Combine Zen Buddhism-plus-self with Ayn Rand’s Objectivism-plus-emotions to get one person’s path to daily enlightenment.
Rosenberg aims to provide a practical guide to daily living by combining the best features of his two favorite philosophies, “with the psychology of self-esteem being the glue that binds the two philosophies together.” He asserts that the selfless and compassionate aspects of Zen Buddhism conflict with rationality, reason and a modern lifestyle. His Dark Buddhism replaces these aspects with a strong sense of self and healthy self-esteem. Objectivism, Rosenberg says, requires a person to switch off emotion and replace it with pure reason, but he argues that people need to listen to their feelings. Rosenberg employs his version of Buddhism’s Eightfold Path in pursuit of Objectivism’s virtue of self-interest—what is best and healthiest for him now and in the future. Against Objectivism’s impracticality, he offers advice based on his success in applying Dark Buddhism, but Rosenberg stops short of proselytizing. He contrasts his approach to living with that of Ted, his evidently fictional coworker; while Rosenberg seeks an enlightened view and understanding of the world, Ted chooses to live comfortably, albeit unaware. Rosenberg doesn’t judge Ted (or others like him) for his choice; he simply points out the superiority of Dark Buddhism over unconscious living. Unfortunately, there are more examples of how not to live than of how to live consciously, and the pages given to describing Zen Buddhism far outnumber those given to Objectivism. The choice of “dark” is also unfortunate, as there is nothing particularly dark about Dark Buddhism. Rosenberg adopted the term from Star Wars; the dark side of that series’ Force as practiced by the self-interested Sith “seemed closer to what I was synthesizing” than the Force used by the selfless Jedi. One appendix provides further instruction on meditation (a key practice of Dark Buddhism), and another supplies a bibliography and recommendations for further reading. The middle appendix, “Reality and Enlightenment: From West to East,” seems incomplete and adds little to the subject of Dark Buddhism.
Dark Buddhism thoughtfully melds selected aspects of Zen Buddhism and Objectivism into a practical philosophy of conscious living; even if this doesn’t work for you, it may shed some light onto your pursuit of happiness.