Diss Tech Buddhists All You Wantbut Read This Book First – WIRED

Posted: December 6, 2019 at 11:43 pm


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In Silicon Valley, you are always an iPhones throw from a Buddhist. Some of them will have arrived at their Buddhism the usual wayfamily, culturebut a fair few will have adopted it later in life, as a piece of their adult identity. Even if theyre not checking the Buddhist box on the census, youll know them by their Zen meditation retreats, their references to the Middle Way, their wealth of Steve Jobs trivia. Did you know that Steve Jobs was a Buddhist who studied under Zen priest Kobun Chino Otogawa and once wandered India in search of a guru? Did you know Jobs swiped Apples famous Think different slogan from the Dalai Lama? Did you know Buddhism and tech companies have a grand historical synergy? When I moved to California from the East Coast, I did not. After living and working in San Francisco for a few years, I see Buddha everywhere.

In a place as secular and science-minded as Silicon Valley tends to be, finding room for Buddhism at work might seem like a stretch, but it isnt. High-profile examples of in-office Buddhism, like Googles Search Inside Yourself course, permeate the Valley. Bringing Buddha to work is, in fact, the point of a new book by a Facebook (and Microsoft, Instagram, YouTube, and Google) alum, data analyst and Zen priest Dan Zigmond. Its called Buddhas Office. In essence, its a book on Buddhism disguised as a self-help text aimed at office workers, and if that makes you want to close this tab, dont.

Buddha's Office by Dan Zigmond | Buy on Amazon

When I first met Zigmond at San Francisco lunch spot HRD, I was skeptical too. Not because Im opposed to tech workers being interested in and even practicing Buddhism. Full disclosure: Im married to a Buddhist-ish man who once gave up everything for a spider-infested Sri Lankan monastery and now works at a tech company. I was skeptical because I had real doubts that someone who lived in the South Bay and had held positions at a string of highly successful tech companies could possibly be living life along the Middle Way, the first teaching Buddha gave after his awakening, which basically amounts to avoiding extremes of any kind.

The lifestyle surrounding tech companiesparticularly the ones Zigmond has worked foris nothing if not extreme. Maybe toxically so. I had watched my partner wrestle with this truth for years and came to feel it myself. Then in came Zigmond, purporting to have all the answers, while owning a house in one of the most expensive regions in the country and suggesting we meet at a restaurant best known for burritos stuffed with barbecued meat. (Buddhism generally encourages vegetarianism.) How could he be anything but the stereotypical Silicon Valley Buddhist, the ones who preach productivity as if it is enlightenment?

Well, some of that was pretty unfair of me. For one, Zigmonda small, trim, bespectacled man with kind eyes and quiet mannersis a vegetarian after all. When we sat down together over eggplant katsu, the first thing he said to me was, What can I do for you? The second was something about how much he liked my colleague Cade Metzs coverage of his last book, Buddhas Diet, which recommends fasting intermittently like Buddhist monks, some of whom dont eat after noon. Zigmonds understated asceticism is disarming, though. He takes extremely neat bites, even of uncooperative foods like slippery deep-fried eggplant and cabbage salad. I started trying to twirl my cabbage shreds around my fork like spaghetti.

Zigmond comes from a Jewish background, but hes been a Buddhist for three decades, since college. After graduating, he left the United States for Thailand, where he lived at a Buddhist temple and taught English at a refugee camp. (His Facebook banner image looks to be from that time: Hes skinny, wearing sunglasses, a bandana, and a blue tie-dye shirt.) Even after returning to the States, he planned to remain a full-time Buddhist. While I was at the San Francisco Zen Center, I met my wife, I fell in love, and I had to get a job to support the family I wanted to have, he said. For a long time, I kept work and Buddhism separate. Work was what was keeping me from this other dream I had.

That changed when he left Google and began working at Facebook. (Zigmond acknowledges Googles embrace of Eastern philosophy with programs like Search Inside Yourself but also said that while working there he would go practice real Buddhism on the weekends.) When I got to Facebook, they made this big deal about bringing your authentic self to work, Zigmond says. I was really impressed by that. That really moved me. He began working in what he calls Buddhas office, a working life inspired by the teachings of Buddhism, and, over time, he decided that the practice was a book in its own right. Zigmond, like many people, sees sickness in contemporary working culture. He remembers a time when the only people always on-call were doctors and drug dealers, whereas now he feels like even baristas are tethered to their email. Buddhism, ultimately, is all about balance, he says. To Zigmond, we all look pretty wobbly.

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Diss Tech Buddhists All You Wantbut Read This Book First - WIRED

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December 6th, 2019 at 11:43 pm

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