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Silicon Valley Monk
Answer
11/25/14 10:20 PM
"Silicon Valley Monk" is a practice memoir I e-published this week that's kind of a mixture of hard core Dharma meets secular Buddhism. There are two narrative threads. In one, I talk about a pilgrimage to India my wife and I did with the well known teacher and author Stephen Batchelor. The pilgrimage thread has lots of great talks by Stephen and some colorful scenes of Bihar and Uttar Pradish, the poorest part of India. Many of Stephen's talks are about the life and times of the Buddha, but others are about conditioned arising (aka dependent origination). Conditioned arising is the Dharma theme of the book, and I talk about it a lot, because it has come up in a lot of ways, mostly completely unsolicited, in my meditation practice and in my life. That's the secular Buddhism thread.

The other thread is about my meditation practice over the last 40 years, most of it in Silicon Valley hence the title, and that's the hard core Dharma thread. I talk quite frankly about my meditation experience, in the same way the Daniel does in MCTB and people do in this discussion forum. The theme of this thread is that things don't always go as you expect with meditation, and sometimes things can go drastically wrong. I think people need to be prepared if something goes wrong. My motivation for writing this was I think the same as Daniel's in writing MCTB, to get rid of the mushroom treatment.  I use Daniel's map to frame the meditation experiences. It's been very helpful to me, but unfortunately I discovered MCTB right at the end while I was going through the final stages of the production process, so I could only add footnotes and a short discussion in the last chapter.

If you're interested in reading it, you can download it from Smashwords or Google Play for free (at least for the first hundred copies or so):

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/J_A_Kempf_Silicon_Valley_Monk?id=JW2SBQAAQBAJ
Smashwords: https://smashwords.com/books/view/495629

It is also available through Kindle Direct but Amazon doesn't let you give away your book, so I had to charge $0.99. As soon as Smashwords finishes reviewing it, they should push it out to Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and other ebook retailers.

If you have any comments, you can drop me an email at: siliconvalleymonk at gmail dot com. I also have a blog, svmonk dot blogspot dot com where I talk about various practice issues as they come up in meditation and life. And if you feel strongly about it one way or another and enjoy writing, maybe you could write a book review somewhere.

RE: Silicon Valley Monk
Answer
11/26/14 11:20 AM as a reply to svmonk.
I enjoy reading people's personal stories. Thanks for this one.
I read 2 chapters so far, one of them the one titled 'Breakdown'.
If I ever happen to talk to weird magic creatures on birds, maybe I'll remember that o_O

RE: Silicon Valley Monk
Answer
11/26/14 10:50 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Right.

Well, I guess I should have been pretty scared because the harpy was pretty scary to say nothing of the rider, but I wasn't. Any afflictive emotion that came up, I could just channel into the heart or base chakra and it was consumed by the body of light. On top of which, I thought I was fighting to save the planet from the Daemon Conspiracy (only slightly worse than the Zombie Apocalypse :-). Sometimes, I kind of wonder where all that crazy stuff came from, but it was kind of interesting while it lasted.

There's a lot more in the book though, so I'd encourage you to read more of it if you can. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to explain conditioned arising to people who don't have a practice background. It's the Buddha's core insight, and my first experience of it came before I knew it even existed, which leads be to believe that it's a natural phenomenon, and not some theological or maybe buddhalogical construct that the Buddha or some monk cooked up.

                     

RE: Silicon Valley Monk
Answer
3/22/17 11:43 AM as a reply to svmonk.
svmonk:
"Silicon Valley Monk" is a practice memoir I e-published
finally finished it....

RE: Silicon Valley Monk
Answer
3/22/17 7:12 PM as a reply to svmonk.
Hi svmonk I just read parts of your book on google play enjoy your honesty and found it very much a 'cautionary tale' so could be useful for many to read who are starting their journey. I disagree with your bottom line findings  the chapter 'mindfulness and the tyranny of transcendence' not that my opinion matters. I found it a very clear explanation of why you embrace a secular Buddhist practice and thankfully you did not paint Buddha as a modern rationalist, more a man of his time. I find your bottom line not that dissimilar to Christian Humanists who see Christ as a wise (ordinary) man whose moral code and teaching were what mattered and that was mostly the teaching utility of his life. 

1/So from what I gather, there is no transcendental nirvana  or spiritual enlightenment possible  in your view, at best a moment to moment, clear minded and fairly emotionally calm life using meditation as a tool and well meaning action in regards to others ending in extinction in death?

2/Unusual experiences and states are all brain produced hallucinations, that have no basis in 'reality', reality being the waking embodied state. I agree much meditation experience is hallucinatory, but it steps out of that model when it impacts on the 'reality' ( by your definiton) for instance a close friend of mine witnessed a indian yogi, taverse a flight of steps, about 12 inches above the ground in daylight and in private ( the yogi was not aware of my friends presence) My friend was dead sober and a very earthy guy, not subject to visual hallucination. In my youth I used to dream future events, often just banal ordinary stuff, nothing special. I got so used to it, I would tell my partner in the morning what I dreamed of and we would wait and see if it occured. It always came to pass. We'd laugh about it. It stopped suddenly and rarely happened since. I can relate many such occurences, the traditions are full of them. All of these can be dismissed and explained by other means, but It also points to the possibility of more than matter. You can take it either way. Just a personal take on it. Thanks for the read. 

RE: Silicon Valley Monk
Answer
3/22/17 9:45 PM as a reply to Marty G.
Hi Marty,

1/, not just my view. This is the view of Nagarjuna, a 2nd century Mahayana philosopher who wrote the Mulamadhyamikakarika (Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way, aka the Karikas). In it, he thoroughly demolishes the view that there is any transcendent, self existent reality. I've been studying Nagarguna for the last 9 months and posting occasionally about his thought to my blog. His basic premise is that reality is complex, we can only know it through our senses, and therefore we can never know it accurately. The only thing we can know about reality is cause and effect, and even then, we can't argue from the cause to the effect (I would add here except in a probablistic sense).

Some translations of the Karikas are:

- Stephen Batchelor's Verses from the Center, a more poetic, less literal translation, an easy and fun read
- Richard Jones' Nagarajuna: Buddhism's Most Iimportant Philosopher, a fairly literal translation with Jones' own commentary at the end, and few other works that most likely were authored by Nagarjuna
- Mark Siderits' and Shoryu Katsura's Nagarjuna's Middle Way, a more complex translation with interspersed analysis from the commentary to the Karikas by Buddhapalita, Bhaviveka, and Chandrakirti, who wrote the traditional commentaries on the Karikas, in which the authors try to keep their own opinions to a minimum.

The main line philosophical school in Tibetan Buddhism, Madhyamika, traces its lineage back to Nagarjuna.

2/ Regarding dreams, I've had those kinds of dreams myself. The problem is, the information content is generally untrustworthy, and encoded in a fashion that sometimes requires interpretation. If I dream one night that I lost my car (a dream I occasionally have), does that mean I will lose it the next day ? Usually not, usually the dream is about something in my life that I am missing. I can't say I have any real insight into the connection between time and space and the mind, it's of course possible that the connection is deeper than appears on the surface. Regarding your friend's experience, an acquaintance told me that at a teaching of a well-known Tibetan lama, he saw words in the Tibetan script coming out of the lama's mouth. By definition, these are hallucinations. What the causality behind them is, I don't know, but there sure is some.

RE: Silicon Valley Monk
Answer
3/24/17 11:00 AM as a reply to svmonk.
Cool!  What's your blog?  PM it to me if you want.

RE: Silicon Valley Monk
Answer
3/24/17 11:46 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
Cool!  What's your blog?  PM it to me if you want.


LOL I wondered that, too, but a quick Google led me to http://svmonk.blogspot.com