This post was sponsored by Kelsey Keyes on behalf of Alison Looney, for her birthday.
It’s here, it’s really here, and it’s called Dark Buddhism, and I need you all to hold me back from running headlong into a conversion:
I picked up a book on Zen Buddhism and quickly realized that I had found the missing piece of “real” Objectivism: in short, the true objectivity that Objectivism was supposed to have. The Buddha said that there are no frozen views of anything. His logic goes as follows: a belief or a view is like a picture. It is a snapshot image, frozen in time. However the world in which we live, the environment around us, the situations occurring in our lives, our bodies and our thoughts, are in a constant state of change. Everything changes, and these changes occur continuously. So how can a frozen view or belief possibly be an accurate reflection of reality when reality itself is not frozen and is constantly changing? The answer is, it can’t. For a philosophy, a frozen view or belief-or rigid codes of conduct, ethics and thought, as in Objectivism-can be deadly: if life and the universe in which we live are constantly changing, then the philosophy must have change or, at least, flexibility built into it. In physics we call the “frozen” or “snapshot” view of something “the steady state solution.” It is always regarded as a frozen model, rather than the true “time evolution solution,” which is dynamic. Viewed from a different scientific perspective, Objectivism and other rigid forms of teaching are just ones and zeroes: something is or it isn’t, something is good or it’s bad, the answer is yes or it is no, and so on. There are no in-betweens and there are no other options or possibilities. This is, of course, completely inapplicable to the real world.
Buddhism supplied a necessary piece of the puzzle but, as an Objectivist, I simply could not accept the selflessness the Buddha taught. This is selflessness in both senses of the word: first a life of compassion toward others, and second a dissolution of the ego, becoming without self. The latter is the more familiar concept that “we are all one” or “everything in the universe is interconnected.” Buddhism is not supposed to have any particular moral codes or ethics, like a religion, yet the teachings regarding compassionate living seemed to be just that. In Dark Buddhism these are all personal choices, not morality as dictated by others. It slowly dawned on me that I could take what seemed rational and “right” from Zen Buddhism, excise the parts that were inconsistent with my values, and then do the same with Objectivist epistemology and merge the two together. The psychology of self-esteem is the glue that binds the two together, and the result is Dark Buddhism, a logically consistent whole.
YOU GOT YOUR ZEN IN MY OBJECTIVISM, YOU GOT MY PEANUT BUTTER IN YOUR ETC
Choice and responsibility are elements I struggled with in writing this book. I began by formulating a philosophy, but every time “choice” and “self-responsibility” cropped up, I felt as though I were writing a self-help manual rather than a philosophical text. In the end I reached a point of acceptance-which, as you will learn, is key to the dharma-that I could not provide a path without discussion of how to help yourself. One of the major flaws in Objectivism is that Ayn Rand states her ideals but gives no instruction on how to reach those ideals. Dark Buddhism, at times, reads like a self-help book because the dharma, which allows you to attain enlightenment, is a path of helping yourself. If enlightenment were not a good thing, no one would want to be on the path in the first place. In Dark Buddhism, the steps of this path are largely based on personal choice and self-responsibility.
The path to enlightenment must involve consciousness: enlightenment is a state of true consciousness, where what you see, understand, accept, and think are completely unfiltered and uncolored by bias, prejudice, preconceived notions, societal programming, the opinions and fears and pressure of your peers, or any other influence. But you must make the choice to be conscious. You must not only be responsible for yourself, but also consciously realize and understand that we, as human beings, are all ultimately responsible for ourselves.
If you are anything like me, you are slightly horrified by how you are not as horrified as you thought you would be by this! Let’s all join?? I’ll start:
The Four Noble Truths
- The truth of suffering
- The truth of the origin of suffering: desire
- The truth of the cessation of desire: consummating every single one of your desires by achieving them all
- The truth of the path leading to the cessation of desire: trains
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.