - "Beyond Good and Evil" - is very Buddhist. How different is this title from the following Buddhist quote:
Abide not with dualism
Carefully avoid pursuing it;
As soon as you have right and wrong
Confusion ensues and the way is lost.
- Seng-t ' San
Nietzsche also believed in reincarnation, although he had his own whacky version of it called "Eternal Recurrance". How this worked is that the minute you died you started your life all over again, but the IDENTICAL life. Ever single second, incident, people etc. repeated verbatim. And again and again for all of eternity.
And one of the most interesting questions he posed was this:
Assume that common belief prevailed and every human died and Nothing (except fertilising the flowers) awaited us after death. Then one fine day a magic genii appears to you and says I will give you a choice:
When you die you will go to Nothingness like everyone else
I will give you eternal life. But on the condition that as soon as you died you would be born again into your exact same life (as in the "Eternal Recurrance" mechanism above) to be repeated infinitely. Every pain you went through, every anguish, every triumph - it will be EXACTLY the same.
What would you choose????
(According to Nietzsche, if you weren't prepared to repeat your life for infinity you were living an unauthentic life...)