Jack Kornfield was trained as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, Burma, and India and has taught meditation since 1974. He holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. He is a founder of the Insight Meditation Society and the Spirit Rock Center. Among his previous books are After the Ecstasy, the Laundry; A Path With Heart; and Teachings of the Buddha. In this commendable collection of quotations, teaching stories, and spiritual practices, he has assembled material related to the art of forgiveness, lovingkindness and peace.
Although the book was finished before the events of 9/11/01, they have a deep resonance with the many feelings we have about the world in which we now live. Take for example the following quotation from Helen Keller: "Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do children as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." Strong words by a remarkably resilient woman that should serve as a spur to our thinking about the present times. There is no security anywhere and to realize this is to open ourselves to peace.
Here is what Kornfield has to say about this spiritual practice: "True peace comes with the discovery that we can respect the seasons of life with a spacious and undefended heart. In it we learn to trust, to rest in the truth of the way things are, to willingly accept the measure of joy and sorrow we are given." Many of us are still pledging allegiance to the cultural shibboleth that peace means absence of strife or difficulty. Of course, those involved in meditation practice learn to deal with whatever presents itself. Kornfield continues: "The peace of the heart is not emotional resignation, but an openness that meets the ever-changing world with compassion. With equanimity we can care for things without trying to control them." This, too, goes against the grain of contemporary culture but it makes perfect sense to anyone schooled in the world's religions.
This volume contains a potpourri of fine quotations about forgiveness and lovingkindness. Both grow naturally out of the spiritual practice of openness that Kornfield repeatedly salutes. These are heart practices that generate new life in our everyday experiences. Or as Chogyam Trungpa reminds us: "It is this tender heart that has the power to transform the world."
Kornfield usually hits the spot with the spiritual resources he brings to bear on the contemporary scene. He's done it again.