on 3 September 1999
. . . let it be "A Path With Heart!" With wise and skillful words, Jack Kornfield is a master of teaching Buddhist practices including insight meditation (known as vipassanna) to Western students for over 20 years. Being a former Buddhist monk with a PHD in psychology, as well as a husband and father, he is able to communicate the practice of Buddhism in everyday life in a way that makes sense to Western minds. Kornfield embraces the stuggles and hindrances that are common to the spiritual path as well as offering timely and useful meditations for awakening, opening the heart and clear and humorous insight into basic Buddhist principles such as the 5 precepts, the Buddhist view of self (or lack thereof) and karma. With open arms and a deep understanding of the Western psyche and it's tangles, Kornfield delivers a book that is a love song, a workout and a survival manual for anyone committed to the spiritual path.
on 27 September 2004
I was recommended to read this book many years ago but it took me a couple of years to really take notice and buy it. Then I regretted the long period of time without it! I use it regularly. There are sections on so many of the things that come up in a meditators practice - and I also have friends who find that they just look up the chapter headings and get the answers they need. Jack Kornfield is a very experienced meditator and teacher and there is a wealth of guidance and insight in this book. I tell my own students that they cannot do without it and they admit they keep in close at hand and take it on retreat with them. It applies whatever tradition you are in and there are accounts from Christians and Hindus and Buddhists and people who are just meditating and needing help. A superb book.
on 17 May 2007
Other reviewers have described the content of this book; my personal response is that i have had this book for years and still find i'm growing into it. It's wonderfully apt, written by someone who has seen a lot. It seems to anticipate the joys, dilemmas and potential pitfalls of a spiritual life - mine, at least. It cannot be described as an introductory 'how to' book on meditation. But the lucid and highly intelligent commentary on what life its like when you're engaged in spiritual practice is just wonderful. It's also important to mention the book's ecumenism; although it is written from a buddhist standpoint, the examples, and the people described are christian, sufi, hindu. I find this liberating, along with the book's rigorous insistence that immersion in eastern philosophy can be as much of an attempt to escape reality as anything else. This last aspect is one of the most valuable; perhaps it's kornfield's background as a psychologist, or perhaps it's just that he's a shrewd meditator, but he has a clear and compassionate eye for the pain caused by delusion, and how our personal problems masquerade as spiritual issues. He shows how we need to understand our own lives and issues to practice spiritually; then he demolishes the distinction, showing that these two were never separate. My response is gratitude. Thanks, Jack.
on 18 October 2005
This is one of the most readable, balanced and loving books on the trials, tribulations, pitfalls, joys and ecstacies of following a spiritual path. Although written from a Bhuddist perspective, the author is warmly inclusive of other traditions and religions, with the result that the principles are easily applied to any other spiritual tradition. I recommend this as essential reading to most of my healing clients!
on 1 February 1999
Twenty years ago, when I was a college student, I got turned on to spirituality largely by reading Ram Dass' "Be Here Now." Kornfield's book could do the same thing for thousands of people today (to the consternation of apologists for other religions!).
A Path with Heart is pretty much my favorite book on spirituality. It contains both useful practical advice on living a spiritual life and amazing esoteric descriptions of super-normal states. Numerous pages contain "gems" that speak directly to my personal struggles and experiences. And Kornfield has a great sense of humor with deep compassion.
One of the things that attracts me to Buddhism is its relative lack of superstition and dogmatism. The essential teaching is practical, down-to-earth, and perfectly acceptable to a scientifically minded person. Still, many Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and Kornfield describes some pretty far out experiences involving, for example, reincarnation, angelic beings, and psychic powers.
Kornfield is a wonderful writer, and I hear that he is such a good teacher that one has to enter a lottery to get the chance to go to one of his retreats. He seems to be a charismatic, highly advanced being (though, who am I to judge?). But he would be the first to warn against starry-eyed adulation of him. An oft-repeated theme throughout the book -- and the topic of one whole chapter -- was the need to beware of unhealthy, exploitative relationships with teachers. Every spiritual seeker has one or more fallings-out with a teacher, he says. These fallings-out can be painful and damaging, but we must learn to learn from such events.
Many people get the impression that Buddhism is an austere, impersonal, ascetic religion, with little of the bhakti (devotion) found in many Christian and Hindu faiths. This book challenges that perception. Indeed, it's amazing how loving Buddhists can be, considering that they tend not to believe in God! One thing that impresses me is his apparently complete lack of cynicism and pessimism. Kornfield has only good things to say about every major religion.
In fact, another theme of the book is that Buddhism too should not be treated as a dogmatic teaching that we should grasp on to. Rather, it is a tool to be used to get where we want to go. Teachings and paths should be left behind when no longer needed, like a boat used to cross a river. (I'm reminded of Kornfield's story about a retreat in which two of his students, a married couple, were struggling hard to relax into meditation. Kornfield advised them to stop being so serious and to make love. They started to show up in the meditation hall smiling.)
I'm still not completely convinced that a spiritual seeker can get by without faith and trust in some sort of divine being or essence. But this books goes a long way to showing how an atheist can have faith and hope.
If you're on a spiritual path, or even if you're just curious and open-minded, read this book. (I feel like I'm writing an ad.)
on 28 May 2008
I have been on a spiritual quest myself for about 22 years and although in all that time I have read many brilliant books from many wise teachers, what came to bother me more and more was the tendency of so many of them to cling to their own vision, their own method. While I do understand and respect that everyone is different and needs to find his or her own path (mine is zen), I also have more than sufficient experience to know that no single tradition, school, or teacher holds all the answers. So what I so admire in this book from Kornfield is his all-inclusive attitude. Ken Wilber may talk about integral spirituality, but Kornfield is the one who really does it, and with such tremendous wisdom and skill as well! He is able to integrate so many different perspectives on spirituality, and yet at the same time is so grounded in experience that nearly everyone should be able to find something of use here. This is a great teacher, and a wonderful book!
on 17 May 2007
"A Path with Heart" gives a unique Buddhist perspective to heal ourselves emotionally and psychologically. It asks us to accept emotions fully, experience them at a deep level and then to release them. The path is not one of denial but of acceptance and also letting go. Jack Kornfield's words are filled with compassion and equanimity, which are two important facets of our spiritual journey filled with both perils and promises.
This book resonated at a deeper level for me and I found the same inspiration in "Nexus: A Neo Novel" which is an experiential guide to heart-centered living. Both books offer a path of compassion, which is important in our age. We can share the wisdom of these books within our circle and help transform lives.
on 6 February 2007
Jack Kornfield is a wise man who has trained as a buddhist monk in Thailand in early adult life and then went on to train as a psychologist in USA. He has expertise in both ways of seeing the world, east and west,newtonian and quantum consciousness. He collaborates widely with Stan Grof and is an expert in non ordinary states of consciousness. These qualities are obvious in this beautifully written book. Spare concise prose. No nonsense buddhist thought. He spells out the pitfalls of new age muddled thinking. He's clear about the importance of developing ego function before transcending ego. He gives a clear account of side effects, spiritual emergencies and the vicissitudes of the path. He gives an encouraging and relaxed account of the attempts to calm the chattering mind. Above all his heart illuminates his intellect. This is an excellent book - the best I've come across by a westerner. Up there with the the tibetan book of living and dying.
on 14 June 1999
About two-thirds of the way through this extraordinary book, I can only add to the 5-star accolades accumulating here. I've read several other wonderfully erudite and inspiring authors on Buddhism, meditation and spirituality lately, but Kornfield's gentle pragmatism (particularly his advice on meditation and mindfulness in daily life) makes this one of the most endlessly useful books I've ever read, as well as one of the most affecting. If you're vacillating over the abundance of titles in this field, don't hesitate for a second over A Path With Heart.
on 19 November 2007
Ive read a lot of books on spirituality and BUddhism. However Id say this is the best book Ive ever read in this subject. Id describe it as a Bible for Buddhism/ meditators. His words seem to me like pure wisdom. Jack's words and style of writing are very soothing and just simply words of Dhamma. Words of truth. I think this is a book that should deafantly be read!!!!